It’s 114 degrees outside at 2:30 in the afternoon in Las Vegas and Daniel Weinman is standing over a six-foot putt on the seventh hole of TPC Summerlin. Sweat drips down the back of his neck as he draws the putter back and strikes his ball.
On the other side of the green, Toby Lewis waits in anticipation hoping that Weinman comes up short here and brings him closer to even on the day.
With the small stakes they’re playing for you wouldn’t know that they’re both just 24 hours away from playing the 2023 World Series of Poker Main Event final table with millions of dollars on the line. Some of the other players might be reviewing hands from the last few days or trying to get caught up on rest in hopes of coming out victorious and earning $12.1 million. Not Weinman and Lewis. They’re out on the course playing for stakes that might see one of them win a couple hundred bucks.
Weinman lips the putt and Lewis lets out a little grin, down only $75 on the day now, not exactly an amount that will keep Lewis up at night, especially since he’s guaranteed a $900,000 payday no matter what happens at the final table.
Lewis, who comes into the final table with the shortest stack at 19,800,000, slept well the night before – good enough that he actually slept in and almost missed his tee time.
“I managed to get seven hours last night,” Lewis said. “Energy level is a six out of ten. Pretty good, I think.”
It wasn’t the same for Weinman, who has 81,700,000 for the third biggest stack. He actually had his worst night of shuteye since the Main Event started.
“I didn’t get a ton of sleep last night, probably only four or five hours,” Weinman said. “I’ve been sleeping better the rest of the time.”
The WSOP Main Event is a grueling experience for the players that make the final table. It’s eight days of poker, with no days between the end of Day 2 and Day 8. With a schedule like that, there’s no opportunity to do any of the things that they would normally do if they weren’t in the middle of a life-changing run. Rather than sleep through it or jump in the lab, Lewis wanted to just get outside.
“We haven’t been able to golf for a week and it’s nice to get outside and get some vitamin D,” Lewis said. “I’m not sure that air was that fresh, but just to get outside, basically, take your mind off of playing poker for the last a hundred hours of the week that we just did whatever it was.”
Weinman is happy for the opportunity to get outside, but is also grateful to shift gears and not be thinking about combo draws, pay jumps, and range advantages.
“More so for me, just kind of an easy way not to think about the poker today. Obviously (Sunday’s) a big day,” Weinman said. “Being able to just have some fun and do it with a with a good friend who happens to be at the final table is awesome.”
Lewis and Weinman have known each other for about five years and have battled on the felt and on the greens and developed a friendship over time. The day also marked the first time that Weinman has been outside since the Main Event began.
“We’ve just been stuck in there for what, two straight weeks? 10 hours a day?,” said Weinman, who played the first week of the Series in June before going home for an extended break returning for the Main Event. “I think it’s the first time I’ve actually stepped foot outside the casino since the Main Event started. So, it’s nice to do something else.”
Now eight holes in, they’re debating packing it in after nine holes. The enormity of Sunday – and hopefully Monday when the final four play to a champion – isn’t weighing heavily on them though. It’s just too damn hot.
Lewis lives in Las Vegas and golfs regularly. He’d much rather have a day where the cards don’t break his way than a day where the putts don’t.
“Well, there’s a lot of luck in poker that sometimes you just flip out and you’ve done nothing wrong, and golf is pretty much all your fault,” Lewis said.
“You know you’re going to have bad days on the felt,” Weinman said, while also admitting he definitely loves one of the two more than the other. “I could give up the poker, (but) I’m a golf junkie.”
That’s not the case for Lewis though.
“I think my life would be quite empty without both of them,” Lewis admitted. “I need both of them to be happy.”
Weinman is a scratch golfer and Lewis is a 2 handicap, so that gives Weinman the edge on the course. On the felt, it’s a little harder to determine who is the better overall player.
“That’s not a fair question, no one, no one’s going to answer that,” Lewis said.
Weinman had no problem answering it, even if it was with a soft touch of diplomacy.
“I mean … we’re playing a No Limit Hold’em tournament. It’s Toby’s specialty. I play every game and I think I play them all well, but I’m not elite at any of them,” Weinman said. “Toby is, I would say, a much better No Limit Hold’em tournament player than I am.”
The WSOP Main Event final table is a dream for nearly every poker player on the planet. The money is certainly a big part of that, but so is the prestige of the 54-year-old event and the notoriety and fame that comes with it. Making it here with a good friend is a totally unexpected and surreal experience.
“That’s obviously the icing on the cake for sure, but at the end of the day when you are playing at the table, it doesn’t matter anyway,” Lewis said. “You’re just playing against everyone exactly the same way. You don’t worry about who you’re playing against when you play poker.”
For Weinman, the unique opportunity to turn into a railbird once he folds his hand is something he’s looking forward to but knows that the competitive side of each, which was on full display on the golf course Saturday, is going to be in full effect once cards are in the air.
“It’s always fun to have a friend at the table and, I’m definitely pulling for him more than others,” Weinman said. “I would say in all-ins and stuff like that, but I think we’re both going to be out for blood.”