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Found 10 results

  1. This weekend, Tony Sinishtaj saw off the challenges of players such as final table chip leader Vanessa Kade, Alex Livingston and Tony Tran to claim the biggest score of his poker career so far, winning $1.65 million by taking down the Wynn Millions Main Event. In the aftermath of Sinsihtaj's stunning victory, however, he was criticized in some quarters for a winners’ photo that showed no emotion, featuring him holding the trophy and staring at the camera without the obligatory posed grin. It was on Twitter that a post by 'Cookie Monster Poker' saw an image of Sinishtaj holding the Wynn Millions trophy on their Twitter page accompanied by the comment: “Why poker is now totally non-marketable can be summed up in one picture of a player who just won 1.6 MILLION dollars.” Shared by many in the industry, some with comment, some without, did they have a point or were they way out of line? Poker Twitter, perhaps predictably, blew up in Sinishtaj's defense. https://twitter.com/3kingme3/status/1503102404018917376 The Winner Weighs In "That hand got me two-thirds of the chips in play; I thought I was going to steamroller them." When we spoke to Tony Sinishtaj, he was back in his native New York after arriving home from his lengthy 10-day stint in Las Vegas. He looks back on the final table with pride on the effort he put into what was a tough final table from the first card. “I started the final in a terrible seat compared to other big stacks,” he says. “I was healthy with 75 blinds, but the people to my left had more and I was handcuffed. I was playing pretty tight.” Despite that initial situation, a hand where Sinishtaj turned a full house with jacks over queens against chip leader Vanessa Kade, he showed his rail the hand. He thinks that hand contributed to Kade eventually losing her stack to him. “To the table, I can look like a maniac. On the six-five hand, I flopped the flush draw and turned a flush with the queen of spades. I led out pretty big and she had two red aces. The river pairs the queen and I have about a pot-sized bet behind and put her all-in. I guess she felt like I was getting out of line before that pot and I really wasn’t.” Kade called and busted and the hand gave Sinishtaj 30 million of the 43 million in play. “As the overwhelming chip leader it’s negative pressure to go from chip led to not having it and you can feel like ‘this guy is taking advantage’. I could understand her position and call; it’s a tough spot, especially since she had no idea what I had the previous hand. That hand got me two-thirds of the chips in play; I thought I was going to steamroller them. I went from 30 back down to 8 million. We played three-handed for a long time.” At the end of that epic denouement, Sinishtaj had got the better of Alex Livingston and then Isaac Kempton after initially starting the heads-up behind. As he explains, it was an epic period of 10 days for him, and it was finally over. “I played the satellite to get in, I got in. I played 1a on the satellite, I lost. I played 1b, I lost. I played 1c, I made it. There was a day off on 2a, but I literally played 10 days, with 13-hour days here and there. The last thing I want to do is take a picture.” Sinishtaj admits that the photo was not a one-off and that he has had a hard time posing for pictures ‘my whole life, let alone after 10 days of poker’. “My wife always gives me a hard time about pictures,” he says. “I don’t take good pictures, sorry, I just don’t! The person taking the picture was like ‘Smile!’ and I’m sure there are pictures of me smiling, but they picked that one. I read the Twitter stuff, my buddies sent it to me. I deleted Twitter months ago and it’s because of threads like that. Even reading other stuff about other people, I got tired of it and I’m glad I didn’t have it through this whole thing. People want to figure out what my mental state was like at the time and if I was unhappy. It was one of the happiest moments of my life! It doesn’t have to show in my face.” From Goofballs to Gold “There was a big incentive in the past to be a goofball." As Sinishtaj remarks, the life of a modern poker player is all about keeping emotion out of the game. That’s a direct flip from the past in his eyes. “There was a big incentive in the past to be a goofball,” he says. “You got an endorsement deal, you got Full Tilt Poker or PokerStars to throw you half a million dollars just to wear a patch. There were people playing the World Series in 2004 and 2005 who were making animal noises when they won a pot. You don’t see that anymore. They wanted attention, and they made more doing that than playing the tournament. I wouldn’t have done it back then, let alone now when there’s nothing on the line.” When the tournament ended, Sinishtaj says he just wanted to ‘Get outta Vegas’. He hadn’t seen his young family in 10 days and had missed his child’s birthday on the day of the final table. “I have a three-month-old baby,” he says. “My wife is there with the kids alone; obviously she wants me home and I want to get outta there. My job was done. Sometimes, your partner is like ‘It’s over for you now, get home, it’s time to come back’. When I’m at home, I’m a dad first. When I go away, I try to get into that poker mindset. You can’t be a dad and poker player at the same time; you can try, but you’ll do both poorly. We were in the process of buying a house, but this clearly makes it much easier. This is going to change my life for the better. If I could set the family up with a nice place to live and school, then I’m doing my part.” Sinishtaj’s family inspiration is not exclusive to the generation of three young children he is raising with his wife. Just before his first major win on the World Poker Tour in 2017, Sinishtaj lost his father a few months after becoming a father for the first time himself. “He was my biggest fan in poker," Sinishtaj says. "Until then, I really hadn’t won anything. I’d had a second-place to Joe McKeehen and a Circuit Main Event result for $100,000 that was my biggest score, but nothing crazy. He was always there rooting me on. I don’t remember exactly when it started but playing this tournament, I really felt his presence like I’d never felt it before at the table.” Deep into the Wynn Millions Main Event on Day 3, Sinishtaj could hear his father’s voice. It kept him grounded and inspired him to believe he was destined to win, it was a lot to deal with whilst trying to negotiate a tough field. “It was a little overwhelming to deal with while playing, but I really felt like I was going to win. When I was all in with jacks six-handed against ace-king, an ace comes then a jack. I’m all in against Livingston four-handed with king-jack on jack-three-deuce and he has jack-three; the board runs out eight-eight. The third hand of heads-up, I get aces, the kid gets jacks. The whole tournament felt that way. It’s a surreal experience to run so well in one of the biggest tournaments you’ve played.” Sinishtaj tells us ‘I truly played my best’. The day before the final, he confided in a friend that if there was one thing he wanted to make sure of it was that he wasn’t going to ‘let poor play ruin my chances’. Determined to bring his A-game, Sinishtaj felt like his Dad was out there under the lights with him when he achieved his lifelong dream. ‘And then they wanna take pictures, y’know!’ he laughs. Do Poker Players Have a Responsibility to Entertain? “I was right there with the Moneymaker Boom.” One player might occasionally say or do something that initiates a spike in growth or popularity of poker. But watching the old names on High Stakes Poker has to co-habit with looking for new heroes that come from the modern age. Poker is so much bigger than it has ever been and that juxtaposition of welcoming the new while treasuring days gone by exists within the grasp of the media as well as with players and fans. Daniel Negreanu has joined the discussion on Twitter, saying: “Lara Ni Si correctly points to a troubling trend. The no celebration, no emotion, too cool for school culture is tough to sell. That’s just an indisputable fact.” Sinishtaj agrees but says it's not his responsibility to sell the game. “Is it better if a recreational player who looks and acts like he’s a recreational player wins? Probably," agrees Sinishtaj. "It might want to make someone think ‘If that guy can do it, so can I.’ Maybe they look at me and don’t see that, but that’s not my job.” Ironically, Sinishtaj was exactly that guy more than two decades ago. “I was right there with the Moneymaker Boom”, he says. “When he won, I fell in love with the game. In 2003, I was 22 years old. Maybe you needed a Moneymaker to win to get me interested in the game. It really became my dream. I get it and understand where Negreanu is coming from, but I’m sorry that’s not me. I can’t change my personality because it might generate more buy-ins to poker. I’m not gonna be somebody I’m not. I wouldn’t know how to.” Sinishtaj correctly points out that while the Wynn Millions is one of the biggest tournaments around, the event is not televised and there are no hole cards on display to fans. “I know it’s expensive for productions teams, but if you really want to market the game, we could have played the final table at the PokerGO Studio. That’s how you market the game, the game isn’t marketed by the winner’s photo. People want to watch it and see my cards. Could one player really market the game now as Moneymaker once did? Sinishtaj laughs. “It’s definitely not going to be me! The game is not what it used to be, a lot of work needs to be put in. I’m always trying to get better because everyone else is getting better. I don’t play the small field big buy-in high rollers. To play this and win is almost unreal and there wasn’t even a chop made. I would have been happy to make one. When we got four-handed, [Kempton] politely said ‘I don’t chop’, and there was never any talk about it at all. Your opponent has to be someone like that to outright win one of these.” Sinsihtaj agrees that of the many photos taken of him during the game, the ones where he’s actually playing poker look more like the real him, saying ‘I always look better in those pictures’. Perhaps the traditional winner’s photo is a thing of the past. Tony Sinishtaj deserves his moment in the spotlight as much as the next player, whether he is smiling or not.
