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WSOP Champ Wary Of High-Stakes Games, Says He Has 'Nothing To Prove'

Scott Blumstein Talks Career In Game After Main Event


New Jersey poker pro Scott Blumstein is still letting a first-place finish in the 2017 World Series of Poker main event sink in. In July, Blumstein did the improbable by outlasting more than 7,200 players to capture the gold bracelet and $8.1 million.

Blumstein, who at 25 years of age was the youngest player at the final table, had not played the main event prior to this past summer. He had only recorded a few WSOP cashes going into poker’s most prestigious event. However, Blumstein did have a $200,000 score in a $560 buy-in event at the 2016 Borgata Summer Poker Open, a tournament that changed his life as a poker player at a time when he was actually thinking about putting his poker dreams on ice.

The Temple University graduate has had two scores since the main event, a cash in the $3,500 buy-in WPT Borgata Poker Open in September, as well as a ninth-place finish in a $1,100 buy-in at WPT Maryland Live! in October. He told Card Player that he’s still pondering the direction he wants to take his fledgling, but already prosperous, poker career.

Card Player caught up with him to discuss life after the big win.

Brian Pempus: So what is champ life like?

Scott Blumstein: Nothing is too different. If anything, my outlook on poker and my life have kind of evolved a little bit. I’m looking toward what the next step for me is. The more I think about it, I have this feeling that I kind of beat the game [of poker] in a sense. Poker was always a means to an end for me. There aren’t many other [poker goals] that I can come up with right now. There’s higher stakes, and other tournaments, but it’s not really appealing to me. The game is getting tough and a lot of guys are getting really good. I wonder if it’d be worth my time to compete with them. Without [widespread] online poker, any new poker goals would be [in a] live [setting]. There’d be a lot of traveling. I could travel around and grind the tournament circuit, but [winning the main event] is kind of new so I’m deciding if I want to go that route or get into something else.

BP: Former champion Peter Eastgate is an example of a player who entered the high-stakes cash game scene basically right away after winning the main event. I know the nosebleed stakes aren’t up your alley, but did you ever consider playing those games after winning?

SB: That’s funny you say that, because that’s actually the cautionary tale that I come back to. I think about Peter sometimes, and distinctly remember him going on High Stakes Poker and misclicking. Remember when he accidentally bet $25,000 more than he had intended? I always think of that hand, and not only did he not need to be in that game, but I think the nerves, the pressure and everything about it, showed he wasn’t prepared for what that was like. So, would it be cool to take a couple shots at higher stakes? Yeah, I’ve considered it, but I don’t plan on venturing there. I have nothing to prove, and again, poker is a pretty difficult game. That’s what I come back to. I’m just happy enough to have won a tournament in a version that is easier than the [high-stakes tournaments]. I don’t intend on trying to do anything in the tougher version [of tournament poker].

BP: Was there any pressure from the poker community to play in bigger games? The nature of poker calls for you to try to get people with large bankrolls to play against you. Did anyone try to lure you into high-stakes games?

SB: No, not yet. A lot of it stems from the fact that I’m not really putting myself out there. I’m not even attempting to find out about these games. Nobody has tried to coach me to play bigger, which is nice because that’s how you can get in trouble.

BP: Would you say you feel wise beyond your years in a poker sense because of how you view your bankroll and the trajectory of your career?

SB: Yeah, but it wasn’t always that way. I’m as guilty as everyone else in making dumb decisions in the past. I think a lot of people don’t attack poker the right way. If you’re claiming to be a professional, I think there are just decisions that need to be made that are in your best interest in the long run, as opposed to chasing big scores. It’s weird for me because now that I won the main event and have this platform, I think I’d like to try to start helping some people think about the game in a different light. Maybe care less about high stakes and becoming wealthy, and just focus on making money. That should be the goal. With the game getting tougher, the margin for error is so small. It’s a problem in the long term when people play above their means.

BP: There was a lot of talk about how the main event this year was good for poker, because it was entertaining and good for TV. What are your thoughts on that?

SB: Probably the best thing I could have heard was people telling me that they enjoyed watching it. It was important because I’ve been watching the main event since I was a kid, and what always drove me to it was the entertainment factor, the characters. I’m glad that as a nine we were able to put on a decent show. Obviously, a guy like John Hesp was phenomenal. When I re-watched the final table, I had a lot of fun watching him. It was compelling. I think that overall he made the table more fun. The first hand of the final table he raised the flop as a bluff and showed his hand. You could kind of see the smile on my face. It set the tone for the final table. You can have fun and play for that kind of money.

BP: You won a tournament at the Borgata in July of last year, which was the first big score of your career. Was that event a turning point in your poker career? Without that experience in Atlantic City, would you have been able to win the WSOP main event?

SB: Not only was that my coming-out party, but it was also one of the biggest points in my life career-wise, because I was kind of lost before that. I was not a successful poker player. I wasn’t doing the necessary things to make it as a professional player. I was just going through the motions. I just didn’t have a job, as opposed to being a professional poker player at the time. I was determined to try to make it, but I realized [the Borgata event] was probably one of my last chances to go out and make something of it. I was pretty grateful to make a run and end up winning it. Tournaments are kind of remarkable, there’s a story to tell in all of them. I had five big blinds at one point on Day 2. You just make the best decisions you can and hope it works out. The stories write themselves. Getting that win was everything, and I can say with certainty that if something didn’t change soon at the point, I doubt I would have gotten to where I am today.