Brock Wilson needs to be where the action is. A few years ago, Wilson could pull back the blinds on his apartment and look down upon the hustle and bustle of Times Square in New York City as he prepared himself for his day working on Wall Street as a financial analyst. More recently it’s meant being able to pull back his blinds and see the tourists and gamblers that give Las Vegas that Sin City vibe as he readies himself for day battling on the felt of the city’s poker tables.
The 26-year-old moved to Las Vegas in mid-2020 to continue his recently-launched poker career. He could have picked some cozy three-bedroom house out in the suburbs with a pool in the backyard. Instead, he plopped himself right in the middle of the Strip, a stone’s throw from the poker rooms at Aria, Bellagio, and Wynn.
“I wanted to be right on the Strip just because I always like the more city-type feels,” Wilson said. “I liked Manhattan a lot. I lived right in Times Square. I kind of like being in the heart of everything.“
It was in late 2019 when Wilson first started contemplating the move to Las Vegas. There’s no state income tax and he could use the city as his hub as he set out to travel the world and play poker.
“We were going to go before the (2020) World Series of Poker. Then the pandemic happened. I was like, ‘you know what? I still want to move there. I’m just inside all day anyways’,” Wilson said. “I like it up here, the weather’s good. As time went on, I’ve known more people in Vegas. So it just made more sense socially, too, in terms of poker, to live (in Vegas).”
Like a lot of poker players, Wilson spent the early part of the lockdown glued to his computer screen. While he was certainly actively playing online poker, he also jumped headlong into getting better at the game through study. He pinpointed specific elements of his game that he recognized as needing work and focused on those.
“In quarantine, I think I improved a lot. I played every day and there wasn’t much else to do, so I kind of played and then did some exercise and then went and reviewed all the hands I played. I think that I improved a lot in terms of ICM,” Wilson said.
Moving to Las Vegas only became a possibility after Wilson stepped away from his career on Wall Street. That process actually started when Wilson was playing poker as a well-paying side hustle and Jonathan Dokler, a player that he respected who also worked in the banking industry, took him to the woodshed one night.
“(Dokler) just completely crushed me and forced me to be like, ‘all right, I need to do a little bit more study and figure out how to actually learn some more sound strategy,” Wilson said. “I was just playing pretty aggressive and people would just tell you where they’re at. If they had a marginal hand, they would call. If they had a good hand, they would raise.”
Wilson studied more and engrossed himself in the technical aspects of the game. He also expanded his circle of poker friends as he ran hands or theories by them as a means of learning. His game improved and he suddenly had a very nice nest egg from his poker winnings. Dokler got involved again – but instead of beating him out of it on the felt, he pushed him to invest his winnings into Bitcoin.
“Since I had a full-time job, and all this money was money I made in poker, I kind of felt like, ‘I don’t really need this money. I have a job that supports me going out on weekends’. I didn’t really have much stuff to spend it on, and I was like, ‘Okay. It’s worth taking the risk’,” Wilson said.
After putting a considerable percentage of his net worth into the cryptocurrency in 2017, Wilson watched his investment grow by 600%. Though he was still bullish on Bitcoin, he realized that his suddenly impressive portfolio presented him with a unique opportunity to put his money behind one of the players he’d met while trying to improve his game: Ali Imsirovic.
“He was a lot better than me at the time, but every time I talked a hand with him, I felt like I was learning something new. I’d rail him on Sundays while he was playing stuff, and he would just be like, ‘Yeah. I’m just shoving here. I think that this guy would have always done X on an earlier street’ or ‘I’m calling here’,” Wilson said. “If someone’s better than you at something, it’s hard to really know how good they are. I just kind of had the confidence. He was winning at everything he always played at. If he played high stakes cash, he would win. He’d play heads-up, he would win. He’d play tournaments, he would win.”
Wilson cashed out his Bitcoin and in 2018, started buying pieces of Imsirovic in high rollers. Imsirovic cashed for what was then a career-best $3.2 million in live earnings.