  2. The notion of a poker hand representing a poker player is not a new one. For decades, ten-deuce has been known as the ‘Texas Dolly’. So-called after Doyle Brunson, the hand struck notoriety thanks to being the winning hand in back-to-back World Series of Poker Main Events in 1976 and 1977. Last week, Phil Hellmuth’s queen-four call for his tournament life - and subsequent suck-out success - went viral. Playing against Alex Foxen in the 2022 U.S. Poker Open, the so-called ‘Poker Brat’ become associated with the hole cards around the world... but how long will that last? From Will Smith-related memes to Hellmuth’s own reaction to the hand, how has a week in the spotlight given queen-four off the unlikeliest of popularity boosts? The Hand Takes Place Whichever way you look at it, Alex Foxen and Phil Hellmuth played out one of the most virally viewed poker hands in history on PokerGO during the 2022 U.S. Poker Open. With both men in the running for not only the Event title but the leaderboard victory at that stage, Foxen saw Hellmuth’s three-bet and four-bet enough to set the Poker Brat all in with a call. Hellmuth weighed things up as co-commentator Brent Hanks, working alongside Jeff Platt in the PokerGO booth, stated what every viewer was feeling. “This a guy who can dodge bullets but can’t get away from queen-four? I am shocked that he’s taking time making this decision. It is not a decision.” It was, however, and as Hellmuth declared ‘I guess I better play to win.” He put in his remaining chips, deciding not to leave himself with nine big blinds. Of course, a queen came on the flop and to add insult to injury, another queen on the river gave Hellmuth the crucial double-up. No nines arrived across the board left Foxen perplexed, and he shot a look of wonderment slowly around the PokerGO Studio. “What did we just witness? What the heck was that?” said Hanks. The whole world was about to provide a different answer to that question. Poker Twitter Blows Up No sooner had the hand played out were PokerGO themselves sharing what has become one of the most popular poker hands in living memory for people to watch. Quotes, retweets, likes and engagements alone sent the hand around the globe faster than you could locate your push-fold charts to prove the call 'wrong'. https://twitter.com/PokerGO/status/1507474159030321155 Some of the comments on Poker Twitter have predictably been brilliant. “I swear the next time I'm dealt a [queen-four], I am shoving my chips in,” said one Poker Brat fan. “Instead of calling for my 'one time' I will announce ‘For Phil!’”. Many Hellmuth supporters came out in defense not only of their man but the hand itself. “I secretly love [queen-four],” one said. “It's my oddball hand.” Another represented many dozens with their assertion that: “From here on out, the queen-four will be known as ‘The Hellmuth’ or ‘The Brat’ People will be playing it like the [seven-deuce] game. Poker rooms across America will be talking about the hand!” They already were. The Memes Take Over From the moment the clip was shot out of the PokerGO social media cannon, the poker circus that exists online was in raptures. Max Pescatori hinted that an element of jealousy would waft through high roller games everywhere https://twitter.com/maxpescatori/status/1507533575054409733 Hellmuth himself shared the effect that the internet had enjoyed having on queen-four. https://twitter.com/phil_hellmuth/status/1507669423636692997 Plenty of fans were on Hellmuth’s side, and more than happy to show this runaway train of a meme subject would not be stopped by anything in its way. https://twitter.com/FPLFledgling/status/1507831077762736128 When Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles, Poker Twitter moved at speed to appropriate the action to Hellmuth’s hand. https://twitter.com/jsmith84poker/status/1508287597067468804 While intelligent debate was thin on the ground, that didn’t mean the very best couldn’t parody it, and Phil Galfond’s post was a thing of beauty and a joy forever. https://twitter.com/PhilGalfond/status/1507837664216567808 Hellmuth even shared an amended hand ranking chart, giving new power to this craziest of calling hands. https://twitter.com/phil_hellmuth/status/1507667976891166720 Could ‘The Hellmuth’ Stand the Test of Time? One fan’s assertion that Johnny Chan could have prevented Hellmuth winning his iconic WSOP Main Event in 1989 really set the controls of the out of control juggernaut to ‘crazy’. “Your 1989 WSOP win showed up on my YouTube feed today,” they said. “Funny thing is if he played [queen-four] against your [pocket nines] he would have won. I think there's something magical about your hand.” Magical or not, Hellmuth didn’t win either the USPO event or any other event with the hand in question. So can it really stand the test of time? Eager to show that it might, the Poker Brat was on the road to a meet up game later in the week, and what would his first hand be? You’ve guessed it. https://twitter.com/phil_hellmuth/status/1509035404581736452 There’s a 'Queen-Four' Facebook group, and before long, you just know there will be t-shirts. If the hand catches on at the World Series, then the memes will all come out for a second airing. Hellmuth himself, as is so often the case, seems in charge of the hand’s destiny. Doyle Brunson played ten-deuce in not one but two vital spots. Both times he won a WSOP Main Event as a direct result, but while Hellmuth may not have the opportunity to do so, what the Poker Brat has in 2022 is a much more powerful media machine to feed. If Phil Hellmuth makes a final table at the 2022 World Series of Poker, then the Poker Brat will be waiting for two hole cards in particular to go crazy with on a live stream. Setting aside the value he’s stacking up by less experienced hopefuls presuming he is playing queen-four along the way, Hellmuth should absolutely play it under the lights. If queen-four makes it to mainstream television, we might never hear the last of a hand that is living in the moment for far longer than anyone gave it the chance of doing. All in? You'd better believe it.
  3. Every player from Joe Public to Daniel Negreanu has attempted to call poker cards before they are revealed, but it so difficult that to do so consistently invites ridicule. Get it right and you look like a wizard, get it wrong and you can look like the biggest fool at the felt. Doing so may be fraught with danger, but last night on PokerGO’s High Stakes Poker, Jean-Robert Bellande managed to predict his two hole cards, drawing gasps from some of the best poker players in the world. It's time we compare JRB’s moment as some sort of poker clairvoyant to others who have managed to put their opponents on exact hands or called even more unpredictable random cards to come. What Did Bellande Do? Of all the players to take part in Season 9 of High Stakes Poker, Bellande is the easiest to watch purely for the drama and frequency with which he takes on his opponents. No one is safe from JRB until he’s folded his cards, no matter what he has. One of the most experienced cash game players at the purple felt, the Long Islander was in the mood for fun on Episode 8 of the latest season of dollar-brick action continued. As commentators AJ Benza and Gabe Kaplan described, what Bellande asked for, he got. Pre-flop, Bellande said that all he wanted was two queens. When he revealed them to the table at the end of the hand, Phil Ivey’s reaction was one of the best ever seen in the history of High Stakes Poker. As Daniel Negreanu said, "That is just creepy." https://twitter.com/PokerGO/status/1513675401893072901 Bellande calling both cards is impressive, but is it the best card-calling in poker history? It turns out that despite the impressive nature of the clip, it’s not even close. Bellande doesn’t call the suits, and although the odds are long, it’s not like he specified the exact cards. We've found even better in the archives. A History of Calling Cards Sticking with pocket queens, picking them to jump out of the pack is one thing, but what about if it’s another player’s cards? Well, there are numerous examples of that, so let’s get our head around one. Daniel Negreanu, who recently told us about the hand that changed his life, calls his opponent’s ladies out of nowhere and saves himself valuable chips by doing so. Kid Poker has enjoyed some highly intuitive moments during his career, but this is right up there. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9rZQWYqgWQ Romanello Reaches Deep to Save His Stack Both our previous examples are from cash games, but what about doing it in a tournament? It doesn’t get much bigger than the World Series of Poker Main Event's feature table, where the eventual Triple Crown winner Roberto Romanello made the fold of his lifetime with jacks full. Here’s how it went down, with Mike Matusow watching along the whole time. "As the commentary went at the tie, 'If he lays this down, I'll move to a Franciscan monastery and become head chef.'" https://youtu.be/5I62m9RvvN4?t=414 Seeing Through a WSOP Main Event Champion Both those previous reads necessitate that the opponent has a huge hand, but what if the player whose cards need to be read for this sort of hero fold are more polarized? It doesn’t get much better than this ridiculous fold four years ago from Ian Steinman against former WSOP Main Event champion Joe McKeehen. The hand took place on the World Poker Tour and left the commentary team stunned. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InFMhKlDIxU As it was observed at the time, Steinman made the fold of a lifetime. The fold is only correct if McKeehen has either pocket aces or queen-ten, meaning the latter is so well disguised that Steinman’s ability to make the fold qualifies as wizardry. Sadly for him, all that hard work may have been enough to get the better of McKeehen, but Steinman would finish second in the event after leading heads-up by 2:1 in chips. Still, $201,428 and the reputation for possibly the sickest fold ever is a fine consolation prize. https://twitter.com/MattClarkPoker/status/971186130581204993 What Are the Odds? Finally, what about being able to predict all five community cards? Yes, it really has happened, and on a live stream too. Take a look at the amazing powers of American poker player Troy Clogston during The Lone Star Poker Series. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aH1fq5Eb834 The reactions around the room at Champions Poker Club in Houston from the other players are incredible. They’re justified on the final two cards, due to the specific card and suit, with the [poker card="4s"] and [poker card="2h"] called out just before they land. The huge action pre-flop gives the mystic player the notion that premium cards are already in the players hands who remain interested. Choosing the flop cards, even without calling the suit, is extremely unlikely. Add in the exact turn and river cards, and it’s no surprise to see the other players get out of their seats and head for the nearest cold drink. Bellande choosing both queens to come out of the pack would be likely to happen once in 221 hands. Therefore, if Bellande called out "two queens" each time the dealer shuffled the pack, then playing 30 hands an hour, he’d only have to be at the felt for an average of less than a 9-5 shift to be proven right. There have been well over a hundred episodes of High Stakes Poker to date, so if there were two predictions in each episode, then we should have already seen a player get it right by now. Jean-Robert Bellande managed to get the better of Ivey with the pocket queens he called in pre-flop. Whether he’ll be about to see out the next five episodes of High Stakes Poker Season 9 to stay in profit by the time the curtain comes down is still up for debate, but calling cards for this kind of reaction should really catch on among the elite. Make it a prop bet, but make it happen.  
