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Joey Weissman Went From Living On Friend's Couch To World Series Of Poker Bracelet Winner

Poker Pro Said He 'Felt A Higher Power Inside' Before Win


Joey Weissman, a recent winner of a $2,500 no-limit hold’em event at the WSOP, sits as a relative newcomer to the poker scene. Facing the possibility of quitting poker in 2012, Weissman was bailed out by a big victory in a field of more than 1,600 players.

Weissman won nearly $700,000 in prize money — enough power alone to push him to 72nd in this year’s Player of the Year race. But Weissman claims he had a bit of inside information about the tournament: He knew he was going to win.

Weissman explained his premonition to Card Player, his visualizations of winning, as well as the “law of attraction” and why balance is the key to poker success.

Logan Hronis: Tell us about how you got started playing poker. Who taught you to play, and what sort of poker road have you traveled thus far?

Joey Weissman: I’ve always considered myself a deep thinker, and like most kids my age, I knew I wanted to be rich. When I saw Chris Moneymaker win a couple million bucks playing a game on ESPN, it certainly grabbed my attention. Shortly after my friends got wind of it, we began playing low-limit tournaments and cash games in basements. It was a social thing. Most of us just treated it like any other fad or hobby, but a few of us began to study the game and saw the potential in becoming skilled. My grandpa has always been a big poker influence. I would visit him In Atlantic City and watch him win at the Taj. In a lot of ways, he gave me the confidence to believe that I could succeed.

For the next two or three years, I spent a large portion of my free time playing hold’em with various social circles and random home games. I surrounded myself with like-minded people who I felt I could trust and maintained a steady interest in the game. After a few years of home game experience, meeting some amazing people, a lot of money spent on Papa Johns Pizza, and watching Rounders about 30 times, I finally decided to make a deposit on PokerStars, and eventually Full Tilt Poker. I would generally play small stakes cash games and FTP Token sit-and-gos. I would rack up as many $26 tokens as I could, and then would buy into tournaments I couldn’t afford with them.

The success I had early in my poker career was just enough to keep my interest, and more than enough for me to justify dropping out of college, which I couldn’t stand. Dreams of being able to play the big Sunday events kept me motivated.

When I was 20, I moved back home to Long Island from Florida to try and work in the family business. I felt that I wanted more out of life. I wanted more stability, a real career. The poker lifestyle was inconsistent and depressing at times. I just wanted to see what else was out there. I worked an 8-4 training to become a steel salesman. That endeavor lasted about a whole month before the stress and anxiety began to affect my health and body. So I left that life and started my poker career once again from scratch, and I was incredibly lucky to have such amazing friends who supported and motivated me to succeed at poker. My family also believed in my potential, and always gave me the freedom I required to find my own way. For this, I am forever more grateful than any of them will ever know.

LH: Obviously, a huge win for you at this year’s WSOP, winning nearly $700,000. Tell us about that experience and the emotions that surrounded it.

JW: Winning a bracelet this year was totally surreal, and it could not have happened for me at a more opportune time. My back was completely against the wall, and somehow I pulled it off. I was in a very depressed state of mind before the tournament began. I hadn’t been winning online and I hadn’t cashed a 2012 WSOP event up until that point. I was near broke and living on my best friend’s couch.

LH: As you survived deeper into that tournament, did you feel like you were walking into a situation you had never been in before? Talk about how you approached it mentally.

JW: I had been deep in a couple of WSOP events in 2011, but this event had a whole different vibe. I was far more improved; more controlled, and kept my emotions in check. When it got down to 27 and I was chip leader, I honestly believed I was going to win. It was more than a belief, it was a knowing — a confidence that I can’t explain. Only a few of my closest friends and family know this, but I actually had a premonition that I was going to win. Multiple dreams after day 1 and 2, more clear and profound than anything spiritual I’ve experienced.

LH: Can you tell us more about those dreams?

JW: Sure, I’ll start by saying that since moving to Costa Rica in January of this year, I’ve been making it a real priority to be more in touch with myself spiritually and emotionally. Also, ever since I can remember, the dreams I have while asleep have been vivid, descriptive, and seemingly very appropriate for whatever evolutionary stage I’m going through. Sort of tough to explain, but the fact is I probably place more emphasis on dream states than most people. After day one of the event, my chip stack was somewhere in the middle of the pack, my roommate and close friend, Nicholas Augustino was actually chip leader. So, after some excitement and visualizations of both of us making a deep run, we went to bed.

