Last spring, Jason Strasser '07 deftly navigated four online poker games, placing hundred-dollar bets while simultaneously explaining the collegiate poker craze to Duke Magazine.
Strasser spent six weeks in the summer at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. "We would get up, go buy into the tournament for the afternoon," he says. After the action was finished for the day, "we'd go play the Bellagio for some cash games, play online a little bit, go see a show, hang out."
By the time the preliminary rounds were over and the tournament's "main event" arrived—offering a grand prize of $12 million—he had racked up more than $130,000 in winnings. He played well and, after getting "insanely unlucky on day four" of the main event, finished 169th.
Lady Luck apparently deserted Strasser for Doug Kim '06, who finished seventh in the WSOP's main event, winning $2.39 million.
In the early rounds, Kim says, he used strategies developed playing online poker to maximize the value of good hands against weak players. But "toward the end, you have to be more aggressive," he says. "You have to keep your opponents on edge.
It takes lots of observation, lots of processing."
Even with prize money and glowing praise from pay-per-view announcers for his tough play, losing at the final table wasn't easy, he says. "At the time, you're like, ‘Oh no, I just lost.
It's over.' Later it hits you that this is a significant, life-changing amount of money."
Kim, who began a financial-consulting job in New York in September, plans to invest his winnings. He is considering playing in next year's WSOP; in the meantime, he may play the occasional game for fun, if work permits.
Strasser, who describes his poker game as more "crazy and reckless" than Kim's, will, on the other hand, keep playing as much as he can. (In September, he won a No Limit Hold 'Em event during the World Championship of Online Poker, taking home $442,440, his largest payoff to date for an individual tournament.)
"I'll look at banking, finance-type jobs," Strasser says of his senior-year plans. "If one really jumps out at me that I love, I'll take it. If not, I'll travel and play cards for a year or two out of college and go from there."
"Mathematics, Logic, and Lady Luck": Update
November 30, 2006