  4. The recent PokerGO Heads-Up Showdown featured 32 of the best poker players on the planet. After three days at the felt, it was Chino Rheem who emerged victorious to claim $400,000 and the title as the end of an important chapter in his chequered poker career was brought to the happiest of conclusions. Daniel Negreanu is in Pre-WSOP Form Though he missed the money, Daniel Negreanu came into the PokerGO Tour Heads-Up Showdown with a tough path ahead of him. In the first round, Kid Poker took care of Jared Bleznick on the feature table, building a sizeable lead before finishing off his opponent and progressing to a meeting with Tamon Nakamura. Nakamura provided a stiff challenge, but an early pot for Negreanu when his pocket tens turned top set against the Japanese player’s inside straight draw and flush draw worked the Canadian to almost level in chips and he would eventually prevail at the feature table. He may have lost to Darren Elias, but Negreanu is warming up for the World Series of Poker nicely. [caption id="attachment_638152" align="aligncenter" width="768"] Daniel Negreanu performed well at the felt, looking happy with his form and the game in general.[/caption] Elsewhere on Day 1, in the ‘Spades’ section, there were unexpected defeats for Sam Soverel and Shaun Deeb, who slid out after a dramatic and high-quality defeat to long-time rival, Shannon Shorr. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTi3JEAcEuw Darren Elias Knows How to Close The four-time World Poker Tour winner Darren Elias had an excellent run in the event, making it all the way to the final showdown, where he eventually lost out for the runner-up prize of $200,000. It could be argued, however, that Elias’ performance was the strongest in the entire Showdown, with his opponents among some of the best players ever to have looked down at hole cards. In the opening round, Elias took care of Landon Tice in the first match to conclude, with the final hand seeing Elias’s ace-king beat Tice’s dominated ace and ease the former’s progress. The second round didn’t get any easier for Elias, however, as he faced - and beat - Erik Seidel. The former WSOP Main Event runner-up proved a tricky opponent, but Elias again prevailed, only to face Daniel Negreanu in the next round, with his Round of 16 and quarterfinal opponents having won over $85 million in tournaments between them. Elias got the better of Negreanu and then took on the impressive Justin Young, who had beaten two of the favorites for the trophy on his way to the semifinals. Now in profit, Elias once again came out on top, making the final when he had worked himself 3:1 up in chips before winning a flip with ace-queen against Young’s pocket threes. The Big Guns Are Out for Hellmuth "My opponent gave me the double bird, and was out of line [with] his verbal attacks." ~ Phil Hellmuth There was no question about the most dramatic fall-out from the opening round inside the PokerGO Studio at ARIA. Phil Hellmuth was the favorite to progress against Eric Persson in the $25,000 buy-in event. That result didn’t materialize, however, and when Persson won, a disgruntled Hellmuth trudged off complaining of the behaviour of his opponent. https://twitter.com/phil_hellmuth/status/1517361856779759616 While the verbal sparring had been even, Hellmuth perceived Persson’s flipping of the[ ‘double bird’ to be over the line, leading to a small explosion on Poker Twitter. Eventually, however, Hellmuth, ever the bigger man after the event, made a live apology during Persson’s next round victory over Dan Shak. https://twitter.com/phil_hellmuth/status/1517620869693988865 Persson might have triumphed against the Poker Brat and much-fancied Shak, but couldn’t make profit as he lost out to the whirlwind that is Isaac Kempton. Favorites Can Still Lose to Underdogs Many of the PokerGO Heads-Up Showdown games went against the favorite pre-match. Ali Imsirovic came into the Showdown on the back of perhaps his most difficult week in the game and exited immediately after being busted by Jake Daniels in the opening round. Others faced the same fate, with stars of the game such as Alex Foxen losing to Justin Young in the quarterfinals, Scott Seiver falling in the opening round to Isaac Kempton and Jeremy Ausmus losing inside the PokerGO Studio as he became one of Chino Rheem’s many victims on route to the title being decided. By the time the event reached the semifinal stage, it was one where every player was guaranteed a return of $100,000 on their stake of $25,000. Darren Elias was the only player of the four to have put his action on sale on Pocket Fives, once again making huge profit for investors. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yp2dhO_jn8Y Chino Rheem is on the Redemption Trail "We’re back on the right track. God willing." ~ Chino Rheem Chino Rheem’s victory came with more than a heavy dose of irony in a week overshadowed for many by the cheating allegations that have peppered Twitter all week. Rheem, who openly admitted many of his problems early in his career came down to his reliance on drink or drugs, credited his sponsor and his many supporters in helping him turn his life around. “We’re back on the right track. God willing, thank God, if I can just stay there,” he said after the final victory against Darren Elias. “Honestly, once I made the money, once I won the first three matches, I was like, ‘whatever happens from here it’s all good.’ Things went my way, and I’ll take it, obviously. I can’t complain at all.” In achieving some inner peace, Rheem has proved something of a redemption story in the game and during a period in poker where many are being asked to look for the same sort of redemption by acting in good faith in the here and now, Rheem’s win confirms it can be done. With one of the toughest sets of players to win against, his victory against Darren Elias saw a superb tournament close out in dramatic fashion as four men made the money and in Rheem’s case, win his 14th ranking tournament victory across a rollercoaster poker career. PokerGO Heads Up Showdown Final Results: Chino Rheem - $400,000 Darren Elias - $200,000 Isaac Kempton - $100,000 Justin Young - $100,000
  5. In an age where the perception of poker players has changed markedly, how players look at their own future is changing. There was a time when poker players would have a bankroll and a ‘life-roll’ and would plot out a course of action tailored to improving both. From tournaments to cash games, bricks and mortar to buy-ins, poker players had a much more linear method of reinvesting their hard-earned money. In the modern age, however, poker players who reach a certain level are now far more aware of investment being key to improving their bankroll and improving their lives. One player who has taken it to the next level and improved countless others lives is Dan Smith. His charity initiative, Double Up Drive, has raised over $24.7 million for highly effective charities since 2014. Sitting Down with Smith “If I ever needed it, I’d be able to have it within a couple weeks.” We began our conversation with him by asking about how a poker player who has achieved in the game goes about investing their money outside poker. “I don’t think that it works in such a way where once you get to ‘x’ amount of dollars, you can start investing,” he says. “I think you want as much of your capital working all the time as you can. Money that’s just sitting there in a checking account or in a box is going down in valuation. As time goes on, I would put more and more money aside. I try not to cash it out unless I have a very good reason to.” Smith is mindful of the fact that losing years in gambling don’t carry over and you can’t write off expenses, so ‘ensuring that you unlikely have a losing year is your first concern’. That automatically affects what each player can gamble and then, as a consequence, invest. “Specific financial situations dictate how you manage your bankroll quite a bit,” says the man currently in 7th place on The Hendon Mob’s All Time Money List. “If you were still at $5/$10, the way you should manage your bankroll is very different to being pretty wealthy and trying to grow your wealth further. I have mostly tried to have as much of my money working as possible in liquid [investments]. If I ever needed it, I’d be able to have it within a couple weeks.” As Smith says, no player ever wants to be in a situation where they’re short of money. It can take a psychological toll. “It depends on the games you play, but if you’re a $10/$20 regular, you don’t ever want to think about having enough to be playing if you have a losing day. Generally, if the game in your casino is $10/$20 then gets kicked up to 25/50 on any given day it may well be because the game has got better than usual. Gambling on yourself in a good cash game is likely going to outperform any investments you can make.” [caption id="attachment_638167" align="aligncenter" width="750"] Smith is a former WPT champion and sits in the top 10 of the all-time money list for tournament winnings.