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When I Was A Donk: Jason Koon

by Julio Rodriguez |  Published: Dec 24, 2014


Jason KoonIn 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.

Jason Koon started playing poker in 2005, but didn’t turn pro until 2008, when he quit a good job with an insurance company to pursue his real passion. After dominating online under the names jakoon1985 and NovaSky, the West Virginia native turned his attention to live tournaments.

In his six-year career, Koon has racked up nearly $2.6 million in live tournament earnings, along with another $3.6 million online. In the last couple of years, he has become a regular in high roller tournaments around the world and in 2013 he finished runner-up in the Bellagio Cup IX main event.

Here, he explains how his ego cost him in his earlier playing days.

“When I first started playing, I was very guilty of always trying to be a hero, in one way or another. There were times where I would look for spots to make the most insane calls, or I’d do the opposite and try some ridiculous bluff that had little chance of succeeding. I guess I wanted to be the hero more than I wanted to win those chips.”

“I guess you could say that a lot of that was driven by ego, but you have to understand that before I had the basic fundamentals of poker down, I had competitive spirit. I had a lot of it.”

“Sometimes, it wouldn’t even cost me anything. In tournaments, you can punt off your stack in some dumb way and still get there by the river anyway. So I won a few tournaments early on and thought I was a beast for a while. It took some time before I was able to go out there and be a little more in control.”

“I remember one particular $10,000 event in Florida where I was one of the chip leaders on day 3 and made a river call with queen-high. It was a spot where I was up against a good player who was very polarized and either had the nuts or air. Nowadays, I’d just laugh and throw my hand away, but back then, I wanted to show down that queen-high so badly and I wanted it to be right.”

“My priorities were messed up. I wanted to show down that amazing call more than I actually wanted to win the tournament. Instead, he showed me top set and I walked out of there, having missed out on a great opportunity.” ♠