It’s hard to believe I’ve been playing poker for over a decade. Many of my peers have stories of learning and playing high-level poker long before they were legally allowed to play in casinos; for me, that wasn’t the case.

I’m from mountain state of West Virginia. Most of my adolescent and teen years were spent hunting, fishing and playing sports. I’ve always had a burning desire to compete. Somewhere around my sophomore year of high school, I knew it would be likely that I would play sports in college. By the time graduation came, I had scholarship offers to multiple colleges for football and track and field. I ended going to a college that was just thirty minutes away from home.

I started my freshman year at West Virginia Wesleyan College in the fall of 2003, the same year Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker Main Event. It was sitting in ice baths after track practice each day and watching ESPN that exposed me to the game I now play for a living. I started playing micro-stakes with a teammate of mine and a few other friends. I was the typical fish, losing five bucks here and there. One night I decided I was done losing to the guys on the football team; I drove to Walden Books and purchased every poker book I could find. Within a month or so I started winning.

Poker was a fun hobby for me but my true love at the time was sprinting. Nothing got me more pumped than loading up into the blocks and running the 100-meter dash. I trained like a mad man — two-a-days on the track and in the weight room followed by visits to the training room for ice baths and stem treatments. I was at the top of my athletic prime and getting better each month. That all changed one day at Kent State University. I was running a 200-meter dash on the sharp turned indoor track and suffered a hip-tear that required surgery. I came back after surgery, but I was never the same.

During my downtime, I started playing online poker and reading more content. I signed up for whatever primitive online poker training I could find. After a year of playing and studying, I was a winner at mid-stakes. I still viewed poker as a hobby and went on to finish university receiving a bachelor’s degree in finance as well as a masters degree in business.

After finishing school, I moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and got a job selling group insurance. I would work all day, hit the gym, and then play online poker until I couldn’t keep my head up anymore. This lifestyle wasn’t a sustainable one; something had to go. With massive amounts of student debt and a tiny bankroll, I made one of the most irresponsible financial decisions of my life; I was going to leave my good paying entry-level job and be a professional poker player. Most of my friends told me I was insane, and how could I blame them?

I had no idea if I could win in the long run playing poker. All I knew was playing the game felt right.

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