How I became a Poker Champ :)
One Saturday night when I was thirteen years old, I saw a card game that was called poker. I loved card games so it caught my attention.
Naughty me the next day I downloaded poker on to my computer and started playing. This of course is illegal if you are under the age of eighteen and as I look back now I am unsure if I understood poker was gambling although I am happy to say I never played for real money until I was eighteen. On my eighteenth birthday the only thing I wanted to do was to go to crown casino to play poker.
So my family and friends went with me and I played for five hours until my dad was kicked out for drinking too much. Bartenders refused to serve him so his friend bought him a drink. Dad showed the bartenders his drink and said cheers. Dad is built like a stick but being drunk he wanted to take on 10 big bouncers. It was a funny sight.
I was having fun and would have played for a couple more hours. The other players were very chatty with me and I only lost twenty dollars for whole the night. Then my high school carer Shelley introduced me to her brother in law Jacko who plays at pubs and has poker nights at his house. I started talking to him via Facebook and it turned out we have a lot of interests in common. One day he was telling me that he was having a poker night and being who I am I invited myself to the night.
I found out later that before the night began he was scared about how it would work but he fast learned that I was like him. I think the most important part of the night was that I won two of the three games that we played that night. I think I won everyone’s respect with my play and smart ass comments. They invited me to play with them at the local pubs and over the next four years I played at pubs, people’s houses, online and occasionally at crown with some success.
My first major win was in March 2012 when I won $1350 from a $3 dollar online tournament. Then on the Sunday I came second and won $1100 in an $11 competition. In February 2013 I won a ticket into a tournament at crown that was for pub players only. I was confident going into the competition and I thought I was better than other pub players because for about two years I had been studying the game of poker by playing and watching videos online. After three days of playing I finished fifth out of over four hundred players and won $23,800. I invested part of the money back into online poker and it became my full time job in 2013.
This is just been background story to the main story which begun when I won a package online in a tournament to play in the Queenstown New Zealand Poker Tour. The problem was I had no one to go with because Mum was going to Bali with girlfriends. I knew before I tried to win a package but I thought I will find someone if I win the package. I had two months before the tour so I needed to get a carer as soon as possible. It worked out that one of my friend’s brothers could go with me.
I was very excited to have the opportunity to play with some professional players. Everyone was saying have a good holiday but I was not going for a holiday I was going to win. In 2013 poker was my world. I was eating, sleeping and breathing poker. So July 2013 we were off to Queenstown for the week. We had two days off while there and had a good look around Queenstown. One day we went to the snow which was just a five minute drive from the centre of the town. Queenstown is just beautiful and one of my recommended places to visit but be aware of it has just one wheelchair taxi.
It was a small field of 126 players but one of hardest fields in the world. I was one of just couple of amateurs players in the field. I think a few of the players underestimated me because of my wheelchair and I played on it. After 27 hours of play across four days I won the beautiful tournament.
The amazing part of the story is not that I am disabled. I understand why people think winning a poker tournament when you are disabled is incredible but it shouldn’t be. I know people who are blind that play poker. There's even a guy who has no arms who plays. He uses his legs to hold his cards and move his chips. The amazing part for me was that my winning hand was the black kings which has significance for me because I had had the black kings tattooed on my left arm a while before I won.
Poker wasn’t about the money, it was about winning the trophies. I am a naturally competitive person and I believe that if I was not disabled I would be playing a professional sport.
Since that win I have lost the drive to play poker as I used to but I still like to play. Poker has given a lot of things. The first thing it gave me was something that I liked doing while I was struggling through high school. And after I finished school it gave me a social life and good friends.
Even though I have said it was not about the money, I have been good enough to make over $120,000 over my career from poker including $80,000 from my Queenstown win. And the money has helped to improve my quality of life and build my independence. The first thing that I bought after Queenstown was an electric bed. This was a huge change in that when I chose to get up at three o’clock in the morning to play poker I used to need mum to get me up. These days I just press a button on my iPad and I sit up in bed. The other major thing I bought was my amazing car. It is a 2008 Volkswagon caddy. It has a built-in ramp at the end of the car. I drive my wheelchair in and get strapped in like a wheelchair does in a taxi. Mum used to have to drive me everywhere. If I went to the city with a carer I would have to meet them at the Frankston train station and get a train up and back which made the day very long. Now carers come to my home and we go from there in my car. Even though I can’t drive, the car have given me more independence.