Bryan Devonshire knows the life of a poker pro is a roller coaster ride. He was just one bad turn of a card from giving up the poker life. Now he’s excited about poker again and hoping to cash in on his WPT final table appearance. He’s also currently at the final two tables of the WPT championship. We talked to Bryan about the WSOP, poker reality shows, and why poker is really work..
PokerLizard: You were in a prolonged slump for several months and your blog made it seem like you
were very close to giving up poker? How close was it, and why? What made you decide
to stick it out with poker?
Bryan Devonshire: I decided to answer this question in my blog:
From Bryan’s Blog “Reflections”: “The other thing that I’ve been thinking a lot about these last two weeks is how sick this game is. Y’all know about my gnarly run from July to December last year, losing 100k and breaking myself. After the soul searching and everything I did, I had decided in January that if nothing good happened by the 25k next week I was quitting poker. Why? I wasn’t having fun anymore. I became a professional poker player so that I would have the freedom to do the things I wanted to do while still having enough money to be comfortable. From 2003-2005 I did a great job at this. Granted, if i had dedicated myself to poker more, I probably would have made a ton more money in that period, but instead I spent my free time exploring Colorado and guiding whitewater in Colorado and California. It was a super fun time and those memories are priceless. I moved to Minnesota, was consistently beating the 15-30 game, and met all those stud players up there. I went to the 06 series, had instant success, and had suddenly been bit by the greed bug. I wanted to be famous. I justified this with the value of fame (for example… $15k to wear a patch at a final table). However, I truly just wanted to be famous. I wanted people to know who I was. I wanted to walk into a room and be recognized, sign autographs, shake hands, and be that guy.
The problem with that desire is that often to be that person you need to think that you’re better than everybody. This attitude ruined me until I got that wake-up call last August. I am not better than anybody. I’m just me. I happen to be good at poker. But so what? I was much more famous when I was guy named Maverick that worked at camps with kids. I was famous then because I loved people, I cared for people, and I dedicated who I was to serving others.
Now I am at a point where I have the opportunity to blend the two. I have finally altered my attitude to understand these facts and have been blessed with the notariety and money that my success has brought me.”
Bryan Devonshire: Only so in the context of financial pressures and “what will I do” pressures. I didn’t feel any pressure to make a tv final table or anything though.
PokerLizard: How did you like the new Final Table structure?
Bryan Devonshire: I possibly would have went apeshit at the old structure since the “new” structure was ridiciculously fast also. I think it is heavily advantageous to the internet player though as stacks are shorter and the internet player is significantly better with a 15 BB stack than a live player.
PokerLizard: What is it like playing on a wpt TV table, is it super slow, hot lights, distracting…give us no names the scoop.
Bryan Devonshire: It was a ton of fun. I think that was assisted by my personality, but I just soaked it all up and enjoyed myself. I mean, seriously, what a sweet opportunity. I was going to make sure that I enjoyed it. I suppose if I was there and all I wanted to do was play poker I would have gotten frustrated, but we were there to make a TV show, and the money they paid me to wear a patch more than made up for any complaining I could have about tape change delays or 2nd takes.
PokerLizard: Any idea when the show will air?
Bryan Devonshire: August sometime is what I heard.
PokerLizard: . What do you hope to gain with your TV time…fame? sponsorship?
Bryan Devonshire: Ultimate goal would be a sponsorship deal which would make life that much easier.
PokerLizard: Why was it so hard to line up a sponsor for the final table…you seem more well known than some of the other players.
Bryan Devonshire: I’m not really sure. It sure was a pain in the ass though. Probably the timing of the event and the fact that it was the smallest WPT TV final table of the season, thus there wasn’t any reps on site.
PokerLizard: Anyone ask you to stake them yet? wanna stake me…just kidding.
Bryan Devonshire: Yup. Prob half a dozen poker players. I even got asked by somebody that I haven’t seen since July to stake somebody that I met once in July in billiards. He’s got the best chance of procuring staking…lol.
