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Going Broke in Poker

August 2 admin

If you are a professional poker player, going broke might just seem like part of the game…

It was a rite of passage, a badge of honour on going broke. – David “Devilfish” Ulliott

Recently there was an article on the inner workings of how to get staked.  Now, we’re going to take an in depth look into why most players need to go this route. It’s no secret that all poker pros will go broke many times over the course of their career.

Well documented cased of pro players who’ve gone broke were Doyle Brunson, Archie Karas, Stu Ungar, Barry Greenstein, Scotty Nguyen, Gus Hansen, T.J. Cloutier, Mike Matusow, David Benyamine, Erick Lindgren, Brad Booth, Joe Sebok, David Peat, Tom Dwan, Viktor Blom, and pretty much everyone else not named Phil Ivey.  Who hasn’t gone broke?  Chances are you know all of these players and have watched them on TV or online playing nosebleed stakes.

 A well known casino mogul once put it like this:

  •  The top 1% of poker players survive (continue to make their living via poker)
  • The bottom 90% go broke and never play again
  • The other 9% float in and out of the poker world.  Usually because they have another significant source of income.

If poker pros go busto then where does that leave the rest of us.

The game can take your soul and livelihood if you’re not careful. It can leave one angry, depressed, confused, and in despair.  How many times has one experienced a cooler or bad beat one right after another putting one to the brink of madness!  “That’s poker.” Well, the hell with that!  It’s not supposed to happen to me that only happens to fishes.  What is a definition of a fish, donkey, or calling station.  They’re all deemed as negative EV players.  If that’s the case then anyone who’s gone busto would fit into that category technically right?  Now that’s something most people wouldn’t admit.  But if you’re losing consistently then there’s something inherently wrong with your game.  Most of the times it’s playing beyond your means. Rule of thumb is to have at least 100bb (big blinds) to sit in the game and I’m not talking Phil “The Unabomber” Laak where he was quoted as saying he was playing with his entire net worth in High Stakes Poker…lolz! As aloof as he is somehow I don’t think it was too far off from the truth.  Truth is everybody has probably played in games they had no business being in.  A fellow friend and poker enthusiast once bought into a game with Johnny Chan just for a shot to play with the legend and another poker pro.  Before he knew it he was out $5,000 in a matter of a few hands.  A local online grinder binked a $10k tourney then squandered it all on high limit tables.

To the pros that might not be much, for an average Joe it’s quite significant.  Going broke is relative depending on what kind of a bankroll you had to begin with.

Take for example Guy Lalilberte who’s recorded over $18 million in losses online.  That’s approximately less than 1 percent of his entire net worth…roflz! How absurd is that.

What is insanity?  It’s doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.  Break the cycle by taking a deep introspective look into the game individually and from a peripheral view.  The game and scene has changed over the course of the decades especially with the explosion of hyper aggressive online players.  Players are adopting an even more ultra LAG approach Gus Hansen was famous for.  Some do not understand the meaning of folding (take for example the wealthy Macau businessmen.) You can’t lose what you don’t put in, but if you don’t gamble you can’t win either.  So goes the poker conundrum that has dumbfounded even the brightest of mathematicians.

Where are the poker pros now?

 Doyle Brunson – Ten time WSOP bracelet winner. Worth $75 million and is the undisputed Godfather of poker.  What else is there to say.

Archie Karas – Ran up $50 to $40 million at one point then crapping out…literally.  Still resides in Las Vegas.  In addition to playing high stakes poker, he has also found some minor success in the World Series of Poker.  While he has yet to be able to win a gold bracelet, he has cashed in six events, with four of those being final tables.  His most recent WSOP cashes came last year, where he once again came close to a bracelet, and finished 5th in the $10,000 2-7 Lowball event for $53,783.

Stu Ungar – Arguably the most talented card game player ever to grace the tables he won $30 million in a very short time span decimating all who challenged em.  He is one of two players to ever win the WSOP main event three times.  Sadly, drugs took a toll on his physical health and he passed on in 1998.

Barry Greenstein – Even with his home foreclosed, he still can be seen regularly in the high stakes poker circuit.  There will always be supporters for Barry as he’s the Robin Hood of Poker!

