Player profile: Don Baruch

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By Garrett Roth

Family first, poker second. This is how Don Baruch describes not only how to be successful in poker, but in all aspects of life. Baruch is a Tampa resident who won Event 21, the $1,500 no-limit hold’em shootout at the 2007 World Series of Poker, capturing nearly $265K for his victory.

Baruch has been playing poker since his childhood and started playing seriously in 2003.
“I read every book, watched every show and started playing in all the local cardrooms,” Baruch said, using all resources necessary to improve his game exponentially, especially how to dominate single-table tournaments. These days you’ll most likely find this Hard Rock Tampa regular following the highest stakes’ tournaments in the Tampa Bay area.

Baruch, who recently finished fourth in an undercard PLO event in Biloxi, Miss., says he entered 2007 WSOP with the intention of playing well and finding his strengths. He came away with a suitcase full of cash and a gold bracelet. He defeated a field of 900 runners and a final table that saw the likes of top pros Erick Lindgren and Daniel Negreanu.
“There are a lot of good things that came out of my win,” Baruch said, “but there’s a dark side to everything. Ultimately, it’s still gambling.”

Since Baruch won one of the most coveted prizes in poker, he has the experience and insight to give advice to fellow players.

“It’s very common to think you’re the best player in the world after a big win. It can cost tens of thousands of dollars to figure out the reality. Find out what you’re good at and realize that there are very few players who can play both cash games and tournaments. It’s rare to see a guy like Phil Ivey, the ‘Tiger Woods of Poker,’ who can play every variation at any stake.”

Baruch, who owns a mediation business, Final Table Mediation, uses his negotiation and persuasive skills to dissect his opponents at the poker table.

“I try to find the motivation of a particular player,” he said. “Are they there because they want to waste time or are they there because they really want to win?”

He talks a lot at the table to figure out what opponents (or clients) really want in a certain situation.

But Baruch switched his focus from the felt to his family after he won his bracelet.
“I’m a father, first and foremost,” he said when asked if he played Internet poker. “Online poker can get obsessive and compulsive and it takes away from my family time. I can at least schedule live poker around my family and my work schedule.”