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A Poker Life: With Bryan Paris

by Julio Rodriguez |  Published: Mar 04, 2015


Bryan ParisWhen Black Friday hit the poker world in April of 2011, many U.S. online poker players were forced with the tough decision of moving abroad or taking their game to the variance-heavy waters of live tournament poker.

It wasn’t a tough decision at all for California native Bryan Paris, who found himself in Amsterdam, where he continued to prove why he’s considered to be one of the best online poker players in the world.

To date, Paris has racked up more than $7.5 million in online tournament earnings, just the fifth person to ever hit that milestone. He’s also started to branch out with the occasional live tournament, where he has picked up another $550,000 in earnings.

Poker Beginnings

Paris grew up in Menlo Park, California, a small city just outside of the San Francisco Bay near Palo Alto, as the older of two boys.

“I had a pretty basic childhood,” he recalled. “I grew up playing a lot of games. In high school, we would play poker in home games where the maximum bet was $5 per street and we’d use actual quarters and dollar bills. It wasn’t until I got to college at UC-Irvine that I started playing poker online.”

Paris received a scholarship and settled on studying economics, but poker was always his first love.

“I was constantly playing poker and I was winning enough to pay my bills, or at least all my expenses outside of tuition,” he explained. “But even though I loved it, I never seriously considered playing poker after I graduated. It was supposed to be just a hobby, but then I graduated and never really saw the need to get a real job.”

His father, who works in the corporate world, seemed okay with his decision to play poker right away, but it took a while to convince his mother that it was a legitimate job.

“It’s natural to be concerned when your son tells you they want to play a game for a living,” he said.

Turning Pro

Paris made an attempt at the normal nine-to-five grind with a few internships, but he wasn’t enjoying it. Every time, he would go back to poker. With poker, Paris could set his own schedule and come and go as he pleased.

“I really didn’t have that much [money] to go pro, to be honest. I only had about $20,000 in my bankroll when I decided to make a run at it, but back in 2007, the games were much softer and I was mostly playing $50 sit-n-gos. There was one month alone where I made $20,000 just playing $50 45-man sit-n-gos on PokerStars.”

As of February 2015, Paris has won more than $1.15 million playing sit-n-gos on just Full Tilt and PokerStars, according to Sharkscope data, but back in 2009 he began to concentrate more and more on multi-table tournaments.

“I added multi-table tournaments slowly into my rotation just because sit-n-gos were becoming such a mind-numbing grind,” he explained. “There was money to be made there, obviously, but you were never going to have a huge score. Eventually multi-table tournaments just took over the entire schedule.”

“I won the Sunday Brawl in June of 2009, which was kind of my first major score. I was heads-up with Shaun Deeb and had a slight chip lead, something like 3.2 million to 2.8 million. I offered him an even chop, but he just laughed at me. When I beat him 15 minutes later, it was the best feeling ever.”

The Black Friday Scare

Prior to Black Friday, Paris would only play live tournaments during the World Series of Poker or when he could win an online satellite to a European Poker Tour stop. Because of this limited live experience, he opted to move in order to continue playing online.

“When Black Friday came, there was no question that I was going to move to continue playing online poker. I just didn’t see myself making the full-time transition to live play, at least not right away. It also helped my decision that I had started off 2011 so well, winning something like $350,000 in the first three months of the year. So for me, the only question was where I was going to move.”

Paris wrestled with the decision throughout that summer’s WSOP schedule, and was also distraught over the possibility of never seeing his Full Tilt funds again.

“I had a lot of money stuck on Full Tilt and that summer, I just kind of watched in disbelief as it became less and less valuable,” he admitted. “Back then, we weren’t sure that anybody was ever going to get their money back. Fortunately for me, I didn’t sell any of it and got the full amount later on.”

Ultimately, Paris settled in Amsterdam, one of the more poker-friendly international cities in the world.

“I’ve always loved Amsterdam,” he said. “I actually met my fiancée back in 2006 when we were both studying abroad in Cambridge and one of the cities that we visited was Amsterdam. Even before Black Friday, we came back to Amsterdam like three or four times just to vacation. After a little while in Canada, we decided to find something a little more permanent, and the answer was Amsterdam. Because I set up a poker coaching business, I was able to get a Dutch-American Friendship Treaty, which allows me to stay in the country as long as I want.”

A Short List

Once he settled in the Netherlands, Paris, who plays under the name “bparis,” picked up right where he left off online, continuing to crush the mid- and high-stakes online tournament scene. During the week, Paris spends about $3,000 in buy-ins per day and during the weekends, that number can jump anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000. At his busiest times, Paris is playing on up to 15 tables at a time.

“I know those numbers sound ridiculous to the average person,” he admitted. “It’s a lot of money to spend each week on buy-ins and it’s a lot of tables to play at once, but I’ve been doing it so long that it’s kind of second nature at this point.”

Because of his continued dedication to online poker, Paris recently became just the fifth player to ever top $7.5 million in online winnings, joining the likes of Chris “moorman1” Moorman, Shaym “s_dot11” Srinivasan, Jeremy “daisyxoxo” Fitzpatrick, and Sebastian “p0cket00” Sikorski.

“I think it’s really cool,” Paris said of his accomplishment. “It puts it all into perspective when you see just how few people have been able to accomplish that. In poker, you tend to focus on the short term and a bad stretch can give a player doubts about his ability, but a milestone like this is a nice reminder that I’m doing things the right way.”

Some Live Success

Paris’ new home in Amsterdam gives him close proximity to a number of EPT stops throughout the year and, as a result, he’s been playing a lot more live tournament poker in the last year. In fact, 2014 included some of his best performances ever.

In March, he picked up the biggest live score of his career, earning $99,677 for taking fourth in a €1,000 buy-in side event at EPT Vienna. Then in May, he took fourth again in the €2,000 buy-in side event at the EPT Monte Carlo Grand Final for $28,356. Just hours later, he won the €2,000 eight-max event for $89,349 and his first career live tournament title.

“Until that point, I had somehow gone six years without winning a live tournament, but it didn’t really feel all that different than winning an online tournament, to be honest. I was in the zone and running hot and I just happened to close it out.”

When asked why he is suddenly seeing success in the live arena, Paris admitted that it was a combination of two factors.

“Part of it is that I’m just playing a lot more live tournaments,” he explained. “Because of my proximity to all of these EPT tournaments, I can play a few every couple of months and obviously the more chances you get, the better you’ll do. But the other part of it is that I’ve adjusted my live game to the European style of poker, which is a little more aggressive. The average player in Europe is significantly better than the average player at the WSOP, for example. You just have to adjust and be able to take a lot of heat on your hands because players are less willing to give up.”

Moving Forward

For now, Paris is extremely comfortable with his European lifestyle. Although he occasionally misses having an oversized refrigerator and a two-car garage, he’s happily adjusted to life in Amsterdam. When he’s not playing poker or coaching students, Paris enjoys exploring the history of Europe with his fiancé, Nicole.

“I really love it here in Amsterdam, but if the U.S. somehow got online poker up and running, then I think it would be much softer than PokerStars is right now. I’d most likely move back just because it would be the place to be. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep playing poker.”

You can get coaching from Bryan at and follow him on Twitter at @bparispoker. ♠