Patrick LaVecchia

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A Philadelphia 29-year-old is leading the biggest poker tournament in the world. We talked to him this morning — he’d say more, but it might be bad luck.

Patrick LaVecchia, a Temple grad and Northern Liberties resident, is currently leading at the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event, a massive poker tournament in Las Vegas in which the first-place winner takes home $8.1 million.

Reached on his cell phone Friday morning, LaVecchia said he’s gearing up for the fourth day of play, which begins at 11 a.m. Vegas time, but didn’t want to “jinx” his chances by talking too much about where things stand now.

Thursday was Day 3 of the Texas hold’em tournament, and LaVecchia leads a pack of 1,084 remaining players as the chip leader, holding 1,552,000 chips at the end of play on Thursday. According to the World Series of Poker, he’s just narrowly leading Portugal’s Pawel Brzeski, who has 1,546,000 chips; France’s Antoine Saout, who has 1,529,000 chips; and American Jeremiah Fitzpatrick, who has 1,523,000 chips.

Leading the group heading into Day 4 is a pretty significant feat for LaVecchia, whose only results in the World Series of Poker prior to now came in 2009 when he won $3,000 in a $1,500 buy-in hold’em tournament in which he placed 199th.

The stakes for this week’s tournament couldn’t be higher. Everyone who makes the final table this year is guaranteed a million dollars, and everyone who finishes in 72nd-place or better will go home with six figures in winnings. On Thursday night, as play lasted into the wee hours of the morning, the “bubble burst,” meaning everyone left in the tournament at this point will win at least $15,000. The buy-in was $10,000, so at the worst, everyone left in the tournament will make $5,000. Not bad for a week’s work.

LaVecchia spoke briefly to a writer with the World Series of Poker website on Thursday, and tried to explain how he built up such a huge chip stack. “I made lots of hands, and I got paid off a lot. I guess it was because I look young and I don’t have it [the hand] very often. I got dealt tons of really good hands, and things just really came together. Just good old-fashioned run-good. I’ve definitely run way, way, way above average.”

A number of top remaining chip leaders hail from the area, including Aaron Overton, who’s from Philadelphia and currently in 86th place with 784,000 chips, and Joseph Palma, who’s from Bensalem and in 128th place with 673,000 chips.

The tournament continues through July 22nd at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino in Vegas. The the final two rounds will be televised live on ESPN. You can follow along here for live updates.

Anna Orso was a reporter/curator at Billy Penn from 2014 to 2017.