The PokerNews Live Reporting Team travels to various stops around the world, and whether it’s the across the Atlantic for the European Poker Tour or on American soil for the World Series of Poker Circuit, we tend to run into familiar people at each stop. These players grind tournaments and cash games day in and day out but rarely get more recognition than simply being labeled “regulars” and “grinders.”
We’ve decided to change that by profiling some of these players in our new Circuit Grinder series. One of the things we aim to do at PokerNews, is find the star before he or she becomes a star. Our inaugural piece featured three-time WSOP Circuit ring winner David Nicholson, and once again we return to the WSOP Circuit for our latest profile — Chris “Biloxi Bomber” Conrad.
The 28-year-old poker pro from Tampa, Florida, has $455,162 in career earnings since 2010. He has earned six figures in three consecutive years and has already gotten off to a good start in 2013 by winning his first gold ring in the WSOP Circuit Harrah’s Tunica $365 Pot-Limit Omaha event for $13,122.
PokerNews recently sat down with Conrad to talk about his recent win, how he spends his money, and what life’s like on the circuit.
PokerNews: Those of us traveling the Circuit have gotten the chance to know you over the years, but for those who haven’t, can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?
Chris Conrad: I have one sister, Amber, and she is my only sibling. She is two years younger than me. My mom, Sharon, and my father, Greg, both were great parents helping me grow up and supporting me with all my decisions in life up to now. I was an average kid growing up playing every sport. I was a big-time soccer player (goalie; played travel soccer from age of 6 to my junior year in high school), but also played golf, baseball, basketball, football and a few other sports very competitively. I went to Florida State University studying Professional Golf Management in the school of Business/Hospitality. I was on the extended plan there for seven years. I worked for Chili's throughout college as mostly a bartender, but that was only the second greatest job to what I do now.
How did you learn to play poker?
I first learned poker in high school with a bunch of teammates and other schoolmates. I would say we all picked poker up from the Chris Moneymaker boom. That guy doesn't get enough credit for what he did for poker — great guy I may add. Poker continued through college, as it started in the dorm, which led into the fraternity house, Phi Kappa Psi. I soon learned about home games and then about online poker.
When did you make the decision to play poker professionally, and what sort of factors led to that decision?
Deciding to play poker professionally was always a dream of mine and as it was with a lot of my friends that played in the home games. We would make long weekend trips to Biloxi, Mississippi with all our money, which was usually $1,500 at most, and took a shot in the games there. But it wasn't until I came across Marty "thelipofund" Mathis that the decision to play poker professionally became realistic. I was amazed to watch him just make thousands of dollars grinding everyday online as job in between his classes and schoolwork. He taught me well and had me start grinding the $2.20 180-man turbos on PokerStars that made me very successful and [I soon] moved up to bigger stakes. I really didn't start playing professionally until after my spring break in March of 2010.
I made a trip to Biloxi with the girlfriend at the time to the Beau Rivage. I went to play their two monthly guarantees with my $2,200 tax return. Well, I happened to win both of their guarantees, I think it was a $345 tournament and $235 for about $13,000. I decided to come back the following weekend with a couple of my friends to play their Spring Break Classic. We played the opening event, and I played on my rush and won the first event for $32,000 and a seat into their $2,400 Main Event for the following weekend.
I went back to school the following week and came back to play the Main Event, and I happened to crush it and ended up chopping it heads up with the great Tyler Smith for $90,000. My luck ran short as he won the flip for the title and $5,000 seat to the World Poker Tour. I tried to finish out school that semester, but that just wasn't realistic. I had a $150,000 month starting with $2,000 to my name. I owe all the credit to my buddy Marty, and that’s pretty much how I got here.
What has been the reaction of your family and friends?
Well, it took some time for my friends and family to accept that I play poker for a living. I definitely lost a girlfriend from poker before I was even a +EV player and doing it for a living, but as goes for my parents, I broke their hearts when I decided to quit school and chase the dream. I don't think it was until I won the World Poker Tour Regional in Jacksonville that they truly started accepting it, but I will tell you now, my parents, sister and grandparents are my biggest fans. They make me successful from all the support they give me. I am definitely blessed to have them there for me. As for my friends, most of them think its amazing and enjoy following my life and the lifestyle I live.
You recently won your first WSOP Circuit gold ring by taking down the $365 PLO event at Harrah’s Tunica for $13,122. What was it like to win your first ring?
First ring [laughs]. I have been frustrated with the fact I have won a lot of tournaments, but none were the official WSOP Circuit events up until now. Back in December 2010, I ironically won a PLO rebuy event in New Orleans. This was a WSOP "satellite" stop or also called the Winter Bayou Poker Challenge. I received a gold ring very similar to the one I just received, but the only difference on this one was that it said "satellite" on there. But it was great to finally win my official ring.
It was awkward playing one my best buds heads up for the ring, though — it took Michael "Carwash" Schneider and myself a good 20 minutes to stop laughing at each other heads up. I have always supported and cheered him on in some of his other final tables. It was a dream heads-up battle that really didn't turn out to be as enjoyable as I would have liked. It wasn't fun beating a good friend, as I knew how much he wanted it and would have given the ring to his son. He was a great sport, competitor and friend in the end congratulating me.
Did you do anything to celebrate?
I had plans to celebrate this win, but most of my friends that were there supporting me were either drunk after the four-hour heads-up duel or in bed resting up for the Main Event the next day. So, I went to get some food, and then I received a text from another good friend, AP Phahurat. He ran out of gas in West Memphis. I ended up driving an hour and getting a gas for him. He was clueless on what to do as I poured the gas in his car. He repaid me with a nice dinner at the steak house at Harrah's Tunica. So, I guess that was sort of my celebration dinner.
Can you give our readers an idea what life on the road is like?
Life on the circuit is absolutely amazing. I have been lost and struggling where I would like to live for the last few years. I just never had too many good friends wherever I chose to live. Well, it wasn't until this last month of traveling that I realized all my closest friends were traveling the circuit. I have built great friendships with many players, dealers, floors and even masseuses in my travels.
I usually travel with at least a friend or two, and we end up splitting up the hotel rooms fairly. We have been pretty good about experiencing the different cultures and food at each stop we visit. We have gone to many sporting events, to the popular bars and even colleges in the areas of where we travel. I highly recommend experiencing one full WSOP Circuit stop.
We’ve seen you on the road with recent three-time ring winner David Nicholson. What can you tell us about him?
I met David Nicholson in all my trips and visits to Biloxi, Mississippi. We became pretty close the last year and a half as we have been roommates for most of our travels. He has introduced me to a lot of poker players and I have introduced him to a lot different poker players. This kid is amazing and you will hear his name in poker world in the future. He is one of the good guys in the poker community, and I am blessed to have him as a good friend.
Nicholson won the PLO event in Choctaw, and then you won it at the very next stop. Would you say the two of you have a friendly rivalry?
David and myself have given ourselves extra motivation the last two stops in Choctaw and Tunica with some team prop bets. We were very eager to do well and get points to qualify for the WSOP National Championship, so we set up prop bets with two-person teams. We ended up easily winning our two bets in Choctaw and had a little more of a sweat in Tunica against four other teams. David and myself definitely push each other with a friendly rivalry. We both joked about a “#teamconradanddiesel” after going back to back in the PLO events. David ended up clinching our Tunica prop bet by final tabling Event #12 to rule out two other teams that had a chance to surpass us the last day in Tunica.
Your biggest career score was for $143,145 for winning the WPT Regional Event at the Jacksonville Summer Series. What was it like to notch your first and, thus far, only six-figure score?
Winning the WPT Regional in Jacksonville was absolutely amazing. I have been very spoiled with some good results, but winning this $50,000 heads-up battle for the WPT title was awesome. My favorite thing, other than the money, was the Happy Gilmore-sized check I got. It makes a great wall decoration in my living room. I have had a few other opportunities to notch other six-figure scores that just haven't been meant to be, but I plan on having a few more, and I like the possibility of a seven-figure score.
Did you make any big purchases with the prize money from that event?
I have never been good with money, and after all my good scores from poker, I have never really spent much money on myself. After this score, though, I happened to buy a $5,000 couch and 60" TV. I loved the couch so much that I slept half my nights I was in town on the couch instead of my bed. I still remember going to the store with my grandparents and picking out this amazing burgundy leather couch.
What are your poker goals for 2013? Will you be trying to qualify for the WSOP Circuit National Championship?
This is the first year I ever recall writing down goals. I started the New Year off with one of goals by starting a blog to talk about my poker travels and successes. Some of my other goals for poker was to win a WSOP Circuit ring — check; qualify for National Championship — getting there; profit over $100,000 in live tournaments; and move to Rosarito, Mexico to get back into online poker.
Some people call you the Biloxi Bomber. How did you get that nickname?
Well, going back to a story from Biloxi helps me get the nickname "Biloxi Bomber." I actually didn't get the nickname until that summer in Vegas. I think Marty Mathis and Ricky Fohrenback were the ones who came up with it, but the thought process was that I always wore a hoodie when playing live and that I crushed Biloxi for over $150,000 in a three-week span. That became my Twitter handle and now I guess it’s my nickname on the circuit.
What’s in store for you between now and the WSOP this summer?
I plan on being a very busy person from now until the WSOP this summer. I plan on going to West Palm Beach for WSOP Circuit February 13th thru February 24th. Then, I am flying to San Diego February 26th to drive down to Rosarito, Mexico to get set up online again. I will only be there for a week as I plan on flying form San Diego to Denver on March 6th to play the Heartland Poker Tour Main Event.
Then, I will take a few days off to hit the slopes before the WSOP Circuit is there March 14-25. After that, I plan to either go back to Mexico and grind a little online, go home to Tampa, Florida, maybe go to European Poker Tour Berlin, or maybe a combination of all three. Then, I will make it to New Orleans around May 8th for the final WSOP Circuit stop and play in the WSOP National Championship. I hope to squeeze in some time to visit friends and family, but I plan on making the most out of 2013.
*Lead photo courtesy of the WSOP.