Like so many budding poker players, Joshua Marvin started out playing small-stakes cash games in his basement when he was in high school.
"And somehow," said Marvin, of Sterling Heights, "I made it out of the basement."
Marvin, 27, recently completed the deepest run among the dozens of Michigan players who competed in the game's granddaddy of them all -- the $10,000-buy-in World Series of Poker Main Event, in which he finished in 31st place for a cool payday of $214,913.
The tournament is down to the Final Table, nine players, at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
The cashout was the biggest of Marvin's career. His previous best was $165,000 first prize for winning a tournament at Soaring Eagle Casino in Mount Pleasant in 2015.
As with all poker players, the WSOP bracelet is the ultimate goal, so when Marvin's ace-jack ran into ace-king on Day 6, on Sunday, he admittedly was "devastated" by the knockout, and stewed about his exit all throughout the night. The big money is great, to be certain, but when you've beaten such long odds to get in position to win many millions of dollars, it's a blow and it stings.
But since flying back home to Michigan late Monday night, Marvin has been able to put his impressive showing in perspective.
"I made a mistake in a big pot and it ended up costing me. I basically went with my gut, which I had been doing all tournament, and played a hand super-aggressively," Marvin said Tuesday.
"I was hoping he would fold, but he didn't, and he had the better hand.
"But now that I'm home, I'm not dwelling on it. If you would've told me before the tournament that I'd finish in 31st place out of 7,000 people, I would take it, obviously."
Marvin is a 2016 graduate of Oakland University, where he, conveniently and perhaps wisely, majored in finance.
His career, though, has been poker since he was 21, even if he's a better cash-game player than tournament player. This was his third time competing in the Main Event, and he played seven WSOP events during his six-week stay in Vegas, and didn't cash before the Main Event. Technically, this was his first-ever WSOP cash, though he did win a satellite tournament that got him entry into a $25,000-buy-in WSOP event. He opted not to play in that tournament, and sold his entry chips to another poker player, so he considers that a payday, too. He's a regular cash-game player downtown at MotorCity Casino and MGM Grand Detroit.
Marvin's 31st-place showing was the best in the Main Event by a Michigan player since Clarkston's Ryan Riess won the whole thing -- and $8-million-plus -- in 2013.
Marvin's tournament life rarely was at stake throughout the grueling tournament, which began July 8, as he built his stack through a lot of small pots. That allowed him to sustain the occasional big blow, like early on Day 6, when his kings ran into aces.
"But I had already won several pots," Marvin said. "Obviously, a lot went right for me."
Marvin's payday was the second-largest for a Michigan native in the 74-tournament 2017 World Series circuit, behind Muskegon's Jordan Young, who had a runner-up finish in a $1,500-buy-in No-Limit Hold'em tournament last month to earn $242,160.
Marvin was one of 17 poker players from Michigan to cash in the 2017 Main Event, joining: Saginaw's Nicholas Cushman (144th; $53,247); Grandville's Jessse Vilchez (182nd; $46,096); Mount Pleasant's Clinton Hubble (330th; $35,267); Dexter's Jason Steinert (350th; $35,267); Commerce Township's Phung Ngo (364th; $31,170); Commerce Township's Rudolph Sawa (400th; $31,170); Flushing's Devin Looney (559th; $22,449); Westland's Damian Hodson (628th; $20,411); Plymouth's Alex Barill (633rd; $20,411); Sterling Heights' Gjergj Sinishtaj (650th; $20,411); Canton's Pete Males (676th; $18,693); Sterling Heights' Susie Zhao (697th; $18,693); Milford's Steven Stout (760th; $18,693); Spring Lake's Jacob Stearley (828th; $17,243); Shelby Township's Joe Cada (948th; $16,024); and Saginaw's Jeffery Dorr (1,007th; $15,000).
Cada, the 2009 Main Event champion, cashed in this tournament for the first time since he took home the $8,547,044 first-prize money as a baby-faced 21-year-old.
Also of note, Cushman, of Saginaw, made his second extended run in the Main Event, after finishing 65th in 2012 to earn $106,056. Those are two of his three career cashes in World Series of Poker play.
Scott Blumstein, John Hesp, Benjamin Pollak, Bryan Piccioli, Dan Ott, Damian Salas, Antoine Saout, Jack Sinclair and Ben Lamb make up the 2017 Final Table, with play resuming Thursday around 9 p.m. ET. Play will be aired on a 30-minute delay on ESPN2 on Thursday, and on ESPN on Friday and Saturday. First pays $8.15 million.
Interestingly, Saout of France made his second Main Event Final Table this year, after making it in 2009, as well. It was two memorable run-ins with Saout that springboarded Cada to the championship. The first one came when Cada shoved all-in with pocket 2s against Saout's dominating pocket queens, and Cada hit a miracle 2 on the flop to leave Saout shocked and short-stacked. Then, later, Saout went all-in with pocket 8s against Cada's ace-king, and again Cada caught his card, this time a king, to eliminate Saout in third, and send Cada to heads-up against Darvin Moon.
MITTEN MONEY MAKERS
Here's a look at the top finishers from Michigan in the last 10 World Series of Poker Main Events:
2017: Joshua Marvin, Sterling Heights, 31st place; $214,913
2016: Michael Banducci, Traverse City, 69th place; $69,787
2015: Anthony Venturini, Shelby Township, 122nd place; $46,890
2014: Adam Lamphere, East Lansing, 41st place; $186,388
2013: Ryan Riess, Clarkston, 1st place; $8,361,570
2012: Nicholas Cushman, Saginaw, 65th place; $106,056
2011: Jonathan Seelbach, Gregory, 87th place; $76,146
2010: James Schafer, Birmingham, 223rd place; $48,847
2009: Joe Cada, Shelby Township, 1st place; $8,547,044
2008: Dean Hamrick, Plymouth, 10th place; $591,869