Every poker enthusiast dreams of going pro, and every professional dreams of winning the big one – the World Series of Poker Main Event. Dan Sindelar knows these dreams well, and while the first came true nearly a decade ago for the now 30-year-old cash game specialist, his eyes are unwaveringly trained on the ultimate prize as he goes into the final table of the 2014 WSOP Main Event tonight, where the November Nine will battle it out for the 1st place, $10 million prize and coveted title of WSOP Champion.
Sindelar sat down with ESPN.com to discuss the Nebraska-born pro’s rise to a professional poker career. Daniel was 10 years old when his father, a world champion power lifter who also loved the game of poker, taught him to play. Sindelar continued playing with his friends throughout high school, spending their change and cheering on the winner who often used their spoils to buy pizza for the group.
It wasn’t until Daniel headed off to college at the University of Nebraska that poker became more than a hobby. By the end of his first year, he held little enthusiasm for scholastics anymore, preferring to make his money on the felt. One of his friends introduced him to online poker in his sophomore year, and by the time he was a junior, he decided to drop out and pursue poker professionally. His parents weren’t too keen on the idea, especially after his two older sisters finished with masters and held respectable day-job careers, but they trusted his decision nonetheless; something Dan said he “really respected” them for.
At 21, Sindelar moved to Omaha to get closer to the big action, particularly among the major casinos in Council Bluff, Iowa. He grinded the low-limit tables at $1/$2 and $2/$5 while increasing his stakes at the online poker tables. After three successful, he made the big move to Las Vegas. Dan has played in multiple WSOP events, including every Main Event, since 2008, but he’s never made a final table; his cash game play being responsible for paying the bills (and the buy-ins). In 2001, Black Friday took its toll on Dan Sindelar, after which he spent much of his time playing golf, but poker has remained his #1 passion.
Going into this year’s WSOP Main Event, Sindelar told ESPN, “I felt pretty confident in my tournament game. I felt something would [happen] sooner or later … although I wasn’t really expecting the main event run.” Day 1 was tedious for the American poker pro, ending low in the counts, but things improved more and more with each new sunrise. By day 7, he started 3rd in chips, took a definitive lead of 26 million at one point, and ended as the 5th largest stack; the middle-man of the November Nine.
Dan Sindelar started the 2014 WSOP Main event with just $335,962 in live event winnings (and an untold, but certainly much higher, amount in cash game winnings). By the time the lights go out in the Penn & Teller Theater tomorrow night, he will have increased his live event earnings by anywhere from 2x to near 30x. The minimum any November Nine member will claim is $730,725, going to the 9th place finisher, while the eventual winner is guaranteed $10 million.