WSOP 2021: Terminal brain-tumor patient Michael Graydon given Main Event freeroll

Haley Hintze Author Photo
Haley Hintze
Posted on: October 27, 2021 14:02 PDT

A bittersweet tale involving a dying poker player's wish to play in the 2021 World Series o f Poker Main Event will come to fruition in a special way, thanks to other players' generosity. On Tuesday, Moody, Alabama's Michael Graydon (@michael_graydon) disclosed on Twitter that he'd been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor earlier this year. Moody, a part-time WSOP Circuit player at stops in the South, posted the following:

Graydon's appeal drew a massive outpouring of both financial and moral support from the poker community. Within hours, not only was Graydon's original request for 70% backing covered, but it appears that he has received a freeroll put up by pro players MJ Gonzalez and Jonathan Depa:

Gonzalez and Depa weren't the only ones offering backing for Graydon's run. Dozens of other players, famous and not-as-famous, tried to buy pieces or offered other forms of backing and support. That included airfare, lodging, and even a training membership for Graydon at Phil Galfond's Run It Once site.

The outpouring of support means that Graydon will be able to enjoy a virtually expense-free trip to what may be his first WSOP Main Event. ('s official record for Graydon shows him as cashing in the Main Event in 2008, but that may be an error. Listings at TheHendonMob show results for two Michael Graydons, with the other being a player from Ireland with several hundred thousand dollars in earnings. The 2008 Main Event cash credited to Alabama's Graydon is instead credited to Ireland's Graydon on the THM site.)

Terminal-illness stories a frequent part of WSOP history and lore

Sadly, Graydon is far from the first terminally-ill poker player to put a WSOP Main Event appearance on his wish list. One of the most famous such episodes occurred in 2019, when New York's Kevin Roster played in the Main Event. Roster was in the late stages of cancer himself, and he played in the 2019 ME after being backed by 2012 WSOP ME champ Greg Merson. Roster had moved to California at that point, and he underwent voluntary euthanasia just a couple of weeks later as allowed under California's Aid in Dying Law.

Other such stories have occurred at the WSOP in earlier years, and there have even been a couple of instances where people have falsely claimed terminal illnesses as part of an attempted swindle. Graydon's case, though, like Roster's, appears absolutely authentic. Since being diagnosed in March, Graydon has relayed occasional reports of his undergoing radiation treatments, which may slow the progress of an otherwise inoperable tumor.

The tales of Graydon, Roster, and others also illustrate the enduring power of the WSOP brand, especially its Main Event. That power outshines all the warts that the WSOP otherwise displays, year after year, including short levels, poor structures, and flimsy playing cards. The little imperfections don't matter to the poker dreamers, who still want that chance to play on the game's greatest stage. For Graydon, thanks to the poker world's generosity, his Main Event dream will come true.

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