In the just-released episode 225 of the Top Pair Home Game Poker Podcast, my co-host, Bruce Briggs, and I interviewed 2014 World Series of Poker November Niner William Pappaconstantinou (a.k.a., “Billy Pappas”).
He’s got one of the more recognizable faces from that Main Event final table and as the lone amateur, his story as the “everyman” resonated with lots of poker fans who tuned in to watch. Below, you’ll find the summarized transcript of the interview portion of the podcast, which begins just around the 12:30 mark of the show. Hope you enjoy!
Interview Transcript (Summarized)
We’re happy to have with us 2014 WSOP November Niner, 5th place finisher Billy Pappas – welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me.
So you’ve been interviewed in a lot of places by a lot of outlets. We’ve got some more detailed questions for you to hopefully get some more info out of you that people don’t already know. You’re “The people’s champion” and it seems like all the recreational and home game players were rooting for you as the lone amateur player and that you’ve won people’s hearts. Can you describe the feeling of going from “unknown” to “famous”? What’s it been like being thrust into the public sphere – doing all the interviews for the last month?
It’s a pretty good feeling to get recognized for my actions at the table. Everyone’s saying I looked like a pretty good guy and they liked my aura at the table and the way I presented myself. So it’s cool to get known for that.
Are you used to the fame at this point?
I still don’t feel like I’m famous. I got recognized at a Celtics game and people seemed excited to meet me. They took pictures. I enjoyed it a lot. I didn’t ever expect to get randomly stopped and recognized, but it’s pretty awesome to be honest.
You mentioned that you used to play games with buddies “back in the day”. Was it a regular home game? Just hold’em?
It started when I was 15–16. We played some crazy poker games, me and my buddies. It was pre-Moneymaker; he had nothing to do with it. My buddy turned $1 into $27,000, so that’s kind of what made me want to stick with poker. It was 2004 and I learned and played online. I was always more successful at Pot Limit Omaha than Hold’em or any other game. I don’t think I was particularly good or anything though.
I haven’t played with those guys in a while. It was really for fun – no real stakes. Pretty crazy having jumped from that all the way to the World Series of Poker though.
You’ve said that foosball prepares you a lot for poker tournaments in terms of having enough stamina. In terms of actual gameplay though, ahead of the WSOP Main Event final table, you said you’d be playing a bit with some friends to prepare. Did you? Do you feel it helped? Was it good enough preparation to face the pros?
No, I didn’t end up doing that. I was going to do a final table simulation, with the chip stacks and everything, at Foxwoods, but they wanted to charge me. So I said “nah, I’m all set”. So I ended up doing some other stuff, a few tournaments here and there, but I don’t think I prepared too well to be honest.
Wow! That’s crazy they’d want to charge you… You’d think that Foxwoods would be beating down your door; maybe make an event out of it: “See Billy Pappas prepare for the World Series”.
Ya, I thought that would be a good idea. But I was pretty shocked too; like REALLY??!! It sounds pretty horrible now, but that’s what happened, so I decided to pass.
Your Bio states that your dad was a professional golfer, a sport that requires a lot of focus & discipline. Do you think those traits run in your family? A lot of poker players also golf, do you play the game?
I started out playing golf, but I didn’t stick with it. I’m actually not very competitive. It wasn’t really golf for me. I basically just play foosball and basketball now.
Okay, so let’s shift gears here and talk a bit about the November Nine. It seems like the nine of you all got along very well – talked to each other a lot leading up to the final table. Did that help you understand the way they played a bit better?
Funny you say that. I don’t know how the others felt, but like I said, I’m not very competitive. I suppose I should be seeing the other guys at the table like my enemies. I mean, $10 million is at stake after all. But yea, we all got along. I don’t know if that was beneficial to me or anything, but I enjoyed it and it was cool that we all got along.
Throughout the whole WSOP I didn’t see too much berating or anything. Even at tiny tournaments you always see a few people berating, but it was just so different at the WSOP, there was none of that, and so interesting when you compare the two experiences.
Did you get a sense that maybe your final table opponents didn’t take you quite as seriously because you weren’t a professional player like them?
It seemed like everyone was friendly to everyone else. Maybe a little, but it wasn’t too bad and it didn’t bother me. Even if so, they were probably right, haha.
Have you stayed in touch with any of them? Develop more of a friendly relationship?
I played with Jorryt (van Hoof) throughout the whole tournament. So I did ask him some questions. He was just really friendly. Everyone was very friendly. (Felix) Stephenson said he likes foosball, so we said we’d play each other sometime. Antoni (Larrabe) – I talked to him quite a bit. I liked ’em all and I’ll probably end up keeping in touch with all of them.
