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Jeff Madsen: Poker Pro Says He'll Play 'Until I'm 85'

Four-Time Bracelet Winner and 2006 WSOP POY Talks About Playing Poker For The Long Haul

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The poker boom produced more than a handful of aggressive, up-and-coming players, but perhaps no one announced their presence to the poker world louder than Jeff Madsen. The then 21-year-old California kid tore up the record book at the 2006 World Series of Poker, recording four top-three finishes and winning two bracelets, taking down a $2,000 no-limit hold’em event for $660,948, and following that up with a win in the $5,000 six-max no-limit hold’em event for $643,381.

At the time, he was the youngest bracelet winner in poker history (a record later broken by Steve Billirakis, and then later obliterated by Annette Obrestad), and he remains the youngest player to win two. After a few years of some close calls, Madsen again found the winner’s circle in 2010, finishing atop the Borgata Winter Open main event for $625,006. In 2013, he won his third WSOP bracelet, banking $384,420 in the $3,000 pot-limit Omaha event. Then in 2015, he picked up no. 4 in the $3,000 pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better tournament for $301,413.

Madsen also has wins at the L.A. Poker Classic, EPT Dublin, PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, Legends of Poker, and the California State Poker Championship. In total, he has nearly $5.3 million in career live tournament earnings. Now living in Las Vegas, Madsen has also added poker coaching to his resume, and currently has more than 30 students teaching them everything from hold’em to mixed games. In mid-March, he will be hosting a hands-on poker seminar at the SA Card House in San Antonio for Helix Poker University.

Card Player caught up with the 32-year-old during a recent event to see what he’s been up to in the last few years.

Card Player: Hey Jeff, how have you been?

Jeff Madsen: Life has been good. I got married during June of last year, so I have been doing less traveling. I basically split my time, going back and forth between Las Vegas and L.A., depending on the time of the year.

Jeff Madsen at the 2006 WSOPCP: What’s the breakdown between your tournament and cash play these days?

JM: It’s mixed, I still play tournaments. If I had a choice, I would probably just play tournaments with the occasional mixed-game thrown in for fun. But I definitely play more cash than I used to. It’s a little more work, but helps me cut back on the travel.

CP: What do you mean by a little more work? Are you talking about the work you have to put into your game, or do you mean the actual number of hours you have to grind?

JM: I mean, it’s more about the feeling you have when you are sitting at the table. You know you are grinding when you play cash, so it just feels more like work. You’re rarely going to have a massive win in a cash game, it’s just a slower process. So it feels like you kind of just come in and punch a clock.

But tournaments are always exciting, because it’s an all-or-nothing situation. You can win a life-changing amount of money, or lose it all on the first hand. And, there’s also just something great about winning a tournament. You can win big in a cash game, and then you lose it all back the next day and it’s like it never happened. But if you win a tournament, even if you eventually lose all of that money, they can’t take the title or the trophy away from you. That’s why I’ll always love poker, because it is ultimately just a competition, and I love competing.

CP: You came out of nowhere when you were just 21 and had an amazing 2006 summer, winning WSOP Player of the Year. Is there anything you learned during that time that you would share with younger players today?

JM: Well, I was just thrown into it. The poker boom just happened. I started playing right after Moneymaker won the WSOP main event, like a lot of people did, so I didn’t really know what I was doing or even who to ask. I had a good head on my shoulders, thankfully, but I definitely could have avoided some mistakes as well.

The young guys today who are crushing have a much better roadmap to follow. I think for the most part they understand what it takes to be successful playing poker.

The only thing I would caution newer players about is to just watch their ego when it comes to their bankroll. There’s nothing wrong with lowering your variance and selling action if you need to. I was playing $10ks, $25ks, all on my own, which wasn’t always the most comfortable thing to do. You have to make sure you aren’t overspending. You can’t play bigger than your comfort zone. You have to stay focused. You have to surround yourself with the right friends.

CP: Well, I think you could be forgiven for not looking ahead when you were 21, 22 years old.

JM: I mean, I was looking ahead, but everything just all came at once. I was having fun. I’m a much better player now, but back then I was carefree. I was thinking, ‘I just won a million dollars, this is easy.’ When you are on a hot streak, it’s easy to get trapped into the idea that it will continue forever.

CP: What about now? Have you given any thought to how long you want to play poker for?

JM: I have, and I do see myself playing poker for the long haul. You know, there are plenty of people who make a living playing poker well into their 50s or 60s. You just don’t hear about them. It’s not that hard to make a living playing poker, it’s just hard to be rich playing poker. A guy who grinds it out can still pay his bills and have a good life.

The good news for me is that I still love the game. I take the occasional break, but never for long. Even if I’ve had a tough few months, I just want to get back out there and give it another shot. Every tournament is a new chance to win a tournament. I’m going to play poker until I’m 85, and maybe then I’ll take a break.

For more information about private coaching from Madsen, inquire to JeffMadsenCoaching@gmail.com or contact him on Twitter @jeffmadsenobv.