[/caption] A Fantasy Made Real “At this moment in time, I don’t think the state of the poker game is stable.” Smith doesn’t see his charity endeavours and the growth of wealth as conflicting things. He apportions so of his money to charitable donations just as does in investments and spending money. The first time he ever made a large charitable donation, it was down to a very different kind of gamble. “I was playing high stakes Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) and in this week I was wagering $120k,” he describes. “The big question that week was whether or not to play Jack Doyle, the back-up Tight End of the Colts. The starting Tight End was ruled out, so he was going to get a lot of looks for bargain pricing. I just decided I didn’t see much of a reason to hedge [with another player] and played him in the whole $120,000. I reflected that I could lose the whole $120k which would and objectively nothing would change. That inspired my $175,000 charity donation. If I donated that, I got some degree of tax break, so it got me to that $120k number.” As Smith says, everyone’s situation is going to be quite different and others will have a myriad of alternate paths to both wealth and investment, as well as donating to charity. Smith admits that he bases some of his calculations on tax adjustments, something which is going to be different for poker players around the world given gambling’s nature in some countries as a method of earnings and others, where it is viewed as gambled money which cannot be taxed. “Having an idea of where you are changes based on a lot of factors,” he admits. “For me, one of the bigger things was how big I perceive my edge to be in poker games and how optimistic I was about it going forward. At this moment in time, I don’t think the state of the poker game is stable, reliable income so I’d, in theory, adjust my investments accordingly.” Finance and Variance "It’s easy to make a number of dollars in a month or year and extrapolate that you will continue to make that sort of money." Smith adds that anyone thinking of investing or donating to charity should be ‘mindful of the distribution of resolutions’ and while some investments will reliably tick over at 8% for example, others with multiply your money wildly or go bust. Variance in investments is not dissimilar to that experienced at the poker table, and that synergy between accruing chips through risk and looking at how to maximise your money has obvious similarities for many. “I think it’s easy to make a number of dollars in a month or year and extrapolate that you will continue to make that sort of money. That’s very dangerous; games are constantly changing and variance is a bitch!” Dan Smith looks at investment as an area of skill and says while some will succeed playing it safe, others are naturally better at taking big risks. “Some people will just do their best mostly just buying index funds and not doing anything clever,” he says. “Some people are very skilled gamblers and investors. They should manage their money very differently.” When a poker player decides to invest their money, it is often because they believe themselves to be ready to take that next step in acquiring wealth upon that which they have won in the game. In finance as well as in poker, however, nothing is ever guaranteed.
  6. Hello my name is Grant Geyer, 35 & reside in Las Vegas. I've been playing poker for over 16 years with a ton of experience in Live & Online tournaments. I'm looking for a small term stake to reduce variance & help myself be able to play more events than I normally would. I'm including links to my live & online results. I have a very good ROI in the games I play. I enjoy playing both & have good results in each. In the recent year I've been most focused on working on my off the Felt game, Studying, good sleep, exercise, nutrition, & being as prepared to play as possible. I've seen vast improvements in my decision making ability & stamina when I play. I will be updating as often as possibe while I play via Twitter or other channels if needed. My bread & butter is live tournaments $600 & under, & online tournaments $300 & under. I really love big field thousands of people fields. I'm open to discussing Staking arrangements taxes etc. I've put together a schedule of the events I'm looking to play in the next 3/4 weeks. Some of the extra bullets that aren't used because I make a day 2 will be either returned or used towards the next tournament planned on playing. I've attached a google sheet of the schedule I'm looking to play. I have vouchers from past stakes if needed. Open to making adjustments. Please reach out if you have any questions. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1KepHI93vDULsgyqIMYpmn205fhUgGXYY95xQEIsJQCY/edit?usp=sharing Live Results Online Results https://pokerprolabs.com/players/thinkbink/888.nj https://www.pocketfives.com/profiles/dbl_g/ https://www.twitch.tv/dbl_g
  7. Poker is a game that is enjoyed by millions worldwide. In this series, we’ve featured players who play the game of poker for their profession, have made fortunes by doing so and become legends of the sport. However, poker’s all-encompassing nature appeals to people from all walks of life. One player who has trodden many different paths over two decades of success on national television is Robert Mariano, better known as 'Boston Rob'. Back in 2004, having just appeared on Survivor for the first time, Mariano met his now wife and then-fiancée Amber on the show. They were invited to Hawaii to take part in a charity game to raise money for the U.S. military. Mariano would leave the island with a new found and lifelong passion for poker that has remained ever since. From Penny Games to the Main Event "Once you get better than your opponent, it’s a lot more fun!" Rob Mariano played poker for pennies long before he would do so for thousands of dollars. When he first learned the game, it was at his grandfather’s knee. It immediately got him hooked on the notion of gambling and this quickly led to an understanding of a need to get better. “I’ve always loved action,” says Mariano. “From pitching quarters in the schoolyard to gambling on tennis, I went broke a hundred times as a kid. The first hand that got me hooked [on poker] was a penny game of five card stud that my grandfather taught me how to play. I figured out that the same people always win, and they have an edge. Once you get better than your opponent, it’s a lot more fun!” Flashing forward two decades, Mariano struck fame on the eighth series of the hit television show, Survivor. For the uninitiated, the show centers around contestants who are stranded on a remote island. Mariano made it all the way to the final challenge, where he lost out to Amber, who he proposed to just before the decisive vote. She said yes, of course, and the couple have since become TV legends thanks to the fame they gained during the show and subsequent on-screen appearances together. One year after meeting, the couple were engaged and took what turned out to be an important phone call. “Online poker was all the rage in the States and like a lot of people, I watched Chris Moneymaker win the World Series of Poker Main Event. Since then, we’ve become friends as an ironic side effect of being on television, but what a great guy. Paradise Poker reached out to Amber to see if she wanted to play poker and sponsor her in one of the events.” Amber didn’t play the game, but both Mariano and Amber's father were fans, with the latter teaching his future son-in-law the game. The pair of them were taken to Las Vegas and put into the 2004 WSOP Main Event, the last to be held on the Strip until this coming summer. “I’ll be honest - I didn’t know what the hell I was doing!” laughs Mariano. “I was sitting there with Sammy Farha, Marcel Luske and all these legends at my table. I made two pair, aces up, and I was outclassed, the other guy had a set. My first introduction was on the biggest stage.” Mariano may not have won any money, but the seed had been sown. A short time later, the game was about to truly get him hooked. [caption id="attachment_638178" align="aligncenter" width="1280"] Rob Mariano cut his teeth playing poker for the first time in the WSOP Main Event (photo credit: Hayley Hochstetler).[/caption] Bringing the Party to Hawaii "I loved the camaraderie, strategy and psychology of it... and the gamble." After his Main Event exertions, Mariano was on the radar of online poker sites as they popped up everywhere. One of those sites, Bodog, invited both Rob and Amber to Hawaii and an exclusive charity event. “They had comedians, Colin Farrell, Wanda Sykes and Cheryl Hines,” says Mariano. “Josh Arieh was there too. He had just finished third in the WSOP Main Event and David Williams was there too having just finished second.” Mariano’s meeting with Arieh in particular lit a fire that still burns to this day. After watching a concert featuring Snoop Dogg, the party went into the night and the cards came out. “We played $50 Sit N Gos from late night into the early morning,” says Mariano. “Playing all night long until the sun came up, I loved the camaraderie, strategy and psychology of it... and the gamble. That’s when I became fascinated with the game.” It was a landmark moment for Mariano, who realized at that moment that the game he’d always sought was right there in front of him. It appealed to his nature as a competitive person who danced between adventurous situations like the light from fires lit during those Hawaii nights. “The original intention of going to Hawaii was to raise money at the concert. The poker was a bonus on top of it all, but I feel like poker has embraced and accepted me into the community for what I want out of it; to play competitively but also recreationally. I love to play but at the end of the day, this is a passion of mine, not my life’s work.” The Competitive Edge of a New Father "I love being in a situation where I don’t know what’s going to happen; a lot of opportunities have come from it." Mariano freely admits that he’s not a good loser. He was born not only to win, but to pursue victory, to adapt, improve, to get the top and be ‘relentless’ in his pursuit of the summit. If he was to play poker, however, it would need to fit in around becoming a Dad. “Survivor aired on television in 2004 and we married in 2005,” says Mariano. “We had four kids in five years. In the beginning, it was madness, but it’s so great and they’re so close... and Daddy’s girls!” The Mariano’s were clearly made for each other and celebrated their 17th wedding anniversary last month, but back in the day, having caught the poker bug, Boston Rob headed online mostly. “I played poker pretty seriously when my kids were really young,” he says. “I started to play cash games and grind, playing the local circuits from Biloxi to Jacksonville [as well as] the World Series.” One of the most important traits Mariano has got is his ability to adapt to any situation. He passes this lesson onto his own children, four girls he adores now aged between eight and 12. “It’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how you get up. Even if you don’t get the desired result, you’re learning what not to do again. I love being in a situation where I don’t know what’s going to happen; a lot of opportunities have come from it. A person living their whole life on a train gets from A to B. I’d rather ride the rollercoaster, but we get to the same place. My wife reels me in when I’m too far and likewise I think I bring a bit of adventure.” [caption id="attachment_638179" align="aligncenter" width="886"] Rob and Amber Mariano have grown up on television as they've built a life together (photo credit: Hayley Hochstetler).