Looking at Poker in 2015 ; A Poker Life: Billy Pappas

poker 2015
What to Look Forward To For Poker 2015
By Earl Burton

Now that the confetti has been swept up, people have nursed their respective conditions back to normalcy and everyone has now bid adieu to 2014, the New Year celebrations are complete. Thus, it is time to turn to 2015 and wonder what the coming twelve months are going to look like. Never one to back down from a challenge (and we’ll revisit this on occasion), here are my predictions for what we can look forward to 2015.

#1 – Two States Will Legalize Online Poker/Gambling

This one is bound to happen in 2015. California will finally step up, settle the quarrels between the warring factions in the state (the card rooms, Indian tribes and horse racing tracks) and pass online poker legislation this year. The reason? There’s just too much money laying out there for the California General Assembly to overlook; besides the factor that they would have a player pool of potentially 10 million people (out of their 39 million population), the revenues from initial licensees and the players will bolster the Golden State’s revenues. Unfortunately, though, I do see that Amaya Gaming and PokerStars will be initially left out of the California equation (the specter of the “old” PokerStars coming back to haunt them).

But who will be the second state? There are two candidates that I see for this one. New York and Pennsylvania have both dallied with online poker legislation and, with their population bases, could easily have stand-alone state networks that would be profitable. It’s not going to happen quickly, though. Expect the passage of any legislation in New York or Pennsylvania to occur in the second half of the year and be online by New Year’s Day in 2016.

#2 – Nevada Opens for Full Online Casino Gaming, Compacts with New Jersey, Delaware

Although they would love to stay with an online poker only system, legislators in Nevada are going to realize that, for their system to work, they are going to have to open up for full online casino gaming. The different casino industry giants in the state aren’t going to like it either but, with revenues barely breaking $1 million a month (and sometimes not even that) for their online poker sites, something has to be added to jump start their operations.

In bringing full online casino gaming together, Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware will also form a compact that will provide them with stability and a larger player pool. Especially if, as our previous prediction states, California and either New York or Pennsylvania enter the game, they are going to have to get some serious action going to provide a return on investment for their operators. This also will be a year-long action, with the move by Nevada and the resulting compact between the states not occurring until at least this summer.

#3 – There WILL Be Another Two-Time Champion This Year on the EPT

It took almost 100 tournaments for Victoria Coren-Mitchell to become the first two-time champion on the European Poker Tour. It will not take that long for the second to be crowned and it will even be in the coming 12 months.

Now with over 100 champions in its illustrious history, the EPT normally has at least one former champion in contention come the final table if not two on some occassions. Given the right circumstances (remember, Coren-Mitchell was the short stack when she won the EPT San Remo last year), it could come as soon as this year’s Grand Final or during their upcoming season. Also, when you look at the players who have won an EPT Main Event – Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier, Mike McDonald, Jason Mercier, Jake Cody, Kevin MacPhee and Liv Boeree, just to name a few – it is highly likely that one of the previous EPT champions comes back and takes their second win.

#4 – The WSOP Championship Event Will Draw Over 7000 Players

Over the past four years, the World Series of Poker Championship Event has threatened to reach that 7000 player threshold on only one occasion. In 2010, 7319 players came to the tables at the Rio to contest for the title, a number not reached since 2006 when 8773 runners came to the line. In 2015, the WSOP Championship Event will once again bump over the 7K number because of the changes instituted by WSOP officials.

While most believe the $10 million guaranteed for the first place finisher is not good for the game of poker, it is the largest individual prize given out for a single performer in any sporting event (unless your name is Floyd Mayweather and you’re negotiating outrageous deals for your boxing matches). This should draw in another 317 players at least (last year’s field was 6683) to push the total to 7000.

#5 – The Global Poker Index Will Become THE Standard-Bearer for Poker

Throughout 2014, the Global Poker Index positioned itself to become a major force on not only the live poker world but also the online community. Through the acquisition of many different pieces and the introduction of several new commodities, the GPI will become the standard bearer for the poker world in 2015.

