Jason Senti: Short-stacked star in the making

wsop2010_thn.jpgIt was as if fate's spotlight operator came off his coffee break and flipped a switch. Jason Senti--once known only to some local music fans and dedicated online grinders--was about to be a star.

After years of playing in a working band with modest success, Senti was set to be on international television. He was about to get rich. He was going to be a Minneapolis hero.

He'd just arrived home from Last Vegas where people had already started to recognize him as being one of the November Nine. A few Minnesotans had picked him out of the crowd, too. Being a star was going to take some getting used to.

So, there he sat with his friends, out for a night, a reunion of sorts for the boys. Senti had four months before he had go back to the November Nine and he had some time to celebrate. Up to his table walked a waitress. She gushed. She was a huge fan. Senti, the cherub-faced North Dakotan who'd taken up residence in Minneapolis as a software engineer was getting the full treatment from the server. She even wanted his autograph.

There is a natural blush on Senti's cheeks, so it's impossible to say whether he was embarrassed by the waitress' love. But what was that sound? That noise that sounded so much like the guffaws of friends who had just pulled one over on their new poker star buddy? Indeed, that was the sound of Senti's old friends laughing it up. The waitress didn't know Senti from anyone else in the bar. Score one for the pranksters.

"I totally bought it," Senti admitted "It's good to know that not much has changed with the people that I have had in my life for many years."

Humbled, Senti moved on, but soon came to realize that what had just happened was going to become a lot more common and a lot more real.

"I have been recognized, stopped, and talked to at the airport and a few times at local bars. I am not sure if I will ever get used to that," he said.

Senti (pronounced CENT-eye) has the dubious distinction among the November Nine as being the worst of the best. That is, of the nine remaining players in the 2010 WSOP Main Event, Senti has the fewest chips and the longest odds for the bracelet. It's a position that he has come, if not to embrace, at least to accept. He knows he's going to need some help if he's going to make it to the top.

"I shouldn't have hopes that are too high," he said. "Still, though, as a competitive person, I won't be happy with anything other than winning."

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Forced by a questioner into the grandest of hypotheticals, the one that sees Senti rising from short-stack to world champion, the man known as PBJaxx allows the stars to float around in his eyes for a moment. He knows the game, he knows the business behind the game, and he knows how important it is to connect the two. Asked what he'd like more people to ask him, he jumps at the chance to talk about the necessity of online poker regulation. It's almost as if he wants to win the Main Event so he has the bully pulpit to talk about the importance of regulation.

"I really hope that we can pass legislation that will lead to the US regulating online poker in our country so that more people can come to the game and find enjoyment through competing at the virtual felt in their own homes," he said. "If I win the Main Event, I'm going to want to be a good ambassador for the game that I love."

For now, Senti is packing his bags for Vegas. You'll be able spot him at the final table as one of two players with nice PokerStars patches on his chest (the other, Jonathan Duhamel, is the chip leader). Who knows what will happen? Poker is a funny game, and who is to say Senti won't end up on top in the end?

"I really hope it is a situation I end up having to plan for," Senti said.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker