There’s a relatively decent chance that Lawrence Pileggi could be the smartest player left in the 2018 World Series of Poker Main Event. Before anybody gets offended, consider the facts.
Pileggi holds 29 patents related to electric circuit technology. He’s a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and he’s considered a leading expert in his field. He’s now started using the expertise in his field and started working on any possible applications for power grids.
He’s also not too shabby at poker. He’s a former Poker Night in America winner and has picked up cashes in other events in the Pittsburgh area.
Oh, and he’s managed to do all of that while dealing with a neuro-muscular condition that limits how much he can move his arms and legs and has him in an electric wheelchair when he’s not sleeping.
Doctors have never been able to give Pileggi a diagnosis. They’ve told him it’s not muscular dystrophy, but not much else. His arm movement is so restricted that his daughter, Hannah, has been sitting behind him throughout the Main Event to help him stack chips or count out the appropriate amount of a bet.
He’s only in Las Vegas to play the Main Event, and as Day 4 was winding down he was still fighting hard to get a Day 5 invite.
“Today I came in and had a pretty aggressive table with two very big stacks. They’re good and they’re aggressive,” said Pileggi. “These young kids trying to show up this old guy. I had to bluff them a few times.”
He’s cashed in a few WSOP events over the past few years, but not the Main Event.
“I don’t play the Main every year because it’s such a big commitment of time and usually I don’t have it,” said Pileggi.
The long hours are taking a toll on Pileggi. While other players who traveled to Las Vegas for the Main Event are staying on The Strip, Pileggi is staying at the Rio just to try and make life easier for him and his family.
“This one is a marathon, especially because the time it takes me to get ready in the morning is a little longer than most people,” said Pileggi. “We finished late (Saturday) night and then had to get up early (Sunday) morning. It’s been a drain. We’re here (at the Rio) for that reason. If we had to drive somewhere, it would be a little bit more painful.”
Some of his previous poker exploits have ended up on TV or streamed online. It’s helped turn him into a bit of a Big Man on Campus at Carnegie Mellon.
“Students from all over the world, we try to recruit them to do research. They’ll Google me and then sometimes the first thing that comes up is ‘I read you played poker’,” said Pileggi. “It’s really funny to Skype with somebody in China and they’ll ask you about the research and then they’ll say ‘I have one more question’ and they ask about the poker.”