[/caption] Running It Up Mariano’s poker career has run parallel to his record-breaking six appearances on Survivor and presence on other shows such as The Amazing Race, which he entered with his wife. His passion for poker has sustained many gaps in his results purely through children being born or his participation in TV shows. He is a huge fan of tours such as the Run Good series. "I got to be really good friends with Tana Karn, who Runs the Run Good events, a super great guy and what a group of people. I feel like that’s where I fit in best. I want to play five or six different competitive events a year. I love the [WSOP] Main Event." Mariano's experience of Survivor has stood him in great stead for the game of poker, with many skills transferring from the island to the felt. "I’ve played more Survivor than anyone else on the planet, playing six times in 20 years. In that time, the game of Survivor has evolved and changed. In the beginning, your ability to do well in challenges, how you provided around camp and if you were a good teammate mattered a lot. Now the game is more social than anything else; your ability to perceive how you’re perceived by others is paramount.” Mariano can’t wait for the next live poker game these days, and post-pandemic, is excited for an ‘explosion’ of live poker that he assimilates to the poker boom that followed Moneymaker’s legendary success in 2003. “The game is growing again like it was in the early 2000s,” he claims. “There’s a sense of family between not only the Run Good people but among the community at large. Everyone’s going back to a 9-5 on Monday morning but for a weekend, they’re going to do whatever and those are my people.” Adapting to the Game “You can’t play too fast too early, or you get marked and you’re out.” Poker has changed and Mariano has been part of the game for long enough to understand that his ability to adapt and compete has been called upon in multiple eras at the felt. “You used to have a good hand, then it became not what you have but what they have, then they converted to small ball then it became an all-in festival!” laughs Mariano. “It’s changed a lot and you see at the different levels how much its changed. There are similarities between poker and Survivor. You can’t play too fast too early, or you get marked and you’re out. At the same time, you can do everything right and still not win because you get unlucky.” According to the former Survivor winner, you have to be able to fade the variance, maintain your focus and not let it affect your mental wellbeing in both games and it’s that changing dynamic that Mariano loves. “Its constantly changing and so hard - that’s what intrigues me to it. I want to sit down and have a social experience with other people at the table - that’s what I love about poker. We’re getting back to that and away from the hoodies and sunglasses.” Mariano has signed up to host home games for PokerGO and admits the draw of the PokerGO Tour is ‘huge’. He’ll join in with some live events, but don’t expect him to be taking a seat in the nosebleeds. “I’m not going to be playing the super high rollers, but hopefully I can bring another audience to the game. I couldn’t sit down and play a $250,000 tournament, I wouldn’t be comfortable with it. But if we grow the game the way the smaller tours are doing it, it will flourish again. When everyone sees poker as I do, it becomes fun for a lot of people!” Mariano may be a household name to many from his work in television but his background before Survivor catapulted him to fame was as a construction worker and stonemason. He remains humble to his roots and with a bunch of friends in poker, is an asset to the game which only now is poker starting to tap. The motto of Survivor is ‘Outwit, outplay, outlast’. ‘Boston Rob’ Mariano has proven that he has been able to adapt to the games presented to him in his life with flair and style. Boston Rob's future in poker looks set to bring even more exciting challenges for his many fans to enjoy.
  8. Nine years ago, a 22-year-old Michigan State graduate called Ryan Riess won the World Series of Poker Main Event for over $8.3 million. At the time, he was six months out of college, having spent the last months of his studies alternating between poker dealer. Just a few weeks later, the final hand of the 2013 WSOP Main Event saw the Riess' life change forever. Between winning a World Series bankroll with the last money to his name and today, a decade of growth, fatherhood and memories have seen ‘Riess the Beast’ become one of the most well-respected poker players on the planet. This is the story of the hand that changed Ryan Riess’ young life. Coming into the WSOP With Momentum “It was all the money I had to my name. I chopped it three ways and won $270,000.” Having momentum in poker is something that is spoken about often, and it was one of the main contributions to Riess’ success at the Rio nine years ago in November. After graduating in business at Michigan State, Riess decided to play a WSOP Circuit event in Hammond in October 2012. The cost was not only out of his usual bankroll, but everything he had. “It was a $1,675 buy-in and it was all the money I had to my name,” the 2013 world champion told us. “I chopped it three ways and won $270,000. That was my first ever live tournament cash and how my poker career started.” Two months earlier, Riess had started playing poker full-time. After winning some small cashes in tournaments around Los Angeles, Riess took that momentum into a World Series where he played everything he could afford. “I had a bunch of smaller cashes and was about breakeven - expenses are high - then played the Main Event. I sold pieces to family and friends and swapped pieces. I had a little over 50%, which was good. I had a lot of momentum but was still relatively new to tournament poker. I was starting to become friends with people on the circuit; we were all young at the time and learning together.” Kicking off his Main Event on Day1a, Riess had players such as Mike Matusow and T.J. Cloutier at his table. Despite this, he bagged up plenty of chips, more than double that which he started with. “I was very naïve, which was a good thing. I put my head down; I wasn’t following the other tables or live updates and never thought about how much money I was playing for, so was never scared.” Believing He Could Win “Looking back, I don’t think I was the best player in the world.” Riess may have been a long way off from winning, but that was all to change. In the middle period of the Main Event, he admits that he sat on less than 30 big blinds for “two or three days” but a pivotal coinflip went his way when his pocket nines survived against Rep Porter’s suited king-jack. “The atmosphere was electric,” laughs Riess. “Others might have thought I was trying to run the table over, but I wasn’t; I kept getting good hands. If I lose that hand, I have nine big blinds left. I won the flip and that propelled me to having 50 big blinds and I had a lot more flexibility with my stack.” After Riess won the Main Event, he would state that he was ‘the best player in the world’, but he concedes this wasn’t actually the truth. It was more about the belief he needed to have in order to accomplish his dream. “I think in order to win something, you have to believe it before and then work tirelessly,” he says. “Looking back, I don’t think I was the best player in the world. I wasn’t even in the top 1,000. But I truly believed I was at the time and I think that gave me a chance to win. If I didn’t believe I was the best, I probably shouldn’t even have registered the tournament in the first place.” Winning that hand against Porter would see Riess make the final table, but he was far from the chip leader, who was JC Tran. A host of other more experienced pros were at the final table. “Tran was really unlucky at the final table after coming in as the chip leader and not being able to get much going. I thought the best player at the table was Marc Etienne McLaughlin,” says Riess. “He was very good, very aggressive and I tried to bluff him in a hand on TV when I turned two jacks into a bluff and fours spades almost counterfeited his two spades. He eventually got coolered and that gave me energy because I found it hard winning pots against him. David Benefield is a world class player and he got short and was handcuffed, too.” Benefield and Riess were the only two not to wear sponsorship patches at the final table. “I’ve never accepted any sponsorship deal or worn patches. I turned down a lot of money, but I didn’t want them to say you have to do this interview at this time, wear this shirt, do this social media post. I didn’t want anything to cloud my judgement. I thought the responsibility of what I’ve have to do would be greater than the value of what they were offering me. Maybe if I’d worn a patch, I’d have had to have done other stuff, wouldn’t have studied as much and not won.” Taking on Farber for the Win “As a poker player, that’s the dream. It’s the Super Bowl of our sport.” Riess had never played against Jay Farber before that year’s Main Event, nor did he feel they’d played any significant pots against each other until they were the only two players left. Suddenly, though, one of them was going to win $5.1 million and the other would take $8.3m and become champion of the world. “We started with around the same chips