Daniel Weinman sat with his mouth agape for several moments as he contemplated his options in the biggest hand of the World Series of Poker Main Event to that point.
More than 90 seconds went by before Weinman decided to put his tournament life at risk, and he was called by two opponents.
“I knew my hand was completely dead, and it’s like, ‘All right, it was a fun run, it’s over now,” Weinman said.
Except that’s not what happened.
Weinman came from behind in dramatic fashion to win the hand, and the massive pot boosted the professional poker player from Atlanta to the final table of the $10,000 buy-in No-limit Hold’em World Championship.
Weinman will be third in chips when the tournament resumes at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Horseshoe Las Vegas. Henderson resident Adam Walton owns a commanding chip lead.
The remaining nine players are guaranteed $900,000, with $12.1 million up top for the winner. Officials plan to play down to the final four players Sunday and then crown the champion Monday.
“As a poker player, this is the event,” Weinman said. “You see it every year on TV, see all these guys on the final table. And you think it’d be so cool to have a chance once. And to make it just feels so surreal.”
Weinman was in solid position with 14 players remaining Friday on Day 8 when he was dealt what appeared to be a vicious cooler with pocket jacks.
Joshua Payne opened the action holding pocket kings and was reraised by Jose Aguilera, who had pocket queens. Weinman thought about folding based on the action in front of him but decided to jam his entire stack, hoping to push his opponents off their hands.
That didn’t work, as both players called with superior starting hands.
“It was a weird spot,” Weinman said. “Jacks is just too strong of a hand. I would love to shove and have them all fold and pick up a lot of chips. It just so happened I ran into it.”
Payne maintained his lead when the flop came ace-seven-four, but Weinman’s rail erupted when a jack fell on the turn to give him three-of-a-kind and the lead.
The river was a harmless three, and Payne was eliminated in 14th place while Aguilera was left with the short stack. He ultimately went out in 10th place.
“Everyone talks about their one time (a lucky break in a crucial pot), and I’ve never really used my one time,” Weinman said. “I kind of internally had a little feeling that something might happen there.”
Weinman, 35, starting playing poker as a student at Georgia Tech and amassed more than $3.7 million in career live tournament earnings before this Main Event run.
He won the $1,000 buy-in Pot-limit Omaha Eight-Handed event last year for his first career WSOP bracelet, which are awarded for tournament victories. Weinman also earned a WSOP Circuit ring in 2015 winning the Harrah’s Cherokee $1,675 buy-in Main Event.
His biggest cash came in 2017 when Weinman captured the World Poker Tour Borgata Winter Poker Open for $892,433.
After briefly stepping away from poker in the past year, Weinman said he returned this summer to the WSOP refreshed.
“I’ve always felt I was above average at every game but great at no game, which has been really nice as a professional poker player but kind of tough when you’re playing against specialists, especially this deep in the Main when everyone is such a studied no-limit player,” Weinman said.
“I do think it will help having experience deep in some big spots. But I’d be lying if I said that this wasn’t 10 times the pressure. I feel it in every single pot.”
What: WSOP Main Event final table
When: Sunday and Monday
Where: Horseshoe Las Vegas
Streaming: PokerGO (subscription required)
First prize: $12.1 million
Main Event chip counts
— Adam Walton, 143,800,000
— Steven Jones, 90,300,000
— Daniel Weinman, 81,700,000
— Jan-Peter Jachtmann, 74,600,000
— Juan Maceiras, 68,000,000
— Ruslan Prydryk, 50,700,000
— Dean Hutchison, 41,700,000
— Daniel Holzner, 31,900,000
— Toby Lewis, 19,800,000