Not many people fall into $5,678,000 on a whim, but Ben Jacobs just might be able to pull it off if the next couple days of the 2023 WPT World Championship fall the right way.
The 41-year-old from Honolulu, Hawai’i flew to Las Vegas with his wife with no concrete intention to play this $10,400 buy-in tournament. And after five days of play, Jacobs holds the chip lead with just 16 players left.
“I came out to Vegas with my wife and we were just gonna hang out and have a good time,” said Jacobs. “I decided to enter on the last day, the last flight. And then I ran good.”
Believe it or not, this is not the first time Jacobs has jumped into a big buy-in tournament and made a serious run of it.
“Back in 2017, I ran decently in the WSOP Main Event,” said Jacobs. “And it’s because the night before I just ran good at blackjack, and I just decided to play.”
That run in 2017 ended in 132nd place, good enough for a $53,247 payday. That cash makes up a big chunk of Jacobs’ career tournament earnings of $134,643, and that’s thanks in large part to the games Jacobs usually tends to play in.
“I don’t play that many tournaments,” said Jacobs. “When I do play poker, it’s usually Big O or 5-card PLO cash games. No Limit’s pretty boring to me, so it feels kind of good to run deep.”
Jacobs’ path to the Day 6 chip lead in the WPT World Championship feels unlikely for a number of different reasons. Beyond the last-minute decision, Jacobs maintained his patience through a slow start and then persevered through elements beyond the cards being played on the table.
“If you look at my numbers throughout the throughout this tournament, I was just kind of average stacked Day 1 through 3,” said Jacobs. “On Day 2 I was sick, and I coughed so hard I threw my back out and I could barely move. I’m still on a bunch of medication but I’m finally starting to feel better, so that’s good.”
Jacobs’ surge to the top of the chip counts started late on Day 4, when he five-bet all in with pocket aces and found a call from Naj Ajez and his pocket queens. That double-up put Jacobs into the chip lead for the first time, and he ended the night on Monday in sixth place overall.
It was more of the same on Day 5, as Jacobs once again found himself on the right side of a cooler with pocket aces in a massive pot.
“I did lose some smaller flips, but all the big hands just held up, which was really nice,” said Jacobs. “And, you know, the big one early in the day, when I had aces versus kings. That makes it kind of easy.”
Jacobs also secured the final elimination of the night on Day 5, triggering the two-table redraw when he knocked Andrei Boghean out in 17th place.
There were long stretches in which Jacobs simply bided his time between getting himself into ideal spots.
“I guess the second-best strategy in the game is just to fold,” said Jacobs. “A lot of folding is right in this game right now, especially in this slow structure.”
The stakes could not be much higher at this stage in the tournament. And despite a low, even keel through much of this tournament, don’t mistake Jacobs’ calm demeanor for not taking each hand seriously.
“I’m definitely not looking past where I’m at right now,” said Jacobs. “Every hand you can lose half your stack. Anyone who plays poker, they know. People with one big blind can have the chip lead later in the day.”
By Thursday night, Jacobs could have over $5.6 million to bring back with him to Hawai’i, to share with his wife and two dogs, both Australian shepherds. Jacobs has played in some serious spots thus far in the tournament without the moment getting too big, and even if he can just make it through to the end of the night on Wednesday, he’d be guaranteed at least $1 million.
“Guess I’m just really lucky,” said Jacobs. “I think I’m definitely outclassed right now, but I’m just trying to hold my own, taking each hand as it comes and trying to make the best decision. And I’ve been running good.”