The WPT Hard Rock Showdown champ chats with Ante Up’s Todd Lamansky about his start in poker, what it’s like being mentioned in the same category as some of the game’s current stars and he gives advice for aspiring pros: “You have to remember, it’s just a freakin’ game.”
How long have you been playing poker? I started playing poker at the dinner table with my grandparents back when I was six. They were trying to teach me how to count. My family’s always been a gambling family so, of course, they showed me all of the old-school games, real poker, five-card draw, seven-card stud. All those games and that’s when it first got in my blood, when I was real young. And I used to play at all the family parties. I just always loved poker.
And at what point did the hobby become a profession? I’d just graduated from college, my family was pressuring me to get a job, and I pretty much knew in January of this year that I either had to starting winning money in poker or go get a job in an office. So I put a little bit of money on PokerStars and I won a $50 satellite to go to a $5K tournament in Brazil. I lost that, but I played another $11 rebuy satellite immediately afterward; I was pretty much broke too; I didn’t have much money at all, and I got first out 180 people and that gave me a seat to the Big Event in Los Angeles, where I got fourth place for $140,000. That’s kind of how this all got started.
How has your life changed since winning $1.1 million in the WPT Seminole Showdown in May? It’s weird…it really hasn’t changed that much. I was kind of thinking about it today; I was saying to myself, “I’ve got to be, like, one of the lamest WPT champs out there.” I haven’t bought a car; I’m still driving my 2000 Buick. (laughs) I haven’t even moved out of my house, like, I don’t know even know what the hell I’m doing. I want to get a place back home, but when I go back home, I stay at my freakin’ house, you know? I mean, I bought a house (in Florida) so that was cool, that’s different. I definitely couldn’t have done that. I paid off all my student loans. Who would have ever thought I could freakin’ do that? Let me tell ya, a lot of the professors would never have thought that I would have been the kid with the most money made this soon after graduating.
What poker players do you look up to? Off the top of my head, I think of guys like Eugene Katchalov and Jason Mercier. Eric Seidel’s been amazing this year, too. You know, these guys are going day-in, day-out, playing every tournament, and they play all types of games. I don’t know how they do it. Their work ethic is just through the roof. They rebound so fast from losses. It seems like they’re playing their A-game all the time, and I don’t know, they just handle themselves the right way.
Speaking of those guys, how does it feel to be in the running for player of the year? Honestly, I don’t even deserve to be named in the same category as those guys, but … it’s definitely an honor. It’s pretty damn cool to be on that list, let’s put it that way.
How did it feel to be on the cover of Ante Up? It’s awesome. I never thought my face would be on a magazine cover that is seen all around the U.S. It’s still like a dream to me to be honest. Definitely surreal.
What advice do you have for aspiring pros? To make money in this game, I feel like you’ve got to enjoy the game and you’ve got to soak up the moment while you’re playing. Don’t be dwelling on all the other shit going on. Don’t be worrying about problems at home. You can’t be playing at the table worrying about whether you’re gonna go broke. Don’t put your last dollar up on the table unless you’re prepared to lose it, you know?
If you’re an up-and-coming poker player, you should follow some bankroll management. And when you play, just try to focus and play every hand to the best of your ability. And remember, it’s just a game. You have to remember it’s just a freakin’ game. So many people lose their lives over this game. It’s crazy. I mean, I’ve got some friends that, literally, they’re only happy in life if they win in this game, and I can be that way a little bit, too, but you have to have some things outside of poker to keep your life balanced.
Keep it all in perspective? Exactly. If you’re a negative person, this is not the right industry for you. You’re gonna have a long, miserable life. Find the positive people. Find a good group of friends you can travel with and play with and, you know, like you said: keep it in perspective. It’s just a f—–’ game.