The track was a blur as John Robertson floored it in his Ferrari 488 Pista, hitting speeds up to 135 mph. The car features the most powerful V8 in the company’s history and can reach 62 mph in 2.9 seconds. Most car enthusiasts would envy the chance to get behind the wheel of such a powerful machine. Poker fans might envy him as well. Robertson was given the chance to indulge in two of his passions on June 22 – fast cars and poker. As part of a social media contest, if he could produce the fastest time on the track among 15 competitors, a $10,000 World Series of Poker Main Event seat was headed his way.

The opportunity came after poker and gambling streamer “TheBensBenz” announced a contest for the seat. Competitors sent in a video to earn an opportunity to win the seat. However, the streamer liked Robertson’s video so much he offered the contestant an additional coin flip to win if he didn't tackle the checkered flag in the top spot.. But winning on the track would keep the 43-year-old Indianapolis high school journalism teacher from relying on luck.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. He took third and the flip of a PokerGO card protector coin would decide his fate. He could choose the “PokerGO” side or the “No Gamble, No Future” side. As a gambling man and on a whirlwind of an adventure, Robertson chose the latter and launched the coin in the air.

“I'm sweating the coin flip the whole way out here,” he says. “I'm like, ‘Do you pick heads? Do you pick tails?’ As I was playing cash games two days prior, I was asking people, ‘What do you pick?’ because I couldn't decide. I flipped it up in the air and I just turned around. I couldn't watch. And then I heard everybody just explode and it landed the right side up. So he gave me the buy-in and here we are.”

Robertson flew home briefly and booked another flight back to Las Vegas. The crazy roller coaster ride now has him seated in Day 1C of the Main Event.

Car Trouble to Winning Flip

Initially, Robertson didn’t even believe the contest was real but submitted a video just in case. BensBenz saw the effort as a way to give back and offer a chance to change other people’s lives with an amazing experience, Roberstson says. Some friends who knew more about the streamer also assured him that the contest was legitimate.

“I sent the video in on Saturday night, and then kind of forgot. about it,” he says. “And then Sunday morning, I'm sitting in church, and I get a message across my phone that says, ‘Your video is the best I've ever seen, and I want you to come out and race the Ferraris with us. And even if you don't win the fast lap challenge, I'm going to let you flip a coin, any coin you want, and if you win I'm still going to give you a seat in the Main Event.’”

Robertson thinks his video stood out from the others because he put a bit of production value into the effort. He cut away to other scenes of poker books he’s read and talked about his love of cars. Despite the news that he’d won a spot in the contest, Robertson still wasn’t sure the contest was on the up and up. The possibility that this could all be an Internet scam or simply hoax hung in the back of his mind. But then BensBenz sent him $1,600 via Apple Pay for the trip to Vegas.

That gave the contest quite a bit more legitimacy. Looking to make the trip a family experience, Robertson asked Benz if he could drive cross country with his wife and daughter instead. He received the thumbs up and was off to Las Vegas just a few days later.

“I figured the worst case scenario, I'm getting a free vacation and doing a bucket list thing with my daughter right?” he says.

On the day of the race, the driver was ready. His father, who passed away in April,  introduced his son to the love of automobiles. Robertson owns a Dodge Viper and a Corvette, which he inherited from his father. He also has an esports club at school with a racing simulator in his classroom for students to get behind the wheel. Handling a fast car shouldn’t have been an issue, but things didn’t start out well when the transmission blew out on the first lap around the track.

“I’m panicked because it's a $230,000 car and I feel like I just broke it,” he says.

Assured by staff that it wasn’t his fault, another car awaited.  He hoped to make the most of his ride but ultimately came up just short. Luckily he still had that coin flip in his back pocket, and fate went his way.

“It's insane,” he says. “It's one of those things that if you told people the story and you didn't have evidence of what happened, no one would believe that it's real.”

Playing Poker and Heading to the Main Event

Now that the Main Event action is underway, 20 years of experiencing playing poker hopefully helps this contest winner in the Horseshoe. Robertson loves the game and is a regular at poker rooms in his area. He also played online during the 2000s as well.

This is his first time playing the Main Event however. Friends, colleagues, and former students have reached to offer encouragement, some even saying “your life is a movie.” He added more than 300 Twitter followers over the last two weeks and the local newspaper published a story about his journey. The unique turn of events seemed to mirror some of his own advice from the classroom

“I tell my students, ‘Go for your dreams, but be careful. Don't be stupid, right?’” he says. “When you put yourself out there and try stuff, big things can happen. And here we are … it’s really cool.”

With a love of automobiles inherited from his father, the timing of winning the contest seems well-timed as well. Along with cars he also played nickel-dime poker with friends from work. Robertson believed he would love everything about this experience. After his death, however, Fathers Day looked to be a bit of a downer this year.

“Then I got the message that I won on Fathers Day,” he says. “So it made my Father's Day good. It just adds to this whole narrative that it feels like I’m supposed to be here.”

When the cards got in the air, Robertson was planning to play just as he would any other tournament. He planned to take his time and be patient. 

“I'm not going to play too aggressive, but I’m not going to play afraid though either,” he says. “I'm just going to try and play my game.

“Honestly, winning the money would be great, but I really want all my teacher friends and all the people that know I play cards to see that I'm legit. I've put so much time and energy into this because I love to play. I want them to know that it's not just me gambling all the time – that I actually belong playing. I don't even care how much I profit, my dream is just to get to the final three tables and just have everybody around. I want to share the experience with people.”

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