PokerLizard: So you missed last year’s WSOP Main Event due to a family emergency?
Bryan Devonshire: Yeah.
PokerLizard: That sucks man, you were playing good.
Bryan Devonshire: Yeah, I busted out, like 14 straight. I got a little burned out in tournaments anyways, and my backer went bust, so he told me he’s not gonna put me in the main. So I was, kind of, like, eh, whatever, get out of here.
PokerLizard: So even though you paid your backer back in spades, he didn’t want to front you in the main event? What’s the deal with that?
Bryan Devonshire: Well, yeah, I mean, I cashed for second and sent the guy a bunch of cash. I ask about the rest of the rest of the series and he’s like, “Well, we’ll talk tomorrow. I kinda wanna play bigger myself. Yeah, he lost a lot and couldn’t back me. Bad luck for me, huh?
Bryan Devonshire: I fully understand though. I understand his situation, if I was backing some kid and I ran bad. It’s just kind of silly when the guy you’re backing hands you a hundred thousand and you won’t ship him 30 back just to cover the rest of the Series.
PokerLizard: I noticed that you mentioned that you’d like to see some TV producers, or maybe ESPN, add some money to the prize pool. I was at the WSOP press conference and some guy from Europe asked the exact same question: “How come you’re not adding any money to the WSOP Europe, when other big events in Europe they add money to the prize pool?”
Bryan Devonshire: It’s just pretty sick that we’re paying to compete in this event, and then they’re making money off of us playing. There are no perks, whatsoever, for the player, and it’s, kind of, sick that they take advantage of us degenerate gamblers like that. If we didn’t play then there’d be no business and nobody coming, so you can’t get the money.
I would love to see some organization like the WPA buy the series, hold it as a non-profit and all the money that Harrah’s is making off of endorsements go straight to prize pool, straight to the players. Yeah, how good for poker would that be..
PokerLizard: That really would be sweet. I’ve actually heard some rumors that Harrah’s is thinking about selling the World Series of Poker. I don’t know how serious they are though.
Bryan Devonshire: You can take a bet on Harrah’s not owning the Series next year.
Bryan Devonshire: Most people don’t know it. So they’re talking about – like, Binnion is talking about buying the Series in Rio, and I’ve heard that Harrah’s is in the final negotiations to sell out. Including the series. But, who knows, there’s no guarantee it will happen or be good for poker no matter who they sell to.
PokerLizard: Yeah, it’s like that old Who song, Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss.
Bryan Devonshire: Yeah, exactly. Poker’s still on the cusp of becoming almost as respected as a sport. Not in actual terms of a sport but as far as the media, the public interest, and the money involved.
PokerLizard: Right. So let’s talk about your WSOP second place finish this year. Is it a situation where you’re glad that you did really well, or were you just pissed since you came in second?
Bryan Devonshire: I did as well as I possibly could’ve. At the final table there wasn’t a single thing I could’ve done different. However, I could’ve played better on day two. If I played like I should have, I would have had probably double the chips coming in the final table. It really would have made a difference because when we playing heads up, there was only, I think, 18 ½ big bets of play, and there’s pretty super gross considering that you’re playing for a bracelet. Like, two players with 8 bets each, dead even, and – yeah, so, I mean, we played one big pot where 2/3 of the chips in play went in. He screwed me on that one. After that it was pretty much game over, especially in Limit.
PokerLizard: And you’ve been pretty outspoken about how the structure at the final table this year is, like, terrible and you’ve been critical of the poker tent and some other things. I mean, what changes would you make for the World Series of Poker if you could?
Bryan Devonshire: Well, the structure must be fixed. The first thing is easy. They made the levels on the final tables go from 90 minutes to 50 minutes this year. And, you know, the final tables, on average, are taking, you know, 50 to 65% less than the final tables last year. Now that’s just ridiculous when you’re playing for that kind of money.
They skip a couple of pretty significant levels. With the double stacks they’ve kept the same levels. They took out the first one, but they’ve kept the same opening levels, and they’ve taken out some of the deeper levels to make it play faster.
