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Every day for the past three weeks, Cord Garcia, winner of the Colossus event at the 2015 World Series of Poker, has rolled out of bed, gotten himself ready for the day, and then put in a full day and night of nothing but cards. He’s been hustling, grinding, gambling even, but what he wasn’t doing was playing poker. Garcia is working alongside Steve Aoki, DJ Skee, and Dan Fleyshman in a new sports card shop in Hollywood, CA and getting the doors open has consumed him for the past few months. All of that effort turned into a reality on October 1 when those doors opened for business and Cards and Coffee became the latest shop to enter the booming sports card industry. The journey to the store opening began back in August 2019, when entrepreneur and social media star Gary Vaynerchuk reached out to Fleyshman to invite him to go to the National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago. The NSCC is an annual event built mainly around the sports card industry. Vaynerchuk just wanted his friend Fleyshman, who first cut his teeth in the sports card industry when he was a teenager, to come out to Chicago for one day and check things out. “He was only supposed to come out for a few hours and he ended up staying the whole time,” Garcia said. “He completely fell back in love with (sports cards) and Gary Vee had him convinced at the end that this was more than just a fad.” Over the next few months, Fleyshman closely followed the sports card industry and began to accumulate a collection focused on some of the National Basketball Association’s top and up-and-coming players. Like a lot of pre-teens who loved basketball, Garcia dreamt of playing in the NBA. He knew that working his way through high school and college ball to earn one of the 500 roster spots available in the NBA each year was already a long shot and at 12 years old realized that there was an issue he couldn’t fix, no matter how much he loved the game. “I wasn’t going to be six foot (tall) and there was only one person in the league that wasn’t six foot,” Garcia said. “I pretty much knew my NBA dreams were shot and that was luckily right when I found poker.” Yeah, Garcia started playing poker before he was a teenager. By the time he was 15 years old, almost all of his energy was devoted to poker. That investment has paid off with more than $2.8 million in lifetime tournament earnings, with the biggest score - $638,880 - coming from his win in the then-record-setting Colossus tournament in 2015. Through all of that, Garcia remained in love with basketball. After spending a day earlier this year driving around L.A. area card shops with Fleyshman buying up as many Kobe Bryant cards as possible, Garcia thought maybe there was an opportunity for the two to get into business together and put a bunch of their passions to work at once. “I was like, ‘Why don’t we open up a card shop and just crush?’ And you could just see the money signs in his eyes. He’s like ‘yeah, yeah’ and just gets all giddy,” Garcia said. He kept pushing, hoping to get Fleyshman to partner with him. “He said ‘It’s a great concept, but typically I like these things to happen organically’.” Ten minutes later, Fleyshman looked down at his phone to a text message from Vaynerchuk. “You should open a card shop in LA. Call it Cards and Coffee”. The opening of the store was the culmination of a friendship that really didn’t start until 2017. Garcia has been aware of Fleyshman since 2010 when the entrepreneur launched online poker site Victory Poker. Garcia appeared on Fleyshman’s radar in earnest in 2015 when Garcia beat out 22,373 other entries in the Colossus to win his first - and only - WSOP bracelet. About two years later, Garcia reached out to Fleyshman. “Like most of the people in the poker industry, in my class or my tank, we’re all lost in the sauce. We’re playing tournament to tournament, trying to get back make-up, trying to pay this bag, trying to pay that bag, trying to get ahead,” Garcia said. Things hadn’t been going well for Garcia and he was looking for somebody to put him in the WSOP Main Event. There was some interest from people who had bought pieces of him before, but Garcia was disappointed to find the best offers he was getting saw him earning only 30% of any returns. “So I reached out to Dan and I was like, ‘Yo man, I’m sure you get asked this all the time, but I can win’,” said Garcia, who has never been short of self-confidence. The now 30-year-old didn’t just want a one-and-done staking deal though. He felt Fleyshman could offer something that no other backer he had spoken to could: a path towards being financially steady. “I told him, ‘Look man, I know how to win, (but) I have no exit strategy. Do you have any interest in doing business with me? I see what you do business-wise, I’m into a lot of it, but I don’t have the resume or credentials to get in those doors’.” Serendipitously, at that moment Fleyshman was in Vegas to play the Main Event. The pair met the next morning for breakfast and that’s where things got real. Fleyshman agreed to put Garcia in the Main Event and invited him to move out to Los Angeles with the promise of getting him into some local games but also with the understanding that Garcia would learn as much about entrepreneurship as he could. Garcia put all of his worldly belongings into two suitcases and headed out to L.A. He found a friend with a room for rent for $800 per month. “I gave him $1,600 and I would Uber in