The reason for this is the continued creativity and innovation of the GPI’s Chief Executive Officer Alexandre Dreyfus. Dreyfus always seems to have something to add to the poker community and, for the most part, it helps to make it better. The creation of the American Poker Awards (to be handed out in conjunction with the European Poker Awards, another GPI acquisition, in 2015) and the Global Poker Masters (basically the “World Cup of Poker” that will be held in March) will add another layer of success to the GPI and Dreyfus.

It is only a matter of time before Dreyfus comes up with his next brainstorm that will continue to “sportify” poker (a phrase that Dreyfus coined). With that, the GPI should become the “go-to” organization to look towards for leadership in the poker world, be it rules, groundbreaking innovations or even perhaps legislative efforts.

The next 12 months will determine if these predictions come true. What is your prediction that will come true for poker over the next year?

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billy pappas

A Poker Life: Billy Pappas

Pappas Humble About His WSOP Final Table Finish and Poker Future
by Julio Rodriguez
Have you ever heard of the man with a plan? Well, that’s the antithesis of Billy Pappas. The 30 year old who recently finished fifth in the 2014 World Series of Poker main event, prefers to keep things loose and with as many options as possible.

Pappas, who was born William Pappaconstantinou, just banked $2,143,794 in the biggest poker tournament of the year, but he has no idea what’s up next on his agenda. Perhaps he’ll play more poker. Maybe he’ll even return to his day job as a dealer.

Whatever he decides, Pappas knows that now he has the financial freedom to pursue whatever path he wants, and, for a guy who doesn’t like to be tied down in one spot for too long, that’s priceless.

Staying Out of Trouble

Pappas grew up as one of three children in Lowell, Massachusetts. Lowell is not the ideal place to raise children, especially in the late 80s and early 90s, when it was ranked as one of the most violent cities in the U.S.

“Growing up in Lowell was definitely tough,” Pappas recalled. “There were a lot of gangs and the city itself wasn’t so great, but it’s definitely improved since I was a kid. I spent most of my time early on playing basketball and foosball.”

Basketball and foosball kept Pappas out of trouble. While other kids were stepping into the criminal underworld of drug trafficking and other gang activity, Pappas spent hours each day perfecting his game.

“I started playing foosball when I was seven. We had a table at our house. I used to go to this place called Mad Maggie’s, which was this awesome arcade. As I got better, I started to play in these tournaments four times a week in Londonderry, New Hampshire, which were run by this guy named Steve Rogge. My mom and her boyfriend were very competitive in foosball as well, so we would go there all the time.”

It was through foosball that Pappas met future two-time WSOP bracelet winner Steve Billirakis, whose parents were also professional foosball players. In fact, when Pappas and Billirakis were just 10 and 11 years old, they won a 17 and under doubles foosball tournament as partners.

Becoming One of The Best

It wasn’t long before Pappas realized he could make some money at the professional level of foosball.

“When I was about 16, I realized that I was playing at another level,” he said. “I teamed up with a buddy of mine, Mike Yore, and we took second place in a super doubles tournament and also won the pro doubles tournament. This was in Texas and it paid $5,000.”

“A foosball tournament is a lot like a poker tournament, in that you put up an entry fee which goes into the prize pool and then you try and win the event,” Pappas explained. “However, unlike poker, foosball divides players up by their ability level. There are rankings that determine rookies, semi-pro, pro, pro-master, and even beginners.”

In his late teens and early twenties, Pappas began traveling both domestically and internationally to play foosball. In 2005, he won the International Table Soccer Federation (ITSF) World Championship Series stop in Dallas, Texas. In 2006, he won in Las Vegas, Nevada. In 2009, he won again in Dallas and then in Tulln, Austria, before being named the World Champion in singles Tornado, an honor he earned again in 2011. As recently as 2013, he again came out on top in Salzburg, Austria.
Billy Pappas at the WSOP Final Table

Despite all of his success, however, Pappas recognizes that there isn’t enough money in foosball to make a living at it full time. With the cost of travel, lodging and tournament entry fees, one would have to win nearly every tournament in order to consistently turn a profit. Even still, Pappas hasn’t resorted to hustling to scrounge up some cash.

