Life Before Poker: Phil Laak

We know the big names are good at poker, but what did they do before they became poker greats? WE continue our series with a look at Phil Laak

Before Irish-born Phil Laak started entertaining the poker world by doing push-ups in the middle of a game or kneeling beside the dealer to be the first to see the next card, he was a bit of a jack of all trades. Graduating from the University of Massachusetts with a degree in mechanical engineering, he worked as an engineer. But he didn’t enjoy it, so he tried his hand at day trading and even repossessing cars, which he described as ‘dangerous and somewhat unstable’.

One day in San Diego he was eating in a restaurant and, hearing noise in a back room, he discovered a backgammon tournament underway. Having learned the game at university, he entered. And so began a profitable few years playing that before he turned his hand to poker – a game he’d been playing since he was seven when it served as a tool to buy chocolate.

Mostly frequenting underground clubs in New York until 2000, Laak’s friend and fellow player Antonio ‘The Magician’ Esfandiari convinced him to quit his job as a day-trader and go pro. He ended up moving in with Esfandiari, with whom – to this day – he still shares hotel rooms, even though the pair are now both millionaires several times over.

Despite his considerable poker success, last year’s World Series of Poker Pot Limit Hold’em runner-up still plays the stock market and deals in real estate.

Pin It

Comments are closed.