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A Poker Life -- Shaun Deeb

Online Pro Has Best Month Since Retirement Almost a Year Ago


Shaun DeebIt was less than a year ago when Shaun “TedsFishFry” Deeb said he was quitting poker tournaments.

Even though the retirement didn’t last long, Deeb had to wait until this month to record his first six-figure score since the short break from the game.

It came earlier this month in the Full Tilt Poker $750,000 guarantee, which Deeb won for $132,787.

Deeb didn’t have to wait as long for the second, as he won event No. 28 in this fall’s PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) this past Thursday.

The win was Deeb’s second first-place finish in a WCOOP event and netted the 24-year-old online pro $243,610 — his largest tournament score to date.

In his six-year career as one of the game’s best, Deeb has experienced, and ultimately handled, the ups and downs of a life in poker.

Here is brief look at his story.

The Beginning of a Poker Career

Deeb got his competitive start in poker during his high school years — and he started running well out of the gate.

At the age of 16, Deeb hosted $20-rebuy tournaments at his house. The games usually attracted about 30 people, yet Deeb won five of the first 15 tournaments he held. Deeb had discovered he possessed a natural ability versus his friends.

Two years later, Deeb deposited money online and quickly found similar success.

After high school, the New York native decided to attended college in Boston. However, at Bentley University, the budding online pro lacked interest in his studies. He quickly found a group of friends that also shared his interest in no-limit hold’em.

“I was pretty much never going to class,” said Deeb, who didn’t have any specific bankroll rules at the time. “A bunch of my friends on my floor in the dorm were playing poker, and we had live home games a couple nights a week. Most of us played online as well. It ended up that I was doing the best out of all of them.”

Within the first year of grinding online, Deeb had a bankroll of more than $10,000. It was at this point his career began to skyrocket — thanks to a run of success in $10 rebuy events online.

With consistent tournament scores coming in, Deeb decided to drop out of school after just one year. The risk wasn’t a major cause for concern for Deeb’s family.

“They were kind of behind it from the start,” said Deeb, whose family had always been interested in gambling games. “They trusted me to make decisions. As I was becoming more successful, they would come see me play, or hear about my poker from friends. They always stood behind me.”

The Semi-Retirement

By the year 2009, with back-to-back fifth-place finishes in the Card Player Online Player of the Year (OPOY) race and millions in tournament earnings, Deeb was burnt out from poker.

"I got sick of my grinding schedule of all day, seven days a week kind of sh-t."“I got sick of my grinding schedule of all day, seven days a week kind of sh-t,” Deeb said. “It was very time consuming and there wasn’t much I was doing besides waking up and playing every day.”

The thoughts of quitting the game were creeping into Deeb’s mind at a time when he was traveling and feeling stressed out from the monotony of online poker. Deeb said he needed a break at this point.

The decision was one he made without the assistance or advice of family or his friends in the poker world. As it would turn out, the break was exactly what the young online pro needed.

In two months away from the game, Deeb took up racquetball and used his free time to reset his mind from the grind of a poker career.

Even though Deeb was enjoying his time pursuing other activities, he still missed the game that had provided so much success.

Deeb decided to return to the game, but with a different mindset. He began to play mixed games online and in brick-and-mortar casinos, in an effort to distance himself from his past of exclusively sitting in front of the computer.

However, even with the switch to cash games and other hobbies, Deeb didn’t give up online tournaments entirely. He still grinds online, but with a more limited schedule.

“I think since I came back I have been more focused, instead of being so apathetic during tournaments,” Deeb said. “I get a little more emotional during them now. I think it’s a good thing because it makes me focus more and not spew off all my chips.”

While Deeb had been a fixture on the Card Player OPOY leader board for quite some time, he is now more concerned with diversifying his poker interests and finding other ways to make money.

“I try to keep it fresh and that was the point to learning different variants of poker,” Deeb said. “Mix games force you to think about poker differently than what comes with no-limit. I feel that no-limit doesn’t have a lot of new stuff going on. I think the other games are more interesting. A lot of people don’t know the hand equities and ranges, or they don’t understand board texture. Focusing on the other disciplines keeps me occupied.”

"I’ve been offered a few times to play on High Stakes Poker, but I don’t think I have an edge against those guys -- and I never will."Even though Deeb is now a regular at the $200-$400 mixed games at Aria, he said he doesn’t envision a time when he will be playing nosebleed stakes for no-limit hold’em.

“I’ve been offered a few times to play on High Stakes Poker, but I don’t think I have an edge against those guys — and I never will,” Deeb said. “It’s a different skill set, which only the top 10 or 20 cash-game players in the world have — that I will never be able to understand and never be able to compete with. It’s way too big of a game, and I wouldn’t go on just for the show of my ego.”

