2015 WSOP Main Event November Nine Profile: Neil Blumenfield
By Gary Trask
Hometown: San Francisco, California
Chip Count: 22,000,100
Career WSOP Cashes: 4 (no bracelets)
Favorite Poker Book: Doyle Brunson's Super System: "I ordered the first edition from a magazine ad way back in the early '70s. Mailed a check and I'm pretty sure Doyle and his wife probably received it, packaged the book and mailed it to me themselves. I still have the original copy."
Favorite Poker Movie: The Cincinnati Kid: "Not just my favorite poker movie, but without a doubt, my favorite movie of all time."
Favorite Poker Player: Doyle Brunson, Dan Harrington: "I have to pick two. They're from the older generation and two guys I deeply respect. But after playing against guys like Matthew Ashton and Peter Alson in this year's Main Event, I have become big fans of theirs. And Dan Colman is a brilliant player and a great guy, even though I was donating chips to him most of the time we were at the same table."
Favorite Poker Room: Stardust Resort and Casino (closed in 2006): "For a while it was the only place to play in Las Vegas and it had that old-style, mafia feel. Also like Aria and Thunder Valley. Both are good rooms and I really like the people at Thunder Valley (in California). But if I could pick one room where I would play my last game on earth, it would be a home game at Doyle's."
"If the rest of the table thinks I'm just some old dude who's going to play tight all day, that's fine with me," he says with a laugh. "I can certainly take advantage of the situation and, believe me, I have in the past."
Unfortunately for Blumenfield, when he sits down to play on poker's grandest stage at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas in November, his cover will have already been blown. The entire poker world will be well aware of who he is when the cards go in the air for the final table of the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event – and he won't even be the oldest participant at the table. That honor belongs to Belgium's Pierre Neuville, who at 72 is the oldest November Niner in history by a whopping 15 years.
Blumenfield relishes the fact that two true senior players are part of a final table that outlasted a field of 6,420, and he is quite cognizant that the average age of the Main Event champ over the last seven years is 23 years old.
"Let's face it: It's a young man's game," he says. "But this year we had a 94-year-old (William Wachter) cash in the Main Event. You've got me and Pierre at the final table. I think it's a good thing for the game. For me and Pierre to be here with a chance to win, it's a great indicator that guys our age can be competitive in this new age of poker. I take a lot of pride in that."
Being an elder statesman at the table also provides Blumenfield with a unique perspective, especially considering what happened in his life away from poker shortly before the Main Event began in July. Blumenfield, a Chicago native who has lived in northern California for nearly 30 years, is a veteran of the software industry. In 2008 he co-founded Elastic Intelligence Inc., which was bought by Intuit in 2013. Blumenfield stayed on as sales engineering manager, but 10 days before the Main Event – as he was making preparations to play in the WSOP – he was laid off.
Talk about a bad beat.
Blumenfield started to reconsider playing in the Main Event, even though he had previous WSOP success on his resume, with a 285th-place and $38,453 in earnings at the 2012 Main Event. But suddenly being out of a job forced him to reassess if he should invest the $10,000.
"Getting a job in the tech industry at 61 years old is not an easy thing to do," he says. "And I wasn't sure if I had it in me to go through an entirely new start-up. So, basically, I had no idea what was going to happen for me professionally."
Two months later, after ultimately deciding to head to Vegas and compete in the WSOP, Blumenfield proudly refers to himself as "semi-retired," thanks to earning at least $1,001,020 by making the final table.
He also took 268th and cashed for $2,452 in the WSOP $1,000 No Limit Seniors Championship and cashed at a seniors event at the Wynn Las Vegas before making a dramatic, seven-day run through the Main Event. The ride to the final table and the $1 million reward by no means came easy. Blumenfield was at risk twice on Day 6, when he started with just 12 big blinds and maneuvered his way all the way to third place, entering the November Nine with 22 million chips and 55 big blinds.
"The timing for a big score like this couldn't have been better," he says. "I'm still not sure what the future holds for me, but at least now I won't be in any rush to decide."
Since July, Blumenfield, a longtime season-ticket holder for Bay Area teams like the Giants, Sharks and 49ers, spent three weeks in France with his girlfriend and then traveled to Florida, where he placed 29th and won $25,000 in the $5,250 No Limit Championship Freezeout at the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open. In preparation for the Main Event, he's starting to review hand histories and picking the brains of local players he respects, getting their opinions on how he should attack the field.
"I'm not going to change much. I won't be looking to prove anything to anyone," says Blumenfield, who will be wearing what has become his signature matching fedora hat and scarf at the November Nine. "I'm just going to go out there and play my game, and I expect to do it well. If I do that, I think I can stick around for a while, and then who knows what will happen."
This article is part of Casino City's series of WSOP November Nine profiles. Other articles include:
- Federico Butteroni: Thanks to a 12-month hiatus to Australia where he worked as a dishwasher and on a watermelon farm, the Italian poker pro is rejuvenated and primed to make a deep run at the WSOP Main Event final table.
- Max Steinberg: After spending most of his time over the last 18 months focusing on daily fantasy sports, Steinberg finds himself at the WSOP Main Event Final Table.
- Ofer Zvi Stern: With $3,500 in WSOP tournament lammers that would become worthless once Main Event registration closed, this Israeli businessman booked a flight to Las Vegas.
- Pierre Neuville: Following a near-death experience, the Belgium native left a flourishing career as a toy company executive to chase his dream of playing poker for a living.
- Tom Cannuli: This 23-year-old wants to do "something huge" in poker. Winning the Main Event would certainly qualify.