Poker millionaires stay safe with cash

Many of last year’s top players haven’t changed their lifestyles.

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A million dollars just isn’t what it used to be.

Among an unofficial second-day field of 1,545 players at the World Series of Poker’s main event Saturday were a handful who became millionaires by making it to the final table last year.

Many said they continued to play, but most hadn’t quit their day jobs or spent money on expensive things.

Dan Nassif, a 34-year-old newspaper ad executive from St. Louis, said he kept working until March, when he left the corporate world to start a house renovation and restaurant business with partners.

This year marks only the second tournament he’s played in since finishing ninth with a $1.6 million payday last year.

“My money’s better off in the market than me playing poker with it,” he said. “If I get knocked out early, I get knocked out early. If I make a good run, I make a good run. I’ll see what happens.”

Douglas Kim, a 23-year-old financial consultant from New York, said he was playing in cash games but kept most of his $2.4 million in winnings from a seventh-place finish last year off the tables.

“It’s all in investments and stuff like that,” he said. He didn’t even buy a Manhattan condo that he talked about after it suddenly became within reach last year. “Right now I’m renting. I’m looking at my options right now.”

Still working

Rhett Butler, a 46-year-old insurance agent from Rockville, Md., said he still worked two hours a day selling policies to customers despite a fifth-place finish for $3.2 million last year.

He said he’s won a few smaller tournaments over the year, and now plays cash games with stakes up to $50 and $100 in the blinds, perhaps twice a week.

As affordable as the $10,000 buy-in seems now, he still has promised friends back home a percentage of his winnings in exchange for helping with the entry fee. “Same deal,” he said. “I have half and they have the rest.”

Halfway through the opening rounds of the main event, the field has reached an unofficial 2,832 players, on pace to undershoot the record 8,773 who anted up last year, and threatening to trim millions off the prize pool.

But even those who are flush from last year’s largesse are playing their finances conservatively.

Richard Lee, a 56-year-old retired San Antonio businessman, said that he’s still “feeling my way back into the game” after a sixth-place finish last year for $2.8 million, playing just a few tournaments and home games.

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