Isaac Baron needed a break.
After five years of traveling around the world playing the live-tournament circuit, the poker prodigy finally slowed down. He enrolled at College of San Mateo and played only a few select tournaments in 2013.
“I just kind of had gotten burned out, and I wanted to do some other stuff,” Baron said. “I went to school and just started to play more live cash games.”
But early this year, Baron signaled his return with a seven-figure score at the European Poker Tour’s PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event in the Bahamas, and he is positioning himself for a deep run in the World Series of Poker Main Event.
Baron entered Day 4 of the $10,000 buy-in No-limit Texas Hold ’em World Championship on Friday at the Rio Convention Center in 57th place and went to the 7 p.m. dinner break with more than 1 million chips to firmly entrench himself in the top 25.
Phil Ivey, the chip leader after Day 2C, was eliminated Friday in 430th place. The top 693 players out of the field of 6,683 made the money.
The Main Event resumes at noon today at the Rio with Day 5. The tournament continues through Monday, and the final nine players return Nov. 10 at the Rio’s Penn &Teller Theater to compete for the $10 million first prize.
Baron, who grew up in Menlo Park, Calif., started playing online when he was 17 after, like so many others, watching Chris Moneymaker win the 2003 Main Event. In 2007, Baron won the Card Player Online Player of the Year award at 20, and he transferred that success into live tournaments in Europe, including a fourth-place finish for $931,268 in the 2008 EPT Grand Final Main Event in Monte Carlo.
“It didn’t seem crazy at the time. It just seemed normal,” Baron said. “But looking back at it now, I kind of realize it was crazy. I bought a house when I was 19. I bought a really expensive car.
“I went from being an 18-year-old who didn’t have $100 to a lot of money really fast.”
Baron’s success came before he could legally enter the card rooms in Northern California or a casino in Las Vegas, making his arrival on the tournament scene in this country highly anticipated.
In 2009, his first year at the WSOP, Baron finished seventh in the $5,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold ’em event. He has cashed in 18 WSOP events for more than $700,000, including a fourth-place finish in the $10,000 buy-in Pot-Limit Omaha event that ended July 5.
Baron, who was planning to transfer from College of San Mateo to Cal, entered the PCA Main Event in the Bahamas “on a whim” and went on to finish third. He walked away with $1,207,599, his largest career payday, after chopping the prize money with the two remaining players.
“After that, I just kind of got back into it,” Baron said.
Baron, who turned 27 on Thursday, celebrated by getting off to a fast start on Day 3 of the Main Event. He was the chip leader with nearly 900,000 during the afternoon before slowing down later in the day.
On Friday, he slowly rebuilt his stack during the first three levels of play and was confident heading into the final two levels after the dinner break.
“(Thursday), basically I just started off running really hot. I won two huge pots … and from there I actually downslid,” Baron said. “Today has been good. I have a good table. I just got to keep playing good and hopefully keep getting lucky and keep running good.”
Ivey, who was at the ESPN featured table all day, saw his run halted by John Kabbaj. The 10-time bracelet winner was never able to recapture his Day 2C momentum and was quick to exit the Amazon Room after being eliminated.
Contact reporter David Schoen at email@example.com or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ.