Drawing Dead (Poker Documentary)

What are you doing? I’m walking across america. Why are you doing that? Because poker almost ruined my life.

Meet Michael. 7 months ago Michael and his two dogs, Jack and Buddy left seattle washington on a 4000 mile journey across the country on foot. Like many people over the last decade Michael fell in love with online poker unfortunately online poker didn’t love him back. He decided to walk across the country in an attempt to share his story with others who also fell victim to the game. His destination is Boston where he will speak at the national convention for problem gambling in June.

Meet Dusty. Dusty, is a millionaire. He made his money playing poker online. Known by his screen name, LEATHERASS, Dusty has made over 4 million dollars in 7 years. He is a sponsored poker pro at pokerstars.net a poker columnist for card player magazine he hosts a daily podcast discussing poker and is the author of 2 books you guessed it on poker.

Dusty and Michael may seem different at first but they share one distinct similarity online poker has changed their lives. In 2003 a no name accountant from tennessee outlasted 846 others and turned $40 dollars into $2.5 million by winning the World Series of Poker. He gained entry into the main event by winning a poker tournament online.

His story unfolded in front of millions of people on ESPN. Days later, everyone knew the name “Chris Moneymaker”. Those of us who remember watching were all thinking the same thing, “That could be me”. After all most of us are “Chris Moneymakers”, middle management, under paid, under appreciated, bouncing aimlessly through life looking for our true calling. We related to this mans story, and strived to have what he had now: freedom, security, fame, all this from just playing a game. It looked so easy.

My name is Michael Korpi, I’m 24, from Seattle Washington. I’ve been suspended from two colleges in the last 5 years on account, of stuff I did, gambling online. The first night I played it was a rainy afternoon after school. Some of my friends who had already gotten into it were playing and they invited me over, and I was like, “Sure, sounds like fun.”

I think, I bought in for $5 and left with maybe $13 or something. I was pretty well hooked from that point on. Online really started when I went to college. Well just about every spare minute I would spend hold up in my room, at my desk, in front of my computer, either playing free rolls, or playing with whatever change I had. I think that semester I had like a 1.6 or 1.8 GPA after graduating high school with almost a 4.0.

Yeah, I was good. I mean, I would always end up at 0. And, I was not good at managing my money, but I would say I was good at playing.

I had some big swings online. When I say big Im talking like Id buy in for 5 or 10 dollars and win a few thousand in a tournament. You know there would be strings of 3 or 4 days where I would final table 3 tournaments in that period and end up with 10,000 or something at the end of that, and then a couple days after that I’d be back at 0.

I don’t know if ever really told myself I want to be a professional poker player but is was always in the back of my mind like, yeah, I wanted to do this to make money. I got started playing poker in December of 2004 and I remember kind of the way it happened was one of my friends named Matt Amen came to my house, he’s like a professional poker player now. He came to my house and we both didn’t know anything about poker at the time. He brought this really ugly looking, but really expensive shirt that his grandma got him for christmas. He said “hey”, he said, “If you don’t mind putting…” …because he didn’t have a bank account at the time so… “if you don’t mind a hundred dollars on pokerstars I’ll give you this shirt and you can take it back to the store tomorrow and get like 175 dollars cash” So I was like “alright, well thats fine”. So I put it on there for him, created an account, and he started playing, and I was just sort of fascinated watching these games and then started looking at some of the bigger stakes games and started to see, you know, tens of thousands of dollars like swinging around the internet in these massive pots.

I was like “man I got to start doing this” so i started playing, I just hooked instantly I just started playing and made my own deposit you know I put 50 bucks in a few times and just tried to learn the game as much as I could. They called it the “Moneymaker Effect”. Every year following the 2003 World Series the amount of people willing to pay the $10,000 entry fee into the most prestigious poker tournament in the world grew. In just 3 years, in 2006, the amount on entrants increases ten fold to almost 9000 people, with a top prize of $12 million dollars. It was the highest amount ever paid for a single event in sports, or television history. More than that, online poker exploded.

New members were signing up every second depositing their $50 bucks, hoping to one day, play on ESPN. Poker went from a game, to an industry. Gamblers went from degenerates, to professionals. Dusty became LEATHERASS.

Michael, became an addict. It started out, I was hanging out with one of my friends, and I didn’t have any money to deposit with, so I asked him, “hey can you deposit some money on here?” So he did, and at that point I didn’t have the plan to steal a whole bunch of money from him. But his information was saved, and once I lost the initial one you know, it was accessible to me, and there was no way to stop me from clicking “deposit” another $20.

It wasn’t about the money for me. It was about the rush it would give me. Well let me put it this way, when I have cash on me one of the first things I think about is how many big blinds it will get me at the table. Over and over again I would deposit $20 to $50 dollars somewhere between there, each time. Every time with the intent to winning it back.

Of course thats not what happened. I started out by going to the golf course every morning at 6 am, and, I caddied. I would usually make between $60 and $100 dollars caddying. That would give me some money for the day. And then the rest of the day, which, you know, I’d get there at 6 am and be done by 10 in the morning, caddying. So I’d spend 10 am, to you know, as long as I could keep my eyes open every night, just playing poker.

Eventually what happened about 2 months and 800 hours later, was, I emerged with about $20,000 dollars. Eventually, I had my first $100,000 dollar profitable month, and then I had about 10 more in a row right after that. Next thing I knew, within 9 or 10 months I was like a millionaire. It was weird I never really felt like I had a lot of money because I never even left my office. I was still wearing the same stuff I was wearing I still had the same car I was still in the same room, same house, I just had a much bigger bank account balance.

I didn’t even know what it all meant. All I knew was that, money is important to have and I’m making a lot having fun and why would I ever leave this computer screen? I used to work for nothing, like, there is NO WAY I can leave this computer making this kind of money. Who am I to turn down… …like basically this computer is offering me the ability to make at least $1000 bucks an hour. So I admitted it. And it was a case of admitted guilt There was an honor council and everything and there was a trail…and…um It turned out that I was suspended indefinitely with the opportunity to reapply in a year provided that I follow through with all the sanctions but, needless to say I didn’t reapply to that school.

I finally figured out that gambling wasn’t for me. If I didn’t stop, I would…. I’m pretty convinced that I would wind up in jail. If I weren’t on private campuses, I would be in jail right now.

“DONKEY” is like… …a not so loving term for a poker player who.. …basically isn’t very good. They’ll call him a “DONKEY”. And you’ll hear people at the table like “Heeeh Hahhhh” and stuff like that. Its amazing that, to me in poker, that stuff like that exists because its one of those things where, ultimately bad players are your customers so why you would ever try and upset your customer makes no sense to me.