Chapel Hill’s Newhouse gets a 2nd chance at poker title

07/28/2014 5:42 PM

07/28/2014 8:48 PM

Players at this year’s World Series of Poker witnessed a new Mark Newhouse.

A Chapel Hill native, Newhouse, 29, took a more relaxed approach to the 2014 No-Limit Texas Hold’em Main Event, the same tournament in which he finished ninth last year as the first player eliminated from the final table.

Newhouse went into a tailspin after that early elimination last November despite knowing he was a longshot to win the event with a short stack of chips.

“Going into it I had no expectations,” he said. “But in reality it was pretty devastating. I came back and didn’t win any money (he was paid his ninth-place money of $733,000 in July last year before the event concluded four months later). It was actually a disaster.

“You can’t help feeling good about it and then it ends. It affected me more than I thought it would. I went on a little losing streak.”

During this year’s Main Event at the Rio Hotel and Resort in Las Vegas, Newhouse started slowly but built momentum quickly. He went from a starting stack of 30,000 chips to 220,400 on the second day of the tournament to 423,400 on Day 3. By the fifth day, he was the chip leader at 7.4 million. After a slight dip on Day 6, Newhouse came on strong, finishing with 26 million chips, placing third heading into November’s final table of nine players.

“You don’t expect to get back there,” he said of making back-to-back final tables, the second player to do so since Dan Harrington in 2003-04. “It’s definitely a good accomplishment and it’s something I’m proud of.”

But don’t ask the former Appalachian State student to compare himself to poker greats such as Harrington, Johnny Chan, Doyle Brunson, Stu Ungar and Phill Hellmuth. “I don’t like to rate myself in that manner,” he said.

What is amazing about Newhouse’s accomplishment is the sheer number of players he had to outlast over a two-year period. He has outplayed fields of 6,352 and 6,683 players during that time span, a feat unmatched in the history of the event.

After playing in 14 World Series of Poker events this summer without cashing, Newhouse hit his stride during the Main Event.

“Having been through it before, I was feeling very relaxed the whole time this year,” he said. “Last year, I squeezed my way through. I had more chips this year. I felt very confident after Day 5. I started that day at a tough table and won some big pots. After that I raised every single hand and there wasn’t much anyone could do about it.”

A familiar player on the cash game scene at the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, where he lives, Newhouse enjoys the format of the Main Event, where anyone with the $10,000 entry fee can compete.

“The structure is great in the Main Event,” he said. “It’s a tournament I try to take very seriously.”

He should take it more seriously this year with a first-place prize of $10 million.

At the very least, Newhouse is hoping for his biggest payday in tournament poker since he won $1.5 million at the Borgata Poker Open in Atlantic City, N.J., when he was 21. He is the most experienced tournament player among this year’s November Nine, the final nine players in the Main Event, and is listed at 5-1 odds to win the event at Ladbrokes.com.

“I think (final table) is significantly softer than it was last year,” he said. “I like my seat. The experience of doing this before is actually pretty big. I’m in a much better position to play poker this time.”

Newhouse is headed to Europe to “hang out for a couple weeks” before returning home. In October, he will head to Melbourne, Australia, to compete in the World Series of Poker Asia-Pacific series. The November Nine will return to the Rio Hotel and Resort to settle unfinished business Nov. 10 with ESPN televising on a delayed basis. The network’s highlights of the first seven days of the Main Event will begin Sept. 28

Newhouse already has earned a place in poker history. He would love to add to that legacy come November.

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