Interview: FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver makes $3K LHE WSOP final table

Haley Hintze
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Posted on: October 9, 2021 7:02 pm EDT

Today’s final table in Event #16, the $10,000 Limit Hold’em Championship, offers a rock-solid lineup of elite fixed-limit players, plus a finalist who’s more famed for his work outside the game than within it. That’s Nate Silver, the founder of the well-known political and statistical-analysis site Silver, though, is no newbie to poker. Before creating FiveThirtyEight, which quickly exploded in popularity and brought him mainstream prominence, he grinded away as an online pro for several years.

Silver doesn’t have a lot of time for poker these days, but he squeezes in a few events when he can. He’s had a few nice live finishes, plus a few previous WSOP cashes. But never both at the same time. Today’s Event #16 finish is Silver’s first unofficial WSOP final. He starts fifth of 10 players on Day 3, and should he survive one more bustout, it becomes his first official WSOP final. And if he survives the first two bustouts, this will also be his career-best live cash. (Author’s note: Ray Dehkharghani busted early on Day 3 in 10th place, thus assuring Silver his first official WSOP final-table appearance.)

Finale arrived ‘suddenly’ caught up with Silver just before play began. Like most players, Silver admitted to being caught up in the excitement of making it to the Amazon Room’s center stage. “It’s very cool, he noted. “I’m like pinching myself a little bit — I didn’t realize till just now we’re actually at like the feature table.

Nate Silver and his ever-present Detroit Tigers ballcap await the start of Day 3 action. (Image: Haley Hintze)

“It’s a smaller field,” Silver added about the Limit Hold’em Championship, when compared against most of the WSOP’s no-limit hold’em events. “So you go from, ‘Am I gonna make the money?’ right? And then you’re here at the final table all of a sudden. It happens really suddenly.”

The small, elite field meant only 14 players cashed, so the time between the money bubble bursting and the unofficial 10-player final being set was indeed short in poker terms. Silver said, “There’s not a ton of time to like, process it, but that might be good.”

Silver’s plan for Day 3 is to keep it relatively simple. “[I’ll] just come in and play limit hold’em, and a lot of decisions in limit hold’em kind of make themselves. Don’t overthink things, but I’m looking forward, you know, I’ll hopefully get a good run of cards. You can’t win limit hold’em without getting some hands, but I’m gonna do my best in this game in a comfortable position. I’ve got a plan.”

Silver more experienced at limit hold’em than records show

Poker fans and Silver’s followers both might notice that all of his previous recorded live-tourney cashes have come in no-limit hold’em events. That belies Silver’s fixed-limit experience. In the 2000’s, well before his FiveThirtyEight creation caught fire, he supported himself by playing limit games online. That skill set remains, even if Silver might be a bit rusty.

“I wish I could conjure myself from 2005,” he said. “The 2005 version, it might be like the second or third-best player at this table. The current version might be the seventh-best, but I’ve been re-studying limit, from the game-theory point of view. I have like a solid game plan. The execution, we’ll see how that goes. There are a lot of very marginal decisions, but like I’ve been taking it seriously.”

Silver is correct in that winning the Limit Championship won’t be easy. Besides Silver, the final 10 includes five prior bracelet winners, led by Day 2 chipleader John Racener. With all the storylines involved, including Silver’s, the Event #16 finale has been added to PokerGO’s live-streaming schedule later today.

Featured image source: Haley Hintze