everyday to Dan’s Elevator Studio, one of his companies, I would just sit in. He basically ran a little mini Shark Tank. People would come in and they would ask him to scale their business or pitch him and I just got to be a fly on the wall,” Garcia said. At first, Garcia sat there and didn’t say a word. The more meetings he sat in on, the more comfortable he became in that environment. Soon, he was asking questions and working to understand as much as he could about how business worked all with an eye towards creating a path outside of poker. That path eventually begins with Garcia’s management role with Cards and Coffee. The store sits in the heart of Hollywood and acts as a storefront of sorts for DJ Skee’s Dash Radio, an online radio broadcast company. As celebrities, rappers, musicians, and athletes come to Dash for an interview or to promote their latest projects, they have to make their way through Cards and Coffee to get to the elevator. Throughout the month of September, Garcia had his head down getting the store ready for customers. The inventory includes a huge selection of rookie cards and chase cards of some of the biggest current stars in the NBA, NFL, and MLB alongside a vast collection of old school stars like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Mickey Mantle, and Michael Jordan. As the official opening date neared, Garcia suffered through the anxiety comes with being anywhere near a new business. “I told Dan three weeks (before opening), ‘Man, we need another month’ and he was like “No, we’re opening on the first’,” Garcia said. “We opened on the first and I was really worried. We were in there the night before until 4 am, getting shit ready and we were opening in six hour hours and still needed to sleep. I was super stressed.” ‘We opened, and then I realized, yeah, we were behind but it was going to be that way even if we opened up in a month,” Garcia said. Opening a retail business in the middle of a pandemic sounds like a recipe for disaster. Thankfully for Garcia, the foot traffic the first few days eased any concerns he had. A strong social media build-up coupled with their location meant there was a line out the door on opening day. Having customers coming in the door is only one part of the plan. Built off of Fleyshman’s extensive experience in social media, The Coffee Breakers is the online extension of the business. Rather than just offering collectors your standard click and buy option, collectors can gamble on buying a piece of a high-end box of cards or an individual pack of cards and have that pack opened on a livestream. It ties in the sports collecting side with the gambling side. Garcia hopes to use some of his online poker experience to help innovate the concept and make The Coffee Breakers the top destination online for breaking. “I think that the store being here in five years would be a good start obviously. I would like to be the number one breaking place in the industry for sure. After that, I just want to grow with the market,” Garcia said. Ensuring that type of growth means that Garcia’s days of going from tournament stop to tournament stop are over. This isn’t any sort of retirement, however. He just plans on picking his spots and making sure that he’s able to balance the needs of his new role as a businessman with his love of poker. “I don’t know exactly, maybe it’s once a month I go to the best tournament in America, or in the world maybe. Scale down the volume for sure is the short answer, but I’ll always play poker,” Garcia said. “I’m going to come to Vegas every summer, I want to play the Main Event every year. I still have some goals in poker, but I’m with poker being my primary source of income, now secondary or third even. Hopefully I’m doing well enough to where it bumps out at the top five eventually.”
The Triton Million: A Helping Hand for Charity will be a record setter when action kicks off Thursday. The £1,050,000 buy-in tournament will make it the biggest buy-in in poker history, and the event comes with a unique format. It's a freezeout where recreational/businessmen players can enter via invite only. Those invited can then issue one invite of their own to a guest/professional players. As of Wednesday morning, 26 pairings had been named, but it's the 'what could have beens' that are equally as intriguing. Let's take a look at a handful of recreational-professional pairings that we would've liked to have seen compete in the Triton Million. Chamath Palihapitiya and Phil Hellmuth It's no secret that Chamath Palihapitiya and Phil Hellmuth have a close relationship. We've seen it on Hellmuth's social media accounts all too often. A former Facebook executive and now a successful investor, Palihapitiya fits the mold of the perfect recreational poker player to enter this field. He's played poker in the past, including the first-ever World Series of Poker Big One for One Drop that cost $1,000,000 to enter, and has three WSOP cashes and two World Poker Tour cashes. Being good friends with Hellmuth makes Hellmuth the perfect invitee for Palihapitiya, and getting the polarizing 15-time gold bracelet winner in the field would be very entertaining. Isai Scheinberg and Daniel Negreanu Now this, this is a pairing, and we'll call it 'getting the band back together.' The founder of PokerStars, Isai Scheinberg, paired with the company's former golden boy, Daniel Negreanu. It would be absolutely tremendous to see, and we all know both parties have enough money to afford the gigantic £1,050,000 buy-in. We all know how skillful and experienced of a poker player Negreanu is, but Scheinberg has conquered the felt before, too. He won the UKIPT Isle of Man High Roller in the same year that Negreanu finished second in the 2014 WSOP $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop. Tiger Woods and Antonio Esfandiari How can we not want to have Antonio Esfandiari, 'the magician,' the first-ever $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop winner, in the field? In order to make this happen, he needs a recreational player to invite him. Who bigger and better than Tiger Woods? You may be asking yourself, does Woods play poker and what's the connection here? Yes, Woods plays poker. He might not be entering the priciest tournaments in the world as some of these other recreational players are, but he’s the host of Tiger's Poker Night as part of Tiger Jam, held in partnership with the World Poker Tour each year, so he knows the game. On more than one occasion, Esfandiari has been one of the celebrity professionals to attend Tiger's Poker Night. Dan Fleyshman and Phil Ivey How do we get Phil Ivey in this field? We pair him with Dan Fleyshman, that’s how. Fleyshman doesn’t dabble in poker as he once did, but he’s still around the game enough that he could perform well in this tournament. One of his claims to fame is being the youngest founder of a publicly traded company and he's an active businessman and investor. Ivey is Ivey. His star power alone is worthy of entry into a £1,050,000 buy-in tournament, and we all know he has the chops to perform on the felt. He knows Fleyshman, so the pairing works, and we’d absolutely love to see Ivey in the field. David Einhorn and Erik Seidel Investor and hedge fund manager David Einhorn may not be a professional poker player, but he’s as avid a recreational player as they come. He's been known to compete in the highest buy-in poker tournaments the world has to offer, and he took third place for $4,352,000 in the first-ever $1,000,000 buy-in poker tournament the world has ever seen. With Einhorn being a New York guy, a perfect pairing would be Erik Seidel. Seidel is currently third on poker’s all-time money list with more than $35,000,000 in winnings, he’s an eight-time WSOP gold bracelet winner, and also a WPT champion. Although he’s of an older generation of players, Seidel continues to be a crusher on the high-stakes poker scene and has plenty of experience against the fellow professional players in the field. Haralabos Voulgaris and Daniel Colman Since Haralabos Voulgaris' new gig with the Dallas Mavericks, he hasn't been around the poker scene much. Not that the former professional sports bettor was grinding every tournament under the sun before he became the NBA team's Director of Quantitative Research and Development, but Voulgaris was known to get down in the high-stakes arena. Having played a couple million-dollar buy-ins before, this event is right in his wheelhouse. Voulgaris and Daniel Colman have a relationship that saw Voulgaris on Colman’s rail when Colman won the 2014 WSOP $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop. It would also be fitting to see Colman return to poker’s public stage in the largest buy-in event in the game’s history. Evan Mathis and Alex Foxen Maybe we’re reaching here, maybe we’re not, but these are dream scenarios so let’s keep rolling with it. Evan Mathis spent 12 years in the NFL and was one of the league’s top offensive lineman. He won a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos and reached the Pro Bowl on two occasions. According to Spotrac, Mathis has estimated career earnings from football at more than $21,000,000. He recently grabbed headlines when he sold a 1952 Topps rookie card of Mickey Mantle for nearly $3 million. That’s enough to pay for his entry, his guest’s entry, and have plenty left over. Sticking with the football tie-in, Mathis’ guest could be Alex Foxen, a former football player for Boston College. These two would be quite the presence on and off the felt and both have the skills to compete. Richard Seymour and Ryan Riess Another fantasy Triton Million pairing is Richard Seymour and Ryan Riess. This would give us who is arguably poker’s strongest mainstream connection, Seymour, in the field and the three-time Super Bowl winner has plenty of experience on the felt. He just came off a 131st-place finish in the WSOP Main Event. A huge sports enthusiast and a player friendly with Seymour is Ryan Riess, winner of the 2013 WSOP Main Event and also a WPT champion. Steve Aoki and Brian Rast The last dream pairing we'll look at involves superstar DJ Steve Aoki and top poker player Brian Rast. The two know each other, so the connection works for the invite, and Aoki has been known to play a bit of poker in his spare time. With Aoki being billed as one of the richest DJs in the world, the cake-tossing music maker should have enough cash to enter. If not, Rast can certainly front or find the money to get Aoki in so that he can play in the event. How To Watch the Triton Million Fans from around the world can watch the Triton Million for free on PokerGO. Ali Nejad will call the action, with professional poker player Nick Schulman alongside to provide expert commentary. Action starts Thursday, August 1, at 8 am ET and PokerGO will have coverage for the entirety of the event. If you don't already have a subscription to PokerGO, sign up today using the promo code "POCKET5S" for $10 off the PokerGO annual plan.