and I just decided to be aggressive. We played around 90 hands and I was raised all 45 buttons. I was very inexperienced. Looking back, I’d fold or limp some hands, but I wanted to put pressure on him. He was only three-betting me with really good hands.” Riess was forcing the action, but admits that while he wanted to raise in order to see flops in position with almost his entire range, he was also getting the run of the deck. “In heads up poker, so much comes down to hand distribution,” he says. “If Jay had my hands and I had his, if it was switched, he probably would have won.” Pre-flop: Ryan Riess: [Ah][poker card="Kh"] Jay Farber: [poker card="Qs"][poker card="5s"] Before the flop, riess raised his 45th and final button, and almost immediately got raised all-in by Farber. Riess snap-called and one of the fastest final all-in and calls in Main Event history saw the two men on their feet. Riess admits that he was surprised to see what Farber had shoved with. “I was surprised to see that hand specifically. Maybe if the hand happened again, he might just call, but I was raising every button and I just happened to have it. He might have thought he was getting run over at the table, but I was just getting the cards. Heads up, if you’re losing it can be demoralising. I’ve lost to people heads-up, I actually played Koray Aldemir, our newest world champion - and I was losing pots, got frustrated and ended up doing things out of character. It’s emotionally draining to lose hands heads-up.” Headint to the embrace of his friends and family, Riess was ‘pretty confident’ but knew that anything could happen. He was a 65% chance to become the world champion and the moment was catching up with him. Flop: [poker card="4c"][poker card="Jd"][poker card="Td"] “The flop was really good for me,” Riess says. “He couldn’t hit his queen any more, because it would give me a straight so it was the best flop I could have asked for without flopping a pair. After the flop, having all my friends and family around me gave me such good vibes.” Turn: [poker card="3c"] “Tears already in the eyes of Ryan Riess.” Said the commentary team as the moment that would change Riess’ life played out. The emotion of the achievement that he was about to claim was monumental. [caption id="attachment_638157" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Hunched on the floor of the Rio, Ryan Riess is hit by the emotion of what he might be about to achieve.[/caption] “That’s when it really became real for me. It was the weight of having everyone support me. We’re that close and it was a very surreal moment. I’m glad I won, because if the river was a five, it might have been very hard for me mentally for me to sit back at the table and play my best, because in my head I’d already won.” As Jay Farber commiserated with his coaches, two men Riess himself now counts among his poker friends, Shaun Deeb and Chance Kornuth, tie seemed to stand still. “I’m friends with both of them and we talk frequently. They’re both great - he had great coaches and it’s hard to beat someone with those coaches. I just had better cards on the day. River: [poker card="4d"] Riess collapsed to the ground, his poker ambitions coming true in glorious reality. Nine years on, Riess says he doesn’t watch it back as much as he should. “It brings back such great memories. As a poker player, that’s the dream. It’s the Super Bowl of our sport. To reach the pinnacle of the game that you love is the ultimate dream as a poker player.” Pining for the November Nine Amid a wild atmosphere in the Thunderdome, Riess now believes part of that excitement came down to players returning some time after they’d reached the final table to play it down to a winner. “It was the penultimate year of the November Nine. ESPN flew out a camera crew to my home town. I thought the November Nine was awesome. I’m blessed and honored to have taken part in that. Now they don’t give the players any time at all, family doesn’t even time to fly in and players can’t get sponsorship deals or even get their hair cut!” Riess believes that if the WSOP gave players a week between reaching the final table and playing it out, it would be perfect. “I don’t think a week is too much at all. Four months was really cool, but it’s a long time, and someone’s game could do a 180 in that time with coaching and solvers these days.” Apart from the length of time, however, Riess believes that the November Nine is a concept that could do with a comeback. “I think they should give them a week. It’s the biggest event in our game, so the more hype around it the better.” A decade after he graduated, Ryan Riess is now a name synonymous with poker success and in particular, the WSOP Main Event. He came close to winning the WSOP Europe Main Event too, but despite finishing fourth, calls it ‘the tournament that haunts me most’. [caption id="attachment_638158" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Ryan Riess is now one of the most respected former world champions still playing the game. (Photo: King's Casino)[/caption] “I was chip leader with nine and six left. The moment got to me a little bit; I made a lot of mistakes. I wanted to win for the legacy of winning both [Main Events] not the money but I focused too much on how cool that would be, and I let the opportunity slip between my fingertips. If Riess had lost with pocket aces to a pair of tens, he admits he wouldn’t have minded, not being a results-oriented person at all. The fact that it wasn’t luck that he perceives was to blame is what hurt. “I make a mistake, I’m the hardest critic of myself. Martin Jacobson said ‘Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity’. You almost don’t deserve to win if you’re not trying your hardest.” A Poker Career Without Regret “My focus is my kids and spending as much time with my family as I can.” Nine years after his greatest moment, Riess looks back on his victory as a platform for sustained success and of all the many world champions there have been, few could argue he has been one of the most positive. Aside from that WSOPE near-miss, he has no regrets. His diamond encrusted 2013 WSOP Main Event bracelet sits in a bank in a safety deposit box. “It’s worth a lot of money, so I don’t want it in the house,” Reiss says with a smile. “It’s locked away and I go and look at it now and then. To be honest, I should make a replica of it with cubic zirconia instead of diamonds, but I haven’t got around to it. I have no regrets about my career. I guess I could have grinded harder if I wanted too, but I travelled to a lot of cool places pretty much up to when COVID started and now my focus is my kids and spending as much time with my family as I can.” This year will see the WSOP move from the Rio to Bally’s (soon to be the Horseshoe) and Paris, but Riess holds no fear about the event leaving the venue where he made his name. In fact, quite the opposite. “I won it the first time I played it at the Rio, so maybe it will happen again,” he says. “I’m optimistic about it - I’m sure it’ll be fun. I’ll be playing pretty much all the NLHE tournaments, $25,000 and lower. I don’t feel the need to play the $100,000 buy-ins; the bubbles are stressful, and kids are expensive!” Nine years is a long time in any poker player’s life, but from being a precocious 22-year-old winner of the biggest event on the poker calendar to a family man almost a decade later, it has been some ride for Ryan Riess. Happily, for poker fans, that ride is not finished yet. You can watch the hand that changed Ryan Riess’ life right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MAbaJ9W7Q8    
  9. Back in 2009, the youngest player to win the World Series of Poker Main Event triumphed on the biggest stage of all. Beating the logger and amateur poker player Darvin Moon to the title, 21-year-old Joe Cada captured the imagination of the poker world as he won over $8.5 million and the title of world champion. It was undoubtedly a monumental moment in the career of the now four-time WSOP bracelet winner, but more than that, it was the hand that changed Joe Cada’s life. The Teenage Busboy A year before the poker world changed and Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP Main Event, Joe Cada lived back in Michigan, where he was brought up and still resides. Aged 14, he was a bus-boy in restaurants, earning $15 an hour with tips. It gave him an early discipline and as the ‘super shy kid’ grew up, he found poker online. “I had mental health issues growing up as a teenager,” admits Cada. “I was a depressed kid and kept to myself. Poker was my outlet and it really opened me up as a person.” Depositing for the first time, Cada was only allowed to put down $50 on the site. He told his Mom that instead of heading out to parties and drinking, he saw this as his form of entertainment, a budget akin to heading to the cinema. “It was my $50 and I had a job. I'd started working at a really early age. I asked her to have trust in me that this wasn’t going to be a problem. Telling your Mom that you’re going to gamble online at a very young age especially when they’ve seen people go through struggles. I was lucky that my Mom trusted me.” Cada was given the go-ahead to play online and immediately treated poker very seriously. Within six months of that first deposit, he’d turned it into hundreds of thousands. A Piece of the Action “If you’d stayed in the league and won, we would have had a piece of you!” Cada knew he was going to play at the 2009 World Series of Poker when he was 18 years old in 2006 as Jamie Gold scooped up the $12 million top prize. Three years later, the young man had quit his job, moved into his own home and had one question - how much of his own action to take on. “I had a ton of success on Full Tilt Poker, winning almost every major, and was probably in profit by $550,000-$600,000. That gave notice to ‘Johnny Bax’, who went through the numbers.” Cliff Josephy, otherwise known as the aforementioned ‘Johnny Bax’, bought half of Cada’s action, but as Cada tells us, he very nearly gave half of his Main Event action away before he even arrived in Vegas. “My brother’s buddy got me to join this league back in 2009. After the first few tournaments, I was overall first. It was a 50/50 split if you won; you played for half of it and the rest of the league split the other 50%. I stopped going and played bigger, it was more a thing to get together with friends. I didn’t take the league that seriously. I ended up going out there and winning it! They were a little bitter, like ‘If you’d stayed in the league and won, we would have had a piece of you!’” Everyone around his home town knew of Cada’s success at the game and expectations were thought the roof, apart from his own. “I wasn’t as optimistic,” he laughs. “I knew what tournaments were like and thought I may win the Main Event one in 1,000 shots.” Cada travelled to Vegas and felt the responsible thing to do was to give back and accept Josephy’s offer. “At the World Series alone, the variance is a lot. I could afford it, but it would have been a big hit. I felt like if I won, what was the difference between $8m and $4m. It was never a concern to me. I always treated poker with a big responsibility and never put my back against the wall.” During the World Series, Cada went out to eat with Josephy and a bunch of other players. “He singled me out, saying something like ‘Hey Joe, you better win something otherwise we’re in for a bunch of money, I got the most faith in you of anyone here.’ I couldn’t believe he said that out loud. I’d been with him a month leading up to that event. He really is a legend.” The Hand That Made Poker History “I thought he had pocket queens - it was hard to see across the table.” As Cada made his way through to the final table, he took all before him. All except a logger called Darvin Moon. “Before the final started, he said something I’ll never forget. He said he didn’t want to take last place, but he didn’t want to take first place either. He didn’t want the million-dollar sponsorship deal with PokerStars and that resonated me in a way. He didn’t want the attention and it felt like he played the heads up like he didn’t care if he lost.” Cada had played with Darvin for a few days leading up to that final table. His mental notes were to play very fundamentally and let his opponent make mistakes, not getting too tricky or three-betting light. Heading into the final duel, Cada was confident of victory. He puts that down to the fortune he’d enjoyed in reaching that stage, combined with his experience with playing heads-up at the time, and the 2:1 chip lead he began the final battle with. “I couldn’t have been more wrong. I played the heads-up match like it was a cheap sit ‘n’ go and I didn’t make the adjustments I would normally make. Starting our match, he outplayed me, bloating the pots real big and putting me in tough spots. Before I knew it, he was a 2:1 chip leader.” Cada fought his way back into contention and before the final hand took place, felt like he had the momentum, having worked a deficit of 2:1 into a similar chip lead. With all the money piled on the table in bricks of dollars, Cada felt Moon wasn’t in it to play a long game. Pre-flop: Joe Cada: [poker card="9d"][poker card="9c"] Darvin Moon: [poker card="Qd"][poker card="Jd"] “When I opened nines on the button and he re-raised me, I thought it was the aggression factor. Nines is a good hand heads-up. I made it 3 million and he made it 8 million. He’s playing about 60 million effective. I could call, but nines are very exposed and there could be overcards and you could be guessing. If he folds, he chips down a bunch, I chip up. It’s more hand protection.” Darvin Moon was going nowhere and made the call. When he did so, he surprised Cada. “I thought he was going to fold,” he says. “Once he called quickly, I thought he had pocket queens - it was hard to see across the table. It took me a second to realise that he had called with queen-jack. If you wait for a better spot, sometimes you can blind down and never get that shot.” As the famous commentary from Lon McEachern declared: “Phil Hellmuth’s record as youngest Main Event champion stood for 19 years. Peter Eastgate’s record could be wiped out in one.” Flop: [poker card="8c"][poker card="2c"][poker card="7s"] As the flop fell, Cada jumped out of his seat, and was enveloped by his support group on the rail, with Josephy front and center. Darvin Moon was the polar opposite, stoic in his seat with his gigantic arms folded across his barrel chest. Josephy told Cada ‘Relax, relax’ as Cada’s supporters chanted ‘Joey, Joey’ around the Thunderdome. Turn: [poker card="Kh"] Cada was one card away and Josephy told him that he was going to be the ‘Main Event champion’. Cada was overwhelmed. “Poker was my career and that spot was a cumulation of the whole build-up, thinking ‘It can be all over, I don’t have to stress any more’. But Moon looked the opposite of bothered. “He didn’t care. He was so happy, we both were. I didn’t like attention but nor did he.” Time seemed to stand still. As Cada’s rail leaned closer to the table, the river card confirmed victory. River: [poker card="7c"] Sharing an exultant moment in the face of Josephy, Cada’s rail jumped towards him, but overcome with relief, Cada pulled away, wanting to speak with Moon instead while his supporters went wild in the stand. [caption id="attachment_638137" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Joe Cada's moment of glory under the lights at the Rio will live in WSOP fans memories forever.[/caption] The Late, Great Darvin Moon “He was a champion in everyone’s eyes.” Approaching Moon, Cada embraced him and congratulated him on how he played. “I felt he deserved to be where he was at.” Says Cada of his heads-up opponent in 2009. “It’s a tough moment for anyone to come that close. I put myself in his shoes for a second and realised the tournament wasn’t all about me or him. I never want to be the person celebrating in someone’s face. It’s hard not to get excited at that time, but that’s not who I was as a person, and I wanted to pay respect to Darvin. “You played a hell of a match, seriously, all the props in the world.” Said Cada to his opponent. Moon hugged him and raised the arm of the new world champion, still the youngest ever to achieve it. Cada let Moon hail his victory, but when his arm was released, grabbed Moon’s arm and raised it aloft too. When we ask him why, there is a moment’s pause. “He was a champion in everyone’s eyes, so he deserved to have his hand raised too.” Says Cada simply. Moon, tragically, passed away in September 2020 after complications following surgery. He was just 56 years old. “It’s super sad,” says Cada. “It’s so tragic. I went out with him a few times after the [Main Event]. We did this thing in Pittsburgh for Poker Night in America and after the streamed session, we went out to a Penguins game, got to go out on the ice and went drinking. He was a super friendly, nice guy. It was hard to hear about the surgery and the complications and how awful it was.” After Moon’s tragic death, Cada admits to feeling lost at what to do, not knowing the right way to reach out to his family or even knowing how to do so. He felt sad about his one-time opponent’s passing and wishes he’d paid his respects at the time. [caption id="attachment_638140" align="aligncenter" width="1158"] Darvin Moon (left) was just as much of a champion in Joe Cada's eyes (right).[/caption] A Lifetime of Change “I didn’t play poker to get rich, I played it to have fun and compete.” After winning the Main Event, Cada felt that it hindered his ability. Before it, he had worked all hours studying and playing the game. That all changed after November 2009. “I was battling every day non-stop. After winning it, though, the greatest thing it gave me was a sense of balance. I realized I didn’t have to play 90-100 hours a week, I wanted to see the world.” If you asked anyone about Joe Cada before the 2009 Main Event, Cada admits they’d have called him ‘The quietest kid in the world’. Now, he is approached by strangers and has spoken about the game on TV. “From when I was 21 compared to now, I’m a much better poker player, but I don’t feel as confident playing the biggest games now. When I was a kid, I was willing to play anyone for any stakes. I don’t have that same mindset now. I don’t want to risk what I have or get in over my head chasing giant buy-ins. I can play the stakes I like and be comfortable the rest of my life.” Cada regularly takes long breaks from poker, a month or two away from anything to do with the game. But then he’ll jump back in and loves the competitive edge the game provides him. While he’s played in high roller events, he prefers the social elements that more accessible tournaments provide. “I love meeting all sorts of different people, and I’ve always had fun with poker. I’ve realized that when it stops being fun, I’m not in the right spot. With the WSOP launching online in Michigan, it’s really become fun again. That’s what poker has always been to me. I didn’t play poker to get rich, I played it to have fun and compete.” Cada achieved both when he won the biggest tournament in poker 13 years ago. The World Series has since left the Rio, and this year, thousands more poker players will take on the greatest Main Event in the world at Bally’s and Paris on the Las Vegas Strip, many of trying to eclipse Cada as the youngest-ever winner. Cada says he hopes to spend time in the broadcasting booth this summer and at WSOP events in the future. This year, as every year, however, he’ll be back in Vegas playing the tournament where he made his name. At multiple stages, a young 21-year-old is bound to tell Cada what he once told Peter Eastgate over a decade ago, that his record as the youngest ever winner is going to be beaten ‘this year’. One day, just like it did for Joe Cada in the hand that changed his life back in 2009, that declaration will be transformed into truth. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SXTois83Xc        
