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Poker player Scott Mahin

Scott Mahin finished18th in the World Series of Poker Main Event at Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in July.

ELK POINT, S.D. | Scott Mahin went to Las Vegas and beat the odds.

In a big way.

The Elk Point, S.D., native took part in the World Series of Poker Main Event for the first time in July. He ended up walking away with a check for $347,521. Not too bad for a guy whose previous biggest poker victory was $4,700.

Mahin, 47, persevered through days of competition to finish 18th out of the 6,683 players that started in the no-limit hold'em event. Mahin had played in various tournaments around the area, but nothing the size of the WSOP and remarked that the most pressure he felt was in the early days as he tried to last long enough to get into the money.

Entering the main event brings a $10,000 price tag. Mahin, his father Al, friend Ken Mouw and six other people all put in varying amounts of money to get him entered.

“That was the hardest part of the first four days was just trying to get in the money so I could get all the investors their money back,” said Mahin, who was guaranteed just over $18,000 once he reached the final 648 players. “It was a surreal and crazy first day with 2,700 people playing in two big rooms at the Rio. There had to be 200 poker tables in each room with nine people around each table, and the hallways leading to the rooms were just packed with people.”

The event is as much an endurance test as anything. Mahin played nearly the whole time with a short stack forcing him to play with a certain strategy to reach his goal.

“I knew each day that I was a couple more hands from making it to the next but never knew if I would,” he said. “I never let myself get too low so someone would just be able to raise me all in.

“I just didn’t get cards or enough where I would get three or four hands … but I have played enough with a short stack that I knew what I had to do.”

Mahin said he prepared himself early on for the five or six 13- to 14-hour days that he knew he would have to endure in order to be successful. After playing his first day in the tournament he had two days off before playing five in a row.

As Mahin continued to make his way through the tournament the more attention he gained from ESPN – which televises the tournament – thanks to his small-town background and being an unknown on the big stage.

“Doing the interviews with all the people was the hectic part,” said Mahin, who estimates he did 10 interviews with various media during his run. “Playing was the only normal part.”

He was eliminated from the tournament just before it went down to the final two tables as a nine of diamonds hit by his opponent on the river – the final card the dealer reveals for players to make their best hand -- giving him a diamond flush and beating Mahin’s two pair.

Mahin was not disappointed with his effort.

“I was just elated after it happened because it was such an awesome experience and I had not slept or ate for five or six days,” he said. “Everything just hit me and I was really excited about it. He got lucky and he took me out. I had the best hand going in and I didn’t make a mistake so there was no second-guessing.”

Mahin, who works as a road crew supervisor for Thermo Bond Buildings in Elk Point, did have a chance to play with some impressive players highlighted by David Einhorn, a hedge fund manager worth more than a billion dollars.

“I took a bad hit on the fourth or fifth day just before break, and he told me to calm down because I was in the money and we talked for two hours,” Mahin said. “I didn’t know who he was at first but then someone asked him why he didn’t end up buying the (New York) Mets and so he told me that story.”

As for the money, after paying back all those that helped him get entered, Mahin said the only thing he has splurged on for himself is a Cadillac.

He has plans to return for the WSOP next year and in the meantime he is hoping to get some sponsors and go to a few more tournaments.

How was his effort viewed in Elk Point?

“I had over 700 emails and texts congratulating me,” he said. “I think people in Elk Point and those congratulating me had as much fun as I did.”

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