In part, much of what makes up a poker player’s journey are the opportunities that are presented to them.
For 28-year old Philadelphia-based poker player Thai Ha, being granted big opportunities are something he has been afforded as of late. Not only did he win a coveted Platinum Pass to attend January’s PokerStars No Limit Hold’em Players Championship in the Bahamas but the launch of legalized and regulated online poker in Pennsylvania is seemingly right around the corner.
“The Platinum Pass was a very fun experience,” Ha said. “I got really lucky to win the Pass and PokerStars made sure I had the best experience throughout the year even before the tournaments. It would have been so much better if I had made a deep run in it, but it’s all good. I have the best time there!”
It’s true that even though Ha got to experience the thrill of being in the field of the PSPC, he was unable to secure a cash in the event. But the opportunity alone is one that any player would covet. Just like the opportunity to return to online poker inside the U.S. is one that many professional and recreational players are hoping to have back one day.
“I have been waiting for Pennsylvania to legalize online for a while. I will, for sure, play on PA sites when it goes live if I can.”
While no longer a full-time online grinder, there was a time when Ha put in plenty of volume online, including spending a number of years as a pro.
“I have been playing poker since about 2013 when I was still in college – six years ago,” Ha said. “Since 2014, after I graduated and couldn’t get the job I wanted until very recently, my only income was from poker.”
Since he began working full time, Ha has not put in the same kind of volume as he did when he was a pro, however, he’s still trying to make an online grind fit into his life.
“I play online whenever I’m free from my [day job]. So, I play online whenever I get a chance, usually night time. I mostly play at Bovada and ACR, and to be honest, I only play because that is the only option I have at the moment. Those sites are great and all, but it is still unregulated. Whenever I have some large sum of money in there, I always either try to sell it right away or cash out ASAP. I’m not comfortable having lots of money on those sites,” Ha said. “I would say because those sites are the only option that I have, I have to play there.”
Since the beginning of his own poker journey, Ha has also turned his attention to playing live. In fact, nowadays he considers himself closer to being a live pro with the current state of online poker. He has over $900,000 in total live earnings, including a mammoth first-place victory in the opening event of the 2016 Lucky Hearts Poker Open. It was a $350 buy-in that brought him over $230,000.
Today, Ha’s work in performing franchising duties with Mr. Wish, a bubble-tea store he is bringing from Houston to Philadelphia, keeps him incredibly busy. But even with a packed schedule, poker is never too far from his sights. As PA poker goes live, Ha is just one of the many local players that will be diving into the player pool as a vital part of the initial growth stage.
“I know many poker players from the East Coast and I’m sure that a lot of people that play poker have hopes for when Pennsylvania goes live. I know a few people who have asked me about this recently and they’ve been waiting for one of the poker sites to open at any time.”
As for what Ha hopes to see when he’s able to log on from his Philly home, it’s the same as many poker players across the country.
“I think the future of U.S. online poker is very exciting. I’m hoping to see more and more young talented poker players living the dream that I once did. It is the opportunity that right now not many young poker players get to experience.”