Sam Sehgal likes his chances every time he joins a poker table. He’s been working on his hold’em game steadily for six years, but a dedication to improving his stud game goes back about eight years, and he was studying five-card draw odds nearly a decade ago.
All of which seems rather impressive when you consider Sehgal, who lives outside Boulder, recently turned 21. Consider Sehgal, pronounced like Steven Seagal, to whom Sehgal bears exactly zero resemblance, wasn’t legally allowed to play poker for money until his birthday in April.
Regardless, Sehgal gained an appreciation for cards when he was about 12. Down the line, his dad and two uncles let a 16-year-old Sehgal and his older brother join the men’s home game. For a while, at least.
“We play like two weeks and (my brother) Jamil starts cleaning up, usually stud, right?” Sehgal said. “I mean, he takes everything. So they start changing up, no more stud, switching to hold’em mostly. First week, I’m cleaning up. It’s ridiculous; I’m taking everything. Next week, same thing. I’m telling my mom I don’t need to work at the mall anymore, I’m going to make all my money off Dad and (my uncles).”
Next thing Sehgal knew, there was no more hold’em being played in the weekly game, at least whenever he was invited to play: “They started playing nights when I was working. They changed it just so I couldn’t get in. It was messed up, but I got it. It’s just fun for them. I don’t play for fun.”
On those rare times when Sehgal was allowed to play in the home game, he was ready.
“They got really into Omaha high, so I got on the computer, playing Omaha all the time,” he said. “I get in the game one night and sandbag for like two hours. They’re having beers; I’m just chilling, right? What do you think happened next?”
You took all their money? He laughed. “I took all their money.”
As young as Sehgal is, he looks a good five years younger — “I’ll never not get carded” — but he’s not intimidated now that he can finally play live poker at Black Hawk and Central City. Having diligently saved the funds he won from relatives (along with cash from a variety of part-time jobs), the college student has a “decent enough” bankroll to feel comfortable at the tables.
Sehgal said he’s received a little good-natured ribbing from fellow players for looking so young, but it’s proved to be an asset: “Some guys think you’re so young you don’t know (anything). Some think if you have a baby face (these days) you’re a world-beater. Either way, there’s an angle.”
— Rick Gershman is Ante Up’s Colorado Ambassador. You can email him firstname.lastname@example.org.