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Poker Stories Podcast With Faraz Jaka

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Jun 03, 2020

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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: 34
From: San Jose, California
Online Tournament Earnings: $4.3 Million
Live Tournament Earnings: $6.7 Million

Top Live Tournament Scores

July 2009 WPT Bellagio Cup Main Event 2nd Place $774,870
Jan. 2012 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event 3rd Place $755,000
Dec. 2009 WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic Main Event 3rd Place $571,374
April 2018 WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown Main Event 2nd Place $454,496
July 2009 WSOP $5,000 Six-Max NLHE 3rd Place $400,526

Faraz Jaka is a former World Poker Tour Player of the Year, and has more than $6.8 million in career live tournament earnings, to go along with another $4.3 million won online. The 34-year-old from San Jose, California has several notable final-table finishes on his poker resume, including runner-up showings at the Bellagio Cup for $774,870 and the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown for $454,496. He finished third at the Five Diamond World Poker Classic for $571,374 and third at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure for another $755,000. He also has six final-table appearances at the World Series of Poker.

Jaka is well known for his nomadic lifestyle, having reduced his belongings to just two small suitcases so that he could more easily travel the globe between tournament stops. CNN even went so far as to dub him ‘The Homeless Millionaire’ as the University of Illinois graduate split his time between five-star hotels and the couches of strangers. After nearly a decade of non-stop moving, Jaka briefly put down roots in Brazil for an online poker project, before recently resuming his travels on the circuit with his new wife. Jaka has also started to share his poker knowledge and years of experience with the students at two-time WPT champion Jonathan Little’s PokerCoaching.com website.

Highlights from this interview include being an angry kid, running the mile with a torn ligament, escaping home and crossing the country, being TheToilet, blowing a six-figure bankroll in college, going from dorm games to Vegas, falling from $50-$100 no-limit to $5 sngs, WPT POY, getting Card Player Magazine respect, poker pros who ‘fake it’, reducing his life to two bags, the ups and downs of launching an online poker site, tying the knot, poker coaching, ten days of silence in Thailand, selling magnets and FUBU, underground cash games in Mexico City, playing with Kevin Hart and Nelly, and an ideal trip into the Congo.

The Transcript Highlights

How He Built And Blew A Six-Figure Bankroll While Still In College

Julio Rodriguez: I want to talk about your initial run in college. You found poker, you did pretty well. You got yourself a nickname because you liked chasing flushes. But how the hell do you run up a six-figure bankroll and then blow it all in a week?

Faraz Jaka: Well, blowing it all wasn’t that hard.

To start out, there was a guy playing in the dorms and he wanted to teach everybody else how to play. We did a $5, or $10 tournament, it was about 12 or 13 of us. Only two of the guys knew how to play, and I ended up winning it. Then we got into it and started playing a weekly 10-25 cent game. I remember being down like $180 after a couple of weeks, which was a lot of money for me at the time, and I could see where this was going. I didn’t want to spiral and blow a bunch of money I shouldn’t. I decided that if I get down $200, I would stop playing.

After that, I went on a tear. I won a few hundred dollars and started looking for bigger games around campus, fraternities, charity events. I started playing online, and would jump into these huge games I shouldn’t have been in. Jump in $5-$10 with the minimum buy-in, and run it up. I built up a $10,000 bankroll over the course of a couple months.

JR: So far that’s normal…

FJ: Me and my friend Ben Lefew started taking these crazy trips to Vegas from college. I showed up to his dorm once, Thursday night, 1 a.m., and said, ‘Ben, we should go to Vegas!’

He said, ‘I know, we are always talking about it. Let’s plan a trip.’

I said, ‘No! We should go now!’

Literally on a whim, we fly to Vegas. I remember we booked a later flight so we could go to the bank first, to get money. We thought you shouldn’t carry large amount of cash, so we needed to get traveler’s checks. Like that was what we were supposed to do. (laughing)

We took a couple thousand each… show up to Vegas, and of course don’t even use the traveler’s checks, just the ATMs. He was playing $80-$160 limit, and I was playing $10-$20 no-limit. Buying in for $2,000 with only $10,000 to my name. We’d both make like $5,000 or $6,000, fly back and become heroes in our dorm. We literally flew back the next week and did it again, and it became a regular thing. Now we’re the kids at school with money, buying everybody drinks, throwing crazy parties.

I started playing online more, and jumped into these $25-$50 games. I had a crazy week where I ran $5,000 into a $30,000 stack. I started playing heads-up games, and I was playing guys… I didn’t even know who they were at the time. I was playing Prahlad Friedman, Ram Vaswani. These were the guys who sat there, waiting for someone to play them at the largest games. I was battling those guys, unaware of who they were, with my hyper-aggressive style, and basically ran it up to $170,000 by the end of the week.

I was flying high, thinking I was going to be making millions of dollars a year, just doing this. I stopped going to class. I ended up basically losing it all over the course of the next year, which was a very dark and depressing time period for me. Just to go from that high, to that low in a short period of time, was really tough.

JR: I’m amazed you stayed in poker.

FJ: I didn’t even go from $170,000 to broke. I went from $170,000 to negative $30,000. I was in debt from borrowing some money. My parents had found out I was playing because an article came out in the University newspaper that said, ‘Student Wins $120,000 Playing Online Poker.’ They think I’m in summer school, I’m really in Vegas playing cash games during the WSOP. So my dad is freaking out, and I agreed to invest a bunch of the money in property, but now I’ve lost it all and I was too embarrassed to tell them. ♠

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 Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app.

Catch up on past episodes featuring notables such as Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Bryn Kenney, Justin Bonomo, Antonio Esfandiari, Nick Schulman, Barry Greenstein, Michael Mizrachi, Mike Sexton, Brian Rast, Jean-Robert Bellande, Jamie Gold, Chris Moneymaker, 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.