Poker didn’t have the same luster it once had for Mike Page.
Page considered leaving his hometown of Manahawkin, N.J., and to pick up another bartending gig in another location. He had friends living in Las Vegas, Colorado and Austin.
Three of his friends were poker pros, and although Page played quite a bit as well, he only considered himself kind of a semipro.
The 30-year-old was a part-time bartender, but also made some scratch at the poker tables online in the legal New Jersey market. Each summer, he also headed to Las Vegas to play in a few events at the World Series of Poker (WSOP).
“I’ve made a good amount of money from poker, but not nearly as much as them,” he said of his friends. “I haven’t put in as much time as them.”
Making a go of it
With reservations about playing poker, Page still planned on making a trip to the WSOP that summer.
“After that WSOP trip, if I didn’t win anything out there I probably would have looked away from poker and (tried) to do something else,” he said. “I was ready for a change of scenery if poker didn’t work out.”
With the Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) in New Jersey approaching, Page wasn’t feeling it. He’d played the series regularly since PokerStars’ return to the Garden State, but was undecided this year.
His friend told him about some of the events on the schedule including high and low buy-in tournaments, and also the chance to win the PokerStars’ Platinum Pass.
The PokerStars Players NL Hold’em Championship (PSPC) Platinum Pass gives players a $30,000 package for January’s PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. The package includes a $25,000 buy-in to the PSPC tournament, six nights’ accommodation at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas and travel expenses.
It is quite a coveted prize among those in the poker world, with Chris Moneymaker also crisscrossing the country offering players a chance to win one.
Despite the opportunity, Page still was hesitant about spending a chunk of his bankroll online.
“I didn’t want to invest a bunch of money in these SCOOP events because I didn’t have as much of a bankroll at the time,” he said. “I wanted to save some of my bankroll for the WSOP.”
Long live the Queen
However, on April 31, Page gave it a shot in a $50 event with the Platinum Pass going to the winner. He played well and then decided to use the last $500 in his account for one last shot at a big score and a pass.
After registering for the $500 main event, he was quickly sitting atop a tall stack of chips. He didn’t even tell his poker buddies he had entered the contest, which would eventually swell to 418 entries. Just a year earlier, Page had finished sixth in the same tournament.
The heater continued.
“All of a sudden it’s Day 2, and it gets down to the final table,” he said. “It became pretty real that I could make a run at it.”
At three-handed, Page was on the short stack. Then he had pocket Aces and then Kings against the big stack to double up twice. Two hands later, he hit quads in a blind-versus-blind battle and eliminated another player.
Suddenly, Page held a 5-to-1 chip advantage — and before either player could even discuss a deal — the tournament was over.
“Five hands in, I had Ace-Queen to his eights,” he said. “I hit a Queen and it was over. So before even discussing the possibility of a chop just for the money and not even including the package, it had already ended. It was pretty crazy.”
For his efforts, Page won $36,000 along with the Platinum Pass. His friends were at his home cheering. He has the bankroll for some summer events at the WSOP. PokerStars even followed along to film his journey.
It was also a good run in Vegas, and he had a nice run in the $565 Colossus for $17,597. He also added a win in a $200 Daily DeepStacks event at the Rio for $9,889.
Reasons to celebrate
Growing up, Page enjoyed playing sports and video games. He also enjoyed partying with high school friends. If Page can pull off a nice score in the Bahamas, he will have more reasons to party.
Page still works tending bar and credits the job with helping him at the tables when it comes to the game’s social aspects.
“It helps you feel comfortable in a live poker game,” he said. “Some people won’t talk in a tournament or aren’t comfortable. Through bartending, just experiencing a lot of human experience in general definitely helps.”
As of now, Page plans to head to the Bahamas alone. He hopes his brother come along thanks to the pass accommodations. Unfortunately, Page will be missing a friend’s wedding; however, all of his friends will be returning to Florida from a Caribbean cruise the day before the final table plays out.
“If I can make it, they’ll all be coming to the Bahamas,” he said.
It’s been five months since he took down the tournament, but Page remembers it like it was yesterday. The win was the biggest score of his poker career.
“It went so fast from final three to over, it was the blink of an eye and everything went my way,” he said. “When that Queen fell on the turn against the eights, and then it blanked the river, it was wild. I jumped up out of my chair. We drank and partied a bit.”
If everything keeps going his way in January, he’ll have even more reason to celebrate – with another bartender serving the drinks.