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January 23, 2018

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No longer an underdog, local Jay Farber in position to win WSOP Main Event

Ryan Riess all that stands between Farber and $8.3 million championship


Steve Marcus

Jay Farber, 29, a Las Vegas VIP Host originally from Santa Barbara, Calif., arrives for the final table of the World Series of Poker $10,000 buy-in no-limit Texas Hold ‘Em tournament at the Rio Monday, Nov. 4, 2013. The 2013 “November Nine” are competing for a share of $26,662,046 of prize money including $8,359,531 for first place.

2013 WSOP Final Table Day 1

A supporter of Jay Farber, dressed in a panda costume, watches play during the final table of the World Series of Poker $10,000 buy-in no-limit Texas Hold 'Em tournament at the Rio Monday, Nov. 4, 2013. Launch slideshow »

2013 WSOP Main Event final table payouts

  • 1st: $8,361,570
  • 2nd: $5,174,357
  • Amir Lehavot (3rd): $3,727,823
  • Sylvain Loosli (4th): $2,791,983
  • J.C. Tran (5th): $2,106,526
  • Marc McLaughlin (6th): $1,600,792
  • Michiel Brummelhuis (7th): $1,225,224
  • David Benefield (8th): $944,593
  • Mark Newhouse (9th): $733,224

In the same way he zones in on every detail at a poker table, Jay Farber kept track of all the build-up to the World Series of Poker Main Event final table over the last four months.

He monitored the betting odds that painted him as high as a 9-to-1 long shot to win poker’s world championship bracelet despite having the fourth-most chips of the remaining nine players. He glanced at the fantasy drafts where he was the last pick as often as pocket Aces beat 2-7 off-suit.

He read the previews that portrayed him as the worst player at the table, the lone amateur whom the eight professionals could feast upon.

“I was happy to be the underdog, and I thought everyone was underestimating me,” Farber said. “Just because I don’t have a lot of tournaments doesn’t make me a poor poker player.”

No, Farber’s an extremely rich poker player now. And he’ll quite possibly be the year’s most celebrated one after the last day of action, starting 5:45 p.m. today in the Penn & Teller Theater at the Rio.

Farber, a 29-year old local VIP nightlife host, brings the chip lead into heads-up play against 23-year-old professional Ryan Riess from East Lansing, Mich. He built a stack of 105 million chips, slightly more than Riess’ 85 million, during a nine-hour session Monday.

Farber eliminated three of the November Nine by himself including J.C. Tran, who was the favorite after entering with the best résumé and most chips.

“I didn’t have many expectations for today,” Farber said. “Obviously, I wanted to do well. I thought it would be a disappointment if I finished anywhere lower than fourth. Getting heads-up is better than most people expected of me.”

Farber and Riess, the two least experienced players coming in, will play for $8.36 million on ESPN2 — hands are televised on a 15-minute delay. The runner-up receives $5.17 million.

Farber thought he took advantage of other players’ perceptions of him to make it this far. That’s no longer going to count as a factor. Riess knows what he’s up against in Farber.

“I thought he played great,” Riess assessed. “He picked up a couple really big hands and made some great bets.”

Farber will readily admit he amassed a great deal of fortune Monday night. The biggest pot of the tournament thus far came when he picked up pocket Aces to Marc McLaughlin’s pocket Kings to win 79 million chips.

But even before that, Farber had worked his way to second from fourth with sharp reads and well-timed aggression. Farber sent Tran, the 24th top earner in poker tournament history, reeling by re-raising him for a second time before the flop during six-handed play.

Farber showed strength by committing 10 million chips and getting Tran to fold. The televised broadcast, which is delayed by 15 minutes to allow it to show hole cards, revealed Farber had the relatively weak holding of pocket 6s.

Tran held Ace-Queen, which would have made for a near 50/50 proposition if he called Farber’s bet.

“I looked at him and he didn’t seem like he was at the very top of his range,” Farber recounted. “He just didn’t seem super-confident and, obviously, a five-bet coming from me is going to look really, really strong there. I just thought it was a good spot.”

Some credited Farber’s high level of play partially to the star-studded cast of supporters in his corner. He’s built an impressive network of poker-professional friends after years of escorting them to the city’s hottest clubs and facing off in cash games.

Last year’s Main Event runner-up, Jesse Sylvia, and 2011’s third-place finisher, Ben Lamb, were among those at the Rio conferring with Farber in between hands. But Farber said, unlike most players who advance to the final table, he barely did any preparation with himself, let alone with others.

“Not very much at all,” Farber said. “We talked strategy; we talked game plan; we talked certain situations that might come up. But I felt the way I played got me where I was and we weren’t going to try to change anything.”

That will stand for one more night. Asked how he would get ready for the one-on-one battle with Riess, Farber didn’t give a token answer.

He said he was heading to a club.

“I go out every night,” Farber shrugged his shoulders. “I mean, what am I going to do: Sit at home and dwell on the final table? No, I’m going to go out and enjoy myself.”

Farber feels he already has something to celebrate. He’s already defied expectations.

“It definitely motivated me,” Farber said. “At the same time, I don’t want to listen to the people who judge me who don’t know who I am. But it’s nice to prove people wrong.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at

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