The swings of life: Theo Jørgensen’s battles off the felt

Theo Jørgensen has won millions at the poker table and was nearly killed during an armed robbery. However, nothing compares with the highs and lows of his family life

‘The lowest point in my life was when my kids were born. That sounds insane, but they were born prematurely, three months too early, and we had no idea it was going to happen. The worst thing I could imagine before was they would get colic. But we would have swapped that a lot of times for a lot of money if they could just not be born premature.

My daughter weighed 840 grams (the average female baby weighs about 3.3kg). When there was no argument that she had to be delivered, she came out and the doctor said there was a 50% chance she was going to survive, and if she survived there was a 50% chance she was going to have severe brain damage.

We were told we were just extremely unlucky and they would follow up on us if we decided we were ever going to get another kid. We were told that this was pure bad luck. But then the same thing happened again. My son was born after 26 weeks and with him there were a lot more complications. It was originally the same thing, there was a 50% shot whether he was going to survive, 50% shot from thereon that he was going to be totally healthy. But later, they told us he was brain damaged. And that, with my daughter’s thing, was pretty much the lowest point of my life.

Becoming a father

Jørgensen is third on the Danish all-time money list

Jørgensen is third on the Danish all-time money list

At the time I didn’t know if I was ready to be a father. I didn’t really know what I was getting into and I wasn’t even sure if it was going to be ‘love’ when the child came out. But as soon as she was born, and you see the eyes and stuff like that, you just want to make her get stronger. It was very tough and it was most likely three times as tough on my wife.
I couldn’t comprehend the fact I couldn’t help. It was so painful for me to be in the hospital because I couldn’t do anything. So I preferred to get away. I saw this really fragile small kid and I couldn’t do anything and I was supposed to do something. I’m her father, for f♣♠k’s sake. I should have stayed there more to support my wife at least. She was sticking with our daughter all the time, and I’m very grateful to her for that, and I’m grateful for her not being too upset with me.

I don’t know if we were ever told she was going to make it. They are not very keen on telling you that kind of thing. I was walking around like a maniac out there because I wanted to know, ‘Do we have a 10% shot? Do we have a 90% shot? I want to know which ball park we are in.’ There’s going to be some people surprised I didn’t say the robbery, right?

The ultimate upswing

The highest point for me was that both my kids were lucky enough to hit the 25% and they are totally healthy today. It seems like if you or me have a breakdown in our heads and we get brain damage, we’re not going to be able to recover from that. But at that age, when they’re so young, the brain kind of goes in and repairs itself. So that’s what happened with my son and there was no brain damage at all. So both kids are healthy – perfect. That’s the high. They are now nine and five-years-old.
It was a slow ride. It was pretty much like winning a poker tournament. In the beginning, you don’t really think you’re going to win it, but you double up and there’s suddenly a tiny chance. Then you double up again and you say, ‘Okay, I know the chances are still that I’m not going to make the money.’ But then you double up again and suddenly, you’re sitting there with almost all the chips heads-up, and it’s not a big surprise when you win it. But it’s been a slow ride up the hill.

Family guy

It helped my poker career in some ways. It helped me in a way that I’m not too concerned about bad beats. If a really horrible bad beat happens, I think, well, my son could have been brain damaged. I could have lost my kids, both of them, they could have died.

The bad thing is it puts more pressure on me to perform. I need to put food on the table. I have some pretty big swings, but I think my biggest swing was when I used to play on Full Tilt. But those swings at that time didn’t feel quite as bad as they do now, because suddenly as soon as I start losing $100k, $150k, I think, oh for f♠ck’s sake. We’re going to be on the streets.

Obviously it was a lot easier to travel for poker before I was a father and it’s getting easier again because the kids are getting to an age where they understand what’s going on. But I have a tendency to get a little more homesick than before, my travels are a little shorter than they used to be. [For a major festival] I used to come a day before the whole thing started and was then the last to leave the place. Now it’s more planned.

Before, if Gus [Hansen] called and said, ‘There’s a game,’ or if somebody called from Paris and said, ‘There’s a game here’, I would be on the next plane. That’s not going on so much so more. I don’t know if I miss those days, but I definitely think I’m losing out on some really good action. That’s a negative. The positive is that those two kids are giving so much back.’

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