“He ran hot at the beginning and made it real easy. He just won a lot of different stuff pretty quick,” Wilson said. “It made me not question it whatsoever. I would just continuously say, ‘I’ll take the max’.”
As Imsirovic kept having success, Wilson couldn’t help but look on with a tinge of envy. His bankroll continued to swell thanks to Imsirovic’s success and in mid-2018, Wilson decided he was ready to join him full time.
“I gave two weeks notice in late May, and in early June is when I went to the World Series and started playing completely full-time and I’ve been completely focused on that without consideration for much else since then,” Wilson said.
Wilson didn’t want to just gingerly enter the live tournament scene and test his mettle in some smaller buy-in tournaments. He was ready to be shoulder to shoulder with Imsirovic and the rest of the high roller regs.
“I always had my sights on playing the High Rollers just because I felt that playing at the top level was the most interesting to me. Studying to know the real, correct way to do everything was always the most interesting. If you can do that well, it makes sense to play the biggest stakes,” Wilson said.
Things didn’t go as well for Wilson right out of the gate as they had for Imsirovic. He was struggling to find consistency and a big cash was eluding him. There were some signs that he was doing good things, but the results weren’t there.
“I played some $25Ks. I’d played two or three, and I bricked them. I had stacks in them and it kind of went south as we neared the money,” Wilson said. “I played a lot of the mid-stakes stuff, and my biggest score was $65K live. I was not getting it done live at all.”
As it would for a lot of people, a trip the Bahamas allowed Wilson to clear his head and turn things around. Wilson traveled to the Bahamas to play in some partypoker MILLIONS World Bahamas events, including a star-studded $25,000 buy-in Super High Roller. Wilson made his way through 123 of the 125 entries and got heads up with Adrian Mateos. The pair struck a deal with Wilson walking away with $619,536 and Mateos getting $520,464. After convincing Wilson that they had to play for the trophy, Mateos beat Wilson and is listed as the official winner – something Wilson is reminded of every now and then.
“My friends like to troll me about this, (but) I fucking won the tournament, but he gets the first place and everything just because he said the Bahamas didn’t have a policy as to who gets the trophy, and he was like, “Well, in the ARIA stuff, we always just flipped for it.” So I was like, ‘All right, sure’. I don’t think that’s actually true, but whatever. He ended up getting the trophy,” Wilson said.
Wilson returned to the United States with a big score on his resume and some confidence in his game. In December, he finished runner-up in a $25,000 High Roller at the Seminole Rock n Roll Poker Open for $301,215. He then took his talents to Los Angeles and won a $10,000 buy-in high roller event at the Bicycle Casino. He finished 2019 with $1.45 million in tournament earnings.
He picked up eight cashes to start 2020 before the pandemic hit. Like nearly the rest of the poker world, Wilson then went back to playing online and picked up 12 World Series of Poker Online cashes. As live poker returned in late 2020, Wilson went back to playing the high rollers and came out on top of a $10,000 buy-in event at the Wynn where Alex Foxen and Imsirovic finished second and third respectively.
Through the first half of 2021, Wilson has earned more than $900,000 from live tournaments. In June he played in the U.S. Poker Open and made two final tables, giving him his first opportunity to play on a PokerGO broadcast. Now he’s turned his attention to the WSOP Online events and in September will sit down to play the WSOP, something he’s had to use vacation time to do before.
The poker scene in Vegas during the WSOP traditionally includes other tournament series at other casinos. For Wilson, he’s going to be zoned in on the bracelet events, but if he busts one of those, he’s going to look around for the other best value.
“If I bust something, if there’s anything else to play, I’ll play it the same day. I’ll bounce around everywhere and play everything,” Wilson said. “I’m not entirely sure how I’ll prioritize the high rollers versus a Venetian $1,600. It kind of depends, but in terms of playing, my first priority will always be, I think, the WSOP events, because I think that they just are the highest value of anything.”