Bryan Devonshire: It’s too slow in the beginning and too fast at the end. And that’s the first major change needed. Second, I mean, they really gotta give priority to the tournament players and just keep em out of the tent, there’s just so many problems they have in there. To have tournaments in the tent when got cash games and satellites going on inside, that’s pretty – not cool at all.
Other than that, I mean, I think the tent was a pretty good idea, they just had never done it before and kind of ran into problems. I just think they could have handled the problems that they had better. They also need to be open the day before the events start, like they have every other year.
Bryan Devonshire: You know, that made all the huge crazy lines you have to go through the first day or two. Yeah, I mean, every other year they have a day before, and then they had the employee event, and then they have the first event. So there’s a few days where you can get in and register and don’t have to worry about huge lines This year they were trying to register for 5K and the final round employee, and everybody wanted to buy in for the 1500, and cash games, it all started at the same time.
PokerLizard: Did they make any good changes?
Bryan Devonshire: I think they did good by flattening the payout structure. And yeah, when they have problems arise; they usually did a pretty good job of correcting the problems. Like, in my event, when they had this super hurricane wind hitting the tent they went on break early to make sure that they got everybody out of there.
PokerLizard: I noticed in your blog you often call poker; “work”. Whereas, other players seem to call it play as in, “I went to play poker.” You say, “I went to work.” Is that just typically – a different mindset for you, as far as poker’s concerned?
Bryan Devonshire: Yeah, it’s definitely a mindset thing, because I’m one of the few that actually treat poker like a business. I pay myself hourly into a private checking account in my bank, completely separate from the bankroll. So, you know, win or losing, I am getting paid per hour that I work. I go to work. Sometimes I work overtime, sometimes I leave work early just like a normal person. That’s contingent upon the game and all the other factors.
But it’s just got to be a mindset because I’ve seen so many kids that come into poker and gamble, gamble, gamble, gamble and think there’s no difference between being a professional poker player and being a professional gambler. But I think it’s much healthier, just for life. It’s much healthier just to consider it work – consider it a job because it’s really tough to have any sort of longevity in this game. Otherwise, the lifestyle will burn you out. If you put so much reliance on your results, it’s just gonna drive you nuts.
The psychology is really the only thing that sets players apart at the table, since over the long run everybody’s gonna get the same cards. And when you play at the highest level everybody knows how to play ABC poker. So psychology is the only thing that makes one player better or worse than another and sometimes it’s a long-term thing and sometimes it’s a short-term thing.
PokerLizard: Speaking of overtime, a lot of poker pros say they’ll play at the table until the game doesn’t become juicy enough for them to play anymore. What is your longest session, and what do you think about that?
Bryan Devonshire: My longest session ever is somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 hours. I’ve done that a few times there was no way I was playing nearly as good as I should’ve. So now I just won’t play longer than 12 hours ever.
PokerLizard: No matter how juicy the game is?
Bryan Devonshire: Unless there’s a really, really, really, super, unusual circumstance, but it’s gotta be something, pretty unique for me to stick around.
PokerLizard: So what do you think helped you take it to the next level and become a pro? Was it books, was it just putting your time in at the tables? You actually worked as a dealer for a while?
Bryan Devonshire: The best thing for me was surrounding myself with players better than me. That really happened for me in Minnesota. I worked my own way up to the 15/30 level, and was beating it consistently. And that’s why I believe that if you’re capable of becoming a pro then you can do that on your own with just the regular ole study aid books, playing just a lot of hands, all that kind of stuff. But to really excel you need to learn from players that are better than you, so I’d just hang out with guys like that. All guys my age, you know, two years ago they were all better than me. We’d play and go over hands together. “Why’d you do that?” Or I’d run hands by them, and be, “What did I do well, or what did I do not well here?” And they would talk me through it. The next time I’d find myself in the same situation I could go back to the advice.
