Preston McEwen celebrates birthday of SMA-stricken friend during Main Event Day 4 surge

Haley Hintze
Published by:
Posted on 11/12/2021

It’s been a special sort of a 2021 WSOP Main Event Day 4 for Tennessee’s Preston McEwen. The Murfreesboro-based grinder began the day mired in the middle of a 1,000-player pack, with 360,000 chips, but in little more than a single two-hour level, McEwen had rocketed north of two million. The surge put him in serious contention for — at the very least — a career-best poker payday. And possibly much, much more.

An image of ‘Atom Bomb’ David Hendrix adorns Preston McEwen’s hoodie on Day 4 of the Main Event, which is also Hendrix’s 31st birthday. (Image: Haley Hintze)

But McEwen has other thoughts on his mind this Friday in addition to his huge surge. He arrived wearing a hoodie emblazoned with an image of a good poker friend, David “Atom Bomb” Hendrix. Hendrix turned 31 today, and he’s rooting on McEwen in the Main Event from his home in Mississippi.

Thirty-first birthday? What’s so special about that? In Hendrix’s case, it’s very special. As McEwen explains, Hendrix is currently the oldest surviving American who’s been stricken with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type 1, the most severe of four forms of the affliction. SMA can strike anyone from birth through young adulthood, but the earlier a person suffers from the neurological disorder, the worse the prognosis is. Type 1 SMA patients are those diagnosed shortly after birth, as Hendrix was, and they typically succumb before age two.

Hendrix, though, is a known fighter, despite several close calls in recent years. He plays poker, too, and he won his first live tournament earlier this year at the Pearl River (MS) Poker Open. He’s become friends with several regional pros along the way. His health wouldn’t allow him to travel west for the WSOP, but he’s been brought there in spirit nonetheless, by McEwen and 2020 WSOP Main Event runner-up Joe Hebert, who had these hoodies made.

McEwen surges on Day 4

With Hendrix on his back, literally, McEwen enjoyed that great surge to start Day 4. He chipped up a bit early on, then doubled up with a flopped set of sixes. McEwen re-raised all in on the flop, which brought two diamonds as well, then endured a lengthy tank as a deep-stacked opponent, Chris Sandrock, pondered his own flush draw.

Sandrock eventually called but bricked the turn and river, pushing McEwen to about 1.1 million in chips. Then he nearly doubled that stack as well, picking up a knockout and moving to about 2.1 million, a top-10 stack at the time:

McEwen settled back a bit over the next two hours of play, but with 1.75 million in chips, he and Hendrix just might be in for a deep, deep Main Event run.

Featured image source: Haley Hintze