SALEM, N.H. -- Shortly after he beat the odds early Tuesday morning and became one of nine players to advance to the World Series of Poker main event final table for a shot at $10 million in November, Dracut's Billy Pappas said it didn't feel real.

The folks over at the Rockingham Park charity poker room, where Pappas works as a poker dealer, are also still in a minor state of shock over what transpired in Las Vegas over the past seven days.

"Oh my god, it's a surprise to everybody," said John Putis, the poker room manager. "I think all of the dealers, the managers -- all of us -- are surprised and so incredibly happy for him.

Dracut’s Billy Pappas has a legitimate shot at a $10 million payoff at the World Series of Poker. WSOP PHOTOSun staff photos can be ordered by
Dracut's Billy Pappas has a legitimate shot at a $10 million payoff at the World Series of Poker. WSOP PHOTO

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

"He's just a great kid, a real down-to-earth person. He just plays poker."

The 29-year-old Pappas is playing under the name William Pappaconstantinou -- the family's actual last name which was never legally shortened. As one of the nine finalists, Pappas will be paid at least $730,000, even if he's the first to get knocked out. The final table starts Nov. 10 back at the Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

Pappas has so far survived a tournament that began on July 5 and started with 6,683 players from all over the world. All bought-in for $10,000.

"We're very, very excited for him. Very proud of him," said Steve Parigian, another poker room manager at Rockingham Park.


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"Billy is probably one of the nicest kids you'll ever want to meet. All weekend long everyone around here was paying attention. It started building on Saturday night and then all day Sunday -- I was actually here all day Sunday.

"I received a text at 2 o'clock (Tuesday) morning from a gentleman that was working here and following on-line live. I heard the beep on my phone, looked, and saw it was down to 10 players. Then I guess it took another two hours and then it was down to the final nine.

"Everyone around here is so fond of Billy. Once you meet him, you understand why."

Pappas sits in sixth place in the total chip count with 17,500,000.

Monday was a marathon day of poker, lasting deep into the wee hours of Tuesday morning. It wasn't until 11 p.m. on Monday night that Pappas' father Bill, a local golf pro who runs an indoor golf facility in North Chelmsford, found out that his son was very much in contention.

"Billy texted me and said 'Dad, do you know what's going on right now?' After that I spent the night lying in bed with my laptop, refreshing the web page all night so I could follow the tournament," said Bill Pappas.

"I try not to keep track of him too closely and put any more pressure on him. I remember playing golf as a kid. I'd be playing well, and as soon as my dad showed up to watch, I'd play terrible."

Billy spent all day yesterday in bed, catching up on a lot of missing sleep.

Bill Pappas said he's still trying to decide whether he and his family should go out to Vegas for the final table in November to watch Billy.

"I don't want to jinx him," said Bill Pappas. "I'll wait and ask Billy."

Foosball champion

Billy Pappas grew up in Lowell. He didn't finish high school, and has never owned a driver's license. Still, even before the World Series of Poker, Pappas was quite a success story.

He is a nine-time world foosball champion, and has traveled all over the world for competitions. He'll be in Germany for an upcoming event later this month.

According to Parigian, Pappas traveled to Canada to train a gentleman in foosball for a month prior to the WSOP. That gentleman ended up sponsoring Pappas' entry into the poker tourney.

"It's a pretty big story around here. Everyone's been following on their smart phones and we've had it on every computer in this place," said Jeff Smith, also a Rockingham poker room floor manager.

"We've had several players telling us that they stayed up until 3 o'clock or 4 o'clock in the morning watching the live feed on-line. It's gotten in the way of work a little bit. But it's a once-in-a-lifetime thing."

Bill Pappas the father currently lives in Billerica with his second wife, Meryl. His first wife, Nancy, is Billy's mother. Bill Pappas said the calls and texts have been rolling in from friends who have caught wind of Billy's accomplishment.

If all goes well in November, that will only increase.

Follow Matt Langone on Twitter and Tout @MattLangone