You said it’s been your dream to go and play at the WSOP for like a decade. So you must’ve watched it on TV. Correct us if we’re wrong on this, but you said “you didn’t know anyone except for Todd Brunson”. How is it that you didn’t know anyone else and how did you know Todd?
I meant in terms of people who sat with me over the course of my WSOP tournament run. Sure, I know all the old school guys of course, like Phil Ivey, Marcel Luske, Phil Laak… but I don’t know the new guys like Jake Cody… I just read about him recently.
Sorry for the misunderstanding there. Okay, so how was it playing with Todd?
He was kind of short stacked, so not too much play with him. But he was very nice, both to me and to everyone else at the table.
You used to be a poker dealer. You like talking to dealers. You’ve said you want to travel and still want to deal. After winning an incomprehensible amount of money, why the urge to go back to dealing?
It’s just fun. Where I used to deal, it was a bunch of regulars. Nobody really got upset or anything. I especially like dealing tournaments; not cash games as much. It would be nice to maybe deal a couple of WSOP Circuit events, maybe travel a little. Maybe the PCA or even a cruise. A tournament is much better because if a player gets mad at you they have to leave. A cash game, those people could just sit at the table with you for the next half hour and you’ve gotta take their attitude and abuse.
If you don’t mind our asking, a few days ago you Tweeted a picture of a large sum of money. What was that?
That was for my backer – he just wanted some gambling money, haha.
Ya, it was kind of awesome. I wanted to see that money in cash anyway. When we were doing the final payouts, I did want to see a million dollars anyway, so I had wanted to take it out in cash, but Jorryt and Antoni were there, so I was a bit embarrassed and didn’t do it in the end. I took a wire transfer in the end, but I just wanted to see $1 million in cash.
In the Bellagio and by the Old Horseshoe at Binions they’ve got $1 million on display. But yeah, to have that $1 million belong to you, that’s pretty cool.
Yup – all those bricks are pretty sweet.
You said a number of times in other interviews that when you collect your money, you want to take care of your mom and buy her a house, buy yourself a car (you’ve never had a car before), then set aside some money to play poker with. Have you followed through on those plans? Care to elaborate?
It’s tough to go about all of it. I’ve been looking at a house. I’ve never had money, so I have no experience with any of this. So I’m just taking my time – I don’t want to make any mistakes or anything. I haven’t bought a car or anything. I’m still planning on traveling, so I won’t be home for a couple months at a time probably, so I just don’t want to waste any money or anything.
Are you still going to travel on the foosball circuit?
The foosball thing will probably never end. It’s just that I’ve been playing since I was seven years old; these people are like family to me, so even if I’m not playing, I’ll still want to go to tournaments and hang out with them.
In February I might be going to England. While I’m there, I’ll probably take in some soccer games; I’m a big fan. There’s also tournaments in Germany and Austria, so I’ll always be okay with traveling and playing.
I noticed that you were actively pursuing sponsorships on Linkedin leading up to the Main Event. You got Draft Kings and 888…. Did anyone else sign you? What do you need to do for them over the coming year?
Nobody else signed me, but my commitments with them are over – it was just for the final table at the WSOP. I had the option to do something for a little while longer, six months, but I wasn’t sure how much poker I’d want to be playing, so I chose the shorter option. 888 especially, they really took care of me.
Well, you certainly made a name for yourself while sitting at the final table. You didn’t win, but you have the recognition that the other guys just don’t have. You resonate as the everyman, so maybe you’re more approachable for a sponsorship deal in the future?
I dunno. I look on Twitter and I see that all those other guys have tons more followers than me. Sure, I understand that I was the underdog and an amateur, and that’s easy to root for. So I dunno if I was the fan favorite… maybe in America.
Totally off topic but something I have always wondered about. Your surname actually contains 17 letters. In school, taking those timed, standardized tests where you had to fill in circle for every letter in your name did you feel you were already behind the pack by the time you finished filling in your name?
I once got penalized for not writing my entire name; I just wrote William Pappas. Secondly, my name just doesn’t fit on those tests. The “inou” at the end, just wouldn’t fit. Even when filling in some credit card forms, it just doesn’t fit.
Ya, I read you were Billy “Copy/Paste” to all of the live reporting guys at the WSOP.
So maybe you’ll find yourself a home game now?
Oh, it’s pretty easy to get into games here. I’ve got some friends – I’ve played in a couple before.
Are they intimidated when you show up?
I wouldn’t say that. It’s more of a “how on earth did THIS guy make the final table?!” Hahaha. I’ll just say that you definitely need to experience playing at the WSOP at some point in your life. It’s just incredible.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us Billy. Anything else you wanna tell our listeners before you go?
I just want to thank 888 again for sponsoring me and everything they did for me. I was really a poor kid before all of this happened, so I’ll just say that “things can change, so you should take chances once in a while and follow through.”