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World Series of Poker Gold -- Josh Tieman

Chicago Pro Wins His First WSOP Bracelet

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Josh Tieman won the $5,000 shootout event at the 2010 WSOP.If you’re a hardcore poker fan who used to devour the ESPN poker coverage back in the day, you might recognize Josh Tieman.

Before this summer, Tieman was best known in the poker community for his brief appearance on ESPN’s U.S. Poker Championship coverage in 2006, when commentator Norman Chad poked fun of the baby-faced assassin look Tieman had going for himself at the time.

Four years later, Tieman is back in the spotlight. No, he hasn’t made any more TV tables since that event, but the Midwestern pro has earned his first WSOP bracelet after a series of deep finishes over the last few years.

The 27-year-old pro from the Chicago suburbs took down the $5,000 no-limit hold’em shootout last week for $591,089, an accomplishment he admits he wasn’t quite expecting.

“Winning a bracelet turned everything upside down for me,” said Tieman, who has played professionally ever since graduating from Illinois Wesleyan in 2005. “I’ve only played a full World Series schedule one other time, in 2006, back when I was gung ho.”

‘Gung ho’ might be an appropriate phrase to describe the last 18 months of Tieman’s poker playing. After coming to the realization that the heads-up PLO cash games were much softer than their no-limit hold’em counterparts online, Tieman has been committed to taking advantage of the current environment.

Grinding it out an average of 40 hours a week and treating poker like any other job is just a bit different than the days he tried to convince his friends to put up $5 for a home game or when he was worried about his first $40 poker deposit online.

The Start to a Successful Career

The story of how Tieman started playing poker seriously is a common one.

Chris Moneymaker wins the main event in 2003, poker’s popularity explodes with constant TV episodes, and a bunch of young dreamers start playing more frequently. Tieman was one of those dreamers.

But before Tieman could even dream about winning millions, he needed to find people to play against and that wasn’t always an easy task.

Josh Tieman in 2006“We were all broke, so it was kind of tough putting up $5 for a game,” Tieman remembers from his college days. With not enough willing friends for a consistent game, he and a friend decided to test the online waters.

Both deposited $40 onto Paradise Poker. Within days, one was broke, and the other was starting to build a bankroll. Fortunately, for Tieman, he was the latter.

“We played similarly at that point, but I think more than anything, he ran bad, and I ran good,” said Tieman. “I told myself: this is it. If I lose this $40, I am done. My parents were paying for my college, and I didn’t want to develop an online gambling problem when they worked so hard to earn enough money to put me through college.”

Tieman ran that $40 up to $4,000 before discovering that the limit hold’em games actually had greater action at the time. Despite not having much experience in limit play, he jumped into the waters. He soon learned that he was the fish in the game. Before he knew it, the bankroll he had worked months to build was gone within two days.

“I was devastated,” said Tieman, who remembers staring at the final few cents in his cashier screen for what must have been hours after his implosion. “But it was a good lesson to learn early on — don’t overestimate your poker ability.”

After giving up the game for a month, he was eventually drawn back. He knew he could be successful if he stuck just to no-limit hold’em, so he made a second deposit. The rest, as they say, is history.

Playing for a Living

By the time Tieman had graduated from college, he had earned between $50,000 and $60,000 from online poker.

All that time, he kept his online poker playing a secret from his parents.

“I was a little nervous because they were paying for me to go to college, and I was afraid they would worry,” said Tieman. “I didn’t really tell them, even though I was trying to be very responsible about it.”

Josh TiemanBut upon graduation, knowing that he wanted to continue playing and avoid the 9-to-5 work schedule, he let the cat out of the bag.

He was surprised to learn his parents were OK with it, and says they remain supportive, even railing him through online updates when he goes deep in an event.

“The first thing my dad said to me (after I told him) was, ‘Wow, you’re a much better gambler than I am,’” Tieman remembers.

Since that confession, Tieman has played mostly no-limit heads up before transitioning to PLO heads-up over the last two years.

Although he considers himself primarily an online player, he has racked up 10 WSOP cashes in his young career, including three final tables.

In his shootout win this year, Tieman overcame some stiff competition. On his road to the final table, he defeated Chris Ferguson, Brandon Adams, and Tony G. Plenty of big names cashed in the prestigious event, but were unable to make the final table, including Tom Dwan, Dario Minieri, James Akenhead, and Faraz Jaka.

It was a big win for a guy who was most known for his 2006 TV time at the U.S. Poker Championship.

“That was kind of a thrill,” said Tieman, about that coverage. “All these people who I don’t really keep in touch with came out of the woodwork because they saw me on ESPN. My mom recorded it, probably sent it out to relatives or something.”

It seems likely that Tieman’s half-million dollar score at the World Series probably constituted another family update.

From Poker Player to…Inventor?

Tieman doesn’t want to play poker forever, and thinks he’ll probably play less and less as the years go on. With his win, he hopes to travel more.

As for what he wants to do next professionally, he most definitely has something in mind.

“My ultimate dream job, well besides astronaut because it might be too late for that, is to be an entrepreneur and inventor,” said Tieman. “I see a lot of similarities between [being an entrepreneur and a professional poker player]. You work your own hours, but you’re rewarded for the time you put in and how well you do your job.”

Asked why he wants to specifically be an inventor as opposed to simply an entrepreneur who runs his own business, Tieman says it’s all about competitive advantage.

Josh Tieman“You can own a bar or a restaurant, but you really won’t have a strong competitive advantage,” said Tieman. “If you’re an inventor, you have that competitive advantage.”

When asked what types of products he hopes to invent, the quiet Chicago pro needed a little convincing before opening up.

“They’re probably pretty bad, pretty stupid,” he prefaced, before saying, “I made a list of like eight things a while back, but I think half of them are already invented now.”

One of those invented items was a GPS tracking device for pets and children. You can now buy a GPS device to put on your dog’s collar online, and several major cell phone companies have tracking software as part of their family plan service so parents can keep better watch over their kids.

“I missed the boat on that,” Tieman said with a laugh.

One of his ideas that made the list that involves car alarms is not as widespread.

“You know how you always hear car alarms going off? A lot of people don’t even know what their car alarm sounds like, so I think a lot of people just ignore their car alarm when it goes off because they think it’s somebody else’s,” said Tieman. “So what I wanted to do was create a product that would call or text your phone if your car alarm started going off, so you can actually check on it and see what’s going on.”

Besides just practical items, he claims he’s trying to think of items for when a whole new market opens up — such as the flying car market.

“I figure flying cars will really start coming out in five or ten years, so I’m trying to invent something for that,” said Tieman, in a way where it’s hard to known definitively whether or not he’s joking. “I could build a VIP restaurant up in the sky where no one could get to it unless you had a flying car. I mean, what’s the first thing you’re going to do when you have a flying car? Clearly, you’d go to the restaurant in the sky.”

Until Tieman creates his diner in the sky to accommodate all those flying cars (which really do exist by the way), he will continue to play in the 2010 World Series of Poker. Follow all the action with Card Player’s daily recaps, live updates, news features, and CPTV videos.