Whether it was during his highly successful career as a junk bond trader or his time at the poker tables, 58-year-old Alan Goehring made a life out of being unconventional. You don’t make millions trading by following trends and you don’t win poker tournaments doing what everybody else is doing.
Moving the World Series of Poker to an entirely online schedule for 2020 was expected to be a coming-out party for young unheralded American poker pros expected to be the next generation of poker stars. In early July, Goehring once again defied convention and worked his way through a 1,479 player field in Event #8 ($500 NLHE Freezeout) to win the first WSOP bracelet of his career and $119,400.
Winning a bracelet in 2020 doesn’t come with the normal celebrations at the club or dinner at a five-star restaurant that it might have in any other year.
“After I won, it was about 2:30 in the morning, I went upstairs and woke up my wife to let her know she married a champion,” Goehring said. “Then I had a glass of champagne. That was basically my celebration.”
Like a seasoned barkeep perfectly blending aged bourbon with bitters to craft a perfect Old Fashioned, Goehring combines humility and braggadocio when referring to himself as a poker champion. He was already a champion before this summer even began. A two-time champion in fact. In 2003, Goehring won the inaugural World Poker Tour World Championship for a shade more than $1,000,000. Three years later he won the LA Poker Classic for his second WPT championship and $2,391,500.
In the few live events he has played the past few years, including a 93rd place finish in the 2019 WSOP Main Event, Goehring has noticed that a strategy he pioneered 17 years ago has become the standard play now. At both of those WPT final tables that Goehring won, he was opening pots by raising the minimum. The standard then varied between a first bet of three to five times the big blind.
“When I was using it, playing a lot back in 2003 to 2006, it was not very common and I thought in 10 years it would be the industry standard,” Goehring said. “In fact, I always thought that was one of my competitive advantages. I have some poker notes and in there I write, ‘everybody else is wrong’. So yeah, I would say I’m not surprised about it.”
In 1999, Goehring found himself in a spot every poker player since has dreamed about: heads up for the WSOP Main Event. Goehring eventually finished second to Noel Furlong, but he doesn’t look back at that with any regret or disappointment though. Goehring calls himself to be a realist and says when he started the final day second in chips, he knew his expected finish was either second or third. Coming out on the high end of that expectation felt like a win. Goehring went 21 years without making another WSOP final table and ranks winning this bracelet up there with his other obvious choices.
“I would say (the bracelet) is one of my four big poker achievements or accomplishments or whatever you want to call it. The two WPT titles, the runner-up in the World Series of Poker, and this bracelet,” Goehring said. “I haven’t been, to be honest, going crazy trying to win a bracelet playing 20 events every year. So it’s nice. And I thought it would never happen.”
From 2008 until 2018, Goehring played sparingly, focusing nearly all of his energy and effort in making as much money as possible in the markets. In February 2019, feeling like he needed to reset a little bit, Goehring opened an account with WSOP.com. His return to the tables started near the bottom.
“Started playing a lot of $10 and $20 tournaments, because I was really rusty, right? So then I was playing and worked my way up and now, everything’s good,” Goehring said.
In a normal WSOP schedule, Goehring says he’d play between 8 and 10 events, all No Limit Hold’em with buy-ins in the $2,500 or higher range. This year he played 20 bracelet events for the first time ever, all because the events were single-day online tournaments. While he’s hardly become a volume-based grinder, over the past few months, Goehring has become a bit of an online MTT regular. Playing from his home in Henderson, Nevada, he’s has won 15 events, including a $200 buy-in, 900-runner event.
“I play two events a day, basically and maybe on Sunday, three or four,” Goehring said. “So I probably play a couple of hours a day or whatever. I’m not sitting here grinding 40 hours a week or something like that.”