Mark Newhouse understands he has a hallowed place somewhere in poker history. But he wants no part of the debate.
Newhouse became the first player since 2004 to reach back-to-back final tables of the World Series of Poker Main Event early Tuesday as Day 7 of the $10,000 buy-in No-limit Texas Hold ’em World Championship concluded at the Rio Convention Center. The fact he did so in the “November Nine” era puts the 29-year-old professional player in the conversation for the game’s greatest achievement.
“It’s a huge accomplishment, but I’m not the type to say I’m great or whatever,” Newhouse said. “Even though this year getting in is a bigger deal than it was last year, I was really just having fun the whole time. Just playing poker, not too much pressure, not thinking about it, and I made it.”
Many in the poker community believe Johnny Chan’s run of two straight titles followed by a runner-up finish from 1987 to 1989 is the game’s greatest feat. Others, including ESPN commentator Norman Chad, have said it’s Dan Harrington’s back-to-back final tables during the early days of the poker boom.
Harrington negotiated a field of 839 in 2003 to finish third, and he was fourth the following year when 2,576 players entered. The Main Event drew 6,683 players this year, making it the fifth-largest of all time, and there were 6,352 entrants in 2013 when Newhouse finished ninth.
Newhouse also is the first player to reach two final tables since the “November Nine” format started in 2008.
“To make it back-to-back, it has to be one of poker’s biggest achievements ever,” said Sweden’s Martin Jacobson, who will join Newhouse at the final table. “Back in the day, people won it back-to-back, but that was a way different field and skill level compared to today. To make back-to-back final tables this year, it’s really impressive.”
Newhouse, originally from Chapel Hill, N.C., and now living in Los Angeles, eliminated Luis Velador in 10th place shortly before 1 a.m. and is third in chips with 26 million. Jorryt van Hoof of the Netherlands will be the chip leader when the tournament resumes Nov. 10 at the Rio’s Penn &Teller Theater. The last two players go head-to-head for the $10 million first prize Nov. 11.
Newhouse burst onto the poker scene in 2006 when he won the World Poker Tour Borgata Open for $1.5 million but said he, “completely lost my mind, blew it all and got myself buried in debt.” Last year’s final-table run got Newhouse out of his financial hole, and this time he hopes to avoid being the first player eliminated.
The nine remaining players are guaranteed at least $730,725.
“I would rather finish 10th than ninth. Ninth is brutal, man,” Newhouse said. “As far as emotionally, I think that’s the worst place to finish in the tournament, with all the hype leading up to it and come back, and you’re out. So, anything but ninth.”
A look at the rest of the final table (chip counts in parentheses):
■ William Pappaconstantinou (17,500,000) — A five-time national foosball champion better known as “Billy Pappas,” the 29-year-old from Lowell, Mass., is the least experienced player remaining. This is Pappaconstantinou’s first Main Event, and live-tournament poker earnings are $16,379.
■ Felix Stephensen (32,775,000) — A professional player originally from Oslo, Norway, now living in London, Stephensen, 23, has no previous WSOP cashes and $22,118 in career live earnings. His best finish before the Main Event was 12th at the 2009 Norwegian Championships in Nottingham, England.
■ Jorryt van Hoof (38,375,000) — The resident of Eindhoven, Netherlands, is the leader with 19.1 percent of the chips in play. Van Hoof, 31, owns a poker training website and has three previous WSOP cashes. He is the second Dutch player to reach the “November Nine,” joining last year’s seventh-place finisher, Michiel Brummelhuis.
■ Andoni Larrabe (22,550,000) — A 22-year-old pro originally from the Basque region of Spain and now living in London. Larrabe, who has a European Poker Tour title on his resume, is the youngest player remaining and the first Spaniard to make the final table of the Main Event since Carlos Mortensen won in 2001.
■ William Tonking (15,050,000) — Tonking, of Flemington, N.J., makes his living as an online cash-game player but has found success in tournaments recently. Tonking, 27, finished 77th in the $1,500 buy-in No-limit Hold ’em Mixed Max event and won the WSOPOC Main Event on WSOP.com last month for $50,000.
■ Daniel Sindelar (21,200,000) — A Las Vegas resident originally from Columbus, Neb., Sindelar, 30, is a professional player with 17 previous WSOP cashes for more than $227,000. Sindelar has played in the Main Event the past six years, and this is his first time in the money.
■ Martin Jacobson (14,900,000) — A native of Stockholm now living in London, the 27-year-old is the winningest player at the final table. Jacobson finished sixth in last year’s $111,111 buy-in One Drop High Roller event and has more than $4.8 million in career tournament earnings. The chip leader after Day 1A is the first Swedish-born player to reach the final table since 2006.
■ Bruno Politano (12,125,000) — The 31-year-old is the first Brazilian player to make the final table. An administrator originally from Sao Paulo now living in Fortaleza, Politano plays poker as a hobby but has cashed in three WSOP events this summer and has more than $110,000 in worldwide earnings.
Contact reporter David Schoen at email@example.com or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ.