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A Poker Life: Chris Klodnicki

by Julio Rodriguez |  Published: Aug 22, 2012

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Chris KlodnickiMichael Mizrachi won the 2012 World Series of Poker $50,000 Poker Players Championship. The guy who finished second? That’s Chris Klodnicki, a 27-year-old pro who has been one of the most consistent players on tour, despite flying under the radar.

The New Jersey native has earned over $5.6 million in tournaments over the course of his five-year career and yet, he doesn’t even consider himself a tournament pro. When he’s not tearing up the circuit, he’s playing in the biggest cash game Atlantic City has to offer.

Poker Beginnings

Chris Klodnicki was born on May 11, 1985 in Camden, New Jersey, but moved to Vorhees, New Jersey, an affluent suburb of Philadelphia, when he was six. While in high school, his older brother introduced him to Texas hold’em and Klodnicki immediately became hooked on the game.

“I used to play $10 and $20 home games back in high school,” he recalled. “A couple of us then got some fake IDs, drove down to Atlantic City and played some $2-$4 limit hold’em. That got old pretty quick, so I put some money online and started to build my bankroll by playing limit hold’em and sit-n-gos.”

After deciding to attend college at nearby Lehigh University, Klodnicki was at a crossroads; both his older brother and father went into medicine but he was unsure of his own path.

“I never really knew what I wanted to do with my life,” he admitted. “That’s probably why it was so easy for me to decide on poker, simply because I didn’t really have anything else to do. I tried engineering for a while, but that didn’t work out. So instead, I got my degree in finance.”

Klodnicki cruised through his classes, all while building his bankroll online. By his junior year, he had crossed the $100,000 mark. With graduation approaching, he made the decision to turn pro, much to the dismay of his parents.

“It wasn’t so much that I didn’t go into medicine. They were more disappointed that I had chosen poker over every other respectable profession out there. They’re pretty conservative and conventional, so they really didn’t like the idea of me gambling for a living. Of course, I don’t really gamble for a living, but they didn’t understand that at the time.”

Shortly after receiving his diploma, Klodnicki moved in with a friend and began to grind online multitable tournaments. With classes over, he could now put in longer sessions, allowing him to take advantage of the big fields and prize pools.

Live Tournament Success

Chris KlodnickiKlodnicki tore up the online tournament scene. In a matter of just a couple of years, he had earned over $1 million playing under the name SLOPPYKLOD. Now it was time to turn his attention to live events, specifically, the World Series of Poker. He had made the trip in 2007, while still in college, but only played in a few events.

“I remember my first summer in Las Vegas,” said Klodnicki. “I was staying with Joe Udine, a former online poker player. We were staying at Mandalay Bay and didn’t know any better, so we actually walked to the Rio. It was something like three miles at 110 degrees. I was pretty naive, I guess you could say.”

Though his first trip to the desert got his feet wet, the second trip is where he dove in head first into the deep end. Klodnicki wound up cashing three times in 2008, including finishing runner-up in the $1,500 Razz event for $97,389. Then, he nearly made the November Nine in the main event, taking 12th place for $591,869.

The success continued back home, where he won a $2,000 main event at Borgata for $226,780. When the 2009 WSOP rolled around, he was ready for some more. He wound up taking third in the $2,500 mixed event, banking another $97,897. A few months later, he won the $5,000 WSOP Circuit main event at Harrah’s in Atlantic City for $215,915.

In 2010, he made three more final tables, including finishing second at the $10,000 WSOP Circuit Regional Championship for a $221,452 score. His 2011 campaign was even more profitable, as Klodnicki made three final tables, including a win at the now defunct Epic Poker League main event for $801,680, a number only topped by his recent cash in the 2012 WSOP $50,000 Poker Players Championship, where he finished runner-up to Michael Mizrachi for $896,935.

Incredibly, Klodnicki almost didn’t play in the tournament due to a bad run of events earlier in the series.

“I was kind of down about the rest of my series and I couldn’t sell the pieces I wanted to sell. I was on the fence and had decided to head to Bellagio to play cash games instead. At the last minute, my buddy texted me and told me the game was full, so I fired up the tournament.”

Mixed Games Prowess

You might not have picked out Klodnicki as a favorite entering the $50,000 Poker Players Championship, an event which features a 10-game rotation, but you’d be wrong to assume that the former no-limit hold’em tournament specialist was lacking in mixed-game skills.

Chris Klodnicki“I learned how to play the mixed games back in 2008, just because I was bored with the monotony of no-limit hold’em,” he said. “I just dabbled at first, but now it’s my main game. Ever since online poker was shut down, I’ve been driving to Borgata in Atlantic City every weekend to play in the $300-$600 mixed game.”

It was that experience that helped Klodnicki navigate his way through one of the toughest fields in poker, along with a final table that included Andy Bloch, Luke Schwartz, Stephen Chidwick, Bill Chen, David Oppenheim and Bruno Fitoussi, along with the aforementioned Mizrachi, a two-time champion.

“It was a tough tournament, no doubt about it, but it wasn’t the worst spot in the world for me either. I’d say that I’ve put in more hours at mixed games than 80 percent of the players in that field.”

No Ego

Klodnicki now lives in Philadelphia, where he is close to the action at the new Parx Casino. During the week when the big game isn’t running in Atlantic City, he stays close to home to grind out cash games. That being said, he doesn’t let poker take over his life.

“I don’t like being totally engulfed in poker,” he said. “That’s what the WSOP is for. The rest of the year, I try to take it easy. I’ve been very fortunate to have a pretty consistent stretch of good scores. I’ve never taken shots, never gone on big downswings and haven’t really had to sweat my finances. It’s not because I’m the greatest player out there, it’s just because I’m not a big spender and I’m pretty careful with my money.”

Klodnicki says that he’s always been a bit of a bankroll nit, despite playing in the biggest game Atlantic City has to offer. He’s never been backed and, other than selling some pieces to larger buy-in tournaments, he’s always played on his own dime. If an event comes up that he doesn’t feel is a good fit, he won’t play. It’s that simple.

“Big egos are a major problem in poker,” he explained. “A lot of players just don’t understand that they can be hit by variance at any time. They think that they are better than they are. They think that they can beat any game and as a result, a lot of them play over their heads and wind up broke. That won’t happen to me. Cashing in a tournament should never be a big deal. If you are stressing about the bubble, then you are playing too high.”

Klodnicki’s parents were initially concerned with his decision to play poker for a living, but after seeing his decision pay off over the last five years, they have now accepted him and his chosen profession.

“They know I’m not some degenerate. I’ve been pretty successful and I think that I play the game and go about my business the right way. I’ve always treated poker as my career, which is something that some of the younger players sometimes forget about. A lot of them lose sight of the bigger picture.”

Moving Forward

Chris KlodnickiNot having online poker around has been a major life adjustment for Klodnicki, who now must commute to play in his preferred game. The rough schedule has been tough on his life outside of poker, which must now adapt to fit his schedule.

“Before, if I was playing bad, I could just shut down my computer,” he said. “Now, I’ve already driven an hour, waited to get in the game and sat down for a full 15-hour session. I’m less likely to just rack up and leave, so I play through it instead. It’s inconvenient, but that’s just how it is these days. There’s not much I can do other than try and make the best of it.”

When asked what his plans are for the rest of his life, whether he will continue to play poker or move onto something else, Klodnicki is unsure.

“That’s a question I’ve been avoiding for quite some time. I don’t have any big plans or anything. I like where I’m at and I like what I’m currently doing. That’s enough for now and I’ll figure the rest out later.” ♠