The winner of the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event will claim $7.68 million, enough money to offer a world of financial possibilities to the player fortunate enough to come out on top. Dave Stefanski might just start with a pile of diapers.
Stefanski is a cash-game grinder from Connecticut. He spends most of his time at home with his daughter Reese, who turns six months old soon.
"I stick around at home and play online so I can be around my baby," he said.
To make a living as a stay-at-home dad, Stefanski spends much of his time playing $2/$4 to $5/$10 six-max cash games on Bovada. The game selection at mid-stakes online cash is certainly not what it used to be, and playing on unregulated U.S.-facing sites carries plenty of risk, but Stefanski makes enough to provide for his family and play a few tournaments on the side.
On the live tournament felt, Stefanski mainly plays in the Northeast, not traveling too far from Reese. He cited series at Borgata and Foxwoods as his main haunts, and he occasionally ventures out to Parx in Philadelphia or down to Florida. His biggest score is $78,588, but he has put together enough five-figure cashes to total $703,902.
Now deep in the Main Event, Stefanski finds himself squarely in the hunt for the score of a lifetime. Just 36 players remain on the Day 6 dinner break, with Stefanski ranking eighth at 8.7 million and blinds set to move to 50,000/100,000/10,000. Just before the dinner break began, he played a big pot that made it into the live updates.
Stefanski opened in the cutoff to 185,000 and got action from big blind Anton Morgenstern. The flop came , and Morgenstern check-called 165,000. On the turn, both players checked, and the brought a four-straight to the board. Morgenstern bet 350,000, and Stefanski made it 1.015 million. Morgenstern paid it off after tanking for a few minutes, and Stefanski showed for a backdoor straight.
Such strokes of luck are a necessity to conquer large-field tournaments, and Stefanski acknowledged he's had more than his share in this Main Event.
"I've ran exceptionally well," he said of his tournament thus far. "I've won a lot of races to get here, I'm very lucky to be here."
He recounted a few critical pots. After grinding his way steadily upward for the first two days, he hit a rut on Day 3 and was down to his last five big blinds and all in with from the big blind. He held against an opponent's dominated to survive. Then, he picked up the and won a key race against two queens. That was enough to get him to Day 4, where fortune smiled upon him once more as he got in for 19 big blinds against a player with , flopping his opponent dead on .
Now healthy on Day 6, Stefanski likes his table draw and his overall outlook in this tournament, as he feels he's in good control of his table with a big stack. The deep-stacked nature of the Main Event, which often features average stacks around 50 big blinds even this deep into the tournament, plays right into his hands as a cash pro.
"Some tournament players make mistakes when they're deep-stacked," he said. "A lot of times their sizing is just not very good. They give too good of odds preflop, and you can see more flops. Being able to read board textures and put players on ranges is an advantage I have over most tournament players."
Stefanski already has $211,821 locked up but obviously has his sights set higher. He knows he has paid his dues with countless hours at the tables over the years, which have prepared him for this moment.
"It would be a dream come true," he said of the possibility of making the November Nine. "I've been grinding for 13 years now, so I've always dreamed of being in this spot. We'll see what happens."