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$10K credit card gamble pays off with WSOP Main Event cash

Players in the World Series of Poker Main Event unexpectedly reached the money late on Day 3 and didn’t have to worry about going home empty-handed on Day 4 on Friday.

Nobody probably slept more soundly than Joe Marincola.

The 36-year-old from Philadelphia bought into the $10,000 No-limit Hold’em World Championship with a credit card, and he held on to lock up at least $15,000 early Friday by being among the final 1,000 players in the Main Event at the Rio.

He was still alive with 465 players left at the dinner break Friday evening, now guaranteed at least $26,700 and still in with a shot at the $8 million first prize.

His gamble on a credit card with no interest for 18 months paid off.

“I don’t even have the money for this,” said Marincola, a landlord and bartender. “I invented this money out of thin air.”

Marincola said he plays in a poker club with 20 guys called Liberio’s Legends. They hold a year-round satellite tournament system to send one member to the Main Event.

Marincola finished second.

“It was heartbreaking,” he said. “That was a pretty down moment, but I was just determined to come here and give it a shot on my own.”

After securing the buy-in with the credit card, Marincola lost half his stack on Day 1, falling to 30,500 chips. He built to 91,900 entering Day 3, still in 1,731st place out of 2,362 remaining.

Marincola calls himself a “nit” (a tight, conservative player) who knows how to play a short stack. He showed that by surviving on Day 3 despite barely increasing his stack to 94,000, while keeping in constant contact with his excited parents and friends back home.

The top 1,000 finishers in the Main Event made the money from a field of 6,650. Players weren’t expected to reach that threshold before Day 4, but it became clear late Thursday that the money bubble would arrive close to the designated quitting time.

After more than an hour of huddling with his staff while watching the clock and the decreasing number of remaining players, WSOP vice president Jack Effel announced that the field would play to the money that night instead of bringing back a few short stacks for Day 4.

On the bubble, the WSOP uses a hand-for-hand format in which all the tables play one hand and wait to see if there are any eliminations before any table plays a second hand. (The format is used to prevent players from being incentivized to waste time in hopes that players at another table will bust.)

The process of eliminating the last five players to get to 1,000 took about an hour and a half.

Finally, at 1:25 a.m., Kevin Campbell had his pocket aces cracked by the ace-nine of Chris Alafogiannis, who made trip nines on the river. The WSOP said Campbell will receive a seat into next year’s Main Event, the traditional consolation prize for the last player to finish out of the money.

Kyle Arora was the chip leader at the dinner break Friday with almost 3.2 million in chips, according to WSOP.com. Norbert Koh and Chance Kornuth each had nearly 3 million.

Chris Moneymaker, the 2003 Main Event champion, was in 18th with 1.9 million. Jessica Cai held the chip lead entering Day 4 with nearly 1.8 million in chips and still had about 1 million Friday evening.

Marincola said he got down to a meager 14,000 (barely one big blind) on Friday before building up to over 600,000. He still had a workable stack of 395,000 at the dinner break.

Moneymaker’s Cinderella run to the title as a amateur player helped ignite the mid-2000s poker boom, and Marincola had his own movie in mind.

“I’m from Philly, so ‘Rocky,’ right?” he said. “You take your shot, and that’s what I’m doing here.”

Contact Jim Barnes at jbarnes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0277. Follow @JimBarnesLV on Twitter.

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