September 6, 2021

A trip down poker memory lane

After writing my last blog, I wanted to share some of the highlights of my poker journey. Feel free to read my previous post about how I got into poker.

Over my poker career, which is now 13 years (crazy!) I think I've made a profit of around $160,000. From 2011 to 2013, I was purely living, breathing, and eating poker. It was my life. For those two years, I was probably spending 60 hours a week on poker. Whilst most of that was playing, I spent a good 10-15 hours a week just studying the game.

My first moderate success was back in March 2012 when I was playing at home over a weekend. On Saturday, I won a $3.50 re-buy tournament online for $1100. The next day, I finished second in an $11 game for another $1100. For the rest of the year, I was making a decent profit, but not enough to cover expenses if I lived out of home.

In 2013, I finally caught a break when I won a ticket to a tournament at Crown Casino. After three days of playing amongst four hundred players, I came in 5th and walked away with over $23,000 in my pocket.
A month later, I entered a big online tournament for a $5.50 re-buy. I finished 3rd out of 15,000 players and won $10,000. After that tournament, I could feel myself falling into a trap. I started blowing money for the sake of it. I must have lost around $7000-10,000 in two months. My mum intervened at that point, and I ended up taking a break from the game.

Image desription: Jono sitting at a poker table watching and playing the game. Jono is sitting in his wheelchair, wearing a black and white plaid t-shirt and a pair of prescription glasses. In front of him is a stack of poker chips on a red poker table.


Later that year, I made a return to poker and won my first satellite tournament back. The prize was a poker trip to Queenstown, New Zealand. More specifically, I won a package worth $5,000 inclusive of flights, accommodation, spending money and entry into the AAPT Queenstown Main Event. Admission to the event alone was $3,000, and the buy-in for the satellite tournament was $62, which ended up being the only money to come out of my pocket that whole trip.

Mum wasn't too keen on the idea of me going to New Zealand because she'd already booked a trip to Bali and wouldn't be able to take me. I didn't care. I was still determined to go. I rang around to see which of my support workers was available, but none of them were. As per usual, I didn't let this stop me. I reached out to friends and even friends of friends. In the end, the brother of one of my friends was free to accompany me. Problem sorted!

In the days before I flew off to New Zealand, people kept wishing me a good holiday. I didn't think of it as a holiday, though. I treated poker as a job. I'd usually reply with, "this is business, and I'm ready to win".
Finally, I had touched down in New Zealand and was ready to play. Unlike previous tournaments, it was a small field of 126 players, but it was the most challenging field I'd ever played. I was just one of a handful of amateur players on the field. I could tell that some professional players underestimated me because of my disability, and I played on it. It was my advantage.

After 27 hours of play across four days, it came down to Daniel Laidlow and me. As I looked down at a pair of black kings, Daniel said, "All in". I reacted quickly with a "Call". He revealed his hand - an Ace and a Queen of diamonds. To win, I needed no aces to appear, and fortunately, none did. After the final hand, I lifted my shirt sleeve to reveal my tattoo: a pair of black kings. It was the same hand I finished the tournament with and won $93,000. I couldn't make this up if I tried. It was a perfect ending.

Image description: Jono smiling at the camera, revealing his tattoo on his left arm of two cards showing a pair of black kings, besides two actual cards showing black kings, which he used to win his poker game..


After that massive year in 2013, I stopped playing seriously for a few reasons. The primary reason being that I lost the drive for the daily grind and the motivation to keep honing my skills. I find it irritating when people, particularly poker players, attribute poker entirely to luck. While luck plays a part, I've found that those who study the game and are dedicated to improving their skills end up making a decent profit long term.

I'm no longer up with the latest theories and strategies like I once was, but I still like to think I'm a decent player. I've had a few small wins over the past seven years, but I'm happy with just that these days. Poker played a massive role in a fundamental part of my life, and I'm lucky to be able to look back on those experiences fondly but move forward happily.

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