Music hasn’t been as lucrative a profession as poker for Jason Senti. But after this weekend, he might be able to merge the two worlds.
Senti, 26, of St. Louis Park, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis, entered Saturday’s final table at the World Series of Poker’s Main Event in ninth place out of the remaining nine players and with long odds ahead of him.
Some five hours after play began inside the Rio’s Penn & Teller Theater in the $10,000 buy-in No Limit Hold’em World Championship, Senti had climbed into sixth place and was still alive for a multimillion-dollar payday.
The money difference between finishing ninth ($811,823) and seventh ($1.36 million) is significant.
Within an hour, Senti was in seventh again and on the bubble. But he was still playing poker. Fifteen minutes later, he was back in sixth. After the dinner break — after climbing as high as fifth — he was out in seventh.
"I’m happy because I’m going to make some money today," Senti said.
As of 11:30 p.m., five players remained in contention at the Main Event final table, led by Joseph Cheong of La Mirada, Calif., with 69.225 million in chips. Jonathan Duhamel of Quebec, Canada, was in second with 47.4 million while John Racener, of Port Richey, Fla., was third with 42.2 million in chips. Michael "the Grinder" Mizrachi of North Miami Beach, Fla., was in fourth, with 32.5 million in chips. In fifth was Filippo Candio, of Cagliari, Italy, with 28.275 million in chips.
The final two players will return to the Rio on Monday night to play for the world poker title and the top prize of more than $8.9 million.
Senti was one of the more unlikely players at the final table. A graduate of the University of North Dakota with a degree in engineering, Senti spent three years as an electrical engineer before embarking on a poker career.
At one point Saturday, Senti staved off elimination by pulling an ace-high flush on the river card when he went all-in against Cheong for his last 10 million in chips on the 64th hand. The odds were 80 percent against Senti when the 10 of diamonds came up on the last card for his flush.
In the same manner, Cheong eliminated Senti. He went all-in with an ace-king to Cheong’s pair of 10s. The flop was king-king-queen, putting Senti on top with three of a kind. But the turn brought a jack, and a nine on the river gave Cheong a straight and eliminated Senti.
Earlier in the day, Senti sent the first player to the rail when he eliminated Soi Nguyen of Santa Ana, Calif., in 9th place. Nguyen wagered his last 7.6 million in chips with ace-king. Senti called with a pair of queens.
"That’s just kind of the way the luck goes," Senti said after hitting his flush against Cheong. "Once you get to the final table, anyone really has a chance."
Senti learned the game online, but he’s been gaining experience in live poker. This is Senti’s third year at the World Series of Poker and he finished in the money for the first time, making it to the third round of the Heads-Up championship, winning $17,987.
While he is gaining comfort at the poker tables, Senti is more relaxed on stage. His band, Suburban Hero, an alternative rock band, has been together for about seven years and plays in clubs around the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
During the introductions of the nine players, Senti entered the theater to the song, "This is the End," which his band wrote and recorded.
His band members were part of his 100-person entourage inside the theater.
"It’s fun to have everyone here, making some noise and giving me support," Senti said. "I like both poker and music. Obviously, poker is the greatest career I’ve ever had, but it’s hard to pick one over the other."
Mizrachi was the most decorated professional poker player left in the original field of 7,319 players who entered the Main Event.
Mizrachi, who began the day in 7th place, moved among the chip leaders on the 43rd hand, a back-and-forth battle with Matthew Jarvis of British Columbia, Canada.
Before the flop, Jarvis went all-in with almost 13 million in chips. Mizrachi called and turned over an ace and a queen. Jarvis had a pair of nines. The flop was a queen-eight-queen, giving Mizrachi three of a kind.
However, the turn card was a nine, giving Jarvis a full house, nines over queens. But the river card was an ace, which gave Mizrachi a higher full house.
Mizrachi’s family and friends rushed the stage, surrounding the player with boisterous screams and chants.
Jarvis went out in 8th place and earned $1,045,743.
Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz @reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871.WSOP Main Event, Saturday
• World Series of Poker latest news: Howard Stutz’s blog.