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A Poker Life With Eugene Todd

by Julio Rodriguez |  Published: Sep 02, 2015

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Eugene ToddEugene Todd emerged as a force on the tournament circuit during the poker boom and quickly established himself as one of the most colorful personalities in the game. The always outspoken and gregarious New Yorker wasn’t afraid to joke around, trash talk, or even complain about his luck at the table.

The 43-year-old former Wall Street stockbroker, better known by his fans as “Gene Todd Bro,” made a slew of World Poker Tour and World Series of Poker final tables between 2005 and 2009 before scaling back a bit on poker to focus on his family and side projects.
In early 2015, however, he returned to the limelight in a big way by finishing second in the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open and banking $419,467. In total, Todd has cashed for more than $2.4 million in live poker tournaments.

Here’s a look at a man who has never been afraid to put it all on the line.

A Born Hustler

Todd grew up in Brooklyn and from an early age learned that he didn’t have to work a typical job in order to get by.

“I was always a hustler,” he admitted. “Growing up, I never had anything. I can’t say I was poor, but after my parents split things went downhill. From then on I was all about making money. I’d sell stuff on the street or scalp tickets or whatever. When I was 15, I dropped out of school and went to work as a salesman on Orchard Street in Manhattan. I ended up working at a couple of different clothing stores there until I was 21.”

Though he spent years on Orchard Street getting by, Todd had set his sights squarely on bigger fish just two miles south on Wall Street.

“In 1992, I took my stockbroker test and passed,” said Todd. “I got a job and it was kind of like the movie Wolf of Wall Street, except that guy made a lot more money than I did. I did that for eight years, on and off. I’d come into work, hit the phones, and start shoving stocks down people’s faces. It was high pressure sales. Our firm would recommend stocks, we’d push them and collect a commission.”

Todd excelled at his new job, but the stress of the day-to-day grind began to weigh heavily on him.

“After a couple of years, I had my own team and I no longer needed to make the calls myself. I would just handle the existing accounts, which was a little easier. But I still got big-time burned out. I didn’t quit completely. Even when I stopped being a broker, I was still involved in some financing here and there.”

Poker Beginnings

It’s not surprising that anybody attracted to a job on Wall Street would also gravitate towards gambling.

“During this time we always played poker, but it wasn’t a lot of hold’em,” he recalled. “We’d play games like baseball, aces and eights, follow the queen or games with wild cards. I would run poker games in Manhattan sometimes, but that was a big headache.”
With Wall Street on the back burner, Todd jumped right onto the tournament circuit. He wasn’t very experienced, but he was a quick learner.

“I remember the first tournament I played was the $10,000 buy-in WPT event at the Borgata. That’s where I caught the bug. My family has known that I’ve been a whacko maniac my entire life, so they didn’t complain too much about me playing cards for a living. The biggest hurdle for me to get over was the fact that I was a huge degenerate when it came to betting sports.”

A Gambling Problem

Todd has no problem admitting that he had, and probably still has, a gambling problem. In fact, he emphasizes that it got to the level of degeneracy, especially when it came to sports betting.

“I was making a ton of money and losing a lot of it betting sports,” he said. “We’re talking millions of dollars. Back when I was still dating my wife, she knew that I was making all of this money on Wall Street, but didn’t know why I was so miserable all of the time. She didn’t realize at the time how much I was losing because my income was high enough to mask the losses. Then one weekend I was really messed up after losing something like $400,000. My girlfriend, who is now my wife, convinced me to go to Gamblers Anonymous.”

The 12-step program has helped thousands of people all over the country, but it has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to making bets. An office worker who throws a few bucks at a March Madness pool might be able to resist temptation, but it was an impossible task for someone who makes a living playing poker.

“Quitting gambling cold turkey was just not an option for me,” Todd admitted. “It’s not just about betting sports or buying lottery tickets, they don’t want you to make a friendly wager with friends and they don’t want you to even carry money around with you because you might bet it. I knew I couldn’t live like that, but I also knew that I had a big problem. So instead, in order to survive, I cut back on sports and focused on poker. I was going to gamble, but I was going to gamble smart.”

Winning, But Not Winning

Looking at his tournament resume, it’s easy to see a proven winner in Todd. But despite $2.4 million in earnings, there aren’t a lot of actual wins. In fact, despite 78 career cashes, Todd has only been the last man standing once, in a preliminary event at the Bellagio back in 2007.

Todd has three televised World Poker Tour final table appearances and another three at the World Series of Poker, but he isn’t shy in telling you how bad he has run in some crucial spots.

“Throughout my entire poker career I’ve been super unlucky in big spots at final tables,” he explained. “When I made the final table at the WPT Mirage Poker Showdown in 2005, I had Gavin Smith all in with pocket eights against his pocket sevens. He hit a seven and instead of going into the final table with a huge chip lead, I was short stacked and finished fifth. He goes on to win it for over a million dollars and then becomes a poker superstar.”

“Then in 2007 at the WPT Borgata Poker Open I had more than twice as many chips as the second-place stack when we were seven-handed. But for some reason, the short stacks kept getting lucky and doubling up. I think we ended up playing seven-handed for six hours and by the time the guy finally busted out, I had lost most of my chips.”

Moving Forward

In 2010, Todd decided to take a break from poker, cutting back his travel and choosing to concentrate on other projects. He is a partner in a Manhattan jewelry store that specializes in high-end watches.

“My kids, Eric and Gabriela, were getting older and I decided to stop traveling so much to play tournaments. I was sick of going to places like Tunica, Mississippi or Reno, Nevada and being away from them. I didn’t want to be the clown that followed the circus. So after that I decided to play semi-professionally, playing cash games and choosing my tournaments very carefully while also focusing on other things.”

Todd still bets big on sports. In May he flew to Las Vegas for the Floyd Mayweather fight against Manny Pacquiao and was sweating a $220,000 bet. Mayweather, who coincidentally is one of his clients at the jewelry store, won the fight and Todd was paid handsomely. The same goes for the Super Bowl when there were six figures on the line in favor of the New England Patriots.

As good as he’s running lately, Todd still wants that poker glory. He still wants to be the last man standing at the end of a long week of cards, finally in the winner’s circle, but he also knows he doesn’t have to win a major tournament to be a winner.

“Poker hasn’t always treated me well when it comes to luck, but I shouldn’t really complain because I’ve been super fortunate in life. Obviously it would have been nice to have won one of those tournaments, but everything else has worked out great. I’ve got two great kids and I’ve been married to my wife Michelle now for more than 20 years. I’m a lucky guy.” ♠