Some kids dream about hitting a walkoff homer in the World Series, nailing a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to win the NBA title, or scoring the clinching touchdown in the Super Bowl.
Jon Broderick was an exception, sort of: He dreamed about winning the World Series, all right, but in his dream, it was the World Series of Poker. Last week he got his shot at the Rio Casino in Las Vegas.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said the 39-year-old Danvers resident. “I’m just a weekend poker guy. Tournaments at Foxwoods and Seabrook, New Hampshire. I’m not an avid gambler. I’ve got too much going on in my life.”
There were 6,683 players when the World Series of Poker began July 5. Broderick finished 186th and left the table Saturday night $44,000 richer. He will split the winnings with Michael Alden, a boyhood friend who put up the $10,000 entry fee for him.
“I think it was a pretty remarkable achievement for a first-time player,” said Broderick. “I’m very satisfied with the result.”
On the first day, Broderick, the senior manager of business operations at Comcast in North Reading, was in sixth place.
“It was quite an experience walking in the room and seeing all the pros I’d seen on TV,” he said.
For one day, he was playing better than they were. Seeing his name on the leader board was spellbinding.
By Saturday night Broderick knew he did not have enough chips to make a run at a bigger stake.
“I got knocked out, processed my winnings, and caught a red-eye Sunday morning in LA,” he said.
He wanted to surprise his wife, Laura, who turned 44 that day.
“My family gave me the ‘American Idol’ treatment when I got home,” he said.
Broderick and Alden graduated from Beverly High in 1993, were both interested in sports, but eventually went their separate ways. They caught up with each other on Facebook and stayed in touch.
“Mike has become a self-made millionaire,” said Broderick. “That was inspiring, because I know exactly where he came from.”
Which was the projects of Beverly. For Alden, it wasn’t just the hard-scrabble environment, it was the family circumstances he had to cope with. Most recently, he said, his brother Dominic died of a drug overdose.
“When I was a kid in high school, I had to get in a separate line because my lunch was subsidized by the state,” he said. “I was not the best kid. I was into petty crime, and fighting.”
Alden said he was a poor student. If there was any way out of his aimless life, he would have to figure it out by himself.
“I didn’t want all that in my life,” he said he came to realize.
His grades improved. He got into Springfield College and majored in political science. At Suffolk Law School he made the dean’s list three times. After 10 years as a lawyer, Alden, 39, started his own business in 2009, Blue Vase Marketing.
He also wrote a book: “Ask More, Get More.”
The kid from the projects had pulled himself up, alone. The book tells his personal story, where he was and where he is now.
“It’s a self-help guide on how to get more out of life,” said Alden, who still lives in Beverly.
Broderick read the book. He was impressed and bought 200 copies at $10 a pop and gave a copy to many of his Comcast colleagues.
“Around April,’’ Alden said, “Jon reached out to me and said ‘Hey, you should sponsor me.’ I said ‘in what?’ He said ‘the World Series of Poker.’ ”
Alden agreed. To make sure, Broderick called Alden a couple of days later to remind him what he had agreed to.
“I said ‘you weren’t having a few drinks at the time, were you?’ ” Broderick recalled. “Michael just said ‘let’s do this.’ ”
Broderick boarded his flight to Las Vegas with $10,000 in cash.
“I wrapped the money in my daughter’s headband for good luck,” he said.
When he called to book a reservation at the Rio Casino hotel, he was asked how long he would be staying.
“I couldn’t tell them,” said Broderick.
When he explained he was entered in the World Series of Poker, the hotel understood. He would not be billed for the extra days if he got knocked out of the tournament early.
Broderick had also booked a one-way flight.
“I can’t imagine anyone doing that, a one-way ticket to Vegas,” he said.
The competition lasted 12 hours each day, nine players at a table. Broderick said it wore him out, but it was what he had come for.
“I’ve always wanted to compete against the pros,” he said, adding that the entire experience was “incredibly surreal.”
Celebrities like Ray Romano and ex-Boston Celtic Paul Pierce sat at the tables. There was no shortage of characters. This was Vegas, after all.
“One player was dressed as a leprechaun; some wore crazy hats that lit up,” said Broderick. “They were looking for attention and getting it. There were some shady characters too.”
ESPN was on the scene and interviewed Broderick, possibly impressed by his size and persona. “I’m six-four, 300 pounds, and wore dark glasses and a black polo shirt,” he said. “It’s to intimidate the other players.”
He also wore a black hat with Alden’s book title. Alden said he liked the publicity the hat provided and was happy with Broderick’s performance.
“He had no financial worry at all’’ in Las Vegas, said Alden. “How many people, when they turn 50 or older, say, ‘if I’d only done that when I had the chance?’ ”
Broderick did not let his chance slip by.
“Jon proved to everybody he could play with the best in the world,” said Alden.
Sunday morning Broderick got home, gave his wife a birthday kiss, and hugged his daughter Julia. He was back in the real world.
Broderick said he would like another crack at the World Series of Poker, with Alden’s financial backing.
“I’m pretty confident we’re going to do it again,” he said.