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Poker Stories Podcast With David Baker

by Card Player News Team |  Published: May 22, 2019

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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: 46
Hometown: Katy, Texas
Tournament Earnings: $5.6 million

Top Tournament Scores

March 2019 WPT LA Poker Classic 1st $1,015,000
June 2015 WSOP $50k Poker Players Championship 3rd $514,926
Nov. 2010 WSOP $10k Main Event 17th $396,967
June 2012 WSOP $2,500 Eight-Game Mix 1st $271,312
June 2010 WSOP $1,000 NLHE 3rd $206,813

David Baker is one of the most recent players to add his name to the World Poker Tour Champions Cup, having just taken down the L.A. Poker Classic main event for $1,015,000. The 46-year-old originally started as a salesman after graduating from Auburn University, and ultimately gave up a six-figure job to pursue his poker dream when his regular home game became too lucrative to ignore.

Although Baker spends most of his playing time in high-stakes mixed games at the Commerce Casino, he does have a stellar track record at the World Series of Poker, having averaged nearly two final tables each summer for the last decade. In 2010, he finished 17th in the WSOP main event for $396,967, and he won a bracelet in 2012, earning $271,312 in the $2,500 eight-game mixed event. In 2015, Baker finished third in the $50,000 Poker Players Championship for another $514,926. In total, the Arizona resident has banked more than $5.5 million in live tournament earnings.

Highlights from this interview include tearing himself away from a good cash game, the muscle memory of poker, being almost senior eligible, War Eagle, going to the racetrack as a kid, learning blackjack with his parents, drowning in credit reports, being the live one in Ray Henson’s game, quitting a six-figure salary for poker, flying to Commerce Casino every other week, the bad beat he took to Carlos Mortensen, why he doesn’t wear green at the poker table, his deep run in the WSOP main event, dealing with a lot of third-place finishes, forcing Cord Garcia to win the Colossus, how to become elite, staring at opponents to see the pain in their eyes, maintaining a good rep, and calling his shot as a WPT champion.

The Transcript Highlights

About Getting His Start In Poker

David Baker: I worked for ten years in sales of some sort. I’d play like $10-$20 to $20-$40 hold’em in the street games in Houston. I know you know Ray Henson. I have a funny story about him. I was on the boats in Lake Charles, and I was playing hold’em. Ray’s friend and business partner, this was like 1998, would run games. He saw me there playing, and he didn’t think I was very good. So he told me about this game in Houston.

Julio Rodriguez: I was about to say… if you’re getting invited to the game, I don’t know if that’s a compliment.

DB: No, he thought I sucked. So I went to his game. It was about 45 minutes away, and it turned out to be Ray’s game. Ray had been in Reno, Nevada, and this guy Brandon, the guy that brought me in, he called Ray and said, ‘I’ve got this live one. He’s got money and a job. He sucks. He’s terrible.’ They didn’t really have a great, thriving game. They needed me, and they needed my friend that came along with me as well.

The thing was, I wasn’t bad. They just didn’t understand what I was doing. Not to pat myself on the back, but I was a little ahead of my time. I had figured out some things…

JR: What kind of game was this?

DB: It was all limit hold’em. It was $10-$20 limit hold’em, with an $8 rake, a $2 tip, and a $2 high hand. We’d play ten-handed. How anybody could ever beat that…. And I made so much money in that game, that I quit a $100,000 a year job to play $10-$20 and $15-$30. That’s how good the games were at the time.

But the funny this is that Ray flew back in town because Brandon had told him, ‘Oh we got this live one, we’re going to build games around him, it will be great.’ And after one session with me, Ray looked at him and said, ‘You’re an idiot. This guy is [clearly] good.’

I cleaned that game up. After a while of playing in that game, I would come out to Vegas with my brother and play $10-$20 at the Mirage. I just fell in love with it. I knew I had a passion for it, and I knew that I was good at it. I hadn’t figured everything out yet, I was pretty raw. This was pre-internet days and pre-solvers, and all the courses. This was pre-poker boom. I just figured it out on my own. I got good, and started making more money playing $20-$40 limit hold’em than I was at my $100,000 a year sales job.

Why He Doesn’t Wear Green At The Poker Table Anymore

David Baker: I can still remember so many things about this tournament. It was the 2007 [$25,000 WPT Championship]… and it’s like day 5. There are 23 left. Carlos Mortensen raises my blind, and I call with 9Diamond Suit 8Diamond Suit.

Julio Rodriguez: How deep were you?

DB: I had [just over] 700,000, and the blinds were 12,000-24,000. I can remember what I was wearing during this hand. He opened for 75,000 and I called from the big blind. The flop came 8-7-6. I checked, he bet 100,000, and I went all-in for about 660,000. He had about one million, so it was for over half of his stack.

He tanked for several minutes, and called with A-7. This is with 23 left for a monster stack.

JR: So you have top pair, you’re open-ended, and he just has middle pair?

DB: Middle pair. And the turn was a brick, and the river was… I can still see Barry Greenstein’s ace falling right on that river. And I just stood up, turned, and walked away. You had to go up the stage to get paid. I did my thing, walked to the elevator, and I was just in tears. I ended up getting like $92,000, while first was $4 million, and basically a deal for life with any poker company. I was basically assured a final table at that point. I was playing great, in total control, and Carlos just torched me.

It wasn’t the worst beat ever because it was a five-outer with two to come, but situationally, it devastated me. That was the worst beat I ever took. I refuse to wear green to this day because I was wearing a green shirt that day. I will not wear green in a poker tournament. ♠