“The foosball community is so close that all of the players really play for pride or the prestige of winning more than anything. It’s not like billiards where you can just walk into a bar and start collecting money from unsuspecting amateurs.”

Dealing With It

It’s only natural that a kid fascinated with games would find poker, especially in Lowell.

“Card games were really big where I grew up. A group of friends played a bunch of card games. That’s how I started out. Then I picked up hold’em and started playing online. A buddy of mine won a $1 tournament and turned it into $27,000 the next day. That really got me hooked.”

Pappas played poker throughout the poker boom, with limited success. In fact, prior to his WSOP main event final table appearance, he had only racked up about $85,000 in live tournament cashes. To supplement his income, he took a job dealing poker and other table games at Rockingham Park in Salem, New Hampshire.

“My first month dealing, a couple of guys got into an argument at the table,” he recalled. “I honestly wasn’t sure it was an argument at the time, because the locals have a tendency to just talk tough and aggressively with each other even when they are joking. I was a little late in realizing that it had escalated to the point of a fight when one of the players walked around the table and tried to gouge another player’s eye out right in the seat next to me. Of course, our room is so chill that the floor came over and told me to continue dealing like nothing had ever happened.”

Pappas enjoyed dealing. It was a fun job and he actually found it to be pretty relaxing, despite the occasional confrontation or scuffle at the table. More importantly, dealing gave him the freedom to set his own hours so that he could continue traveling for foosball competitions.

“It’s always been really tough for me to settle down in one spot. For example, I spend the first half of the year dealing and a lot of the second half living in Europe, playing foosball. That way I have a consistent income but I also get to travel and continue playing the game that I love. I really don’t want to work my life away and I’ve always tried to live by that philosophy.”

A Life-Changing Score

Last summer, Pappas went on a magical run at the WSOP main event, making the final table and becoming a member of the November Nine. According to the ESPN broadcast, he was the table’s lone amateur, trying to prove that anybody could win the main event given the right set of circumstances.

“People keep telling me that I’m an inspiration and that I proved to everyone that an amateur can really do well at the WSOP. That’s great, but I’m not exactly the beginner that the coverage perhaps made me out to be. I think I played very well and never felt out of place at the table. There was never a sense that I didn’t belong there.”

When asked what he did to prepare for the final table, Pappas admitted that he didn’t do much. Most of his time was spent trying to stay out of his own head. It almost worked out for the best.
The 2014 November Nine

Had a crucial coin flip with eventual winner Martin Jacobson gone the other way, Pappas would have likely earned even more than the $2.143 million that he picked up for fifth place. Pappas was hoping to take down the bracelet for his poker buddy and mentor Jonathan Dempsey.

Moving Forward

So what is Pappas going to do with his new found wealth? Most poker players would add the majority of it to their bankroll and play for higher stakes.

“Yeah, that’s not happening,” Pappas stated. “I’ve always dreamed of being a traveling pro. I used to tell myself that if I ever got a six-figure bankroll, I’d just go and play $5-$10 somewhere full time. But now that I have the money, I’m not sure what I want to do. I know I want to travel, maybe deal or play.”

Deal? Could Pappas really see himself going back to dealing after such a windfall? What if he found himself pitching cards in the box next summer to Martin Jacobson himself?

“That would definitely be weird, but it would be a lot of fun, too,” Pappas said with a laugh. “I’m down for that. I’m pretty realistic about my own skill set in poker and I don’t have an ego. I’m not going to be one of those guys who blows all their money trying to be the best. I know it sounds crazy that I don’t have a plan, but that’s just how I choose to live my life.” ?


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