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  1. The truth is, there really is no such thing as an overnight success in the world of poker. Sure, some people are hit with the deck and take home a tournament win for big money, or go on a heater in a cash game - it happens. But sustained success in poker, the kind that gets a player recognized by their peers, takes dedication to the game and plenty of time. For some in the poker community, the recent rise of Alex ‘Veruz’ Butcher to the top of the U.S. Online Poker Rankings may have looked sudden, even out of nowhere. But for Butcher, the 26-year old poker pro, it was hard work in every aspect of his life that allowed him to get where he is today. Originally from Michigan, Butcher first discovered the game of poker simply through hanging out and doing "family stuff" on weekend nights. Stuff like playing cards with his father. It wasn’t until many years later, when he was attending community college, that he discovered a deeper enjoyment of the game. “In Michigan, they have what they call charity halls. They’re mostly just little $1/$2 card rooms within the state where some portion [of the proceeds] goes to charity or whatnot,” Butcher said. “I met a couple of friends and just started playing with them in a little bit there. It’s where I really got my inauguration into poker.” His studies turned from academics to poker and soon after he decided to take a break from college to see where poker would take him. At first, it brought him to Las Vegas to play. But with more online poker options available in New Jersey, Butcher was motivated to move to the Garden State with an eye on grinding. And he did just that. One look at his career online results paint a picture of a player who rarely takes a break, registering for every tournament he can every day of the week. By May of 2020, his resolve was beginning to pay off. A win in a WSOP.com Weekly Tuesday brought him his first five-figure score of the year. Once that barrier was broken, the flood gates opened. Butcher’s graph took a sharp turn upwards as he accumulated 17 five-figure scores in the last nine months, 12 of which were outright victories in some of the biggest tournaments offered in New Jersey. “As far as my results skyrocketing a little bit in the past year or so, for me, a lot of that was some mental health stuff that was holding me back. Just some struggles with anxiety and depression that I really hadn’t properly addressed at any point,” Butcher said. “So I’d go through these ebbs and flows or up and down, up and down. It was really tough for me to be consistent. So I would play and I would have good results, but the consistency wasn’t really there to really put everything together. “So now I’ve gone from maybe one week out of the month where it’s a good month, or a good time for me mentally, to maybe one or two days out of the month where I struggle. Pretty huge difference. That’s been the biggest change for me. I think most of my friends around me have always thought the potential was there, but it’s tough to see your potential if you’re only locked in mentally to what you’re doing ‘some’ amount of the time versus always.” The change for Butcher has been undeniable with a steady stream of deep runs that any poker player would envy. This includes when, at the end of January, Butcher hit a career milestone when he outlasted the 285-entry field in Event #16 of the WSOP.com Circuit Super Series to earn his first WSOP gold ring, something that had been eluding him for some time. It’s a victory that Butcher talks about with a healthy dose of humility and perspective. “Normally that would be a really great moment, and it was, but I have had so many opportunities recently in those that it got to be almost like a joke for me. The first one that they ran this year, I think I was at the final two tables maybe 13 times and I didn’t final table a single one of them,” he said. “So it got almost meme-ish to a point…and it was a turbo. So I have a hard time assigning too much meaning to stuff like that. Turbos are so fickle, you got to run good…and I know I definitely did. So there could have been a more prestigious or more fulfilling first title, but it just feels good to get the monkey off the back, so to speak.” But with enviable results sometimes come actual envy and perhaps undue speculation as to how a player is able to achieve what some others can’t or don’t. While in Florida at a live event, preparing to get some sleep before a $5K the next day, he noticed some talk on social media questioning his results. The kind of talk that would keep a player awake at night. Another player was throwing out accusations that Butcher’s recent results were due to the use of real-time assistance (or some other method) as opposed to Butcher taking the time to take care of his own health. All of a sudden, Butcher, who comes off as thoughtful and somewhat quiet, was forced to defend his talent and reputation. “It’s just a scary feeling that maybe you’re not going to have a voice. I know that these rumors had spread amongst the community…It was something that a lot of people were hearing about and taking to be true so I was concerned from that standpoint. I’m pretty unknown, I keep to myself and now I’ve got these accusations flooding out that paint me in a negative light when I’ve done nothing to bring that upon myself. I think people get jealous pretty easily in this game and to look at some results that are pretty outlandish and think ‘Well, WTF, there’s got to be something going on.” “So the big thing for me was just trying to take that and steer it in a direction where the conversation was more about how people spread misinformation and will take things that are not factual and basically put their stamp on it on social media as if it’s factual.“ While it was a hard time for Butcher, one that elicited “an emotional reaction” from him, it was his goal to try and turn it into a positive and bring about a conversation on how the poker community should be celebrating each other as opposed to taking to social media to tear each other down. In the end, the player who initially brought this allegation against Butcher fully recanted and posted a public apology on Twitter. Butcher has moved on. Literally. After years of grinding the online scene in New Jersey, he is in the midst of a move back to Las Vegas where he plans on continuing to play on WSOP.com but also expanding his poker network and diving into the live tournament scene as it begins to open back up. His first stop was the World Poker Tour Venetian Main Event where he hoped to build out his live poker resume, which as opposed to his online credentials, he admits could use a little expansion. “I don’t have many live results just because when you’re coming up, there’s more value in playing those $55’s and $109’s on a nightly basis. You just get more reps, more practice. I think there’s a lot of benefits to it,” he said. “Now when I go play live, just as far as the buy-ins I play, I’m not trying to brag by any means, but it needs to be worth it. Something like a $400 or $600 is not something that’s going to get me out of the house to go play at this point, just because the hourly doesn’t make sense for me.” [caption id="attachment_634059" align="aligncenter" width="750"] Alex Butcher returned to Las Vegas to play in the WPT Venetian $5K.[/caption] That being said, Butcher does have plenty of live poker aspirations including playing in some of the bigger cash games offered in Las Vegas as well as larger tournament series, like the World Series of Poker. And if an invite to one of Las Vegas’ famous private games comes his way, well, Butcher won’t turn it down. So while the recent returns for Butcher have been good to him, and a return move to Las Vegas is exciting for his poker future, he’s determined to stay level-headed about it all. For every big win that people see, there are losses that come with it. Even though he's on the upswing today, tomorrow may bring some on-the-felt hardships. “This game’s really hard. If you’re swinging on that emotional pendulum all the time and not processing things from a logical base, it’s really hard to do well. Just going through emotional swings on a day-to-day basis outside of poker is hard. Then, on top of that, when you’re playing these games, you have to be at your A-game highest level all the time. You just have to have a good head on your shoulders. It’s super vital, something I definitely take pride in, but not something I was always good at. I think this is part of the process to get to this level and be able to play these games consistently…you have to be able to take the losses, those minus $15K days, the same way you do the plus $20K.” It’s been five years of intense dedication to poker for Butcher, but he insists that this is just the beginning. “I would like to think that I’m in it for the long haul. I have a great passion for the game,” he said. “I watch myself play and I just know that there’s so much stuff I can do better in the game, I know how much room for improvement is available.”
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