Jeff Tomlinson nearly did it again.
Two years after winning a tournament during the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, the 53-year-old Wildwood High School graduate placed third in an event called The Marathon on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Tomlinson, who grew up in North Wildwood and now lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, earned $307,728 for finishing third behind Venezuela’s Joseph Di Rosa Rojas and Australian Alexander Lynskey at Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.
Two years ago, Tomlinson upset a talented field to win a coveted WSOP bracelet and $567,724.
The Marathon was a new event at the WSOP, which features more than 70 tournaments leading up to the Main Event in July.
More than 1,700 players paid $2,620 to enter the No Limit Hold ‘Em event, which began last Monday.(tncms-asset)6b87d35c-545e-11e7-b888-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)
“It really was a marathon,” Tomlinson said in a phone interview from Las Vegas. “We started at 10 a.m. and played until 2 a.m. the next day every day. It really challenged you both mentally and physically. I’m beyond exhausted.”
Tomlinson, an assistant football coach at Palm Beach Gardens Community High School, lifts weights and does conditioning drills with the team during the offseason.
A former baseball player at Wildwood High, Glassboro State College (Rowan University) and the Lower Township Whalers of the Atlantic County Baseball League, he also stays in shape by playing in over-50 leagues.
Upon moving to South Florida in 1990, he started competing in triathlons. He recently has taken up hiking and paddleboarding.
“I think that helped me in the tournament,” he said. “It was definitely geared more toward younger players. Most of the players were 25, 26. They all looked at me as the old man and probably figured they could wear me down. But they were wrong.”
Decades of experience playing poker also helped.(tncms-asset)cabda4f8-52da-11e7-8b67-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)
He started playing Texas hold ‘em with his friends as a teenager in North Wildwood. Once he turned 21, he played tournaments in Atlantic City before he moved to Florida and opened a Philadelphia-themed sports bar called Polo Bay. He continued to play poker as a hobby at Palm Beach Kennel Club.
“That’s the difference between me and a lot of the professional players,” he said. “They spend all their time playing poker. I have a life.”
Since selling the bar 12 years ago, Tomlinson has made trips to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas each June.
He was the talk of the poker world after beating a bunch of stars to win a $5,000 no-limit, hold ‘em 8-handed event in 2015.
He relied on the same patient strategy to make the final table of this year’s event.
According to a recap on WSOP.com, Tomlinson “put up an outstanding fight on the final table.”
Tomlinson lasted until the 191st hand, when he went all-in with ace-king. Rojas called with pocket eights, and the board ran out with 10, nine, two, five, six.
Rojas won the tournament 19 hands later.
“I can’t be upset with third place,” Tomlinson said. “It was a great run, and I played the best I could. I wouldn’t change anything. And I can always say I was the top American.”
Tomlinson plans to do some fly fishing, hiking and paddleboarding during a vacation in Sun Valley, Idaho, in a few weeks but has also been invited to play in the WSOP’s Main Event.
“I’ve never played in it before, but I think I’m going to try it this year,” he said. “It’s only a 45-minute flight from Idaho.”