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Online Poker -- Interview with Va Shon 'Julian Verse' Watkins

Watkins Talks About Almost Going Broke And Coming Back


Va Shon WatkinsVa Shon Watkins had a monster 2008, going from relative unknown to the top of the online poker world with one of the largest scores of the year. Playing as Julian Verse on Full Tilt, Watkins tore through the FTOPS main event and steamrolled the final table to claim the outright victory, along with over $450,000.

On the surface, it appeared to those in the know that the 22-year-old was simply adding another huge score to his already long list of online accomplishments, but few knew that the cash came at a crucial point in his young career. The truth is that Watkins was just days away from throwing in the towel and giving up on what has become a promising start for the Aurora, Illinois resident.

Card Player
spoke to Watkins to discuss his highs and lows of the past year.

Julio Rodriguez: To start it off, can you tell us how you found your way into poker?

Va Shon Watkins:
I got into poker for purely rebellious reasons. My parents were kind of strict with me growing up and the second I turned 18, I found myself heading into a home game with some friends. I lost all my money that night, but the realization that people could make money at cards stuck with me. I continued to play casually throughout my first year of college but as I got better, I got less and less interested in school. Of course, I taught myself poker, which allowed me to stay away from the books completely.

JR: Most players are well aware of your FTOPS win earlier this year, but few knew just how desperate you were getting as the tournament neared.

Most people don’t know, but I was basically broke right before I won. I had run my bankroll up to about $100,000, but six months later it was already down to my last $5,000. Even when I did cash, I wasn’t closing. I was depressed and worried. I didn’t know what the hell I would do since I wasn’t ready to get a normal 9-5 job. So using my amazing bankroll skills, I bought in directly to the FTOPS main event for $500. [Laughing]

What was the problem?

VSW: When I was second guessing myself, I started to miss opportunities and spots that I would normally take advantage of. When things aren’t going well, I feel like everybody at the table knows it and is pushing me around. Every hand I play I convince myself that I’m up against a set, even if it’s completely illogical based on the way the hand played out. In the past, I was a bit paranoid. Now, things have really been clicking. I’m much more patient and my confidence is at an all-time high. Confidence is everything.

JR: For someone in your financial situation, you didn’t seem too concerned with moving up in the money during that final table.

VSW: I was saying first the whole way. I was gambling at any point. My goal was to put fear into every player at that table and let them know I was playing for stacks. Someone in my position at the time may have played a little more conservatively to make sure I moved up a few spots, but I was going for the win the entire time.

JR: What has changed since that win?

VSW: Well, I’m financially secure now. [Laughing] This summer, I was really frustrated because I was reduced to the satellites, fighting my way into tournaments at Bellagio. Now, I know that I can take a few shots buy-in straight.

My mom was super excited. She is usually pretty conservative, but the day I offered to buy her a new car she started to realize that I could really do something with poker. She asked me how much I won and I told her half. She was shocked when she found out I won half of a million.

JR: Now that you have a proper bankroll, are you more eager to play or just content with what you’ve achieved?

I’m hungry dude. To be honest, I’ve just been playing non-stop for weeks now. I don’t want the rush to end so I keep pushing myself to play and it has really worked out for me. I somehow managed to win a major online tournament three weeks in a row.

So what’s next?

VSW: I’m playing a lot of mixed games now. I get really bored with just hold’em so when I do play cash games, I make sure that there is some variant of stud going on.

I’m definitely going to make more appearances on tour, but I’ve become really strict with my bankroll management and I’m going to make sure that I never get that close to busting again. You’ll probably see me in L.A. this year and of course at the Bellagio. I think I might have to hold off my month-long plans for the WSOP this year, though. I just can’t seem to get any sleep when I’m in Las Vegas.



almost 13 years ago

1.5 or under... wanna book it?


over 12 years ago

GL to you sir!! Wishing you continued success on the tables. Oh yah... and thanks for coming out to play in the private tourney on Fulltilt for my g/f's birthday. It was appreciated!