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WSOP November Nine Notebook: Blumenfield and Co. relish fan favorite role

11 November 2015

LAS VEGAS -- Pascale Elsair stood and watched adoringly as her newfound-celebrity boyfriend Neil Blumenfield signed autographs and posed for pictures with poker fans from all over the world.

Blumenfield had just been eliminated in third place of the World Series of Poker Main Event at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, behind runner-up Josh Beckley and eventual champ Joe McKeehen, but not before becoming a bit of a folk hero over the last few days. The 61-year-old former software executive from San Francisco wearing the fedora hat and scarf was not only one of the elder statesman at the final table, but he was also the only amateur, making him easy to root for.

Neil Blumenfield and his girlfriend Pascale Elsair walk through the crowd following his elimination from the WSOP Main Event.

Neil Blumenfield and his girlfriend Pascale Elsair walk through the crowd following his elimination from the WSOP Main Event.

Elsair, who has been dating Blumenfield since they met online two years ago, wasn’t surprised to see him become a fan favorite.

“He’s the kind of guy that American people tend to fall for,” said Elsair, who is from Paris and speaks with a thick French accent. “He’s the American Dream. He started from nowhere and has risen to the top.”

Not only that, from all accounts, Blumenfield is also genuinely a very nice guy, something Elsair was wary about at the beginning of their relationship.

“I had an idea that he was a great guy, but I’m always wrong about guys,” she laughed. “It turns out he is the guy I have been waiting to meet my whole life. So, now I tell all the girls to never give up. There’s always someone out there for you.”

Elsair does not gamble or play poker, but her father Pierre, who died 25 years ago, was an avid and very good card player.

“Neil reminds me so much of my him; I think my dad was looking down on me and helped me meet him,” she said fondly. “I was very much in love with my dad, like any little girl. He had a teenager’s soul and that’s how me and Neil are. It was just meant to be, I guess.”

A missed opportunity for poker?
Phil Hellmuth said on the ESPN broadcast before Tuesday night’s action that if Blumenfield somehow prevailed, it could have a “Moneymaker Effect” on the game, because of his amateur “average Joe” status.

When asked if he realized that people were talking about his impact on the final table in those terms, Blumenfield was appreciative.

“I love the game and I love to give back to game,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I was playing for the world or anything, but I certainly like playing the game, so if me getting here helps the game, then I’m all the more for it.

“In terms of the average guy out there playing poker and watching me, this is real, because I’m as average as a poker player as they come.”

Blumenfield got laid off from his job in software just before the Main Event. When he was asked if he would be going back to the industry, he didn’t hesitate with his answer.

“I am so done with software,” he said, prompting a huge laugh from his “Fear the Fedora” supporters. “I am going to play more poker. I’m going to play some in Florida. I’m going to go to Prague and play. And then we’ll see where it goes from there.”

“There are a lot of similarities in start-up software and poker. In both cases only the top 10% cash and among that 10% only the top one or two make any serious money. On top of that, there’s a lot of risk, there’s a lot of downs, you have to be able to recover really quickly and you can’t focus on what you should have done — you have to keep moving forward.”

New WSOP Main Event champ Joe McKeehen shows off his stack of money and new gold bracelet.

New WSOP Main Event champ Joe McKeehen shows off his stack of money and new gold bracelet.

Three-day November Nine format a success
This was the first year the November Nine was broken up into three nights of action instead of two. While it created an extra day, it also made for shorter nights, with play ending well before midnight.

“I would never say that it’s definitely coming back next year because we’re always looking for ways to change things up and improve, but we thought for the first year, the three-day format was a success,” said Ty Stewart, WSOP executive director. “We got one extra day to be topical in the mainstream media and it was much better for television. That was our hope when we made the change so we’re thrilled that it all worked out.”

Stewart then pulled out his iPhone and called up a link from Monday's St. Louis Dispatch. It was the "Your daily 6" feature that presents the top news stories of each day and the headline read,"Your daily 6: Lorena Bobbitt, Caitlyn Jenner and the World Series of Poker."

"I mean, look at this," he joked. "We're right up there with Bobbitt and Jenner. What more can you ask for?"

Checks and raises
There was no official “Shuffle Up and Deal” call from anyone before the start of play on Tuesday night, but Tournament Director Jack Effel did introduce new Poker Hall of Fame inductee Jennifer Harman to the crowd after the player entrances and she received a nice ovation. He asked the well-liked Harman if she had any words for the three players and she simply stated, “I’m jealous,” which drew a hearty laugh. After her intro, Harman sat on Beckley’s rail and was openly cheering for him to win.

Mike “The Mouth” Matusow was also in the stands on Tuesday night during a November Nine that drew very little star power. After McKeehen prevailed, Matusow went out of his way to seek him out and congratulate the new champ.

About an hour before the cards went in the air on Tuesday night, we spotted Beckley sitting at the Serenity Oxygen Bar inside the Rio, just down the hall from the Penn & Teller Theater.

McKeehen said from the start of the final table he had a “weird feeling” that Beckley would be a factor. “I knew he had a good chance to be there until the end because of the way he plays. He doesn’t put himself at risk very often.”

While other members of the November Nine were nowhere to be found in the days following their elimination — save for a brief appearance by Federico Butteroni on Monday night — Max Steinberg, minus his suit, was in the house from start to finish on Tuesday night. And after Blumenfield finished his bustout press conference, he immediately went back into the theater to watch McKeehen prevail, which happened at 8:03 p.m. local time, not much more than 30 minutes after the Blumenfield elimination.
WSOP November Nine Notebook: Blumenfield and Co. relish fan favorite role is republished from CasinoVendors.com.
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Best of Gary Trask
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT