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A Poker Life: Jared Jaffee

Jaffee Now Sits With 2/3 Of Poker's Triple Crown

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Jared JaffeeIt took Jared Jaffee years to find his calling as a professional poker player and even longer to find stability in the tumultuous poker world. The 33-year-old New York-native once thought a law career was in the cards, but instead opted into the jet setting lifestyle of a high-stakes poker tournament player.

In the five years that Jaffee has been playing full time, he has amassed more than $2 million in live career tournament earnings, the majority of which has been earned in the last two years alone. He already has a World Poker Tour title and World Series of Poker bracelet, an accomplishment that not very many poker pros can claim.

Here’s a look at how Jaffee got his start in poker and ultimately found success, albeit after a bumpy ride.

Undecided Career Path

Jaffee was born and raised in Staten Island, New York. He decided on Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia for college and earned an undergraduate degree in political science. He moved back home to New York, but had no real ambition.

“After college, I went on a bunch of job interviews and kept getting hired,” he said. “I think my success rate was 14 out of 15, but I pretended that I didn’t get hired. I just didn’t want to work a real job and hated the idea of doing the whole 9-to-5 thing. Instead, I delivered pizzas.”

Although it wasn’t what he envisioned coming out of college, Jaffee enjoyed his pizza delivery job because it allowed him the freedom to play poker. Shortly after he got started, he won an online satellite into the 2004 Party Poker Million, a now defunct limit hold’em tournament that took place aboard a cruise ship.

“I really didn’t know what I was doing and kind of won by accident,” he admitted. “All of a sudden I had a free cruise and a seat into this tournament. I didn’t even realize it was a limit hold’em tournament until I sat down at my starting table and tried to raise to four times the big blind. Obviously, I didn’t last long. I thought I was good at cards, but I was just pretending to be a big shot. I think I lasted maybe an hour and a half, which is hard to do in a limit tournament.”

Jaffee returned home after the cruise and continued to deliver pizzas, but he was starting to feel the pressure from his family to do something more productive with his time.

“I still didn’t want to get a job, so I decided to apply to law school instead. I got into Brooklyn Law School. My first year, I was going part-time. Late at night, I would play poker in the private clubs. Somehow I managed to graduate in three years and then I passed the bar.”

Poker Beginnings

Jaffee managed to get through law school, all while dramatically improving his poker game in his spare time. His plan was to practice law during the day and at night, continue playing cards. Unfortunately, his timing couldn’t be worse. The job market was grim and it became almost impossible for him to find a decent job.

“Eventually, about four or five months after graduating, I was able to land a job with a civil litigation and personal injury firm,” he recalled. “It was basically chasing ambulances. On the third day of work, I was sworn in. They told me that I needed to go to court the next morning and I honestly had no idea how to do that. So instead of going to court, I just quit.”

Fortunately, he had poker to fall back on.

“I had been grinding online almost every day throughout law school and had some decent success. My friend Bobby Oboodi, who I was roommates with in Las Vegas during the summer, introduced me to Ben Zamani, who later became my first backer. After the PCA in 2010, he sent me some money and told me to meet him in Biloxi for the Southern Poker Championship to play some tournaments. I played a preliminary event and won it for $50,000. Then I played another and finished third for $8,000. Then he showed up and told me to play the main event, where I finished fourth for another $135,000. While I was there, I also final tabled the $1K Monday on Full Tilt for $26,000, so that kind of kicked off a great year for me.”

It was an incredible start to his tournament career. In February, Jaffee finished third in a Full Tilt Online Poker Series (FTOPS) event for $95,982. Then in March, he took second at the Wynn Classic main event for $246,477. In the summer, he made his first WSOP final table, banking $30,319 for a seventh-place finish in the $2,500 mixed event. In August, he took fifth in the WPT Legends of Poker main event for $86,000.

The Downswing

In 2011, Jaffee experienced the lows of his first major downswing. His big scores were instead replaced with a series of min-cashes and eventually, he stopped cashing altogether.