Scotty Nguyen – After winning his first $7,000 gambled it up to a cool million only to lose it all on drugs and alcohol.  He then set upon rebuilding his bankroll in what would be one of the best rags to riches to rags and back to riches story.  In 1998 Mike Matusow bankrolled him and he went on to win the 1998 WSOP main event!

Gus Hansen – Stamping his name and chaotic way of playing in the inaugural WPT tour he cemented his name and was inducted into the poker Hall Of Fame. Currently experiencing a resurgence in his online game.

TJ Cloutier sold his 2005 bracelet only to have the winning bidder return it.  Talk about the utmost respect for a legend.  While craps has been his Achilles Heel he still grinds regularly on the poker tables. Perhaps he’ll get back to his winning ways down the line.

Mike Matusow – His online losses in the past in conjunction with Black Friday hit Matusow like a runaway train as a Full Tilt sponsor.  Since then he was lying low til he won the 2013 NBC National Heads-Up Championship earning a $750,000 pay day ! Matusow defeated Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi in the first round, Viktor “Isildur1” Blom in the second, Barry Greenstein in the third, John Hennigan in the quarterfinals, Scott Seiver in the semifinals and then faced Phil Hellmuth in the best-of-three-series final taking him out in the third and final match.  That’s an impressive line-up no matter how you look at it!  The “Mouth” is back!

David Benyamine – Ever the jovial Frenchman he’s experienced some massive downswings and has since rebounded with a reported networth of $5 million.

Erick Lindgren – The last several years have been turbulent with staggering sports betting losses in the multi millions.  This past May 2013 he came in 2nd in the WPT main event $25k buy in earning him just over $600,000.  A good start towards his road to a comeback.

Brad Booth – Booth has been playing poker even before everyone knew em as the one who bluffed Phil Ivey with his KKs.  Unfortunately the UB scandal hit this poker pro the hardest.  These days he’s still keeping his head up and grinding out on the felt.

Joe Sebok – As Barry Greenstein’s step son he enjoyed success early on in his career launching The Circuit podcast with Gavin Smith and with his father.  Soon UB became a sponsor until 2011 when they terminated the contracts of the pros.  He has since quit poker and is working in a winery.

David Peat – Early on in his career he lost his life savings in his visit to Vegas.  Calling his friend in the East Coast, his friend stated that he’d call right back.  Later that day his friend booked em a flight to New York, upon his arrival handed him $10 grand and said he had unlimited credit to play with.  Talk about a friendly backer.  Peat now plays in the highest cash games in the country.

Tom Dwan – Dubbed as one of the young turks in the new generation of high flying online poker players.  Dwan smashed the competition on Full Tilt earning millions in the process.  Then his kryptonite arrived in the form of Isildur1.  He lost $4.35 million to Isildur1 prompting him to retreat to the lower stakes to recoup.  He has since recouped his losses online and has moved to Macau to play in the ultra high stakes game.  In 2011 he won an astonishing $11million then recently winning the biggest pot $3.8 million pot against a Chinese businessman.  Macau = + EV

Durrrr said those “Asian guys are tough, and don’t care about money at all, and are impossible to bluff.”

Viktor Blom has one of the biggest swings in recent history.  Came onto the seen multi-tabling simultaneously against the murderers row of poker players; Ivey, Dwan, and Antonious.  As Sahamies put it, “he must have lost a chromosome.”  Roflz!  Lost his fortune $4.2 million to Brian Hastings whom he shared hand history with Brian Townsend.  He has since amassed $2.9 millions in cash games and tournaments profits this year alone. Last year, he wowed the poker world by winning back-to-back SCOOP events. First was Event #2-M, a $215 No-Limit Hold’em freezout in which he beat 8,239 opponents to win $247,200. The very next day, he took down Event #3-H, $530 No-Limit Hold’em Six-Max Re-buy, good for $160,000.

Won the 2013 Poker Stars Scoop Main event $10k high rollers adding another million to his bankroll.

I’ve always believed the true character of an individual isn’t based on the contents of their wallet, but rather what they do when they are at their lowest.  Some fall from grace and spiral into the never ending abyss never to be seen ever again.  Some move on with their lives.  The few brave ones stand resolute with their pride in tact, determination unhinged as their will can not be broken.  These are the players who command utmost respect and admiration.

From busto to gusto!  Still want to play poker? Does a future Main Event title have your name on it?

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