WPT Choctaw Champ Jay Lee: More Than Just A Headline

Martin Derbyshire August 16, 2017 3054 Reads
WPT Winner -- Jay Lee

Reading headlines about a Chinese take-out delivery driver winning a World Poker Tour Main Event makes the road to WPT glory sounds like a rather short and easy one.

The reality for Season XVI WPT Choctaw Main Event winner Jay Lee was much different.

First off, it’s a more than four-hour drive from Lee’s Austin, Texas home to Durant, Oklahoma and the Choctaw Casino Resort where he became a member of the WPT Champions Club last week. That’s hardly part of the half-hour-or-free world a typical delivery driver resides in.

Secondly, the 27-year-old Lee has held a part-time gig delivering Chinese food for the past eight years. However, he’s anything but a typical delivery driver, and his real focus has been on poker for a lot longer than that.

“I’ve been playing since I was 14,” he told US Poker via email. “I would sneak out of the house and scrounge together $200 and go play $1/$2 No-Limit. As I got older, I learned the game and became more competitive. I normally play wherever is available. Private games or casinos when I travel to play a series.”

From the Texas underground to the WPT spotlight

WPT Winner -- Jay Lee
Lee during heads up play. Photo credit: World Poker Tour

Of course, the road from underground games in Texas to the WPT winner’s circle has been much longer than the headlines suggest. For Lee, it has meant stop overs at the World Series of Poker the past few of years. Which explains the WSOP Millionaire Maker and Colossus cashes that made up his rather short tournament resume prior to last week in Oklahoma.

“Historically, I’ve played way more cash games, but find it hard to pass up the value on those “gimmick” tourneys,” he explained. “I’ve also played the WSOP Main Event a couple times, but never cashed.”

In fact, the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, now tops Lee’s list of places to play poker.

“My favorite place to play is the Rio during WSOP because the cash games are super juicy and available all day,” Lee said.

And his favorite tournament? That’s an easy one now.

“WPT Choctaw,” he said. “I didn’t have one before, but now I definitely do.”

Grinding and making a living

Lee’s road to poker glory also included a bit of a detour. In fact, Lee collected a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas along the way.

So why is a successful cash game player with a BBA still speeding around Austin with a carload full of Kung Pao chicken?

“I’ve turned down a lot of job offers because I didn’t want to be a small fish in a big pound,” he said. “Also, I like the freedom I get doing this. It gives me more time to travel and play poker. I definitely plan on traveling a little more for poker now, but I am still delivering food. Just grinding and making a living how I can.”

On the poker road

WPT Winner -- Jay Lee
Lee celebrating a huge double up. Photo credit: World Poker Tour.

As far as traveling to play poker is concerned, Lee is planning another four-hour drive to Thackerville, Oklahoma coming up. There he’ll play in the WinStar World Casino and Resort 2017 River Poker Series beginning at the end of August. He’ll also go across the country next month to hit up the WPT Borgata Poker Open in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

“After that, no (immediate) plans, but I’ll play it by ear,” he said, adding that poker fans are welcome to follow his continuing journey through his @JLeExperience Twitter account.

In the meantime, Lee plans on enjoying that $593,173 WPT Choctaw win with those closest to him.

“I plan to take care of the moms a little bit with the money, and parlay it into more poker and other investments,” he said. “Not quite sure what exactly, but the opportunity is there. $600k is amazing. My lifestyle won’t change too drastically, but it’s an amazing step forward towards where I want to be.”

*Lead image photo credit: World Poker Tour 

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