Poker may seem a bit out of line with Matt Glassman’s regular job. He teaches public policy at Georgetown University, focusing on congressional procedure and operations. But he says the daily give and take of federal politics and procedures actually complements big moves and knowing when to cut your losses at the poker table.
“A legislature sometimes feels like a poker game, it’s a set of rules and a set of people trying to maximize their value under their rules,” he says. “So in a lot of ways, analyzing strategy in the two realms has a lot of overlap, since the rules dictate the strategies of the participants. Congress isn’t always zero-sum the way poker is, but it still has a lot of features of a missing-information game and players trying to maximize the expected value of their goals.”
Glassman (pictured winning his home game championship in 2019) now crosses over from the betting and bluffing of congressional politics to the live poker table. PokerStars recently announced his story as the winning entry in the Platinum Poker Hand contest. He’ll now play in the PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC) at the Baha Mar resort in the Bahamas from Jan. 30 – Feb. 3.
The recreational player turned his love of poker into a winner in the contest run by Stars ambassador Jen Shahade. He’s now less than a month away from taking a seat in the biggest tournament of his life and spoke with USPoker about the opportunity.
“My head is still spinning,” he says. “The whole idea of playing a $25,000 tournament just seems surreal, as does winning a week’s vacation in the Bahamas. I had no expectation I’d even be a finalist. I thought my story was good, but there are always lots of good entries in a contest like this. Once I made the finals and could see the other entries, I figured I had a chance but I was mostly trying to not get my hopes up.”
Scoring big in PokerStars contest
Glassman was one of the final players to grab a Platinum Pass for a $30,000 tournament/travel package. Like the 2019 PSPC, Stars awarded passes numerous ways: live events, online poker leaderboards, social media contests, and more.
Shahade hosted the story competition for players across the US and Canada in December. Participants submitted their most formative or memorable poker hand, focusing on what made the hand so special.
The contest drew 70 entries via video, audio, and written submissions. That was narrowed down to the final six with judges Sam Grafton, Maria Ho, Mark Foresta, Keith Becker, Alex O’Brien, and Brad Willis then selecting their favorites.
After tabulating the rankings, Glassman’s big win was revealed in a special episode of Jennifer Shahade’s podcast, The Grid. His story titled Jack-Three Offsuit and the Monster Ballad Poker Game focused on an old-school home game with friends.
“A dozen guys stuck somewhere after college but before the real world,” the tale notes. “Relationships. Breakups. Grad School. Jobs. Careers. It all spilled out in the cracks between the laughter and the beats. Despite what you hear, a poker game is actually a great place to have serious conversations. Maybe because they seem less serious.”
Here's my winning entry, which is about J3 offsuit, but is really a valentine to everything magical about great low-stakes home games. https://t.co/j4VoamGYR5
— Matt Glassman (@MattGlassman312) December 31, 2022
Home game tale to PokerStars $25,000 buy-in
Judges were impressed with Glassman’s efforts. O’ Brien called Jack-Three “sophisticated storytelling.” Foresta said the author “took me back to this golden age of poker that honestly I never got to play in.”
Ho noted: “All the finalists were spectacular! I thoroughly enjoyed reading and watching them all. Very tough to choose among them, but happy to be a part of making someone’s poker dream come true!”
The entire experience was a bit of a shock for Glassman. Friends from the original game no doubt will be cheering him on when heads to the PSPC in a few weeks.
“My friends and family have mostly been in disbelief, starting with the guys from the Monster Ballads poker game who are featured in the story,” he says. “I initially contacted them looking for some old pictures from the game to use in the story, so they knew I was entering the contest. But when I made the finals and then won, they just couldn’t believe it. And also can’t believe that I won it with a story about our beloved little home game from 15 years ago.
“The guys I play poker and bridge with currently were also super excited for me. A lot of them thought I had the winning entry once I made the finals, though that was probably just them being optimistic. So I spent a lot of Christmas break actually having to play down the possibility of winning. My wife, of course, has been over the moon because she’s coming to the Bahamas with me.”
Looking ahead and getting ready
The longtime rec player now has a chance many players would envy. The 2019 PSPC paid out $5.1 million to winner Roman Colillas, who earned his entry via Platinum Pass.
A deep run could have Glassman now writing an even bigger story. He’s making sure the trip to the Bahamas is more than just a vacation.
“I’m definitely taking preparation for the event seriously,” he says. “Currently, I play tournament poker one night a week, in a PokerStars home game I started during the pandemic. Most of the rest of my card playing and studying right now is bridge and ‘Oh Hell.’ So I’m going to be scaling back the bridge and Oh Hell for the month and focusing on tournament poker.”
Those efforts now include some outside help as well.
“I’m fortunate to have some good connections in the poker world for various reasons, and one of my friends who is a pro has agreed to take me on as a student for the month,” Glassman says. “So I’ll be getting real coaching for the first time in my life, targeted at this particular tournament.”
— Jennifer Shahade (@JenShahade) December 30, 2022
Facing stiff competition in PokerStars contest
Judges were pleased with the Platinum Poker Hand competition results. Shahade was excited to see so many players share their poker stories.
“I was blown away by the quality of the submissions and finalists and I am thrilled by Matt’s victory,” she said. “His beautiful rendition of the home game of his 20s reminded me of my favorite thing about poker, the way it unites people on different paths, and at different stages of life, through a shared passion.
“It also reminded me of the privilege of poker – to play for years with people we love shouldn’t be taken for granted.”
That’s certainly a notion that Glassman echoes. Modern poker regularly sees players drop tens of thousands of dollars in major tournaments. But many Average Joes still gather for a few hours of small-stakes fun and camaraderie.
“One thing I wanted to convey from my story was how wonderful a good low-stakes poker home game can be at a human level,” he says. “A lot of contemporary poker is focused on the idea of climbing the ranks of No Limit Hold’em and playing higher and higher stakes and making serious money. But there’s an absolute beauty to a competitive low-stakes game where the money doesn’t really mean much, but the players still compete hard within the context of friendships and laughter.
“I’ve made so many friends at card tables, going all the way back to junior high school – people who became my friends away from the tables. I really feel like it’s been a blessing that my family was into games and gave me a love for them.”