Real-life poker stories that will inspire you

Play a little online poker, but don’t think you’ll make it to the big time?

These inspiring success stories just might change your mind. They show how through hard work and dedication success is possible - even when the obstacles life throws at you get in the way.

From giving it all up to pursue poker full-time to a surprise win for a 19-year-old, these stories show how with the right mindset some of the world’s best players have beat the odds – at tables both on and offline.

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Andrew Badecker

Andrew started playing poker the same way most people do – socially, with friends. After winning fairly consistently, he decided to start playing online.

It was an important learning experience that provided Andrew with a reality check. In his own words, he “got his butt kicked”.

But his passion for poker grew and his skills developed through hard study and persistence. For a time, he was splitting his time between his studies, working a part-time job and playing as much poker online as he could.

It was a major win that changed everything. After making $7,000 in one evening, he decided to give up his job and studies to pursue poker as a full-time career.

His parents didn’t approve, going so far as to throw him out of the house. But Andrew continued to play online.

In 2010 Andrew’s poker career took off when he earned close to $70,000 across seven tournaments. His 2011 winnings alone were in excess of $800,000.

Continued success not only bolstered Andrew’s finances, but helped his parents understand his potential and love of the game; they welcomed their poker star son home soon after.

Today, Andrew continues to dominate the online poker circuit, having racked up a total of $1,933,180 in winnings as of May 2019.

Annette Obrestad

If you’re looking for a rocket ride to poker stardom, look no further than Annette Obrestad.

Having begun playing poker at a young age, Annette developed her bankroll by winning freeroll tournaments, playing online tables consistently and honing her skills under the online pseudonym ‘Annette_15’.

Her winnings were astounding: between September 2006 and February 2007 alone, she managed to win a total of $836,000.

Her talent and self-confidence were also developing rapidly. In July 2007, she won a $4 buy-in, 180-person competition, during which she claimed to have looked at her cards only once - proving how important it is to play your position well and pay attention to the other players at the table.

Later in September 2007, her career exploded in a major way when she broke two world records in one competition. Winning the World Series of Poker Europe Main Event the day before her 19th birthday netted her £1,000,000, the highest-ever recorded pay-out to a female player.

The win also made her the youngest person ever to win a World Series of Poker bracelet.

Tom Dwan

Tom Dwan is another great example of online poker amateur-to-pro success, thanks to his intense study of the game.

He began playing poker in 2004 with only a $50 bankroll, then took the plunge and dropped out of college to become a full-time poker player at just 17.

His career started slowly. But after four years building his experience, he had won over $5.4 million and was a major name in high stakes poker - proof of how sticking with it can lead to major success.

Tom’s ability to see losses within the bigger picture was important. For example, before the 2007 World Poker Championships, Dwan claimed to have lost $2 million of his $3 million bankroll but recovered within a year.

Tom’s attitude towards risk is also illustrated by his so-called ‘Million Dollar Challenge’.

Dwan bet any online poker player that after 50,000 games he would be ahead. If he was, his opponent had to pay $500,000. If Dwan himself was behind, he agreed to his pay is opponent $1.5 million.

The challenge later expanded into what was called the ‘Durrr Million Dollar Challenge’ (named after Dwan’s online username), a 500-hand live heads-up tournament.