Two years ago, in 2014, for the first time since the November Nine format was created, a Spanish player reached the final table of the WSOP Main Event. His name was Andoni Larrabe, a 22-year-old guy that eventually finished in sixth position in a tournament won by Martin Jacobson. This year, in 2016, Spanish poker is again represented again at the Penn & Teller Theatre at the Rio.
Andoni Larrabe’s successor is Fernando Pons. Unlike Andoni, who already had extensive experience as an online player and with important results in international circuits like the European Poker Tour, Pons has virtually no experience as a live player.
Pons defines himself as a recreational player, who combines his passion for poker with a full-time job, something that recently has changed slightly.
“I asked for a leave of absence a year in my work. I want to live this experience and play all the tournaments I can. In a year from now, I will think if I come back or not,” said Pons.
Many might think that being one of the nine finalists of the world’s most important final table, Pons come to it with a great experience behind him, but nothing is further from reality. All his live results are practically limited to a second place finish in the Spanish Poker Championship in Mallorca, his hometown, in 2012, where he earned €14,858. There begins and ends his live tournament success.
Pons’ greatest triumphs have come from the online tables where he has achieved important victories in most “.es” rooms. When gaming regulation came into force in Spain, Pons didn’t think – like many other Spaniards players did – to move to countries like the UK, Malta or Portugal. He stayed in Spain, trying to be the best in the Spanish rooms.
He has a victory in an ESCOP event (Spanish Championship of Online Poker) and is a regular in the most important tournaments that can be played from his country, but if there was an online result that for sure Pons will not forget, it’s the €30 satellite on 888poker which ended up giving him a seat into the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event.
You may remember 2003, when a man named Chris Moneymaker came to the Main Event through a $39 satellite and ended up winning? Who knows, maybe that story could be repeated, however, Pons tries not to compare him with Moneymaker, at least not yet.
“I just want to be compared with Moneymaker in case I win the tournament; until then, I prefer not to be compared”, said the Spanish player.
Pons traveled to Las Vegas with the dreams familiar to most recreational players: he wanted to visit Sin City, breathe in the atmosphere of the best poker tournament of the world and enjoy a unique experience, which perhaps he never could repeat. Without any pressure, Pons was gradually advancing one day after another, surpassing the goals he was setting and eventually found himself the final table.
Pons had so little expectation to reach such an advanced stage in the tournament, he had to call his boss to warn that he wasn’t going to be able to return to work as planned. Fortunately for him, his employer was well informed of what was happening in Las Vegas without that call.
His wardrobe also wasn’t ready for such a long performance in the Main Event. As he progressed through the days, he had to go buy new clothes, or at least asking some friends who were there to buy them. It was an unexpected expense, but sense it came with a $1,000,000 pay day, he wasn’t too worried.
Pons has been 100% focused on the preparation of the final table. Last August he participated in a lot of EPT Barcelona events, getting some good results there for him. In September he played in several tournaments in Spain and the World Poker Tour in Marrakech.
Meanwhile, Pons continued to achieve good results in the Spanish online rooms. On August 11th he won the SuperJueves BigStack Turbo at PokerStars.es (336 players) earning a € 2,947 prize. A month later, on September 19th, in 888poker.es, Fernando won the Gran Domingo € 20,000 Guaranteed tournament in which 186 players participated, achieving a €4,300 prize, something that surely have helped Pons to prepare his performance in Las Vegas next October.
Once he confirmed he was one of the November Nine, Pons was unsure about how to deal with the preparation. He was reluctant to seek help in a personal coach, as their starting stack will be 12 big blinds, but finally reached out for help in the Spanish community.
Meanwhile, as sure others are doing, Pons also wanted to know what the other eight were doing, how they are preparing. Some of them are considered as the best in the world as Cliff Josephy or Vojtech Ruzicka, but if there is someone who would like to see eliminated as soon as possible, this is Griffin Benger.
“The sooner he goes, the better. Everyone considers him as one of the favorites, and I also think that,” said Pons.
Nevertheless, Pons arrived in Las Vegas without any pressure. He has already gone much further than he could imagine. He will live an unforgettable experience, knowing he will have the support of all the Spanish poker community, and a small rail that will be close to him at the Penn & Teller Theatre in Las Vegas.
“Some friends will come with me, not many. What is certain is that I will not have a rail like Bruno Politano,” laughed Pons.