How do you turn $1,500 into $1.2 million in just four days? If you’re Benny Chen, you do it by taking down the very first Millionaire Maker World Series of Poker event in Las Vegas.  The extremely superstitious Chen wouldn’t even keep his family up in Prince Edward Island, Canada apprised of his status until he was declared the winner, and then all they got was a terse message via Facebook.

No More Takeout for Chen

The 32-year-old won’t have to work so hard at his brother’s Chinese takeout restaurant now that he’s won the $1.2 million championship money and WSOP bracelet (beating an enormous field of 6,343 players), as well as bragging rights for being the first to win this new event.  “Now, I might have to see where this takes me,” Chen said of his new poker prowess; it’s his first live tournament win ever, although he does boast five previous WSOP cashes to his credit.

Better get someone new to handle those bicycle deliveries, brother.

Very Superstitious

Chen is so superstitious, he wouldn’t even let his girlfriend accompany him from her California home. Not even after he made the final table. “She wasn’t here from the start and she didn’t want to mess anything up,” Chen said. She’s obviously now in a position to get some very, very nice jewelry for being Understanding Girlfriend of the Year.

Maybe the girlfriend wasn’t allowed to rail, but about 15 of Chen’s closest friends were there, making their voices heard particularly vociferously while he plowed through the final table in just under 10 hours.  And Chen’s friends apparently shared his quirky superstitions; they all ate at Earl of Sandwich at the Palms every day he played. We’re guessing they’ve moved on to filet mignon now.

Naturally, everyone is now his best friend.  One member of Chen’s entourage, Las Vegan Josh Ladines, says it “couldn’t happen to a  better person.”

Second Place Senior

Chen beat out 58-year-old doctor Michael Bennington just before midnight, no doubt disappointing the AARP set, who would like to have an occasional win at a non-Senior WSOP event sometime before the global icecap hits again.  In what could be called a good-timing move, the physician had just moved to Las Vegas from Dallas the week before the tourney, for the very purpose of having more poker to fill his non-work hours. Texas, while being famous for its off-the-radar high roller home games, has no legal land casinos within its state borders.  Bennington had carefully planned his move so he could focus entirely on WSOP before starting his new duties in Sin City in late July.

Bennington admits that four 12-hour play days wore him out, but for his $741,902 second-place finish, he can now afford to take some naps.  “I’m pretty tired, but I’m on cloud nine right now, man,” he said. We bet, but probably not flying quite as high as Chen.