By Todd Lamansky
Jeremy McLaughlin is living every poker player’s dream.
In May 2007 he entered his first big buy-in competition, a $1K no-limit hold’em tournament at the Borgata in Atlantic City. The night before it started, he was watching TV in his hotel room and came across an interview with Vanessa Rousso on Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, a since-cancelled show on CNBC featuring success stories that outlined a road map to the American Dream.
During the interview, Rousso used a Darwinian image to illustrate the importance of survival in a poker tournament. The next day, as McLaughlin nursed a short stack in frustration — he had been card dead for hours and received more than his fair share of bad beats — he held on to Rousso’s metaphor as his competition slowly dropped off.
Then his luck began to change.
McLaughlin went on a heater and found himself chipleader at the final table, where they struck a deal giving him first-place honors and a $210,976 payday. The prize money allowed him to quit his job as a D.C. police officer and play poker full time. He even wound up telling his story as a guest on Big Idea, where it all began.
“Looking back, the whole thing was very serendipitous,” he said.
The Borgata has been good to him as well. He’s cashed there 12 times since that first payday, including a third- and fourth-place finish for $148,180 and $205,942, respectively. He’s also cashed in three WPT events, nine times at the WSOP, including the 2011 main event (420th), and has lifetime earning totaling $1,171,313 (though he goes by Jeremy, most databases have him listed as Robert).
But McLaughlin has yet to top that initial score, which is one of the reasons why he’s recently shifted his focus to cash games, along with the grueling nature of the tournament circuit and the aggravation of variance. He moved to Florida last year in the wake of its new poker laws and makes his living playing $10-$25.
“Tournaments are like a commission-based job in that you do a lot of work you don’t get paid for, save for those occasional windfalls,” he said, “whereas cash games are more like having a job where you get paid by the hour. It’s more stable, more consistent. It also provides you with a lot more freedom since you don’t have to be anywhere at a certain time.”
But McLaughlin still plays tournaments, which he admits, “are like a drug.”
What does he do when he’s not playing cards? Sleeping and watching TV. “My entire life revolves around poker,” he said, admitting it’s one of the reasons he doesn’t have a girlfriend, which he said would only be a distraction at this point, though his favorite movie is Titanic.
“I’m a hopeless romantic.”