A year ago, when then 37 year old Pat Poels, a Ticketmaster Vice-President in Phoenix, told his wife, Laura, that he wanted to quit his nice secure, well paying job with benefits to become a poker pro, she A - fainted, B - grabbed the three boys and ran home to her family, or C - enthusiastically said, "Go for it, Honey, because the 2005 World Series of Poker will have record attendance, record payouts, and I think you are a cinch to beat 698 other players and win $270,100 in the Omaha High-Low Event," or words to that effect.
Well, Laura didn't faint and she didn't grab the kids and run. "She actually wanted me to become a poker player," said Pat from the winner's circle at the Rio Hotel in Vegas to collect his check and a coveted
Pat went on to play in the Big One, the Championship event, the $10,000 No Limit Texas Hold 'em buy-in, which drew a record 5600+ entries. He finished a respectable 253rd, winning another $28,375.
Pat learned in the College of Hard Knocks, playing poker in casinos in Arizona and Nevada: moving up, losing, moving back down, winning, moving up, winning, and so on. He met a couple of pros and picked up some books they recommended.
He became more confident, won more consistently, and began talking more and more to Laura about quitting Ticketmaster and playing poker for a living. He found his comfort level at Talking Stick Casino in Scottsdale at $60/$120 and $75/$150 tables. On regular visits to Vegas, he plays in $400/$800 games.
How did Pat and Laura arrive at the decision for Pat to turn pro? It was a gradual process over about a year, both say.
Pat says, "I always loved the logic of games and puzzles. Software development is a puzzle. Poker is a never-ending puzzle."
Laura: "I knew there was no perfect time. It was something he wanted to do. He was good at it. I was confident he would succeed."
With Laura's urging - not just blessing, but urging - Pat plugged the plug at Ticketmaster in April of 2005. "She believed in me even more than I believed in myself," Pat says.
Laura says, "I pushed him into it." In July, he was a part of poker history.
Did they have the usual qualms of meeting the mortgage payments, health benefits, and providing for the education of Brian, Eric, and Jason? Sure. But the worse case was that he could go back to Ticketmaster.
Laura, with an accounting background, understands the math of the game and the means to incorporate poker wins (and losses) into the family budget. His big WSOP check went into the bank. No new fancy home. No new fancy car.
"I've sat and watched him play for hours. I have rarely seen him put his chips in with the worst cards. His instincts are amazing," says Laura. Because of the confidence each have in Pat's game, they do not have backers.
How did their families react to Pat's desire to become a poker pro? Pat's folks were OK with it. Laura's Dad said, "Stupidest thing I ever heard of. You'll regret this. Don't come around and ask me for money." Yet when Pat won the Omaha WSOP event, her Dad was on the phone, proudly calling everyone he could think of.
Brian, Eric, and Jason enjoy playing kitchen table tournaments with Dad. Laura rarely plays poker. "Don't have the patience," she says.
Laura has been home for some time with the boys. Now that Pat does not have a conventional job, he spends more time with the family. He'll have dinner with the boys, then go out to play in the local casinos in the Phoenix area.
Has Pat's new vocation made their marriage stronger? "Absolutely," says Laura.
© 2005 Murphy James