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70-Year-Old World Series Of Poker Bracelet Winner Ron McMillen: "I Won't Ever Play Online Again"

First-Time Bracelet Winner Discussed His Poker History, Aversion To Online Poker And Representing The Older Generation On The Virtual Felt

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Before July, 70-year-old Iowa native Ron McMillen had never played a hand of online poker. Despite learning the game nearly 50 years ago and watching the game evolve before his very eyes, the virtual version of the game just never appealed to him.

The business owner and recreational poker player racked up more than $150,000 in live tournament earnings, but in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the postponement of what would’ve been this year’s World Series of Poker, McMillen was forced to either take the summer off or play the first hand of online poker of his career.

He chose the latter. McMillen and a couple of friends from a home game near Des Moines took the flight out to Las Vegas with high hopes for the 2020 online WSOP. McMillen’s online career got off to the hottest start that it could… with a bracelet win.

Under the screen name ‘MacDaddy15,’ McMillen navigated his way through a field of 1,026 entries to earn $188,214, his first tournament victory, and his first bracelet in the $1,000 no-limit hold’em six-max event.

McMillen sat down with Card Player to discuss his poker history, his aversion to online poker, and representing older players on the virtual felt.

Steve Schult: First off, congratulations on the victory.

Ron McMillen: Yeah. It’s pretty special. It doesn’t matter what age you are, it’s pretty special. But I guess I’m running out of time in comparison to you all (laughs), so it may be more special. I don’t have as many games ahead of me.

SS: What is your poker backstory? It’s your first time playing online, but I had heard that you are an experienced live cash game player and have played fairly high stakes. How did you get into the game?

RM: I guess I started playing in home games. I played in home games since the early ‘70s, but I started playing in a casino a little bit when I went through a divorce in 2003.

Then I had a couple guys that traveled to places for the [Mid-States Poker Tour], so I started doing that and I have played in main events since ’07. So about 13 years. That’s when I started getting more serious about it and really enjoy it. Then in the last five or six years I’ve really embraced tournament poker. I think I’ve really gotten good at it and I really had to work a lot to [be successful].

It took me a long time. Then again, I’m not a very smart person (laughs), but I keep learning. I’ve played with a lot of young poker players. Several pros. And that made me a lot better and a lot more aware of today’s game.

SS: What were those home games like in the ‘70s? Were you playing no-limit hold’em? Were you playing high stakes?

RM: In the ‘70s, we’d bring up a couple rolls of quarters and then you could win $10 or $20 and it felt like a great night. I was making $55 a week, you know, at my job. So, it was a big deal back then.

Then as I got into the ‘80s, things started to ramp up. Moneymaker of course got everybody on point, but I still play in that same home game and it’s a whole different game. You have to bring a bankroll there and there is another one in Central Iowa that a lot of pros are in. A lot of people would love to fly in and get into it, but it’s pretty exclusive.

I think I’ve been fortunate enough in life where I’ve made some money and I like the higher stakes poker because it makes you focus. If you’re playing smaller poker like $1-$2 or the $2-$5, $5-$10, then I would want to play every hand because I don’t care. You know, I need to play something where I have to play good poker.

I play a lot of cash, but I’ve made a couple runs in some main events and some deep runs in June at the WSOP. I’ve made a couple final tables at MSPTs. But I’ve never made a run like this.

SS: It was well-documented on social media that this was your first time playing online poker. I guess the simple question is how? You’ve been around the game for so long. How did you never even dabble online?

RM: Well, I can be really addicted to things. I love to go outside and I love to hunt and fish. I have a little acreage. I think I sit on like 460 acres with a quarter acre lake and I fly fish and hunt. And I have a wife, I have grown children, and I just want to spend some time in my business. I still stay involved in it. If I started playing online poker, I’m afraid that this would get a little bit nuts.

The other thing is, to tell you the truth, I have a pretty good-sized company and one of my IT guys will come up and say “Mr. McMillen, I’ve got it finished.” And I’ll say “What was it?” “Well, you just didn’t have it turned on.” I’m just so pathetic with computers. Even this. I didn’t want to do it, but I had a couple friends going out and talked me into doing it.

You know, I spent all of June and half of July during the main event last year in Vegas. I absolutely embrace it. If I stay at the Waldorf or Park MGM and there’s a tournament at the Rio, I’d walk. 107 degrees. I’d just bring an extra shirt. Or if I’m going to play a tournament in the Sands Expo, I walk. And I just love every second of it.