You have to be open to criticism, you have to willing to learn and willing to be taught, you have to be teachable. You can only get so much from a book. It’s like trying to learn Spanish from a book. You can’t. The only way you’re gonna learn Spanish is by hanging out with people that actually speak Spanish.
PokerLizard: So you were in Minnesota couple of years. What made you decide to just chuck it all and come to Vegas?
Bryan Devonshire: I got divorced.
PokerLizard: And you just said, “Well, fuck it. I need a change of pace?”
Bryan Devonshire: Yeah, eventually. The main reason was I came here at the beginning of the 2006 WSOP my marriage was already gone to shit and I wanted to live with the one person that had been there for me my entire life, and that was my brother. He wanted to get the hell out of LA and I didn’t want to go back to LA, and leave the Colorado River, so we’re thinking, Laughlin. Laughlin kind of sucks for long term work and social life so we ended up picking Vegas. East side of Henderson, right by the lake.
PokerLizard: So has the life of a poker pro been pretty much all you thought it would be? You know, is it all it’s cracked up to be?
Bryan Devonshire: Better than I’d thought it would be living in – as a Vegas poker pro. I’ve been full-time for almost four years now.
PokerLizard: So you played mostly up at Canterbury, up in Minnesota?
Bryan Devonshire: Yes, but I played online when I was living in Colorado. I was actually honestly really worried about moving to Vegas. Every time before I’d been it’s, like, “Hey, party time,” you know.
Bryan Devonshire: All that kind of good stuff. So one of the things we wanna do – since we’re small town boys. “Let’s just get as far outside of town as we can,” so we’re living at the second to the last exit from the edge of town – right on the way to Lake Mead.
Now I love Vegas so much. The people on the outskirts of town are so great and we’re 15 minutes from everything. Whether it be the lake, riding a dirt bike, going shooting, or, going to a club on the strip. Everything is really, really close. Everything’s open late here, which is awesome. At the end of the session, and you can go to a local 24-hour bar and grill and you get steak and lobster for twenty six bucks three blocks from my house.
Bryan Devonshire: You can’t beat that, I’m just sort of living the late night lifestyle I guess. But also, you know, try to live with some sort of sanity.
PokerLizard: You take the poker real professionally, but are there any leaks to your bankroll, do you go out gambling? Since you already pay yourself upfront, you gotta go out and have some fun. You’re a young guy right?
Bryan Devonshire: Oh, of course. Yeah, I mean, like, whenever I make a big hit, like during the series, I always go out and blow, some money. Buy myself a toy as a positive reinforcement. But I’m actually pretty dang good about protecting my bankroll. It stays in lock boxes. I try not to carry that much cash around.
When I first came to town I had a problem gambling just cause, you have to have a gambling spirit to be a professional poker player. But as soon as my brother and my other roommate moved in together, we made a $5,000 side bet with each other that if you gambled more than $100 in the pit you would lose the $5,000.
It was really good just to keep us from losing discipline and teach me to realize that you can still have fun at the craps table for a hundred dollar buyin instead of a $2,000 buyin.
PokerLizard: Right, so anybody lose that bet yet?
Bryan Devonshire: No.
PokerLizard: Oh wow. Not even a drunken fit of rage after you get knocked out on a bad beat?
Bryan Devonshire: Nope. Five-K is pretty good motivation tool to not go off in the pit.
PokerLizard: Are you a quasi-part of the crew with Dutch and Scott Fischman?
Bryan Devonshire: The crew doesn’t really exist anymore but I am friends with all of them, I’ve known Dutch for a long time, but, as I wasn’t around when the crew was “the crew”.
PokerLizard: I know Dutch was trying to put a reality show together…
Bryan Devonshire: If he didn’t get sick it was going to go off this year. It was going to be a pretty sweet gig. All of us were going to live in a house and we were going to play a satellite for the event that was going on at the WSOP the next day. So we would have poker with recognizable faces on a consitent basis playing good poker.
