November Niner William Tonking Gives Self ‘Punchers Chance’ to Win WSOP Title

Written by:
Thomas Somach
Published on:
November Niner William Tonking Gives Self ‘Punchers Chance’ to Win WSOP Title

The University of South Carolina is known for producing football players, not poker players.

Grid stars such as George Rogers, Sterling Sharpe and most recently, Jadeveon Clowney, have made it to the NFL after first starring at the Columbia, South Carolina-based university known as "the other USC."

But all that's now changed.

The South Carolina Gamecocks now have a stake in America's favorite game--poker.

That's because a recent South Carolina grad who received a degree in economics used his math skills to propel himself to the final table of the 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event.

Steve Spurrier, eat your heart out!

South Carolina's Prince of Poker is William Tonking, a 27-year-old New Jersey native who, as a member of the 2014 "November Nine," goes into final table play with the seventh-most chips among the nine--15,050,000 chips (the table chip-leader has more than twice that).

But don't count Tonking out.

He's won a total of $93,306 in his career playing live tournament poker, and $13,421 of it has come from three cashes in previous WSOP tourneys.

Scroll Down For More...

So he knows his way around the WSOP and won't be intimidated by the bright lights and huge crowds that will surround the final table when it resumes play in November on (almost) live television on ESPN.

And just how is the game-loving Gamecock preparing for the resumption of the WSOP Main Event? earlier this week caught up with Tonking and asked him about that and other aspects of his now-hectic life.

Here is a transcript of that interview: What has been the reaction from friends, relatives, co-workers and others to your making the final table of the 2014 WSOP? And have you heard from people you don't know or haven't heard from in a long time?

William Tonking: Of course when an event as significant as this occurs, people from all parts of your life are going to feel compelled to reach out and try to be a part of it. Everyone's reaction that has reached out to me has been positive and supportive. Seeing how genuinely happy the people closest to me have been for me has been one of the most humbling parts of this entire experience. 

G9: Did you meet any celebrities or top pros at the recent WSOP, and if so, who?

WT: I played with David Einhorn on Day 5 and this was one of the coolest experiences of my Main Event this year. He was on the verge of buying my favorite team, the New York Mets, in the summer of 2011 and as an economics grad, someone I studied and looked up to. I couldn't believe how open and humble he was. We spent a decent amount of time talking until the table broke and I found everything he said to be really interesting. 

G9: Have you gotten any sponsorship or endorsement deals since you made the November Nine, and if so, with who?

WT: I have gotten a few offers but nothing has been finalized yet. 

G9: How are you preparing for the resumption of the tournament? Are you studying the tendencies and nuances of your November Nine opponents, or are you just doing your best to improve your own game and not worry about the opposition?

WT: Since I got home I've spent most of my time relaxing with friends and family. I'll probably begin my preparation a month before I go back to Vegas. A lot of it will be studying and getting more comfortable in tournament spots vs. different opponents and other adjustments I'll need to make as a cash player. 

G9: Which November Nine opponent or opponents do you see as your main competition for the title?

WT: All of them. No one makes it through this large of a field without being able to play. Everyone has a shot. 

G9: Do you think you're going to win the WSOP Main Event title? Assess your chances.

WT: I think I have a puncher's chance. I'm confident in my game and I think everyone that's left has a legitimate chance to win. It's poker, anything can happen. 

G9: What other forms of gambling do you enjoy? Do you like to bet on sports?

WT: Occasionally I bet on sports while I'm in Vegas with friends and I play blackjack a few times a year with friends or on vacations. Poker is usually enough of a gamble for me.

G9: What are some of your other hobbies or pastimes you enjoy in addition to poker?

WT: I try to stay active. I play pick-up basketball and lift weights. I'm a huge pro sports fan and diehard New York Mets fan. I'm a University of South Carolina alum and I still go back for football games and I'm a huge USC sports fan. I also spend a ton of time with my friends and family. 

G9: Please give us some basic biographical infomation, such as occupation, where born and went to school, family, etc.

WT: I grew up in Flemington, New Jersey, with my mother, father, younger brother and younger sister. I lived in New Jersey my entire life until I went to college at the University of South Carolina. I'm an economics grad and a professional poker player. 

G9: Tell us something about you that you would like your fans to know that you've never been asked about?

WT: I've worked really hard at poker and take pride in my game, regardless of the fact that I've yet to have any exposure until this point. 

(This is the latest in a series of interviews with the 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event final table members--the so-called "November Nine." Interviews with other "November Nine" members will run periodically until the WSOP Main Event resumes. Previous "November Nine" interviews can be accessed via the THOMAS SOMACH link on the left side of the home page.)

By Tom Somach Staff Writer