If it’s true everyone loves an underdog then one of these guys winning the World Series of Poker Main Event championship would be a storybook ending.
Bruno Politano, aka “Bruno Foster,” is the short-stacked Brazilian who might inspire half a nation to pick up poker and bring the roof of the Penn and Teller Theater down in the process.
Billy Pappas, a two-time Foosball world champion, would bring a different kind of crowd to its feet but playing the role of “everyman” he’d bring in a ton of mainstream media attention.
Spain’s Andoni Larrabe, despite a decent-sized stack coming in, fills the role of underdog simply because no one really knows who is.
Tune in to our WSOP Main Event Live Coverage page tomorrow for all the action.
Bruno Politano - The Man With the Rail
As Bruno Politano told us shortly after he made the November Nine back in July, when a Brazilian wins, the whole country wins.
All evidence point to that being very. very true as a number of huge stars in Brazil have come out in support of Politano - aka Bruno Foster - over the last few months.
They've even gone on video to do it and created his own special hashtag - #VamoFostera.
Over 200 Brazilian fans are expected to pack the Penn and Teller Theater and make as much noise as humanly possible. If Politano would come back from the short stack to win it all welll... the roof might actually lift off the building.
Chip Count: 12,125,000
Current Odds: 16:1
WSOP Final Table Comparison: Bob Bounahra
What He’s Been Up To: Politano was the only one of the November Nine to make the trip to WSOP APAC in Australia.
He was travelling for pleasure, with his girlfriend and family, but he was also eyeing up the best competition he could and preparing for the glare of the November Nine. He also told us he'd hired a coach - one of the best players in Brazil, he says - to help him train
Expected Rail: About 200 people completely decked out in green and yellow. It’ll be loud and sing-songy.
State of Mind: "I’m more motivated now than ever. Because I’m the first player from Brazil to make the November Nine, everyone is very excited for this moment. I want to make Brazil proud. I’m not really nervous, I’m just waiting for the moment. Overall, I’m relaxed."
Extra Motivation: National pride. When you’re playing for something bigger than yourself you can either rise above yourself or collapse under the pressure. We’re not sure which one will affect Poliatno more.
Potential for Poker: Obv. a ton. If the first Brazilian to ever make the final nine comes back from the short stack to win it’ll be both a phenomenal national headline and motivation for thousands more South Americans to pick up the game.
Natural Post-WSOP Sponsor: Fosters Lager, duh.
Billy Pappas - The Foosball Champion
If you think poker has a hard time earning respect in the mainstream press as a legitimate sport, imagine how foosball champs feel.
Not that they're looking for it. But to become a two-time Foosball champ like Pappas, you've got to have a spectacular (if particular) skill set that's pretty worthy of respect.
A poker dealer who just took a stab at the $10k Main Event on the insistence of a well-heeled foosball friend, Pappas has already exceeded his own expectations so might be in line for a letdown when play resumes.
Still he looked pretty comfortable on the ESPN broadcast and you never know just how much a history of intense competition can keep you calm in intense moments.
If Pappas can build a bit of momentum early and bolster his confidence, he could run it all the way to one of the biggest feel-good stories in Main Event history.
Chip Count: 17,500,000
Current Odds: 10:1
WSOP Final Table Comparison: Jay Farber
What He's Been Up To: Immediately after the WSOP Pappas headed to Germany for a Foosball tournament, which he promptly won. As he told Pocket Fives in a recent interview, he hasn't done too much strategy work in the break - although he is good friends with poker crusher Steve "Mr. Smokey" Billirakis, who has a coulpe of WSOP bracelets on his own.
Expected Rail: Likely some of his foosball pals and and tight group of poker friends to help him evaluate tough hands from the live broadcast.
State of Mind: As Pappas told Pocket Fives: "I'm feeling pretty good. I'm quite nervous too. Some people are starting to recognize me. When that stuff happens, it starts to set in."
Extra Motivation: World Champion in two different games? Not too many people in the world, if any, can claim that.
Potential for Poker: Lots. If a happy-go-lucky guy with a casual interest in the game can run it all the way to $10m, it might just rejuvenate some intereste in the game among the Moneymaker sympathizers.
Natural Post-WSOP Sponsor: Any fast food company who sees the potential in a seasoned french line called Pappas Fritas.
Andoni Larrabe: The Spanish Wild Card
The 22-year-old online poker pro from Spain is still a bit of a mystery.
Not much was known about him - or his play - before the WSOP and not much is different now.
He cashed twice at EPT Barcelona in August but has otherwise kept a pretty low profile.
We assume he's stuck to his usual schedule mostly - playing online in London, where he now lives, and live in Vegas - and worked with his online poker pals to go over some strategy.
The youngest player at the table we expect to see him play very similarly to any other 22-year-old online pro - mathematically sound, aggressive as needed and with a reliance on the numbers in key situations.
With a good-size stack to start with he could easily ride some standard situations all the way to the top.
Chip Count: 22,550,000
Current Odds: 7:1
WSOP Final Table Comparison: Pius Heinz
What He's Been Up To: He told us he hadn't played anything at all until EPT Barcelona in August but we imagine he's played online as per usual.
Expected Rail: Larrabe says he's not not sure if his family will attend. He'll likely have a few online grinders in the crowd for some strategy consults but otherwise he'll be on his own.
State of Mind: Larrabe told us in August he was "starting to feel the weight and pressure" of it all but with some experience under his belt at live final tables he should settle his nerves fairly early.
Extra Motivation: Poker is all he knows, having started playing at 16 and never having a "real" job. Proof that it's all been worth it is likely part of his mindset.
Potential for Poker: Some. Larrabe is the first Spanish player to make the WSOP Main Event final table in 13 years but he's not exactly a lightning rod for national support. An apolitical guy who sticks to poker, his impact we'd expect to be comparable to Pius Heinz. A month or so of national press then a slow fade back into the poker woodwork.
Natural Post-WSOP Sponsor: A joint restaurant project with Billy Pappas called Pappas' Tapas?