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November Niner Max Steinberg comes back to the felt after finding success on DFS30 September 2015
Max Steinberg thought he was done with poker.
Hometown: Fairfield, Iowa
Chip Count: 20,200,000
Career WSOP Cashes: 11 (one bracelet, 2012)
Favorite Poker Book: Reading Poker Tells by Zachary Elwood
Favorite Poker Movie: Rounders: "Really? Is there any other legitimate choice?"
Favorite Poker Player: Daniel Negreanu: "A lot of the big-name guys, like Phil Hellmuth, became well known for their antics at the table, but Daniel has done it by just being a real nice guy and a tremendous player. That's hard to do."
Favorite Poker Room: Wynn Las Vegas: "I also really like Aria, Bellagio and Venetian, but the Wynn is the most comfortable and, by far, has the best floor manager and staff."
Not "done" as in "never play the game again." That scenario is unlikely, considering the more than $2 million he has earned as a pro over the last seven years. But the 27-year-old was ready for a change; ready for something to get him away from the poker grind and the capricious waves of emotions – both high and low – that inevitably come with being a professional poker player.
His "out" was daily fantasy sports (DFS). In early 2014, Steinberg slowly began to turn his attention away from poker and toward DFS. He saw an opportunity to cash in on the proliferation of the sport, both as a player and entrepreneur, and by the end of the year he was making a living playing daily fantasy sports and running a new website (dailyfantasywinners.com) he launched with his twin brother, Danny, and another friend, Nick Juskewycz.
But in an ironic twist, Steinberg's success in DFS has led him back to poker with a chance to capture the most coveted prize in the game, a World Series of Poker Main Event bracelet.
In April, Steinberg began entering Main Event satellite tournaments on DraftKings. Sure enough, after astutely loading his lineup one night with Golden State Warrior bench players, anticipating the starters would rest with the No. 1-playoff seed already clinched, Steinberg ran away from a field of more than 500 entrants in a $27 tournament to punch his ticket to the Main Event.
By advancing all the way to the final table, Steinberg has already turned that $27 into $1 million. In a few weeks at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, he'll have a chance to cash in for more than $7.6 million and, of course, earn a spot in poker history by winning the Main Event.
"It's been a wild ride, no doubt about it," he says. "About two months before the Main Event, poker was not going well for me, so I just stopped playing. This summer I started playing a little more, entered five World Series events and didn't cash in any of them. It was frustrating.
"I was going to play in the Main Event no matter what. But I just so happened to win the satellite. Then, I managed to play really well, run hot and catch some breaks. So here I am."
When he sits down at the final table, Steinberg will have the fifth-biggest stack, more than 40 million behind Joe McKeehen, the big stack with 63.1 million chips. But as the lone November Niner with a WSOP bracelet and 11 career WSOP cashes, he is one of the more experienced players – and potentially the most dangerous.
In addition to his bracelet win in a no-limit event in 2012, which netted him $440,238, Steinberg's other career highlights include advancing to Day 5 of the 2013 Main Event before bowing out in 131st place and taking second at the 2012 World Poker Tour Legends of Poker Main Event in Los Angeles.
"I have a lot of experience going deep in tournaments and that helped me get this far, and hopefully it will help me at the final table," he says. "But experience can only take you so far. I'd much rather be the less experienced player and have Joe's nice, big stack."
While Steinberg is grateful for the three-month break leading up to the final table, the pause could not have come at a more inopportune time for him professionally. With football season kicking off in September, he has been extremely occupied with DFS, both as a player and managing his website.
But Steinberg isn't complaining. DFS is his business now. He and his partners were prophetic enough to realize it was ready to explode, much like online poker in the early 2000s.
"My brother and I were a little late getting into the online poker game and we swore if we ever saw another opportunity like that it, we would dive right in," explains Steinberg, who is originally from Fairfield, Iowa, and now lives in Las Vegas. "We saw DFS taking the same arc as online poker so we jumped on it.
"I was not a fantasy sports expert at the time, but I put a lot of time and dedication into it at the right time and it has been very fulfilling and exciting."
With football season here and a chance to win the Main Event just weeks away, Steinberg has been in a bit of a time crunch. The website has just one employee, so he and his partners are responsible for much of the granular work, and as a player he submits 10 to 20 lineups a day in baseball and more than 100 a weekend in football, which has been his most profitable sport.
"There hasn't been a lot of time to concentrate on poker and preparing for the final table, unfortunately," he says. "But I don't think it was necessary for me to spend four months preparing. (In October) I will make the time to get ready and that will be more than enough."
He'll do so by leaning on an accomplished network of poker-pro friends, including Cylus Watson, who finished 22nd in the 2012 Main Event, Ben Sulsky, renowned as "Sauce123" in the online poker world, and his brother. Steinberg plans to set up a final table simulation, having his friends play the role of the other players.
Another part of his final table preparation has included his wardrobe. Steinberg stood out during the Main Event by often wearing a full suit and tie, and he has had two new suits designed especially for the final table.
"My philosophy is that you want to dress up for all of the big moments in your life, and this has the potential to be a big one," he says with a laugh.
And don't be surprised to see Steinberg's family and friends follow "suit" and dress for the occasion, as well.
"I'm hearing they may all wear suits, which would be really cool," he says. "It's going to be exciting. I may not have the most supporters in the crowd, but I'm willing to bet I'll have the loudest and the best dressed. Hopefully I can stay hot, stay lucky and make a run at winning the whole thing."
This article is part of Casino City's series of WSOP November Nine profiles. Other articles include:
November Niner Max Steinberg comes back to the felt after finding success on DFS is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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