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Former Grand Forks man to make second run in World Series of Poker

Jason Senti plays a hand Saturday during the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Should he outlast just one of the final nine, Senti will be a millionaire.

FARGO - In November, Jason Senti was among nine players chasing poker's biggest prize - the World Series of Poker main event bracelet - and an $8.9 million winner's share.

It's been seven months since he won $1.35 million for his seventh-place finish in the nationally televised event, yet it's never been tougher for Senti to get into a game.

That's because of the events on April 15 - referred to as "Black Friday" by those in the poker community - when the U.S. Department of Justice shut down three of the largest online poker websites. Charges stemmed from accusations that the sites were in violation of online gambling laws, with the most severe charges being bank fraud and money laundering.

Senti says for all of the doors that opened for him in the business and poker worlds last year, just as many, if not more have slammed shut.

"At this spot, I'm kind of in limbo about what to do with my career," Senti said.

The 29-year-old plans to make the most of the next month after spending Memorial Day weekend visiting family in Grand Forks.

The WSOP started last week, and Senti plans to arrive in Las Vegas sometime this week to play in about a dozen events plus some cash games on the side. He will then return to Minnesota for the Fourth of July before heading back to the WSOP for the $10,000 buy-in main event.

"I think I'm going to be very focused, even more so than in previous years," he said. "Mostly just because I don't have that luxury of being able to play at home anymore."

It's been a whirlwind of a year for Senti. Last July, he advanced to the main event's final table - dubbed the "November Nine" - after surviving a field of 7,319 players.

This led to even more air time on ESPN, which televises portions of WSOP.

When play resumed in November after a four-month hiatus, Senti outlasted two more players before getting knocked out in seventh place, making him a millionaire thanks to just one big finish.

He bought a house in Eagan, Minn., with his wife after the big payday. But one obligation did trump that.

"I guess the biggest purchase I made by far is paying taxes," Senti said with a laugh.

He said he put a big down payment on his family's new house, which has helped reduce the month-to-month financial strains now that he isn't able to play poker online.

He said he feels like he lost his job, but he doesn't expect any sympathy.

"Online poker has been my family's primary source of income for four years now," Senti said.

While many poker professionals have had their accounts with the shut-down websites frozen, Senti said he's been fortunate in that the site he used the most - Poker Stars - has paid its account holders.

Senti said the next couple of months will go a long way to determining his future plans. He hopes to see online poker regulated in the United States in the next few years, but until then, he doesn't know what he will do. He has talked to a number of poker professionals who are considering about moving to Canada or Mexico so they can resume their careers.

For now, the University of North Dakota graduate is determined to have another strong showing at the WSOP.

"It's pretty tough to wade your way through 7,000 people two years in a row," Senti said of the main event. "I'm not counting on it, but I'm certainly going to give it my best shot."