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Hayden Goethe, Published July 05 2013

UND grad rides three years of big changes into WSOP main event

Fargo - In three years, the ease of hopping on the Internet to play online poker has shifted to the burden of hopping onto an airplane.

Winning $1.35 million in the 2010 World Series of Poker main event – the largest poker event in the world – was a life-changing experience for Jason Senti.

But regulations against online poker in the United States have complicated the livelihood of the Grand Forks native and University of North Dakota graduate.

Senti, 31, is at the WSOP in Las Vegas again this year. The main event, which is a Texas hold ’em no-limit game with a $10,000 buy-in, starts today.

The size of the field for this year’s main event was unknown as of Friday, but last year’s drew 6,598 players.

“I travel to quite a few live tournaments now, which I didn’t do before,” Senti said. “But I have limited options at home.”

Finishing in seventh place in the 2010 WSOP main event and a seven-figure payday yielded many new opportunities for Senti.

But just a few months after the biggest moment of his career, Senti – along with the rest of the poker-playing community – was dealt a significant blow.

The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office shut down the websites for three of this country’s largest online poker sites in 2011 and charged the owners with fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling.

Many players had their funds through the site frozen.

That same year, the U.S. Justice Department issued a ruling making online gambling legal only at the state level.

Senti, who bought a house in the Twin Cities with his wife following the 2010 WSOP, has been renting an apartment in Vancouver, B.C., where online gambling is legal.

“It’s a goofy way to make a living,” Senti said, “but that’s the way I have to adjust.”

Nevada has since legalized online poker. Delaware and New Jersey have approved legislation and will have a system in place in the coming months.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) introduced a bill in Congress last month to make online gambling legal nationwide, hoping to make the current state-by-state laws more uniform.

Senti often travels to Vancouver to play online. In March, he went to Los Angeles to play in a World Poker Tour event and some cash games. He also plays occasionally at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn.

He says when he does travel, he makes sure to get his money’s worth.

“The biggest thing I’ve had to accept is making less money,” Senti said. “When I do travel, I work a lot.”

Senti admits the WSOP, which has 62 events capped by the main event, has not gone as he had hoped so far. He did play in the One Drop High Rollers no-limit hold ’em event for the first time. The $111,111 buy-in is the most of any event at the WSOP.

“I had never played in anything like that before. That’s for sure,” said Senti, who failed to cash in the event. “Never one (that expensive) when you’re going to have 170 players in it.”

He’s hoping for better results at the main event. Day 1 is split into three days, meaning Senti will either begin play today, Sunday or Monday.

“I’m really enjoying it,” Senti said. “I feel great going into the main event.”

Readers can reach Forum Assistant Sports Editor Hayden Goethe at (701) 241-5558