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Poker Stories Podcast With Steve Sung

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Jun 19, 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.

To listen, visit www.cardplayer.com/poker-podcasts or download it directly to your device from any number of mobile apps, such as Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, or Spotify. Catch up on past episodes featuring notables such as Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Justin Bonomo, Nick Schulman, Barry Greenstein, Michael Mizrachi, Bryn Kenney, Mike Sexton, Brian Rast, Chris Moneymaker, Maria Ho, Joe Cada, Freddy Deeb, and many more.

Age: 33
Hometown: Torrance, California
Live Tournament Earnings: $5.9 Million

Top Tournament Scores

June 2013 WSOP $25k Six-Max NLHE 1st $1,205,324
June 2009 WSOP $1k NLHE 1st $771,106
March 2008 WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star 2nd $585,000
Dec. 2008 WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic 4th $396,205
Jan. 2019 WPT Gardens Poker Championship 3rd $259,880

Steve Sung trudged through college, always knowing in the back of his mind that he wanted to play poker for a living. Having always been a gambler, Sung immediately jumped on the tournament circuit when he turned 21 and quickly found success, making several World Poker Tour final tables and racking up large cashes around the world. In 2009, Sung won his first World Series of Poker bracelet, taking down a $1,000 no-limit hold’em event for $771,106. He followed that up with a second WSOP title in 2013, earning $1,205,324 for topping a stacked field in the $25,000 buy-in six-max no-limit hold’em championship.

Most recently, the Torrance, California resident finished third in the WPT Gardens Poker Championship, adding another $259,880 to his poker resume. In total, the 33-year-old has just shy of $6 million in career live tournament earnings, but those numbers pale in comparison to the amounts he won and lost during high-stakes cash game sessions, and even his time gambling in the casino pit.

Highlights from this interview include growing up in Seoul, visualizing the United States, being thirsty for some ‘wata,’ how a pay-per-view fail led to poker, dominating pusoy, why Phil Hellmuth quit him in Chinese poker, how Ryan Young won in Vegas before turning 21, paying for good grades, getting his feet wet with a $25,000 buy-in, battling it out at $2,000-$4,000 online, losing seven-figures in a day, an unhealthy love for blackjack, blacking out with $1.2 million in a middle school pencil case, being numb to losses, the concept of Korean ‘Han,’ weed paranoia while winning a bracelet, jumping into $300-$600 badugi without knowing the rules, going to ‘space,’ beating Galfond for bracelet no. 2, a decade-old compliment from Shannon Shorr, winning $300,000 after closing the window, mastering the flute, and why he settled on Steve as his name.

The Transcript Highlights

About His Trouble With The Pits

Steve Sung: What happened was… at the time I was traveling with Danny Wong, Ryan Young, ZeeJustin (Justin Bonomo) a lot. We wanted to play all the tournaments, the whole circuit. The results… were not that good. I didn’t realize I was getting burned out. So, in 2008, I tried to slow down. I was playing the nosebleeds (high-stakes online games) at the time, which was very headachey.

Julio Rodriguez: You were playing as high as $2,000-$4,000, right, with guys like durrrr [Tom Dwan], Patrik [Antonius], [Brian] Hastings, [John] Juanda, Gus Hansen.

SS: I was sitting by myself, two-tabling those games.

JR: So, you just couldn’t get enough? Were you trying to break the poker world in that first year?

SS: In September of 2008, I told myself that by the end of the year, I should have $20 million. That was my goal.

JR: Nobody even had $20 million in career earnings back then.

SS: Yeah, but that’s how people were playing in cash games back then. I wanted to take over.

JR: I read at the time that you would have drunk sessions at the table where you lost a million dollars, and yet would still somehow profit for the week. You were obviously experiencing some crazy swings at a young age.

SS: Crazy swings. Like those two WPT final tables you mentioned. I think I got $500,000 for Bay 101 [Shooting Star] and like $400,000 for the Five Diamond [World Poker Classic]. I lost that in the pits… within a couple of hours. It was gone. And more. That was a regular day for me. For a 23-year-old, you don’t know how to deal with that. You aren’t taught that. I had such an intense, addictive personality.

JR: What was your game of choice?

SS: Blackjack. Craps I would lose every time, but blackjack. One time, I blacked out. I had $1.2 million in a pencil case. There was a bunch of Bellagio cranberries ($25k chips) in there. I found one I had from middle school. It was a literal middle school pencil case. But I found a bunch of cranberries in there from a crazy run. ♠