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Nick Schulman: Last Of The Old School, First Of The New School

Catching Up With The Three-Time WSOP Bracelet Winner

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Jan 13, 2021

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Nick Schulman first appeared on the cover of Card Player Magazine in 2006. At 22 years old, the fresh-faced New Yorker was just one year removed from his big debut, winning one of the largest World Poker Tour events ever held up to that point, the 2005 WPT Foxwoods World Poker Finals $10,000 main event. The victory was worth a whopping $2,167,500. (He nearly won it again two years later, finishing runner-up for $864,652.)

Schulman was just getting started in his poker career, but had already been around the gambling world as a billiards shark for nearly a decade by the time his Foxwoods win put him on the poker map and made him an overnight millionaire. Now, 14 years later, the man who was once known as ‘The Takeover’ is back on the cover, albeit not quite for the reason he thought.

“I always assumed I’d get back on here when I shipped the main event or something,” Schulman said.

While he hasn’t yet won the big dance at the World Series of Poker, he does have a poker résumé that most pros would love to trade for. Schulman is among the exclusive list of players with three WSOP gold bracelets. Only 50 players in all of poker history have won more, and all of Schulman’s wins came in prestigious $10,000 buy-in championship events. 

He first captured the gold in 2009 by taking down the no-limit deuce-to-seven lowball championship, banking $279,751. He then backed up that performance by winning the same tournament again in 2012, this time for $294,321. Schulman won his third title at the 50th annual WSOP in 2019, taking down the pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better championship for $436,670 to complete the trio.

That third bracelet didn’t even account for his biggest score of last summer’s series, which came when he finished third in the $100,000 buy-in WSOP High Roller event for a cool $1,187,802. Schulman’s time on the high roller circuit has been successful, and includes a win at the Poker Masters $50,000 buy-in event for $918,000. He also finished third and fourth in the $100,000 buy-in PCA Super High Roller for $744,140 and $400,000, and won the $50,000 Hard Rock Poker Open High Roller for another $440,000.

In total, Schulman has accumulated over $12.8 million in live tournament earnings, which is made even more impressive when you consider the fact that he has spent the majority of his time on the felt battling it out in high-stakes cash games. 

Now 36, the former wunderkind is somehow less than five years away from being eligible for induction into the Poker Hall of Fame. Schulman has strong credentials as a potential future member, as he clearly meets or has exceeded listed criteria for consideration. He has “played consistently well against top competition,” and “stood the test of time,” having competed in the highest stakes cash games and tournaments since his first days in the game. 

Schulman also has something else going in his favor, which is his commentary work for prestigious televised and live-streamed events, that has undeniably “contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker.” His work in the booth over the last five years has been heralded for walking the fine line between being accessible and entertaining for casual fans, while also offering high-level strategic analysis for hardcore players looking to improve their games.

But one thing Schulman isn’t looking to get out of his commentary career is autograph requests. The enigmatic shark made it clear that he’s a poker player first and foremost, and has at times regretted how accessible his television work has made him to the railbirds in the card room. At the end of the day Schulman is a public figure in the poker world, yet if given the choice would much prefer to stay private as he goes about his business and deals with the grind of being a professional gambler.

Despite this, Card Player was able to wrangle Nick long enough for a catch up to talk about online vs. live poker, straddling the line between old school and new school, and how he may have helped to instigate the Daniel Negreanu and Doug Polk heads-up match.
Card Player: The pandemic has had such a big impact on the world in so many ways. How has the whole situation impacted your job as a poker pro? 

Nick Schulman: [I’ve been] playing online, brother. I’m good. But if I wasn’t, I probably wouldn’t tell you guys anyway. (laughing) Really though, [I’ve been] working and maintaining. The family is good. [We’re] lucky.

CP: The online action has definitely been huge. Some players are calling it a second online poker boom. What’s the adjustment been in terms of the stakes and game formats that are available to you? Or have you had to get into private games?

