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Childhood cancer survivor reaches Day 7 of WSOP Main Event

David Diaz nursed a short chip stack for most of Day 7 of the World Series of Poker Main Event.

But the professional poker player from Houston is used to overcoming long odds.

Diaz is a childhood cancer survivor who had his right arm amputated at age 4. He was one of 24 players remaining Wednesday in the Main Event at Bally’s at the dinner break.

The Main Event continued late Wednesday until the final table was set. The tournament is off Thursday and resumes Friday with the remaining nine players battling for the $10 million first prize.

All the remaining players were guaranteed at least $323,100.

“It’s pretty cool,” Diaz said at the dinner break. “I’m taking it in, playing one hand at a time.”

Diaz was born in Honduras, and at age 4 he experienced pain and swelling in his arm. Doctors in his native country were unable to treat Diaz, so his family contacted relatives in New Jersey to help.

After traveling to the United States, he was admitted to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was diagnosed with cancer. His right arm was amputated soon after, and he went through chemotherapy.

Diaz spent the remainder of his childhood in Memphis and started his gambling career in pool halls. He said he began playing poker at age 19 or 20 in local home games and single-table tournaments at the pool halls and turned pro soon after.

In 2011, Diaz won his first WSOP bracelet when he took down the $1,500 buy-in Triple Chance No-limit Hold’em event for more than $350,000 and was one of the feel-good stories of the series that year.

He has more than $2.1 million in live career tournament earnings, according to HendonMob.com.

Diaz was banned from the WSOP and Caesars properties in 2013 after an alcohol-related incident at Carnaval Court at Harrah’s, but was reinstated the following year.

He hadn’t cashed in a WSOP event since 2018 until this year’s Main Event and said he primarily is a cash-game player in Houston.

“The final table is OK, but I’d like to win it,” Diaz said. “Winning it would mean everything.”

Diaz entered Day 7 in 22nd place with 35 players remaining and battled throughout the afternoon despite not having many chips to work with.

He scored two key double-ups during the second level of action and had 12.2 million chips at the dinner break, which put him 19th out of the 24 remaining players.

“The pay jumps are kind of still pretty small compared to what first place is like,” Diaz said. “I’m just waiting on hands.”

Karim Rebei, whose aggressive play has been a highlight of the PokerGo coverage the past few days, had the lead at dinner with 53.825 million chips. Poker pro Aaron Mermelstein of Philadelphia was second with just shy of 49 million chips.

Efthymia Litsou of Larchmont, New York, was in the middle of the pack at dinner, as she looks to join Barbara Enright as the only women to reach the final table of the Main Event. Enright finished fifth in 1995.

Argentine Damian Salas, the 2020 Main Event champion, was eliminated in 27th place, meaning there will be a first-time winner when the tournament concludes.

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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