In the years since Black Friday, the poker landscape has changed considerably. Progress has been made on the legislation front, but things have been slow. Perhaps what poker needs is a champion like Jeff Platt.
Winning the Main Event of the World Series of Poker is a life-changing accomplishment for anyone. It brings huge money, fame, and poker immortality. Platt, a sports reporter from San Antonio who is running deep in his second straight Main Event, identified a different motivation as a big factor for him.
"I think the November Nine brings not only money, but the opportunity to be an ambassador for poker, which is something I would really appreciate and look forward to," he said.
Like many, Platt found a fascination with the game after watching Chris Moneymaker win it all in 2003. He began playing with friends and then cut his teeth as a teenager at 18-and-over casinos in nearby Oklahoma. Since turning 21, he has made yearly pilgrimages to Las Vegas to take shots in tournaments here.
In 2014, he had a breakthrough when he took second in a Daily Deepstack at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino for $31,913. Thanks to that score and "a good staking deal," he fired in the Main Event and ran deep. He even found himself in a familiar position, with a camera trained on him. Instead of talking about the San Antonio Spurs or high school football and basketball as he's used to, Platt was playing at the TV table with Maria Ho, where he said he put a beat on someone and doubled up in a hand that made the coverage.
"Entering Day 5, I was in the top 40 with I think 290 players," Platt said. "I feel like I didn't do anything wrong, my stack just tumbled from about 1 million straight down."
Platt recounted a couple of tough hands that contributed to his demise. He made a set, but ended up paying off a rivered flush, and then he called off with one pair against Ali Eslami, only to be shown a set. He busted in 203rd place for $44,728, the biggest live cash of his life. The score made him hungry for more, and he has longed for another shot ever since.
"I've been thinking about this tournament every single day since last year," he said. "I've waited a year for this, and I'm happy it's here."
Platt has once again navigated through a vast majority of the field and this time found himself still alive with about 875,000 in chips on the dinner break with 111 players left and the blinds set to move to 15,000/30,000/5,000. It's a position he's "thrilled" to be in, despite having peaked around 2.6 million after a lucky double.
In the biggest hand he played on Day 5, Platt opened with in middle position and saw a flop. He continuation-bet was called by Terik Brown, and a fell on the turn. Platt check-raised all in, only to be called by Brown's . Luckily for Platt, a hit on the river and he dragged a huge pot.
The pressure of playing such hands takes its toll during the Main Event, and Platt found this out last year. He has carried over that experience this year.
"The Main Event is so mentally taxing, so mentally draining," he said. "Every pot is super intense, 100 times more intense than any other tournament I've played. I'm a little more comfortable this year, and that's helped out."
Although he's more ready to possibly find that life-changing score this year, don't expect Platt to leave his regular job behind, at least not for good. He wants to do right by the game first, though.
"I love the day job," he said. "I'm not planning on quitting, even if I win the Main Event. I might take a year off to really promote poker the best way possible."