Skip Hunter, a teacher at Southwest Oregon Community College in Brookings, made it through the first day of the 49th annual World Series of Poker in Las Vegas Monday.

According to his wife, Connie, Skip was at the table next to Scott Blumstein, who won more than $8 million last year — and who was beat before the day ended this year.

Skip qualified during games at the Elk Valley Casino last month and is in Las Vegas to try to bring home a fistfull of money and the title of world champion. He “discovered” poker as a retirement hobby, much to the initial despair of his wife, Connie.

“The World Series of Poker was the number one thing I had on my bucket list,” Skip said Tuesday afternoon. “I’m afraid besides teaching, and hanging out with my wife and dog, that my first love is poker. Connie always says I have a girlfriend, Lady Luck. Let’s hope she’s is right. I am having the time of my life.”

Last year, more than 7,000 people paid $10,000 to enter the competition in which more than $68 million was awarded. Elk Valley Casino paid Skip’s entry fee.

Monday was the first of three preliminary days of the no-limit Texas Hold ‘Em competition. The games winnow down the players to nine by July 11, until the final days, July 15 to 17, where players vie for $1 million.

Skip, a first-time World Series of Poker tournament player, will play again Thursday, starting with only 42,000 chips, down from the starting point of 50,000. If he prevails and continues in the tournament July 6, he will be in the low range for money, maybe $15,000, Connie said.

According to the WSOP website, 925 players entered the competition Monday — 16 percent more than last year — and 659 remained as of Tuesday.

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