Online poker legend Prahlad Friedman (pictured) and wife Dee Luong Friedman are getting a divorce, according to a report by TMZ. The two poker pros had been married almost seven years before deciding to call it quits, with Luong citing “irreconcilable differences” in the filing.
Friedman was one of the original online poker prodigies. Before the likes of “Durrrr” “Isildur1”, and “Ziigmund”, railbirds were watching Friedman crush the world’s best players at Ultimate Bet’s high-stakes No Limit tables.
As a teenager, Friedman became obsessed with the game after watching his father bank $11,000 winning a Lowball tournament. Before he was even legally allowed to enter a casino, Friedman was regularly sneaking into California card rooms refining his aggressive style and beating the low limit Texas Hold’em games there.
In 2002, he had one of his first major live tournament scores, earning second place in the Main Event of the Bellagio Five Star Poker Classic for $101,466. The following year, his success continued as he took home a coveted World Series of Poker gold bracelet and $109,400, winning first prize in the $1,500 Pot Limit event in April.
Buoyed by his live wins and growing bankroll, Friedman decided to drop out of college and pursue poker full-time. His playing style was hyper-aggressive, which intimidated local card room regulars; eventually, he would find that many simply refused to play against him.
It was during this period that Prahlad met Luong in Las Vegas, both played in cash games and tournaments frequently at the poker rooms in town.
At the same time, online poker was just coming of age, and Friedman would soon take his action there and become one of its first celebrities. Playing under the name “Mahatma” on Ultimate Bet, “Spirit Rock” on Full Tilt, and “Prefontaine” on PokerStars, Friedman made millions and earned a reputation as one of the world’s best No Limit Hold’em players.
During the major cheating scandals at UB.com and Absolute Poker, Friedman lost a substantial amount of money playing against opponents who could effectively see his cards. After the scandal was uncovered, cheated players were reimbursed and the poker pro was returned a huge chunk of cash.
Friedman has credited his wife with keeping his spirits high during the rough phase. He told Bluff Magazine that the experience helped him maintain the necessary balance. His father Mark described her as a very loving, generous person.
In 2009, Friedman made his biggest score to date, taking first prize in the 2009 Legends of Poker Championship Event, cashing just over a million dollars. He told Bluff, “That million dollars is a whole lot to my family. I’m blessed with a big family with a lot of people; some of them have had hard times in their lives at different times. I’m glad this helps me to be in a position to help them. Dee keeps me smart and lets me know what we should be doing as a family to secure our future. I have a 19-year-old stepson who we take care of and Dee and I are trying to have a kid right now. So, this money is huge for us.”
Later, Friedman signed a sponsorship deal with the very company which had previously stolen his money.
In an interview with PokerNewsDaily, he defended his decision, saying that, “It’s one of the greatest experiences I’ve had. I’m sure a lot of people feel differently, but I was pumped to get money back and it was a large sum. They took care of me and it reinforced to me that I was one of the best poker players in the world. Any money I had lost was because I was cheated off of it. Every site has had its problems with weird things happening and you have to improve and move on.”
Luong(pictured), his soon-to-be ex-wife, is a professional player and has banked close to $90,000 in career tournament winnings. The couple shared a 4,200-square foot house in Malibu, California just a short distance from the ocean. They had reportedly been separated since April and waited until last week before decided to officially split.