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The 2014 World Series of Poker is already well underway in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the festival of poker culminates in the Main Event on July 5. This competition is the World Cup, Olympic Games or Super Bowl of poker and despite its $10,000 buy-in, it draws thousands of competitors from around the world all looking to become rich and famous doing something they love.
The Main Event tournament started out with just seven players in 1970 and it grew year on year until 2006 with numbers leveling out between 6,000 and 7,000 players since that 2006 record of more than 8,700 participants. It took 12 years for the Main Event to reach three figures and then it was another 22 years before entrant numbers hit four figures, jumping to more than 2,500 from just over 800 in 2003.
The reason for this was the triumph of Chris Moneymaker, who claimed the top prize of $2.5m after qualifying for the tournament via a $86 a WSOP Main Event online qualifier at PokerStars. The fact that an amateur poker player could win the biggest prize in poker sent shockwaves around the world of poker, quadrupling the entrants to the WSOP Main Event for the following year and seeing thousands, if not tens or hundreds of thousands, of people take up online poker in the hope of sealing that top prize at the WSOP.
While the online poker buzz has died down since its heyday of a decade ago the game is still massively popular, especially with celebrity players who play in both online and live games, using their fame to generate more popularity for the game. With the WSOP well underway for 2014, we take a look at some of Massachusetts’ most famous poker playing sons.
Born in Cambridge, Harrington is a distant cousin to Irish golfer Padraig Harrington and former NFL quarterback Joey Harrington. As well as this, he is a professional poker player who is most famous for winning the 1995 World Series of Poker Main Event, beating Howard Goldfarb to take the victory. He has been inducted in the Poker Hall of Fame despite the fact that poker is just a passing hobby for him, as he spends the majority of his time on his business interests. He is a massive fan of the Boston Red Sox and can be often found at the poker tables sporting his iconic green Red Sox cap.
Despite the fact that he was born in Oakland, California, Pierce makes the list having spent 15 years with the Boston Celtics. He captained the side and guided them to victory in the NBA Finals in 2008, when he won the NBA Finals MVP award too. He is a ten-time All-Star player and despite leaving for Brooklyn in 2013 he is still fondly remembered by Celtics fans. He is an avid poker player as well as this and regularly plays at the WSOP moving from the Main Event in 2011 to Pot Limit Omaha tournament in 2013. Where will we see him playing in 2014?
Although Affleck was born in Berkeley, California, he was only two years old when his family moved to Falmouth and then Cambridge, so we can claim him as one of our own. He is one of the Hollywood elite where he works as an actor, director, screenwriter and producer of movies — including starring the poker movies 21 Aces and Runner, Runner — as well being an avid gambler and poker player. He also is a major fan of both the Celtics and Red Sox but his main pastime is gambling and he has done well, for the most part, at the blackjack tables. He was, however, barred from the Hard Rock Café in Vegas for being winning too much money in May and while he enjoys playing poker, having won the 2004 California State Championship and played at the WSOP on several occasions, he rarely cashes and once lost $400,000 in one hand to movie mogul Ron Meyer.
Massachusetts certainly has its fair share of celebrity sons who enjoy playing poker, but will we see another Dan Harrington at the 2014 World Series of Poker this July? You can be sure that both Pierce and Affleck will trying their hardest to replicate Harrington’s feat from 19 years ago!