Backward cap. Hoodie. Backpack. Trey Harrell ticks off a lot of the boxes on the 21-year-old poker player list. Harrell qualified for the 2018 World Series of Poker Main Event by playing in the Tampa Bay Elite Poker League all Spring.
“It was a 20-week league and the top four out of 30 got seats. I got in like that, which is good. Provides an opportunity for people like me to play,” said Trey. “I was excited the whole way once I won the seat. I don’t feel nervous at all, I still don’t feel very nervous but maybe as it gets deeper.”
The University of South Florida business major was one of the record 4,571 players who played on Day 1C and one of the 3,470 who survived to play Day 2C. While most players might be nervous playing their first Main Event, Trey found the level of play to be similar to what he was used to.
“I didn’t think my first two tables were maybe a little bit tougher but comparable to the league. I didn’t think the league was particularly tough,” said Trey, who noticed a difference through one level on Friday. “My table now is pretty tough. I looked up their Hendon Mob and they have some serious scores”
Trey, who turned 21 in April, wasn’t the only one from his family to play the Main Event this year. His mom, Marie Harrell, played Day 1B and busted halfway through Day 2AB. She also played last year, making it to the dinner break on Day 3 but ultimately falling short of cashing. She’s not at all surprised that her son picked up the game.
“I play just recreationally, but in second grade he was a state chess champion and so he’s a gamer by nature. Family game night was boring because he would win every game,” joked Marie. “He’s just a natural strategy kid. I always knew one day he would take to poker.”
For the younger Harrell, poker was a landing spot after recognizing that the opportunities to play chess at a high level while making some money along the way weren’t great.
“I was always conscious of (poker) because my mom liked to play. I liked to play a lot of chess and I think most people who play chess realize there’s not too much as they get older with it to do and graduate to poker. It’s pretty natural,” said Trey.
He’s currently studying business the University of South Florida in Tampa, but like a lot of kids in their third year of college, isn’t quite sure what direction he wants to go once he graduates.
Or if he graduates.
“If this is a successful week, he might say ‘I’m gonna do this’. He can always go back to college, too,” said Marie.
Trey believes the likelihood he goes that direction is highly unlikely, unless of course, he finds himself staring a seven-figure score in the face next weekend.
“I’m pretty calculated as a person. If I final tabled, for example, then I’d certainly consider it, but if I didn’t I’d be realistic and probably continue to finish my degree,” said Trey.
As for any sort of simmering family rivarly between the two, Trey says it doesn’t exist.
“I think she would tell you herself pretty quick that she thinks I’m better. I study a lot. No last longer though – she owns enough of me,” joked Trey.