“I was miserable,” he admitted. “I almost quit after the summer of 2012. I was playing on the very last of my bankroll and then I bubbled the WSOP main event. I had sold a package and my parents helped me with my end of it and made me promise to get a real job if it didn’t work out. Needless to say, it didn’t work out and I went home with nothing. I didn’t play poker again for another four months while I looked for a job.”

Despite surging out of the gate, Jaffee was suddenly out of poker entirely. The gap on his resume made finding a job incredibly difficult and this time he didn’t have a bankroll to fall back on. Fortunately, he had made some lasting friendships in the poker community.

“I had met John Racener through a fantasy football league I was a part of,” he recalled. “He was nice enough to put me into a $500 event at the 2012 Borgata Fall Poker Open that I final tabled, which put about $10,000 in my bankroll. I ran that up a little bit to about $25,000 and then basically fired all of it at the 2013 PCA. It wasn’t the smartest idea, but I’m a little bit of a degenerate and wanted it all back.”

“I bricked everything,” he admitted. “I think that was the fastest I had ever busted from a main event. I had something like $2,400 left in my pocket. I went down to sweat Andy Philachack, who was still in the main event, but when I got there, he had already busted. Somebody asked if I was there for the $2,000 event that was running and I figured, why not? I ended up taking third for about $54,000.”

Turning It All Around

It was a desperation move to throw the last of his cash into that tournament, but it’s a gamble that paid off for Jaffee and put him back in action. After a small final table score at the Borgata Winter Poker Open, he took fifth in the $1,500 event at the Parx Big Stax II for $27,403. Then at the 2013 WSOP, he finished third in the $2,500 four-handed no-limit hold’em event for $129,447.

Later that summer, he won the $1,000 main event at the Aria Poker Classic for $57,054. In August, he took fourth in the $5,000 buy-in event at the River Poker Series for $34,260 and then in November, he won his first WPT title by taking down the bestbet Jacksonville Fall Poker Scramble for $252,749.

His hot streak continued into January of 2014, when he took fourth in the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open main event for another $258,590. Then, he banked the biggest score of his career when he won his first WSOP bracelet and $405,428 for winning the $1,500 mixed max no-limit hold’em event.

So to what does Jaffee credit his recent good fortune?

“I’ve changed my game a little bit, but it’s mostly variance. I want to say that all of this is just making up for running bad in the past, but I know I’m probably running pretty well at the moment. The key is making sure that I can take advantage of good spots and maximize my opportunities when I make a deep run.”

Jaffee also believes that his ability to be hyper-aware of his own image has played a role in his success.

“My image varies from table to table,” he said. “I know there are spots where I’m considered a very aggressive player who spazzes out of control. But earlier in the summer, I got into a Twitter fight with a guy who insisted that I was a nit. So I try to play off these images and I think I’m really good at figuring out how a particular player views my game.”

Moving Forward

Jaffee eventually wants to get to the point where he can ease off the pedal just a little bit when it comes to his poker career, but he knows for certain that he’ll never practice law.

“It’s not going to happen,” he said. “Nobody is going to hire me after all of these years I put into poker and I wouldn’t want them to. This is it for me. My bankroll looks good, but it’s looked good before and didn’t last. I’m just trying to keep it going. The goal is to win enough money that I don’t have to worry about money anymore. I want to buy a place in New York, make a few wise investments and play poker for fun. I want to get to that point where it’s no longer a grind.”

Although he dislikes the ups and downs of life as a tournament grinder, Jaffee is still hoping to add one more title to his tournament resume before he eases back on the gas.

“It would be nice, more for my own validation, to win the Triple Crown. I don’t really care what anybody else thinks about my game, but I’d like to do it for myself. I’m not really into the accolades and titles, but it’s good for building confidence.”

Jaffee only needs to win a European Poker Tour event to secure his place in poker history, but in the meantime, he’ll settle for having a companion on his arm while he continues his pursuit.

“If there are any ladies out there who are looking, I have some money in my bank account now, so feel free to come and use me,” he said, half-jokingly. ♠