We had the table lined up, the TV outlet line up…it would be poker/reality/bunch a guys in the WSOP. I think it’s a great concept and could still take off and fly. You’d have some consistency in the players and people could root for who they like. Since we are all so eclectic in our personalities the mix should appeal to a lot of people. It would have been fantastic, a bunch of young idiot sharing a house and all the shennanigans that go along with that…
PokerLizard: Do you think the poker world will ever forgive Dutch for that PokerSpot debacle?
Bryan Devonshire: I do not believe the internet poker world will forgive him. I believe it will fade over a few years. No one liked Stuey when he was alive but now he’s considered a legend. I don’t think it will be quite on that level but I know the story from his point of view and I know the story from the outside point of view, a lot of people got screwed out of money and it’s hard to forgive that.
They need to understand that it occurred at the very beginning of internet poker and it was a very high risk venture. I definitely don’t think the internet poker community will ever forgive him. He didn’t do a very good job businesswise or in covering his ass.
PokerLizard: So did you catch a decent amount of shit when you asked for a WSOP backer in your blog last year? Was it nice to have a good sized cash to shove back in people’s faces?
Bryan Devonshire: It was pretty fun to do that. Some people said things like, “you just want people to give you money”. It’s nothing like that, it cost $61k to play the entire series and that’s a lot of change for anyone to plunk down. Almost everyone is backed in one way or another. It was definitely a great pleasure; I had two guys who were going to back me at $30k each and they bailed on me the Thursday right before the series started. So it was fun to laugh haha (Nelson style laugh).
PokerLizard: You had a cash in the casino employee event a couple years ago, were you a dealer?
Bryan Devonshire: No, I was a prop in a casino for awhile.
PokerLizard: What’s it like being a prop?
Bryan Devonshire: BEST…JOB…EVER for being a poker pro. If you’re not a high stakes pro you should be a prop. It is so much easier for taxes, psychology…they give you health benefits even. If I wasn’t good enough to make it as a high stakes pro I’d be as happy as can be living in the Colorado mountains being a prop. It paid $10/hr. to start and they tack on full benefits after 3 months. I played and beat the $2 to $5 spread game for $18 per hour; so I was making $28 an hour. I was making about $56k a year, health benefits, only worked 4 days a week, you get to drink a beer on the job if you want, get to wear regular clothes, you hang out with nice people…it was a fine life. Not everyone would be able to beat the game for $18/hr. but I guarantee you let me train someone for three months and they could beat it for at least $10/hr.
PokerLizard: I played some low limit at the Gold Coast, which is a toilet, during the WSOP, and the highest they spread is $4-$8 limit. The players are so bad it’s hard to believe. It’s a bunch of old geezer’s playing any two suited etc…at what point does ABC poker become unprofitable?
Bryan Devonshire: Never. You always hear things from bad players like, I can’t beat that $4-$8 game, there’s no fold equity. You tell them, Idiot…quit trying to make them fold. The worse the opponents, the better ABC poker is. Basically, just pound away when you have the best hand and hope it holds up. It only becomes unprofitable at the higher stakes where everyone knows ABC poker.
PokerLizard: So at what level does it become unprofitable? $5-$10? $15-$30?
Bryan Devonshire: It’s a coin flip at $30/$60, if you have good game selection you can play ABC at $30/$60, in Vegas even. Especially if you’re playing in Arizona or Minnesota which are great for limit poker. You can even play ABC at the $60/$120 and beat the game for $100k a year EASILY. They played so bad last night, I lost 3 pots over $2k each and won 1 pot over $2k, lost another over $3k and still walked away up $3,200 for the night. It’s hilarious how bad they play.
PokerLizard: You mentioned buying something nice when you make a big score, what did you buy after the Reno final table?
Bryan Devonshire: Yeah, an 05 Roush Mustang GT Convertable
PokerLizard: One last question, If you were Mike McDermott in the movie Rounders…how long would it take you to get with Famke Janssen after being dumped?
Bryan Devonshire: Same night…haha.
PokerLizard: Thanks Bryan.
Bryan Devonshire: Thank you.
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