Local poker player takes 751st place in WSOP Main Event

Photo courtesy of Free Poker Network
Joel Smith, of rural Henning, took 751st place in the World Series of Poker Main Event. He won just over $27,000 and frequently plays poker at Billy’s Corner Bar in Vergas.

By Chad Koenen


Henning might not be known as the poker capital of the world, but Joel Smith did his part in putting it on the map at the annual World Series of Poker Main Event last week. Smith, who lives in rural Henning, placed 751st out of 10,043 of the best poker players in the world. 

“It was a blast,” said Smith of the World Series of Poker. 

While he enjoyed his time in Las Vegas, the days did get to be a bit long at times as the first hand started around noon and play typically wrapped up around 1 a.m. There were short breaks every two hours and a dinner break, but that meant long lines for the bathroom and refreshments. Throughout the long days, Smith’s wife Nikki was there by his side with refreshments, encouraging words and quick smile to get him through the grinding days at the poker table. 

“Honestly I wouldn’t have done as well either without my wife there meeting me at every break with refreshments and calming me down,” he said. “It is good to have someone there (for support and help).” 

For his 751st place finish, the rural Henning resident took home just over $27,000 in prize money. The grand prize champion took home $10 million. 

This wasn’t the first time that Smith competed in the World Series of Poker Main Event. In 2015 he finished in 776th place out of 6,800 of the best poker players in the world. The experience from his first trip in the World Series of Poker helped Smith remain calm and give him something to fall back on as the days went on.

“I was a lot more relaxed so I knew what to expect a little bit. But it was still pretty intense. There is a lot of long days and long days in a row,” he said. 

Smith, who is a regular at league poker nights at Billy’s Corner Bar in Vergas, the Dugout Bar in Dent and Salty Pickle in rural Perham, has qualified for national championships in the past. He has made multiple final tables over the years and placed second at least twice, in addition to his pair of national championships. 

He qualified for the World Series of Poker after winning first place in the Free Poker Network National Championship. The grand prize included a free entry into the World Series of Poker.