I had a very vivid dream where I was clearly sitting at a poker table and consistently racking in chips. I wasn’t aware of specific hands but it was clear that I was winning lots and lots of pots. Interestingly enough, a lot of those pots were being taken from none other than Vanessa Selbst. In the dream I busted her. Note that I had already known before I went to bed that we shared the same table draw on day two. Sure enough, within the first level of day two, I won a crucial all-in with A-Q versus the 10-10 of Vanessa to double up to 100 big blinds or so.

From there I had momentum and sat on day three as the chip leader. Unfortunately, my roommate busted with about 24 left. Again, I went to bed excited and confident, in a state of euphoria. That night, I had another vivid dream. This time the dream featured all of my close friends and I celebrating in our Panorama Towers apartment. I wasn’t aware of what we were celebrating, but everything felt incredibly blissful. There was champagne and music. An obscure detail about the celebration that seemed to have a large amount of significance to me was that the walls of our apartment were lined with cages of rabbits. I woke up, and the experience gave me a ton of confidence, and feeling of knowing I was going to win. I felt on the right path, like the planets were perfectly aligned for me. I knew I was in control, and I’m perfectly aware of how crazy this may seem, but I just felt a higher power inside me, like the universe just showed me the path. I can’t stress enough about how unstoppable I felt, there was no chance of failure.

Growing up on Long Island, I recall my mother and aunt always carrying around a rabbit’s foot on their key chains. I remember asking what that meant and not understanding how a rabbit’s foot could signify luck. Ever since then I always associated rabbits with good luck. I went into day three, quickly busted Vanessa with Q-Q versus 2-2 and, as they say, the rest is history.

LH: Talk a little bit about your poker education. How would you say you have learned the most?

JW: Throughout my poker career, I’ve made it my number one priority to constantly improve. I just always want to be at the highest level, and a lot of times that involves running hand histories through my head on breaks. I find myself in bed at night just going through all the possible ways I could have played hands differently, and it can be exhausting. After busting a tournament, I tend to come home and grab the deck and chips and literally reinvent the scenario on the dining room table. I am a true student of the game, and it fascinates me.

LH: How do you personally prepare for a big tournament? Do you have any superstitions or rituals you use to get ready?

JW: Up until recently, I wasn’t doing anything special to prepare for a tournament. I try to get enough sleep and eat healthy, maybe get a workout in. What I love to do, however, that I personally believe contributes to my success, is a morning meditation. When you truly visualize something like stacking chips, or the feeling of winning a big tournament, I just think it’s more likely to happen. I believe in the law of attraction, like attracts like and anything you want to succeed at is achievable if you just program your mind to believing you can and will. One of my favorite quotes is, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Henry Ford.

LH: What is your favorite venue to play poker? Is there anywhere you haven’t been that you’re looking forward to playing?

JW: My favorite place to play poker so far is definitely Las Vegas. Weak players, big fields, and big buy-ins are very appealing. I’m not really in love with the city itself, but it’s certainly hard to beat poker-wise, although I may be a bit biased because of my results. Although, if I’m Las Vegas for longer than a few weeks, I sort of begin to lose it. It’s super important to be exercising, eating right, and getting enough sleep while your here. I actually haven’t even traveled to Europe yet. But something tells me I’m going to enjoy Australia the most. I love nature, and girls with that Australian accent kill me, so I’m most excited to visit Sydney and Melbourne for sure.

LH: Give us a little glimpse of your life outside of the poker realm. Many players talk about the lifestyle being less romantic than it seems in theory. Has this been the case in your experience? Please explain.

JW: Balance is my answer to everything. Play enough so you give yourself the best chance to make money, but leave yourself enough free time to just enjoy life, educate yourself, travel, love, etc. Life outside of poker is the most important thing, and understanding how to prioritize is crucial. If you’re not happy with your situation off the felt, how can you play to your full potential on the felt? I love poker, but to be honest, it isn’t how I want to spend the rest of my life. I want something more substantial, more fulfilling. I would like to create rather than exploit, I want to be part of something that has the potential to change the world.

Right now, poker is my vehicle to get me to where I want to be, and it’s a pretty damn good one. I constantly surround myself with a core group of friends who I really trust, people who I can confidently open up to without the fear of being judged or ridiculed. I’m fortunate enough to have a large family who supports every decision I make, good or bad. Without these relationships, I would never have the ambition or passion that I do.

People will complain about poker not being the type of lifestyle that it’s hyped up to be, but I just believe that it’s all about perception. I’m constantly focusing on the positives, and how thankful I am for everything I have: My health, my family and friends, my freedom. There is just so much to be thankful for. As soon as times get rough, I get into some ego based argument, or I’m obligated to do something I don’t particularly enjoy, I always just remember what the great Bill Hicks said: “It’s just a ride.”