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Poker Stories Podcast With Mike Leah

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Jul 18, 2018

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Poker Stories is a long-form audio podcast series that features casual interviews with some of the game’s best players and personalities. Each episode highlights a well-known member of the poker world and dives deep into their favorite tales both on and off the felt.

Age: 43
Lives: Innisfil, Ontario, Canada
Live Tournament Earnings: $7.4 million

Top Five Tournament Scores

Date Tournament Place Winnings
Sept. 2014 $5k Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open 2nd $1,047,638
Mar. 2015 $10k WPT L.A. Poker Classic 2nd $701,350
Aug. 2017 $25k Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open High Roller 2nd $561,600
Oct. 2014 $25k WSOP Asia Pacific High Roller 1st $527,500
June 2018 $50k WSOP Poker Players Championship 4th $364,197

Mike Leah gambled on a career in poker, giving up a cushy six-figure salary as a sales manager to try his luck on the felt. The gamble paid off, as the 43-year-old Canadian has been one of the more accomplished tournament grinders of the last decade, having racked up more than $10 million in combined live and online scores.

In addition to winning to a World Series of Poker bracelet back in 2014, Leah has also dominated at the Fallsview Poker Classic, having won the same huge event three out of four years. Earlier this year, he returned to Fallsview and won the World Poker Tour main event, but not without a little controversy.

Highlights from this interview include unscheduled days off, high-stakes fantasy poker, avoiding cauliflower ear, missing the Moneymaker boom, giving up a good job, a quick start in Vegas, POY expectations, why ego cost him a few hundred grand, Fallsview: the home away from home, the birthday bracelet, chop controversies, loving it at McDonalds, drowning out Kabrhel and Hawkins, and a thing for Alyssa Milano.

The Highlights

On giving up a good-paying job to play poker for a living…

“I was making like $100k a year, way back then. It was a good job. I had worked my way into a good situation. I had a free company vehicle, and my expenses were paid. It was a pretty cushy job… In the spring of 2006, I was traveling for work and doing my job, while playing quite a bit of poker. I satellited into the WSOP main event online. So I came down to Vegas for the first time, played the main event, and then played some of those Bellagio Cup nightly events. I chopped a $1k, and then two nights later chopped it again. I know I left Vegas that summer with more than $100,000. I put in pretty heavy volume in 2007… I juggled both poker and work. I was wanting to play more poker, travel a bit more… and I came to the conclusion that I had to choose one or the other. I wasn’t enjoying life because I was either working or playing poker 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and I had no social life. Not much time for anything else. So I kind of knew I had to do one or the other.”

On his failed attempt at building a staking empire…

“I had more of a bankroll than I ever could have imagined, and I started staking other people. I started building a staking operation. Bax and Sheets (Cliff Josephy and Eric Haber) were the shit back then, so for some reason I got it in my mind that I was going to be bigger than [they were]. So I dove right in. (How many horses?) Oh my god. Five, to 10, to 15, to 20. I would send out weekly emails with competitions. I was putting up prizes for the best horse of the week. I was trying to run it like I ran my sales organization. I went into the WSOP that year with a good stable of horses, with a nice bankroll, and we had some success right off the bat. And then… I had no idea what I was getting into. Halfway through the WSOP, I basically had to let everyone go and my staking corporation went kaput. So we didn’t even last the whole WSOP.”

On why he no longer wears headphones at the table…

“I don’t wear headphones at the table. I’d say it’s been at least five years…. I don’t know when it was, but a long time ago, I decided I was missing too much that people were saying or talking about. Although I would probably enjoy my time at the table a bit more listening to music… There’s a few people that I don’t enjoy [listening to], but I still want to hear what they, and other people are saying. I never want to miss the dealer saying ‘all in.’ I feel there’s a lot of information you can pick up just by having conversations at the table.”

You can check out the entirety of the interview in the audio player at the top of the page or download it directly to your device to play on the go from iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app.

Catch up on past episodes featuring notables such as Daniel Negreanu, Nick Schulman, Barry Greenstein, Chris Moorman, Bryn Kenney, Mike Sexton, Brian Rast, Scott Seiver, Freddy Deeb, Greg Raymer, Maria Ho and many more. If you like what you hear, be sure to subscribe to get the latest episodes automatically when they are released.