With 107 players returning to the Rio for Day 2 of the $565 Pot Limit Omaha, Houston's Jim Hademenos, 60, sat among the top 10 stacks in the field. A longtime poker fan who's been coming to the World Series of Poker for several years, his journey to the WSOP this summer began with a marriage three months ago that literally played out on the poker felt – and proved to be quite a crazy hand he and his new wife were dealt.
On New Year's Eve 2014, Sara Hademenos, 52, sat in front of her computer. No big parties or fireworks for her — poker was on her mind. A longtime player on the subscription-based World Poker Tour online site ClubWPT.com, Sara's tournament kicked off at midnight.
As she bluffed, bet, and raked pot after pot, Sara chatted with members of the Hold'em Radio poker community on screen. The website offers a 24/7 poker podcast and radio service and also has quite a community of members who discuss poker and life online in forums and through its chat service. Many have become friends from the website, which also offers freeroll tournaments via the ClubWPT site.
While chatting away, Sara advanced through the tournament and soon had a virtual rail of friends cheering her success.
"I was doing really well," Sara says. "I was going really deep so a bunch of the Hold'em Radio people were coming over to my table, virtually appearing and also chatting in the WPT chat box saying, 'Hey, good luck Sara.'"
Sara and Jim, who didn't know each other at the time, both made the final table, which didn't wrap up until 5 a.m. Curious about all the new fans swarming the WPT chat box, Jim inquired about all the new onlookers. The Hold'em Radio crew invited final table players to join their community.
"A couple of days later, a few players came over to the Hold'em Radio chat room to check it out," says Sara, who lives in Plano, Texas, just outside of Dallas, and works in information technology.
Jim, who works as a mechanical engineer designing sub-sea oil drilling equipment, was one of those. The two soon struck up a conversation and became friendly, discussing poker and a book to read by poker pro Jonathan Little. Sara took his recommendation, and they began chatting off and on about the game they love over the next year. Jim became part of a core group of 50-100 online players who are part of the Hold'em Radio community.
"It's a great community," he says. "We're a really, really close group, and we've made a lot of good friends."
As the summer of 2014 approached, the Hold'em Radio group traveled to the WSOP to get together and also play some poker. Sara decided it sounded like a good summer to join the fun.
"I actually saw him here before I asked him on a date," she says of meeting him in person for the first time. "We made an arrangement that were going to meet here. We met while we were all playing and about nine months later I asked him out on a date."
Fittingly, Jim and Sara visited the Choctaw Casino in Oklahoma for that first date, playing in a WSOP-Circuit event. A relationship, albeit long distance, emerged.
"It was a poker date," she says. We started dating and it centered around poker and were dating for a couple years. We were burning up Highway 45 between Dallas and Houston on the weekends."
This past February, Jim asked her to marry him and they tied the knot a month later. The long distance relationship worked, but there were still some logistics to overcome. Sara had to sell her house in Plano and they remained living apart for a few months, still traveling back and forth on the four-hour drive between Dallas and Houston on Interstate 45, their personal highway of love.
With her house for sale, Sara finally closed on it and moved to Houston on Tuesday just before they flew to Vegas for the WSOP to play in the $565 Omaha event. She recently lost her job in Dallas, so the move and new marriage gave her a fresh start to look for a new employment in Houston.
"That was what really made us decide to get married," Sara says. "My department got laid off and we had been talking for about a year about me possibly moving to Houston. And finally that kind of forced it. I needed a job so I may as well try and find a job in Houston."
Sara received a severance package and plans to continue her job search after heading home – hopefully with a few more dollars in their bank account.
"It's was a pretty crazy spring," she says. "So here we are. "This is our third WSOP as a couple."
"It turned out great," Jim adds. "We really made a long-distance relationship turn out very well."
The World Series of Poker
So far, the marriage has been smooth. Both have a son and daughter from previous marriages, and coincidently both of their sons are named David. Jim had been single for about 10 years and had taken care of his elderly mother, who passed away last year. His family are happy to see him happily married again.
"My kids like him and his kids seem to like me, and his sister loves me," she says. "Our families were really happy and glad we have something in common."
"This doesn't qualify for a honeymoon. This is just what we do."
Sara and Jim disagree on who is the better player, both claiming the other has more skills at the table. The PLO event was her first stab at an official bracelet event. She usually plays smaller tournaments around town and a Daily DeepStacks, and had a nice $4,200 score at Binion's two years ago.
While Sara didn't cash at the WSOP, Jim progressed throughout flight 1B after tripling up all-in earlier in the flight. As he made Day 2, Sara stood along the rail in the Brasilia room sending some positivity to her new husband.
"The funny thing is that when we first met he told me he didn't know how to play Omaha," she says laughing. "I told him I could teach him how to play. Look at him now, he didn't need my help at all."
Ultimately, Jim was knocked out in 38th place for $5,201 – not a bad accomplishment for such a huge field.
"I'm really happy," he said after busting out. "This is the first time I've actually ever played a live Omaha tournament.
The Hademenoses laugh about the long odds of their marriage: just happening to play at the same final table online; Jim just happening to check out the Hold'em Radio group; then actually meeting each other in person; and then dating and making it to the wedding altar. The odds seem long indeed. With the stress of marriage, selling a house, moving, and job-hunting, the couple have held off on a honeymoon. While they're spending a few days in Vegas playing poker, this trip isn't a substitute.
"This is just our yearly pilgrimage," Jim says, and Sara adds: "This doesn't qualify for a honeymoon. This is just what we do."
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