“It’s a really bad decision for a lot of young guys to have that as their goal, to make it on TV and compete in that game. The goal should be to try and make the most money, and if you play nosebleed stakes you are going to go through million-dollar swings. The bankroll to play in those games needs to be so big. It’s better to stay at lower stakes and keep grinding it out.”

The Second WCOOP Title

While his second career victory in a WCOOP event was breaking news in the poker world, Deeb was anticipating a call from his biggest fan — his grandmother.

Deeb’s grandmother introduced him to poker at an early age, and to this day gives her grandson a call after every big score.

“She asked for all the details, like what the buy-in was and how much I cashed for, and how I was doing –- all the usual grandmotherly stuff. She still plays poker — about three or four days a week. I can’t convince her to play online though.”

My grandmother still plays poker -- I can’t convince her to play online thoughEven with all the attention from family and his peers in the poker world, Deeb remains humble and considers it just another day in the office.

“The WCOOP win took the whole day,” Deeb said. “I ran really well at the final table. Whenever I’ve been all in lately I just haven’t lost. I haven’t done anything much differently. I’m sure most people have seen the hand histories. There have been some situations where my image and knowledge of players comes in handy, but most of the decisions have been pretty simple.”

Though he is obviously well aware of his talents, Deeb was humble in explaining his success.

“Over the course of my career, in tournaments that I needed to do well in I have. I’ve ran ridiculously well above expectation at my big final tables. I think I’ve played well, but I don’t think I deserve as many wins as I’ve had.”

Finally out on His Own

Even with one of the best poker résumés in the business, Deeb found the need to receive backing before the 2009 World Series of Poker.

Deeb reached a stacking deal with Cliff “JohnnyBax” Josephy and Eric “Sheets” Haber. The decision wasn’t out of necessity, but instead out of comfort.

Cliff 'JohnnyBax' JosephyAlthough Deeb had 100 percent of his action in the first three or four years of his poker career, Josephy and Haber provided stability for a run of big buy-in events and high-stakes cash games.

It wasn’t until his victory in event No. 28 in the WCOOP early Thursday morning, before Deeb thought it was time to leave the business relationship.

“I’m sure they knew when I was really deep in the WCOOP event, after the 750K earlier this month, and after I got out of makeup, I was going to leave them,” Deeb said. “I was cutting down my volume and not following their rules –- kind of doing my own thing. I did really well for them over the years, and they were really helpful when I needed them. I could always have been on my own. It was a comfort thing. I was just like, ‘alright, you’re not needed anymore,’ and we parted ways.”

The Future

While the 24-year-old Deeb would be considered young by almost any standard, in the online poker world 24 is reaching middle-age.

“I got really worried when someone mentioned to me that Mike “Timex” McDonald just turned 21,” Deeb said. “I remember when I first started talking to him he secretly told me that he was 16, and I couldn’t believe it. It’s been a long time. All these kids that I once thought were really young are now all grown up.”

"I got really worried when someone mentioned to me that Mike “Timex” McDonald just turned 21."Even with his relative old age in the online poker world, Deeb is still a newcomer to live poker — especially big buy-in events.

While Deeb’s live tournament scores represent a small portion of his $2,768,369 career tournament earnings and the big win has always eluded him, he is still confident that one day his major breakthrough will come.

“The live events I’ve played are a small sample size,” Deeb said. “I’ve definitely misplayed some hands but I haven’t been in a situation where the best part of my game –- deep stage tournament poker, such as in the money, near final tables or bubbles –- can really take over. I haven’t had the opportunity to play my best stage of a tournament, but when I get there I’ll have a shot at a win.”

Even though Deeb currently spends a lot of his time playing mixed games at Aria, he said he will never completely abandon the form of poker that gave him his initial success.

“My skill set is best for tournaments,” Deeb said. “But there is a lot of benefit from cash games, especially when it comes to picking and choosing your sessions. You can get a better hourly rate in cash games, but I will always play tournaments as well.”

At just 24 years of age, Deeb has experienced a meteoric rise in the poker world, been through the swings, retired briefly, and picked up right where he left off.

However, even with success at high-stakes mixed games and online tournaments once again, Deeb said that taking a break from the game about a year ago helped him not only as a poker player — but also as a person.

“After the first few weeks of walking away from the game I asked myself, ‘How did I not do this a long time ago,’ Deeb said. “When I went home my family said I was a lot more relaxed and not stressed out all the time. I am a much more laid back person now.”