UPDATE: Muskegon's Nic Manion finished in fourth place at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Manion earned $2.825 million.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich - One of the world's biggest poker tournaments is nearing it's end. The World Series of Poker is down to just nine players, after starting last week with a field of more than 7,200. A West Michigan man is going into Thursday night's play as "the chip leader."

That means 35-year-old Nic Manion of Muskegon has the most poker chips of the remaining nine players. The stack is more than 112 million. Manion's family and friends are rushing to get to the tournament site in Las Vegas to cheer him on.

Organizers of the World Series of Poker say Manion mainly plays in online games, for small stakes.

By making the final table of the tournament's main event, he's guaranteed at least $1 million in prize money. But Manion's going for the $8.8 million that comes with the championship.

"I equate it to somebody that is a football player making it to the Super Bowl," Poker player dealer Diana Plant said.

Plant considers it a sport.

"You get paid, you're labeled as a professional or an amateur, it's absolutely a sport," Plant said.

Plant has been friends with Manion for 15 years.

"He's very well known in the local poker community for being around for so long, he's a phenomenal player, phenomenal," Plant said.

She met him in a charity poker game.

"Nic is probably one of the best poker players I know, and i know a lot of poker players," Plant said.

She and a few others are traveling to Vegas to cheer him on.

"For him to make the final table, and be guaranteed instant millionaire, that's cool, that's a poker player's fantasy," Plant said.

Jim Petzing used to live in Saugatuck, but is now a poker pro in Las Vegas. He says Manion isn't the typical player you'd see at the final table.

"Nobody knows Nic Manion. He is a virtual unknown in the poker industry," Petzing said.

More than 500,000 poker players have their poker resume online. Manion is basically untraceable.

"This man is a virtual unknown--living the dream. This man is living a dream, his dream," Petzing said.

Manion is the chip leader at the final table with more than 112 million chips.

"He's got to secure that bag, get that money, bring that bracelet home to Muskegon," Plant said.

Manion's been in the game since last week, playing for 10 to 12 hours a day.

"I don't think he needs any advice, play his game, don't listen to anybody, listen to your heart, and play your game," Plant said.

Petzing said roughly 10 percent of players in a tournament make any money, which means 90 percent of them will lose their entry fee. The world series entry fee? $10,000.

"It's a crapshoot, it's gambling, at the end of the day it's gambling," Petzing said.

"It's been deemed the Cadillac of poker, and just when you think you know everything, there's something else to learn, takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master," Plant said.

The final nine players at the World Series of Poker Main event include six Americans, plus players from Ukraine, Australia and France.

Manion isn't the only one from Michigan still in the running. Joe Cada, who won the main event in 2009, is from the Detroit area. He has the sixth biggest chip stack going into Thursday night's play.

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