Around the WSOP: 2017 Main Event champ Blumstein reflects on life-changing decisions

9 November 2021

When Scott Blumstein sat down at his table on Monday inside the Amazon Room for Day 1E of the World Series of Poker $10,000 Main Event, a reminder of his place in poker history hung high in the rafters, about 15 paces to his right.

As the winner of the 2017 Main Event, Blumstein, like all champions of poker’s most prestigious tournament, has his own banner hanging at the WSOP each year at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. The massive black canopy captures him moments after his dream became a reality on that day back in 2017. There’s a pile of cash in front of Blumstein, who is flashing a wide smile as he holds the gaudy Main Event bracelet in his right hand and his winning hole cards — Ace/Deuce of Hearts — in his left hand.

“Yeah, it’s still a little weird to see it up there,” said the congenial 29-year-old New Jersey native during a break in Monday’s action, just before he was moved to one of the PokerGO featured tables. “I guess it’s something you get used to. But it’s not like I think about it a lot. Except for the fact that I look much different now than I did on that day, so it’s a reminder of how far I have come.”

Indeed, Blumenstein, a self-described “online grinder” during his young 20s after graduating from Temple University with an accounting degree, is a much different man today than he was on the day the picture on that banner was taken, and it’s not just because he became an instant millionaire by hauling in the $8.15 million first-place prize. He admits that in the year leading up to the WSOP that year he was “not a in a good place.” He was overweight and, as a result, his health was suffering. He was having some issues with money and, as he worded it, he “had a lot of things going on inside my head.”

“A couple weeks before the Main Event, I decided to make some changes,” he said. “I started to turn my attitude around. I started to work out a little bit and eat better. Looking back, it’s doubtful I make that run in the Main if I hadn’t decided to make some changes. It’s amazing how things work out.”

Today, Blumstein is 80 pounds lighter than the guy on the banner, thanks to a strict workout regiment and a version of a Keto diet that saw him cut out breads and sugar and “eat a ton of rotisserie chicken.” He has moved to Las Vegas, but isn’t playing poker full time. He did earn three mini-cashes in this year’s WSOP, but those marked his only in-the-money-finishes since November of 2019. As of Monday night, he was still alive for a second Main Event title after bagging 95,000 in chips and qualifying for Day 2 this week.

“I don’t think I’ll ever play full-time or do the daily grind again, but I’ll always play a little, especially when the WSOP is in town, and I’d like to be involved in poker in some form or fashion,” he said. “But I want to do other things.”

One of those “things” he has added to his life in the last two years is golf and he has found that the game has a ton of similarities to poker.

“Just like poker, it’s really a mental game,” he said. “It’s obviously a little more physical, but you’re always playing against yourself. It’s a battle with yourself to stay in the moment.”

As for business ventures, Blumstein is currently involved as a backer of Underdog Fantasy, a fantasy sports company that has a long list of big name investors, including Mark Cuban, Jared Goff, Kevin Durant and Steve Aoki, and on Monday, Blumstein was wearing a black Underdog t-shirt.

“I’m still figuring things out. I’m 29 so I think when I turn 30 it’s time to really figure out what I’m going to do rest of with my life,” he said. “But all in all, life is good. I feel good and I continue to work out, eating right, keeping the weight off. That’s what’s most important to me right now, feeling good about myself.”

“Dangers” of Day 1
Because it wanted to give international players a chance to get to Las Vegas in the days following the travel ban being lifted on Monday, the WSOP added two more opening flights to the Main Event schedule, meaning it had an unprecedented six Day 1s this year.

The strategy on Day 1 is to obviously bag chips at the end of the day and advance to Day 2. There’s an old adage that you can’t win the Main Event on Day 1, but you can certainly lose it.

“That is the absolute truth,” said Dennis Phillips, who finished third in the 2008 Main Event. “It’s all about survival. You don’t need to take many risks and there will be a lot of people you can pick on because they’re nervous. I just kind of try and pick my spots and chip up. Nothing crazy.”

That mindset worked for Phillips on Day 1C as he ended with 89,900 in chips, as did Hossein Ensan, the German who won the 2019 Main Event as a 55-year-old, becoming the oldest player to win in 20 years.

“Day 1 can be dangerous,” said Ensan, who will bring a stack of 84,000 into Day 2. “It’s a very important day, but you have to be careful.”

One of the most notable players that fell victim to the “dangers” of Day 1 was Daniel Negreanu. Playing on Day 1E on Monday, Negreanu saw his pocket Kings get cracked by Ayman Mahfoud’s pocket Aces.

Negreanu three-bet on the button after Mahfoud raised from the cutoff. The small blind called and after Mahfoud four-bet, Negreanu went all in. The small blind folded and Mahfoud couldn’t wait to call Kid Poker, who got zero help from the flop, turn or river and was sent packing just hours after his Main Event started.

The Unknown Champion
Funny story from Day 1A involving 1983 Main Event champion Tom McEvoy.

The 2013 Poker Hall of Fame inductee, who turns 77 next week, was trying to conserve his energy during the grind that comes with playing the Main Event so he decided to just zone out and not do much conversing with the other players.

Tom McEvoy

Tom McEvoy (photo by WSOP)

“I was really trying to bear down and I probably went almost three hours without saying a single word,” he told Casino City. “So everybody probably just thought I was this grumpy, old guy.”

One of the players at the table was pro Alex Livingston, who finished third in the 2019 Main Event, and, according to McEvoy, was carrying most of the conversation at the table.

“He finally said something that made me laugh so I suddenly decided to come out of my shell and start talking, making a complete reversal, and that kind of stunned everyone at the table,” McEvoy said. “So, finally, I said to everyone, ‘How many of you guys know my name?’”

The answer was zero. Not one person at the table, including Livingston, knew they had been playing all day with a Poker Hall of Famer and Main Event champ.

“Once I told them who I was, they wouldn’t stop talking to me, asking me questions,” McEvoy said with a laugh.

McEvoy then made a friendly bet with the table that all of them combined hadn’t played in as many Main Events as he has, which totaled 37 with this year’s appearance.

“Well, I was wrong,” said McEvoy, who has 51 WSOP cashes to his name and, according to the Hendon Mob, has a total of over $3 million in career earnings. “We counted them up and they had 44 combined. We all got a chuckle out it. All in all, it was a fun day at the poker table.”

Fun enough for McEvoy to make it to Day 2 and stay alive for another Main Event bracelet with a stack of around 97,000.

Related Links
Underdog Fantasy Site Details
Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino Details
Ranked Online Poker Rooms

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