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A Poker Life: Trevor Pope

Pope Finds Success at 2013 World Series of Poker

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Trevor PopeTrevor Pope spent a couple of his early adult years moving from city to city, hoping to make it as an online poker pro. To his parents, it looked like he was wandering aimlessly, hoping for a big gamble to pay off.

Now living in Las Vegas, 26-year-old Pope is finally settling down into a more stable life. Armed with a recently won World Series of Poker bracelet and all the confidence in the world, Pope is ready to take the poker world by storm.

This is his story.

Catching the Poker Bug

Pope grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the oldest of five children. His father paid the bills as a musician while his mother stayed at home with the children, occasionally working as a substitute teacher.

“We were an extremely competitive family,” Pope recalled. “My parents built us a sports court in our backyard and friends and neighbors were constantly coming over for hockey games. My sister was actually good enough to play college hockey and earn a scholarship. With so many siblings, there was always a push to be the best and to win.”

Although he was just a high school sophomore at the time, Pope caught the poker bug after seeing Chris Moneymaker win the WSOP main event in 2003.

“I remember my brother Carson was watching it on TV, but I didn’t really like it at first,” Pope admitted. “I guess it was because I really didn’t understand it. I was so bad at poker that everyone wanted to play with me. That’s when my competitive edge kicked in. I couldn’t stand the fact that everyone thought I was the worst player in the game, so I did my best to get better. Along the way, I guess you could say that I got pretty addicted.”

Making a Few Moves

After turning 18, Pope deposited some money to play on Bodog. Though he struggled at first, he soon turned it around and was making roughly $1,000 a month while still in high school.

“I was still in school and had no bills, so I felt rich. I was a senior and still had a curfew, but I was 18 and rebellious and I didn’t want to listen to my parents. They hated that I played poker and just wanted me to do well in school, but I thought I was too good for it. After graduation, I moved in with my girlfriend’s family and got ready for college.”

Pope lasted one semester at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater before his relationship ended and he dropped out.

“I didn’t go to a single class,” he remembered. “I just played poker all day long. I turned $200 into $30,000 in one week and I was so naïve at the time, I just assumed I could do that every week. I did the basic math in my head and actually convinced myself that I’d be a millionaire by the end of the year.”

The next week, Pope lost back $20,000 of his profits and reality set in. He wasn’t using proper bankroll management and had been playing way above his head, sitting at $10-$20 tables and just hoping to run well. With nothing to keep him in Wisconsin, he decided to make a move.

“I was miserable in the cold,” Pope said. “I decided to flip a coin to determine whether I was moving to Honolulu, Hawaii or Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The coin favored Florida and, within days, I was on my way. I ended up hanging out with a poker player named Nick Augustino, whom I had met online and lived in the area.”

Though he had formed a new poker friendship and his game was improving, his parents eventually convinced him to move back to Wisconsin. He had planned to use his savings to make an even more drastic move to Spain, but his parents informed him that they had used the funds to pay off his student loans. After grinding up his bankroll a bit further, he opted to move again to Gainesville, Florida with Augustino.

Becoming a Professional Poker Player

Pope and some friends, including Augustino, Joey Weissman and Jason Lee, formed the Gainesville Grind House. The crew did so well that a student filmmaker profiled the group in a documentary titled $50,000 In Five Days. Pope eventually started playing on the live tournament circuit and by the next summer, he had moved to Las Vegas.

Though he had a couple of decent scores, winning a preliminary event at the 2010 Festa al Lago and making a final table at the WSOP, Pope continued to focus primarily on cash games. Then came Black Friday.

“I wasn’t as affected as other players,” said Pope. “Fortunately, I had already played online poker outside of the United States, so I was able to get my money off pretty easily. The only real problem for me was that I could no longer play while in Las Vegas.”

Pope was never a big fan of live cash games, so his options were limited to playing on the few U.S. online poker sites left or traveling to Canada to make his living. When in the states, however, he used his down time to explore his passion for extreme sports or play in live poker tournaments. In 2012, he final tabled the World Poker Tour $25,000 championship event and followed that up with a Heartland Poker Tour final table appearance.

Winning a Bracelet

It didn’t take long for Pope to make headlines during the 2013 WSOP. In the second event, the $5,000 eight-handed no-limit hold’em tournament, Pope found himself with a massive chip lead entering the final table. Though he was undoubtedly the favorite thanks to his chip advantage, he still had to contend with one of the toughest final tables in history, going up against the likes of David Peters, Brandon Meyers, Dan Kelly, Jamie Armstrong, Jared Hamby, Darryll Fish and eventual runner-up David Vamplew.

While some may look at a big chip lead and feel the overwhelming pressure to win, Pope was filled with nothing but confidence going for the $553,906 first-place prize.

“Going into the final table, I already knew I was going to win,” he said. “In fact, I had pretty much already started celebrating. Yes, I knew the final table was filled with amazing players, but I had so many chips that it would have taken a miracle for me not to win. With that much distance between myself and the rest of the players, I was able to constantly put myself in good spots. I was using the money jumps against everyone and playing almost all of the hands I was dealt. You can’t play back at someone in that situation, because they can put you to the test for your whole stack at any time.”

Now that he has won WSOP gold, Pope is looking to make amends with his parents for his rebellious stage.

“My parents will get the bracelet,” he said. “I know I put them through a lot, and now that I’m successful, I want to show them that I’m appreciative of their support. I like knowing that they don’t have to worry about my future anymore.”

Trevor Pope and his dogMoving Forward

Pope has made some immediate plans following a successful summer, but they don’t really include poker.

“I’m going to be spending a lot of time at the lake,” he said. “I’ll go home for a week to see my family and then spend the rest of my free time in Las Vegas, waiting for the next thing to come. Outside of a trip to Florida and possibly Barcelona, I won’t be playing much poker.”

Eventually, Pope wants to use his poker earnings to finance a small business. Right now, he is in the process of starting a T-shirt company with his friends. Whatever he decides to do, Pope is just happy to be happy.

“I’ve always been a bit of a free spirit, but I was definitely a little lost there for a while,” Pope admitted. “I’m still not sure what I was actually searching for, but I feel like I’ve found it. I’m more than content with where my life is right now.” ♠