Chapel Hill’s Mark Newhouse stunned after early elimination at World Series of Poker

Mark Newhouse faced the music he never wanted to hear after his second straight ninth-place finish at the World Series of Poker’s Main Event.

The man who said he wanted to finish anywhere but ninth was surrounded by media members and fans outside the Rio Hotel’s Penn and Teller Theater after being eliminated Monday night. Newhouse, a soft-spoken Chapel Hill native who resides in Los Angeles, answered questions as well as he could but obviously was disappointed.

“I decided to take a shot at it and it didn’t work out,” said Newhouse, who went all-in with a bet of $10.2 million against William Tonking but lost what proved to be the biggest hand of his year with a pair of 10s against two queens.

Newhouse left with $730,725, the minimum ninth-place payout after qualifying in July for the final table. He is the first player in the so-called November Nine, which was established during 2008, to make it in back-to-back years.

As the most talked about player in the November Nine, Newhouse drew the majority of the media scrutiny. He graciously mingled with well-wishers and signed autographs on his walk down the hallway on the way to his room after being eliminated..

“I did not feel pressure,” Newhouse insisted. “I didn’t play a lot of hands early on and then lost a few hands that didn’t get there.”

During an ESPN interview prior to the event, Newhouse shifted from side to side like a prizefighter. He was on the ropes early, losing his first three hands before a win holding pocket jacks against Spain’s Andoni Larrabe.

In another key hand against Larrabe, Newhouse lost with a pair of 8s against three 5s after making a $2.5 million call.

The early elimination was a cruel reminder of last year’s final table for Newhouse, who recalled that event as being “emotionally devastating.” In that instance, he had the fewest chips of any player. This year, he was solidly in third place at the start of play.

As he left the scene of his elimination, Newhouse was asked if this year’s outcome was harder to take. He managed a faint smile and answered, “Ask me that on a different day.”

After achieving what many considered a nearly impossible feat, outlasting fields of 6,352 in 2013 and 6,693 this year, to make two straight appearances at the final table, could he buck the odds once again and make it back next year?

“That’s the plan,” he said.

And then he made his way through a crowded casino, leaving a dream behind.