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Colossus attracts new faces to WSOP

30 May 2015

By Aaron Todd
LAS VEGAS — One of the primary goals of the World Series of Poker's Colossus event, according to WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart, was to attract new players.

"Seven or eight years ago, (tournament entries) were two-thirds new players and one-third returning players," said Stewart. "In the last few years, it's completely inverted, with two-thirds returning players, one-third new players."

While WSOP officials were unable to provide exact metrics on the breakdown of new vs. returning players for the record-breaking field in the Colossus, anecdotal evidence would indicate that the $565 bracelet event has achieved that objective. (We'll have more from an exclusive one-on-one with Stewart tomorrow.)

Gary Breslauer was getting a 360-degree video of the scene in the Amazon Room on his iPhone — including the ESPN Main Stage — a few minutes before starting the Day 1C morning flight. He said playing in the WSOP has always been on his "bucket list." He played Day 1A on Friday, and while he was eliminated, he enjoyed the experience and was looking forward to playing again on Saturday.

Gary Breslauer (left) is all smiles as he gets underway on Day 1C.

Gary Breslauer (left) is all smiles as he gets underway on Day 1C. (photo by Aaron Todd)

"It's exciting," said Breslauer, a retired doctor from Carmel, Indiana. "You meet some nice people, and the competition is great."

Breslauer has been playing poker for 15 years, mostly at home games and local tournaments.

"I'm retired now, so I have the time and the luxury (to travel to Las Vegas and play at the WSOP)," he said.

Other newcomers came as part of a large contingent. Nine players from a 30-person league out of Riverside, California, called Poker Jokers were playing their first WSOP event, including Jerry DeRosa, a 66-year-old retired teacher.

"I played penny-ante poker with my parents when I was a kid," said DeRosa. DeRosa also gave his daughter, Beth Marsing, the poker bug. She's also a member of the Poker Jokers Poker Club and came to watch him and the other players play.

"It's a lot of fun," said DeRosa of being at the WSOP for the first time. "To me there's no pressure because with this kind of a draw, there's astronomical odds against you. I really didn't expect to be part of history, but this is history."

Scott Raymond, another member of the group that came just to watch, played in the WSOP last year after earning a spot in a $1,500 event. He said that the only advice he gave the newcomers was to go to the restroom a few minutes before the breaks, which, as anyone who has been to the WSOP before knows, is pretty sage wisdom.

DeRosa and seven others from the group didn't advance to Day 2. But John Mason, another member of the Poker Joker Poker Club, did.

A 46-year-old sales manager for a box company, Mason plays in home games and in card rooms around Riverside, which is about an hour east of Los Angeles. He and his wife make frequent visit to Las Vegas, but this is his first WSOP event.

He says he's been playing poker for 26 years, so he didn't have any butterflies as play got underway, but he did recognize that he was part of something special.

"It's exciting to be here in the largest tournament so far in the world," said Mason.

Mason, who was essentially already freerolling as he earned his tournament entry through a yearlong league, also pocketed $50 from every other player in the league in a last-longer bet. He won't have to survive long on Sunday to make it into the money, as approximately 80 percent of the field has already busted, and 15 percent of the field will cash.

John Mason has a better-than-average chip stack heading into Day 2.

John Mason has a better-than-average chip stack heading into Day 2. (photo by Aaron Todd)

"Hopefully I have enough chips to stick around," said Mason. "A deep run is all I can ask for. Hopefully I can chip up tomorrow and we'll see what happens. You never know."
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