LAS VEGAS -- If it wasn't for the presence of 72-year-old Pierre Neuville of Belgium at the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event--which resumes Sunday--the oldest player at the table would be 61-year-old Neil Blumenfield of San Francisco.
Blumenfield, a Silicon Valley software company executive, is no stranger to the WSOP Main Event. Three years ago, he finished in 285th place in the WSOP's signature event, earning nearly $35,000.
He's also no stranger to winning big money in poker tournaments, having earned almost $1.2 million so far in his career, even though he's won just one tourney--the Nevada State Poker Championship in 2008.
So he's got the experience.
And the brain power too.
Prior to that he worked at Above All Software, Informix Software, Visigenic Software and Andromedia.
Will a background in computers, software, the Internet and poker provide the impetus for the wiley exec to win the 2015 WSOP Main Event?
Gambling 911 caught up with Blumenfield yesterday at the Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino, where the Main Event is being held, and asked him, among other things, how he's getting ready for the battle of his life.
Here's a transcript of that interview:
Gambling 911: What has been the reaction from friends, relatives, co-workers and others to your making the November Nine?
Neil Blumenfield: A lot of excitement. For some, it is hard to understand just how special this is and how fortunate I am to be here. But for friends who know poker, and especially for some of my girlfriend Pascale’s friends in France, I got kind of a hero reception. It was very cool. And my longtime poker friends, like the guys from Silicon Valley Poker, the support has been tremendous. I’ve also heard from a lot of people who I have not really been in touch with for many years. It's great to hear from them again.
G9: What was your overall WSOP experience like this year and did you get to meet any top pros or celebrities?
NB: Obviously, going seven days is a great experience. I played with a lot of great players. I played with Daniel Negreanu for about 12 hours over two days. At my Day 2 table, directly to my left I had Athanasios Polychronopoulos, Matt Ashton, Jesse Sylvia and Dan Singular. A pretty impressive group. I also played a lot with Matt Jarvis, Max Sternberg, Fedor Holz and Justin Schwartz. I knocked out Antonio Esfandiari. Any time you play seven days in a tournament, you play with great players.
G9: What did you do to prepare for the WSOP Main Event final table, which resumes on Sunday?
NB: I worked a lot on my game--studying, reviewing hand histories. I played three good tournaments and cashed in all three.
G9: How do you see your chances of winning the title and who do you think will be your toughest opponents?
NB: I think I have a great chance to compete, but I will need some good breaks and must avoid bad breaks. Joe will be tough because he has a huge stack and is a very strong player. Max is also very tough and very experienced. And Pierre comes in with a ton of experience in live play and nothing to lose. He will be very competitive. And no one is weak.
G9: To prepare for the final table, did you extensively research all your opponents as to their styles of play and tendencies, or did you just concentrate on improving your own game?
NB: I watched the broadcasts and reviewed hand histories. I think I have a good idea how they played in July. That may change in November.
G9: Have you signed any endorsement or sponsorship deals? If so, what?
NB: Yes, I have three sponsors--888 Poker, Pascaline Paris and Burns Cowboy Store. I am happy to be in the 888 camp as I really want to push to bring online poker back to the U.S. Pascaline Paris is my girlfriend’s fashion boutique in San Francisco. And Burns is supplying great hats for me and some of my Fedora Posse.
G9: Have you sought advice from fellow players who made Main Event final tables in the past? Who would you like to talk to if you could speak with anyone from poker?
NB: I have worked with some very good players. I would love to talk with Doyle Brunson. He is a hero of mine.
G9: What other forms of gambling do you enjoy? Do you like to bet on sports and if so, which ones?
NB: None. I used to try to bet on sports, but decided I can’t beat it. So it’s just poker.
G9: What other pastimes or hobbies do you enjoy outside of gambling?
NB: I brew beer. I bike. I ski. I enjoy a lot of outdoor activities. Pascale and I spend a lot of time listening to music and watching movies. I played competitive hockey for about 20 years, but hung up the skates a few years ago.
G9: Do you eat a special diet or do any special excercises to maintain your game?
NB: I am careful what I eat. I eat no red meat or pork, but that is more a lifestyle choice and, I think, a healthy choice, but it is not poker-related. And I do work out. That is important for poker and everything else, especially as you get older. I try to avoid losing a pound of muscle and some portion of my brain cells every year.
G9: Is there anything you can tell us about your personal life or family?
NB: I’ve been with Pascale for two years. She is the love of my life and an inspiration. I have two sisters and their families back in Chicago. I lost both my parents young. My dad when I was 10--he was a poker player--and my mom 13 years later. My only regret is that they never got to see me succeed in life.
G9: What's one thing about you that your fans don't know and you can tell us now?
NB: I am a much better poker player now than I was four months ago. And I was Illinois State High School debate champion 43 years ago.
By Tom Somach
Gambling 911 Staff Writer