  10. Today, Daniel Negreanu is known as one of the most popular players in poker, a de facto spokesperson for many in the game. Known as ‘Kid Poker’, Negreanu has appeared in movies, televised poker games, podcasts, radio shows and live streams and played at the top table for over 20 years. With hundreds of thousands of followers on his social media channels alone, Negreanu is perhaps the most popular mainstream player poker has seen. Back in 1999, Negreanu was a comparative unknown. Identified as ‘Kid’ - “not 'The Kid', that was Stu Ungar’s moniker” - the Canadian was a young man who was starting to become successful. Despite this, he had never played poker on television, so when he sat down at the final of the U.S. Poker Championship in Atlantic City, it was his first time playing under the glare of television lighting. Some hands give a poker player the confidence to walk that little bit taller. Heads up with John Bonetti, Daniel ‘Kid Poker’ Negreanu was about to play the hand that would change his life. The Young Buck Rises Through the Herd "I knew of John Bonetti; he was a big star at the time." Back in December 1999, while the world was petrified of Y2K and just a fortnight away from a new millennium, Negreanu was ploughing through the field in the U.S. Poker Championship. A year earlier, Negreanu had played events at Foxwoods, in Atlantic City and in Las Vegas leading up to the WSOP where he won his bracelet. Now was the big one - a first TV appearance at a final table. “I was making a name for myself,” he describes. “In 1999, capping that off with a televised final, I went from the young rookie to the established threat, a real pro on the tour." There wasn’t the wall-to-wall poker coverage in 1999 that there is today. Other than Cardplayer Magazine and the odd ESPN appearance, players only had forums that were in their infancy with which to spread the word about their skills. It made the biggest tournaments all the more important. There were only two $10k buy-ins - the WSOP Main Event and the U.S. Poker Championship. Making it all the way to the final two, Negreanu was taking on someone he considered something of a mentor. “I was 25 years old, a young buck on the scene,” says Negreanu. “I was travelling the poker circuit and knew of John Bonetti; he was a big star at the time. I took a liking to him. He had a mafia vibe, but he was a jokester, always having fun.” It was Negreanu’s first time on television, and he looked the part. Introduced to the poker world on ESPN, he was wearing what he called his ‘Andre Agassi tracksuit’ and topped off the look with an earring and Nike hat. That was very much Negreanu’s self-styled image back in the 20th century. “I always wore a tracksuit for tournaments, and I got a little fanny pack for all my money and stuff. I had my cash, wallet, room keys, poker notes, results - it was before cell phones were a thing! I was oddly really comfortable immediately on camera. When I was a little kid, I always wanted to be an actor. I didn’t feel nervous. I remember that being strange." The Protégé Takes on The Master “I talked about taking big risks. This was an opportunity [where] I can win - I’m drawing live.” Thanks to his first bracelet win in 1998, Negreanu had made his name among his poker peers already but winning a huge tournament on TV would mark a major breakthrough. The final table went well, Negreanu eliminating third-placed Jason Viriyayuthakorn to send play heads-up. Against Bonetti, however, things weren’t going to plan. “We got heads up and I started to feel like the underdog against him. I felt like he was playing better than I was. Sometimes you can just tell; the guy was winning all the pots in the trenches, digging out these situation shots, I was getting outplayed. I made a strategy shift. I understood that if I wanted to win, I’d have to take some risks.” Pre-flop: Daniel Negreanu: [poker card="Qs"] [poker card="9s"] John Bonetti: [poker card="Ac"] [poker card="Tc"] Negreanu raised the button with his suited cards and Bonetti called with ace-ten. Flop: [poker card="Ts"][poker card="5s"][poker card="3c"] “I bet the flop, he shoved and I relaxed that in that moment.” Negreanu was a 45% shot to win the hand with two cards to come, so it was a huge decision for his stack. But of course, he didn’t know that. It was at that moment that Kid Poker had to have a conversation with himself about that change of strategy. Such alterations are easy in theory, but it always comes down to whether you can commit the chips to the decision. “I talked about taking big risks,” Negreanu smiles. “This was an opportunity that no matter what he has I can win - I’m drawing live. I called. We were basically even in chips, he had three or four big blinds left [over].” Turn: [poker card="Ah"] Suddenly, Negreanu went from near a coinflip to being a worse than 4:1 dog in the hand. It’s easy to presume that any emotions Negreanu felt at the time were heightened due to his age, but that’s not the case. “I have them even more now!” he laughs. “The turn was the ace of hearts [made me] little anxious, like ‘Oh sh**, did I screw up? He turned aces and tens.... then I hit a spade.” River: [poker card="8s"] On seeing the fifth spade to complete his flush slide into the river position on the felt, Negreanu stood quickly, turning to his opponent, whose face fell. In that instant, it is as if the jovial, chatty nature of Bonetti is transferred like a baton between relay runners. The passing of the torch. “I busted him on the very next hand,” says Negreanu. I still have the check (pictured below), it’s on my wall. After I got that money, I jumped right into an $800/$1,600 game. This is before wiring money. I won some more and on the way home, I’m carrying the check, while in my bag was a pile of laundry and under that, all the money. I’m going back to Vegas literally advertising what I’d won.” [caption id="attachment_638113" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Daniel Negreanu's famous winners check for winning the 1999 U.S. Poker Championship still takes pride of place in his home. (courtesy of Daniel Negreanu).[/caption] Life Is Never the Same “I didn’t care about money that much, back then, or now, or ever.” That hand didn’t just change Negreanu’s life. It changed Negreanu. Unafraid of strolling through the airport with a bag full of dollars for a journey back home, life was never going to be the same again. His old life simply didn’t exist to return to. “It put me front and center in the poker world,” he tells us. “When you win a big buy-in tournament with a $210,000 top prize... that was a lot of money back then. It brought me more into the mainstream. I started to write for Cardplayer as a result and became a voice in the game. I didn’t care about money that much, back then, or now, or ever. I just enjoyed winning. I’ve always felt, if anyone ever took the money, it would be fine. I’d just win more anyway.” Negreanu says he has 'never thought' about what might have happened if Bonetti's two-pair held and he came second, but the Canadian certainly had his fair share of moments that didn’t go right. "The year Carlos Mortensen won the [WSOP] Main Event, I came 11th and was chipleader with 12 left, losing a key hand. If I’d won that hand, who knows? But everything seemed to work out pretty good.” To say the least, that is an understatement. Daniel Negreanu, the most well-known poker face on the planet for the last two decades sits third on the all-time money list. On losing or painful moments, Negreanu is philosophical. “Any time you have a breakdown in life, it’s an opportunity for a breakthrough. Going broke or having traumatic losses drives me to be better. Just in the last couple of years, I went through - from a luck perspective in all-ins - the worst period in my career. It’s been really difficult. My wife always says I’m resilient.” Winning at Life “I got the wife I always wanted, I have the life I always wanted.” Negreanu is a major part of poker history but you get the impression that he hasn’t lived in the past for one day in his life. His passion for the game of poker is rooted in tournaments thanks to his formative years. “Cash games are a job; you punch in, punch out, you win money, but there’s no leaderboard, no point to it,” he says. “Ever since I was a child, I created my own tournaments. I created leaderboards with my wrestlers. I’d create a bracket of 16 of them, roll a die and keep track. The guy who won the tournament got 50 points, second place got 40, I’d keep a record. My Mom would be like ‘What are all these papers?’. Today, that love of playing with a leaderboard in mind is part of what brings Negreanu back to the table. “I just played the U.S. Poker Open because there was a Player of the Series award,” he says. “What PokerGO is doing in the studio is really fun; they create a system so that by the last event, which is worth a lot more, a whole bunch of people are in the running. That’s what gets me to go. That’s why the World Series of Poker is the most fun for me.” Negreanu admits that he has changed hugely in the last two decades, not just in how he behaves, but in his own perception of himself, and how much he cares. “In your twenties, you definitely care what other people think. No doubt, it matters. In your thirties, you care but a little bit less. You realise not everyone is going to like you. In my forties, I give zero f***s. I got the wife I always wanted, I have the life I always wanted. I am the authentic version of myself. I always had a cinematic view of things and how to sell it, but as you get older you realise that what sells is authenticity.” The life and soul of the table in 1999 was a man called John Bonetti, who sadly passed away in 2008. In the penultimate hand of the U.S. Poker Championship, Bonetti’s enthusiasm for the game was infectious and you can see how his flair rubbed off on the ‘Kid’ sitting opposite him at the felt. You can watch the hand that changed Daniel Negreanu’s life right here: [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_U_lRqEJHI[/embed]  
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