Hard work pays off for poker pro Josh Brikis

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The past five years have been anything but average for Pittsburgh poker pro Josh Brikis. After graduating from Penn State with a degree in business, he discovered poker when a friend invited him to a weekly $20 home game. The weekly game quickly turned into a passion for him and he began playing online and traveling to the Borgata in Atlantic City.

Brikis, a.k.a. Brikdog24, spent hours reading online forums and checking hand histories to improve and compete at a higher level. It wasn’t long before he was crushing online and winning daily tournaments at the Borgata. His results speak for themselves. He earned his first five-figure score of $18K by winning a Mountaineer Casino tournament. Two months later he was runner-up for a World Series of Poker Circuit ring ($27K). After that, he chopped the Borgata Deepstack for $90K and won a $1,500 event for $119K.

In his first five years as a pro, he has made 14 final tables, won three events and cashed 44 times, including nine at the WSOP. He finished 55th in the 2010 WSOP Main Event for $138K and now has more than $1.5 million in career tournament earnings. He and his wife, Kristen, are expecting their first child in May.

What’s been the highlight of your career? My second-place finish in 2009 at the WSOP in the $5K six-max no-limit hold’em for $619K was obviously my defining moment and biggest cash. Also, having five cashes at the 2010 WSOP, a final table and a deep run with TV coverage in the main event was also big for me.

Which do you enjoy playing more, cash games or tournaments? I love tourneys and pretty much hate cash. … I just get bored with cash games and I love the thrill of tourneys and the chance to get big scores.

What’s the most off-the-wall prop bet you have ever made? I don’t get too into the prop-betting. I did win a Steelers-Jets bet and a friend wore my Steelers jersey in the Borgata main event last year.

What’s your biggest splurge after a win? I bought my Range Rover with a check for $60K after the ’09 score.

What hobbies or interests do you have outside of poker? I enjoy golfing, hanging out with family and friends and going to Steelers/Pens/Pirates games.

If you knew someone taking their first trip to the WSOP, what advice would you give them? If you’re playing the main event, just get rest, eat well and be patient. The structure is amazing and it allows you to play a lot of poker.

— Mike Owens is the Ante Up Ambassador for Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. He’s a poker player, journalist and creator of CheckRaze.com. He can be reached at anteupowens@gmail.com.