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When I Was A Donk: Tom McEvoy

by Julio Rodriguez |  Published: Sep 03, 2014

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Tom McEvoyIn this series, Card Player asks top pros to rewind back to their humble beginnings and provide insights regarding the mistakes, leaks, and deficiencies that they had to overcome in order to improve their games.

With four World Series of Poker bracelets, Tom McEvoy is one of the most decorated poker players in history. The 1983 WSOP main event winner has more than $2.9 million in career tournament earnings and was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2013.

McEvoy, originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, has called Las Vegas, Nevada home for decades. During his career, he has worked as a prop player, a poker room manager, a poker author, and is credited for bringing smoke free poker to the WSOP.

Here, he explains how he let his ego get the best of him in a hand against the legendary Doyle Brunson.

“There was one hand, way back in 1983 during the World Series of Poker main event, that sticks out in my mind. I had been running over Doyle Brunson all tournament long. At the time, I was still a relatively unknown player, but every time Doyle came into the pot, I came over the top, shutting him down.”

“There were only a couple tables left and Doyle just about had it. He told me, ‘no man alive can continue to do what you are doing to me and get away with it.’ I thought that I had rattled him and he was getting annoyed.”

“Then a hand came up where he raised the button and I came over the top once again, this time with two jacks. He called and the flop came K-Q-x. I had about 150,000 in chips at the time, which was above average and more than enough to get me to the final table, but I just had to show Doyle how tough I was.”

“I ended up making a big bet at it and he called. Of course, I shut it down on the turn and he won the pot with a bet. I found out later he just had A-10, but I had allowed him to change how I was playing. I should have just check/folded the hand, but I wound up losing 40 percent of my stack to one of the greatest players ever just because of my ego. I wanted to be able to say that I outplayed him, but he got the best of me.”

“My mistake came from my own attitude. I entered that event with the mentality that I wasn’t going to let anybody intimidate me. But I became way too cocky and I allowed Doyle to goad me into making a bad play. It may seem like a minor hand to some people, but that’s when I learned to swallow my pride at the poker table. Fortunately for me, it didn’t cost me in the end, since I wound up winning the tournament anyway. Doyle finished third, which was the last time he ever made the main event final table.”