And I know the town so well. I love flying in and dining at all the nice places to eat. My wife will come in three four times a year and we’ll go to some really nice places to eat. I just love the town. The whole environment. I was missing it. All of a sudden, it was going by and these guys said, “Just come play a couple online.” And they said they’ll set my computer up and show me what to do. And that’s kind of what happened.

SS: Was there any hesitation on your part since it was online or were you pretty easy to convince to make the trip and play online?

RM: I had a lot of hesitation. I wasn’t going, but three of these people that played in the home were going to be there. One of the guys from the home game said “I’d want to play on a MacBook Air.” So I went and bought one of those and then when we went out there, he set it all up.

I had a terrible time getting Caesars to recognize my account. I registered it under Ron, but my legal name on my driver’s license is Ronald, so I couldn’t play the first night I was there. And then they wanted my social security card. I don’t know where my social security card is. I probably haven’t had one for 50 years. I had to get receipts from my bank as proof of who I was. I barely got in on time the next day to play the tournament that I won.

Once I got in there, even then my friend showed me the basics [of the software] and he said, “You’ll figure it out.” But I never did. With wagering and everything.

I think, I hope that’s kind of why I ran pretty well. I over bet the pot sometimes because instead of being able to punch in the right number, I was just like “What the hell?” I picked min bet or maybe a quarter or half size. Pot bet. Max bet. I just picked one of those because I knew that. By the time you get those numbers in, you know, time’s up. And all of a sudden it was “Oooh. Well, that’s a little more than I wanted to bet.” So maybe I scared some people off some hands they shouldn’t have been afraid of.

SS: That’s pretty hilarious. Outside of not realizing how much you were betting, did you enjoy the overall experience of playing online?

RM: Yeah. And I can see why I won’t ever do it again. I never played cash online here because I think I’d get wrapped up in it.

But you could learn the players you’re playing against and what they’re doing. There was one guy that I had well covered. I think I busted him in sixth-place or something, but he still had a lot of chips. I had seen this person play and with A-8 or above, they were just going nuts with it. I had pocket deuces and I had him about a 3:1 in chip counts, so I knew it would hurt me, but it wouldn’t cripple me.

I assumed he was playing the ace, so I just said I’m basically flipping a coin. I’ll flip a coin for it. I learned that player and I read it right. He actually had A-10 and I held up. That jumped me up there, but there were two other players that I played with for about two hours and I couldn’t believe how tight they played. So I learned that I could steal pots from them.

When they get live tournaments again, I’ll never consider playing online again. I love human beings and I love the social interaction. It’s just not the same event.

SS: Every poker player dreams of winning a bracelet. And when you think about that, you start to get a vision in your head about what it would be like. This was a bit different because there were no crowds. No Thunderdome. No Rio. What was the experience like compared to what how you envisioned it in your mind?

RM: I’d much rather win with all the friends in the stands and the audience. We had none of that. There were five of us in a big suite at Caesars. A couple of those guys were in separate bedrooms playing live action after they got knocked out. Other guys, at the other end of the room, and his son was kind of going back and forth giving a report to everything else as I got deeper. It just wasn’t the same.

SS: Did you still have the same adrenaline rush as when you went deep in those other live tournaments?

RM: The adrenaline rush was still there. I mean, it’s every poker player’s dream to win a bracelet. And then another one of course. First you want to bag, then you want to cash, then you want to run deep, then you want to final table, then you want to win it.

When we hit the final three tables, I started to get that rush. I had been playing good, I had been running real good. I had been playing the best poker of my life and I had quite a few chips. I hit a big hand when there were four or five players left. That’s when it got pretty real.

SS: Do you feel like you have to carry the torch for the older guys?

RM: I don’t have to. I’d love to. It’s amazing how many people have reached out to me that I didn’t even know and thank me for inspiring them.

I don’t believe in letting the old man in. I big game hunt. I go on hunts and it hurts me all the time. My feet hurt, my arches hurt, my back hurts, but the other option is to go out and get a La-Z-Boy and watch TV. And I’m not a La-Z-Boy or TV guy. So I’m going to go and be heard.

It’s the same thing. These people all of a sudden said they weren’t ready to play and now they are going to go play. When it went online, they said they didn’t think they were going to play anymore, and now they are going to start. And that makes me really happy. Like I said, I love people and if I can make people feel good and maybe motivate them, that’s a great thing.