It’s hard to imagine, but if Faraz Jaka, the reigning World Poker Tour Player of the Year, had lost $20 more in a dorm-room card game some years ago, you never would have heard of him. That’s right, one of the most exciting and talented young players in poker was down to his last Andrew Jackson. But more on that later.
Articulate and fun, Jaka puts on a show every time he plays. But he’s not just about poker. If you had asked him a decade ago what he wanted to be when he got older, his answer then is the same as it is today … an entrepreneur. The 25-year-old phenom started playing cards while attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The San Jose, Calif., native had starred in track at Piedmont Hills High, once running the mile in 4 minutes, 29 seconds. There were scholarship offers, but he chose business school instead. His decision to attend Illinois was a bit “random,” but he wanted to expand beyond what he knew as a child.
“I was beginning to mature into the person I wanted to be and sometimes it is hard to express the new you when you are surrounded by people who knew the old you.”
This is Faraz Jaka, a never weary traveler with a healthy curiosity about positive energy, people, places and business.
He began playing $10 capped no-limit hold’em with 10-cent and 25-cent blinds in the student dorms. “At the time I didn’t even know what Texas Hold’em was. I had never heard of it. After a few weeks I was down $180 and that was a lot of money to me,” he said with a laugh.
One morning, in an elevator on his way to class, Jaka gave himself an ultimatum. If he lost another $20 in the dorm game he was swearing off poker forever.
“I thought poker might not be for me. I remember giving myself that lecture in that elevator. And for whatever reason from that point on, I went on a huge run.”
His competitive side took over and he began playing in bigger games in Champaign. It was during these times he saw an advertisement for Royal Vegas Poker online. Faraz was drawn to a Royal Vegas promotion that offered to pay your college tuition if you won a freeroll tournament.
“I never did play that freeroll. I began to deposit $25 at a time and before you know it I was buying in for $500 deposits.”
Jaka started off at Royal Vegas by taking $500 shots at $25-$50 NLHE cash games. It didn’t work. He switched strategies and began to grind $1-$2 and $2-$5 no-limit games. Within a few months, he built a $15,000 bankroll. He then returned to the $25-$50 one night and doubled his bankroll. He continued like a madman at even higher limits and within a week Jaka would win $175,000.
But this happy story takes a sorted twist.
The following is a press release from Harrah's Joliet, received by Chicago Poker Club on Monday, May 2, 2011.
Go “All In” for the New LIVE Poker Room at Harrah’s Joliet!
Throw your chips in the pot and go “all in” for the new poker room at Harrah’s Joliet Casino & Hotel. Opening May 2nd at 10am, the poker room will offer Limit & No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em, Omaha, and Seven Card Stud.
And starting May 2nd, (through May 17th), you can play to earn entries** to win the chance to compete against poker legend Doyle Brunson and 8 other finalists. If you win, you’re going to Vegas, Baby! Plus, you’ll get $1,500 for travel expenses and a seat at the World Series of Poker Main Event**, a total value of $10,000!
In addition to earning entries through poker play, you can also get the chance to win through Facebook. “Like” Harrah’s Joliet on Facebook to download an entry form. Then, bring your form to the Total Rewards® Center and you’ll be entered in the drawing for the chance to play.**Meet poker legend Doyle Brunson on Saturday, May 21st at 5pm at Stage 151. Purchase a book beginning at 8am to receive his autograph.**
Ask a group of aspiring poker players or even some of the more established pros about their poker related goals and most of them will say they would love to win a World Series of Poker bracelet at some point in their career. The WSOP bracelet is seen as the most coveted non-monetary prize that poker has to offer and this year there are no fewer than 65 tournaments being run that will award bracelets.
Although the WSOP has been running since 1970, the first bracelet awarded was not until 1976. Until then players received a variety of trophies, including a silver cup and a sterling plate but Benny Binion, the founder of the World Series of Poker, wanted players to have something they could keep and cherish and the tradition of the WSOP bracelet was born.
Winning a WSOP bracelet is seen as a massive achievement but the bracelets themselves were not held in high regard immediately by many of the players who won them. Doyle Brunson, who has won 10 such bracelets, admitted that he did not even bother to pick up two of his but over time the bracelets gained more and more prestige. Johnny Chan, another player who has won 10 WSOP bracelets, revealed in an interview that he keeps all of his poker jewellery locked away in a safe as they mean so much to him and Phil Hellmuth, who has won a record 11 bracelets, said “the bracelets have always been a really huge deal, to me more than the other guys, because I knew that they represented history.”
In the opening paragraph I said how the WSOP bracelet is the most coveted non-monetary prize in poker but that is not essentially true as it does have a significant monetary value. The 1976 edition of the bracelet was only worth around $500 but over time they have become more and more extravagant and made by master craftsmen. The bracelets awarded to Peter Eastgate, the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion, was made from 168 grams of 18kt white gold and was encrusted with 291 individual diamonds with a collective weight of 2.81 carets! Eastgate had the bracelet valued at $16,000 before he auctioned it off for charity, an auction that raised $100,000 for UNICEF.
The 42nd annual World Series of Poker begins on May 31 and sees 58 bracelet events take place. For your chance to get your hands, or should that be wrists, on one of the most sought-after pieces of jewellery in poker then you should really try Paypal Poker out for size. If you do not manage to qualify for the WSOP there is always the WSOPE a few months later where a further seven bracelets will be available to the lucky winners.