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Toughest field in poker? Nah, they're just guys26 June 2007
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Neal Friets may not be the most well-known player in the World Series of Poker $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. tournament, but he might be having the most fun.
Friets, who is retired from a construction career in Derry, N.H., has $246,000 chips and is in 32nd with 52 players remaining.
His poker resume doesn't merit much attention. In fact, his gray hair, beard and wrinkled face may lead some to believe that he's the actor who played 'Blue' in Old School. (He's not.)
He got into the tournament by winning the Rio's first WSOP $2,250 mega-satellite. Five days later, he won the next mega-satellite, too.
When asked why he'd risk such a substantial sum to play against the world's top players, Friets' response was simple: "Well, you've got to do something while you're in a casino."
Friets has been using the money from his second mega-satellite win to enter other WSOP tournaments. So far, he hasn't cashed.
Going into the third day of the world's toughest poker tournament, Friets only needs to outlast 34 more players to cash for the first time. Sixteenth place ($88,000), would equal more than 10 times Friets' largest poker payday. First place would be a dream payout for any player – a cool $2.3 million.
Playing at a table with Phil Ivey, Andy Bloch, David Singer and Erick Lindgren – all at the same time – may be one of the most daunting tasks in the game. But Friets hasn't been intimidated.
"They're just guys," he said, nonchalantly.
A few friends, watching dutifully by the rail, had a slightly different take on the situation.
"I can't believe that a guy that I've been playing with for 20 years is sitting at that table," one remarked.
Friets was all-in on at least three occasions yesterday. His stack had dwindled down to $100,000 when round 31, a $4,000-$8,000 blind Hold'em level, began.
Friets proved he wasn't scared on one of the first hands, calling Ivey's preflop raise from the big blind. He check-called a flop bet when the board read K-J-5, and then checked twice to a river showdown. Ivey was left shaking his head when Friets turned up 3-5 for bottom pair. Friets gave a little wry grin as he stacked his chips.
He keeps meticulous track of his stack, writing down where he begins and ends each level. By the time the Hold'em round ended, Friets was able to jot $190,000 in the ledger of the tournament's structure sheet.
Things weren't looking good as the night neared its end, however. He ran into quad 10s in Omaha Hi-Low, and was all in the next level, needing to catch a river card in Razz to stay alive. He got lucky and doubled up. Then he won a big pot to get him where he begins today.
There have been hundreds of prop bets made on this tournament, and the odds on Friets winning are long. But don't count out this retiree. After all, he's just one of the guys.
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