Unless they won a freeroll, no player has ever qualified for the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event cheaper than Tommy Yates, who famously won his way in right here on 888poker via a $0.01 online satellite.
What's more, the 58-year-old bar owner from Rhodes, Greece turned it into a $19,500 payday by finishing 486th out of 6,420 players. And, coincidentally, he was knocked out by Team 888 final table sponsored player, and winner of the 2015 Main Event, Joe McKeehen.
Yates' path to the Main Event is the stuff of legends. He began by winning a $0.01 satellite, advanced and won the next step. He went on to win the next six qualification steps to capture a $13,000 WSOP package, which included turning down a $6,000 cash offer on the bubble.
Getting Down to Business
So, what is Yates up to nowadays? He's back in Greece and playing 888poker qualifiers, of course.
"All my games are from Step 1 as I'm trying to prove it wasn't a fluke last year," says Yates. "I normally play every day, and I already have a Step 4 and Step 5 to play. It is easy to win seven events, but to win seven events in a row is very difficult, I have been as far as Step 6 this year, but then I flopped a straight and got called by a guy who hit a boat on the river. That same guy went all-in with pocket nines against my aces, and he hit another nine on the flop to take me out. It happens, but that's what makes poker such a great game, I suppose."
In addition to trying to win his way back to Vegas, Yates spends his time getting his bar ready for the upcoming tourist season. As for the $19,500 he won, he spent a good portion of it fixing up his garden, a project he'd been working on for five years. He also enjoys spending time with his wife, who accompanied him to the WSOP last summer.
"She loved it," says Yates. "She gambled a little on the slots, but loved the hotel and the excitement of just being in Vegas. She never missed any of my play, bless her."
A Life Changing Experience
It's clear when talking to Yates that winning his way into the WSOP Main Event via 888poker was a life highlight for him.
"When the public announcer told everyone that I had got there for one cent and told me to stand up, I was gobsmacked to see almost all the room standing and applauding me, even noted players. I felt like I had finally made it as a poker player."
Yates didn't get to play with any of his poker heroes – they're just too many people in the Main Event these days to ensure a pro is at the table – but he came close.
"My favourite player, who I would love to come up against, is Daniel Negreanu, who was sat on the next table to me," Yates explains.
So what sort of advice does Yates have for those who qualify for the 2016 WSOP via 888poker?
"First bit of advice I would give them is to take a utility bill with their name on it," Yates says with a laugh, referencing the need for foreign players to prove their address. "But, game wise, I would just say enjoy it. Depending what they want out of it is how they should play.”
“I was determined to make sure I didn't come back with egg on my face, after refusing the $6,000 bubble money. So, I played very tight folding pocket queens, ace-king twice, and ace-queen suited once. But, if I do get there again, I will play my game and not try just getting into the money."
Could You Do It?
Will you follow in Yates' footsteps and parlay a $0.01 satellite into a life-changing experience?
Argentine player, Maximilian "BienDeCampo" Zubeldía, has already managed to snag a $12,500 package to the 2016 WSOP for only $1. He started at Step 3 and worked his way up to top honours.
Satellites are running now, which means your path to the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event could begin today.