“Chris Won a Horse Playing Poker”?

I do not immerse myself completely in the poker world like so many of my peers. I have made many good friends in the poker world, but I also have friends and family outside of it and many of them have no idea what happened last week. This is my attempt to explain it in layman’s terms, for those friends and family who aren’t familiar with poker or with high stakes poker tournaments.

What Happened

I won the $10,000 buy-in HORSE World Championship at the World Series of Poker.

What That Means

The World Series of Poker (WSoP) is an annual event in Las Vegas. It is the largest and most prestigious poker tournament series in the world and none of it’s competitors are even close. The prize for winning a major WSoP event is a lot of cash and a gold bracelet. It is like a trophy, but sought after more than any trophy. A bracelet is somewhere between a Super Bowl ring and a championship belt in boxing or a win in a major in golf. There are around fifty of them given out each year for fifty different tournaments. Tens of thousands of players come to Vegas every summer to try to win one.

The $10,000 buy-in HORSE Championship is one of the more prestigious events for many players because it has a high buy-in and involves five different games. The field is one of the toughest in the world every year, with world champions everywhere and almost no amateurs. First place this year paid $507,000 and a gold WSoP bracelet. 200 players entered the event.

This does not mean that I won $507,000. Well, I won it, but I don’t get to keep all of it. When players don’t want to play events with big buy-ins with their own money, they sell pieces of their buy-ins, usually to other players. This is known as “selling action”. I sold a significant percentage of my action so that I could play $50,000 worth of tournaments this summer, primarily with other people’s money. I didn’t sell it all, and I came out with a nice payday for myself, but I definitely do not get to keep half a million dollars. A big chunk of that money goes to my investors, who made out very well, and I have to pay taxes on the rest.

What It Means to Me

This win means a lot to me. The money is not life changing, but it means that I have a comfortable bankroll and get to go on a nice vacation to New Zealand soon. The prestige and recognition in the poker world are wonderful too, though I can’t pay the bills with those things. Making a bunch of investors happy is great since they are also my friends and family and they made a lot of money investing in me this summer.

The biggest change for me is job security. After this win I can sell action to play in any tournament I want, any time I want. I will always have my own money to play smaller games that pay the bills on a monthly basis, but now I can play the big stuff whenever I want. That makes my life a lot less stressful going forward.

This win is also an affirmation. I knew I was a good player. I have lived on my winnings for twelve years, far too long to just be lucky. Now I have a bracelet to prove it, and very few people would doubt that I play very well. All the time spent studying and working on my game feels like it paid off in spades with this win.

Did I Get Lucky?

Absolutely. But I also put myself in a position to get lucky. Picture a wide receiver who catches a pass in the end zone at the Super Bowl while he is laying on the ground. The ball is deflected by a defensive back and lands in his hands. He gets very lucky and catches the game winning pass! He certainly got lucky, but luck favors the prepared.

If you were on the team, lined up against an NFL defensive back, could you have made the catch? Could you have run to the end zone that fast? Would you still have your wits about you after being leveled by the safety in the end zone? Could you put in the work to be in such great shape that the team would even let you walk on to their spring practice, let alone make the team and start in the super bowl? There might only be 200 people in the world who would even have a chance to do what he did. Only 200 people who could put themselves in a position to “get lucky”.

There are probably a similar number of people who could win the event that I won. Just a few hundred people who are good enough to stand a chance to win. I was one of those people and then I caught some cards and played well and “got lucky”. I couldn’t do that wide receiver’s job, and I assure you that he couldn’t do mine. There is not enough luck in the world for either of us to reach the top of the other’s chosen profession.

So yes, I got some cards. You have to catch better than average cards to win this event. The best player in the world, whoever that might be, would not win this event more than 1 in 50 attempts. But you have to be very good to get there, because an average player would not win it in 10,000 attempts.

Where Does the HORSE come in? 

HORSE is a mixture of five different games. This tournament was played with a rotation where we played eight hands and then switched to the next game. One of the reasons this event is so prestigious is that the players have to play well in all five games. It’s like a Decathlon for poker players. The HORSE stands for Holdem, Omaha, Razz, Stud, and Stud Eight or Better. Over 30+ hours of poker, we played over 200 hands of each of the five games.

Did You Play with Anyone Famous?

Yes. In the past I have played with almost everyone you have seen on television, but this event in particular is always filled with super stars. I played with Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson, Nick Schulman, Vanessa Selbst, John Cernuto, Jen Harman, Mike Matusow, Elky, Jeff Lisandro, Max Pescatori, and Justin Bonomo. Other big names that played the event include Phil Hellmuth, Erick Lindgren, Michael Mizrachi, Huck Seed, David Benyamine, Josh Arieh, Scotty Nguyen, Daniel Negreanu, Brian Hastings, Barry Greenstein, Mike Sexton, Jonathon Duhamel and Phil Laak. Before the start of the event, I could have told you at least a few sentences about almost every player in the field. There were not a lot of soft spots.

Why a Bracelet?

I know, it seems like a weird trophy, but that has been the tradition since 1970. It has become the most coveted prize in poker, but it still seems odd to me. It does take up less space on the flight home than a trophy though!bracelet1 The bracelet is solid gold, so I’ll probably just keep it in my safe deposit box and break it out for special occasions.

Here is an interview I did right after the victory. It was at the end of more than twelve hours of the toughest poker of my life, and then the biggest win of my life, so I actually barely remember doing the interview, but it does capture the moment in a unique way.

I hope this explanation helps. A poker tournament works like any other tournament. Just like a chess tournament, everyone buys in for the same amount, and that money is put into the prize pool and distributed to the winners according to a payout structure. I won one of the most prestigious events in poker and I’m very happy right now, but I’m still playing and there is more work to be done this summer at the World Series of Poker. I look forward to seeing you all when I get home or the next time we are both in the same place.

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  1. #1 by babykahuna on June 21, 2014 - 1:36 pm

    Congrats Fox. Great inspiration. We had drinks at Caesers at WSOP in 2009 I believe. Wish you well in the future.
    Loved your vids for PXF and disappointed when you and Adam were no longer there.

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