NS: No, I’m playing public stuff. I’m playing tournaments and no-limit cash games, and I’m happy with where I’m at. I’m playing mostly no-limit lately and enjoying it.

CP: Do you think that there’ll be any kind of lasting impact from the extended shutdown of live poker in 2020?

NS: Nah, I think things will return. 

CP: How are you enjoying playing online? You’ve always played online, but from an outsider’s perspective, it seems like you are a guy who appreciates playing live, and perhaps has an advantage in that arena. Has this been an opportunity to just kind of focus on the pure strategic side?

NS: Yeah, definitely. [There is] nothing like the chips and the cards to me, but I love playing online as well. And like you said, this has been a time to work on stuff, and review hands with my people. It’s [been] good.

CP: From 2017 through today, you’ve cashed for more than $4.4 million on the live circuit, about a third of your total career earnings. It seems like you added more tournaments to your schedule after you started doing more commentating for televised and live streamed tournaments. Is that how you caught the bug?

NS: I think I caught the bug day one, I’ve just had long stretches on the cash game side of things on and off. But no-limit tournaments have always felt like home for me. 

CP: In 2019 you won your third WSOP gold bracelet, the first one in a non-lowball game. Where would you say you fall on the continuum between, ‘Winning’s cool, but it’s just about the money,’ to the Phil Hellmuth end of the spectrum that’s all about the bracelets?

NS: It has some meaning to me personally, but not because they tell us it does. [It’s] more just about the road traveled, the late nights, all of that. I enjoy the Series, competing, and playing different games. Bracelets aren’t the end all, be all of a career, of course, but I don’t know. If I’m there, I’m trying to win. Why not?

CP: You’ve shown an affinity for poker history and the players that came before you on your social media page, tweeting about ‘stone cold animals’ like Stu Ungar, Puggy Pearson, and Sam Farha, or even mourning the renaming of Bobby’s Room. It kind of feels like you’re a bridge between the old school and the new school worlds of poker.

NS: Maybe I am a bit. I really don’t know. I do appreciate poker history. Sports history in general. But I also enjoy recognizing the young guys. Guys who have been around like [Andrew] LuckyChewy [Lichtenberger], or Michael Addamo. Or even the new up-and-comers like Landon Tice and Jeremiah Williams.

CP: When you started commentating you were quickly really well received. Top players were saying how impressed they were and how much they enjoyed what you were doing in the booth. How did you respond to the positive feedback, the vote of confidence from fans and other players?

NS: I appreciate that, of course. But I’m no Gabe Kaplan, and he has returned. This is all that matters. There are a lot of people I respect immensely who commentate.
Honestly, [the attention] makes me exceedingly uncomfortable. I love actually doing the commentating, but I didn’t set out to become a commentator, or get [praise] for it. I have fun in the booth.

CP: You say you didn’t set out to become a commentator, but you have ended up working on a lot of broadcasts and episodes. How much are we going to see you in the future?

NS: Here and there. A little more here than there. (laughs)

CP: Heads-up matches have certainly been a trend of 2020. The Galfond Challenge has been popular, and we heard that maybe you had something to do with instigating the Daniel Negreanu and Doug Polk heads-up match?

NS: I’m pretty sure that needling Daniel and Doug on Twitter got the ball rolling on that match, and frankly, I can die happy. (laughs) Of course, [Phil] Galfond taking on all comers speaks for itself. Unreal.

CP: We’ve seen plenty of discussion of boxing and MMA on your Twitter page. We also heard that may have been the reason for the weigh-in pregame shows that Phil Hellmuth and Antonio Esfandiari did for High Stakes Duel? 

NS: Yeah, the weigh in was my idea. Well, it is pure. [Just] two combatants, a little conversation and off they go. I hope to see more heads-up poker in our future. [High Stakes] Duel is great, but also let’s bring back more open heads-up tournaments. Maybe something that is shades of the old NBC Heads-Up [Poker Championship]. ♠