Wallingford’s Russell Thomas, a Temple grad, advanced to the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event in Las Vegas early Tuesday morning and will compete for the $8.5 million first-place prize in late October. ESPN will begin televising the Main Event on Aug. 7 and broadcast the final table live on Oct. 30.
Thomas, 24, is among nine players that are being called the Octo-Nine and will arrive at the final table fourth in chips with 24.8 million. The minimum payout for the final table is $754,798. The Main Event attracted nearly 6,600 entrants this year to the Rio casino and began on July 7 with the first of three opening rounds.
The chip leader is Jesse Sylvia, of West Tisbury, Mass., with 43.875 million.
Thomas, who graduated from Strath Haven High School and now lives in Hartford, Conn., began his surge to the final table on Sunday and began play on Monday with 9.985 million chips.
On the day the final table was decided, Thomas’ climb was steady. In two hands, he moved from about 18 million to more than 22 million chips when he forced opponent Jacob Balsiger to fold twice—once on the turn and again on the river. Balsiger also made the final table, eighth in chips.
Two women just missed making the final table, Gaelle Baumann, of France, who finished 10th, and Elisabeth Hille, of Norway, who was 11th. Only one woman has ever made the Main Event final table, Barbara Enright in 1995.
A local player who was eliminated from the tournament on Monday was West Chester’s Paul Volpe, who was 20th and earned $294,601.
After Thomas graduated from Temple with a degree in actuarial science a few years ago, he cashed for more than $84,000 in a six-handed no-limit hold’em event in the WSOP in 2010. In an interview then, the Delaware County man said that he had been mostly an online player and was debating whether to play poker fulltime or pursue more typical employment.
Since his big payout in 2010, Thomas has just two other live tournament cashes, according to poker databases. He collected more than $1,800 in another WSOP tournament in 2010, and in last year’s Main Event, he finished 248th for $40,654. In an interview after making the final table, Thomas said that he’s mostly a cash game player.
Photo: Russell Thomas, far left, made the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event. Courtesy, World Series of Poker.
Here Thomas talks about going to the Main Event final table.