William Pappaconstantinou is already a foosball legend, so now he’s preparing to conquer the world of poker at the November Nine.
The World Series of Poker (WSOP) is something all poker fans look forward to and this year’s edition has already brought a lot of surprises. William Pappaconstantinou – or Billy Pappas, as fans and fellow players know him – is one of them. He is the only amateur player who made it to the final table of the main event.
Players usually take months to prepare for the big poker battle. They seek coaching, ask friends for advice, study poker strategies or work on their tells. And Pappaconstantinou will be playing against some of the world’s most talented and experienced poker players, so he had a lot of work to do over the past few months.
On November 10 and 11, nine players will gather around the table at one of the most frequented American poker rooms at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, to pick up with 1 hour, 35 minutes and 24 seconds remaining in Level 35 of the event. The winner will get to take home $10 million.
Love at first play
Billy Pappas started playing foosball when he was just 7 years old. He told reporters that his mother and her boyfriend introduced him to the game. When he turned 8 years old, he started to spend more time at the arcades, entering weekly competitions against 30 to 40 teams.
Billy was still just a kid when he got his first chance to travel to Texas and participate in a world championship. That was when he won his first title too. By the age of 12, he was already playing the game at a professional level, competing against the best players in the world. By 16, he was calling himself a “good pro”, and by the time he turned 20 he was number 1 in the world.
It might be a great honor to be the best foosball player in the world, but the money Billy won was simply not enough to support a lifestyle. Most competitions happened overseas and the game is not as popular and media-friendly as poker, for instance. This means that sponsors are not really interested in foosball. So once he covered all his travel costs, his final income was rather thin.
“The best foosball player probably makes a little over $30,000 a year,” said Pappaconstantinou, who has won four foosball singles world championships since 2005 and holds the record number of titles in this category.
From foosball to poker
The November Nine and their respective seat assignments:
Seat 1 – Billy Pappaconstantinou
Seat 2 – Felix Stephensen
Seat 3 – Jorryt van Hoof
Seat 4 – Mark Newhouse
Seat 5 – Andoni Larrabe
Seat 6 – William Tonking
Seat 7 – Daniel Sindelar
Seat 8 – Martin Jacobson
Seat 9 – Bruno Politano
In 2004, Billy decided to give card games a try when his fellow foosball players were spread out across the country. They decided to play a friendly game, so they gathered around a virtual casino table, since there were still plenty of legal online poker sites in the US back then. This quickly turned into a tradition they dubbed “Monday Night Foosball”.
But Billy didn’t really think about becoming a professional until he witnessed one of his friends turn a single dollar into a significant amount of cash. This ignited the foosball pro’s passion for poker, and although he never really built a bankroll he became more and more excited about the game.
Meanwhile, he stopped investing so much time and effort into foosball practice. This doesn’t mean that he was dethroned, though, because he still manages to keep his position as an elite player. But he made more room for poker, a game he enjoys and plays whenever he’s not busy with foosball.
“I did well in tournaments but poor in cash,” he told reporters. “I was a losing player for a couple of years, but then I had a score at Foxwoods for $15,342 in 2010.”
A few years ago, he made the shift from online poker to playing exclusively at the live felt. And with the foosball industry slowly fading, he became a dealer at Rockingham Park, which brought him additional poker exposure.
Following the dream
So how did Billy make it to the final table at the famous WSOP? He is just an amateur and everyone knows the road to the final table is long and full of obstacles.
Pappaconstantinou’s interest for poker grew this year. He started to dream of venturing to Las Vegas and playing at the world’s biggest tournament.
“I felt like I was the poor kid who hopefully will play in an event someday… It was just more of a dream more than anything. I wanted to play in a $1,500 event this year. The Monster Stack one was the one I was considering. I asked my buddy if he wanted a piece,” he said.
But his friend did not seem interested, so he gave it up and decided to attend a foosball tournament in Austria instead of going to Vegas. But a few weeks after his rejection, he received good news: a friend texted him, asking if he wanted to play in the main event.
Surprisingly, he said no at first, but after his partner convinced him to take advantage of this opportunity, he went ahead and did it. Now Billy will be playing against real poker aces and he is pretty modest about both his achievement so far, and his chances of winning.
“If someone gives it their best, they could do it. I don’t feel like I’m that much better than anyone at the table, ever. Just work hard and follow your dream,” he said.
And it looks like soon enough, his dream will take him to one of the most coveted seats in the world of poker.