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Poker Community Buys Man Facing Terminal Cancer into WSOP Main Event

michael graydon poker

Michael Graydon was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer seven months ago. The 40-year-old poker player, who spoke with PokerNews, sent out a tweet asking for a partial backing into the upcoming World Series of Poker Main Event, and he quickly learned about the generosity of the poker community.

Graydon, born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, has two daughters (9 and 6), and has been married to his wife Haley for 12 years. The family man had to share some bad news with his loved ones 10 months ago.

"Back in December (2020), I went to the ENT for a sinus infection and told him about a weird spasm I had been having in my neck," Graydon told PokerNews.

Poker Community Steps Up

That was the start of his medical problems. The doctor found that he had a paralyzed vocal cord, so an MRI on his brain was ordered. Three months later, he returned for a follow-up MRI, and it was confirmed that he had a slow growing malignant glioma of the brainstem. As he explained in a tweet to the poker community, his brain cancer is terminal, but that doesn't mean he's going to stop living life.

Graydon had no idea what was about to happen. He initially asked for backers to cover 70% of his $10,000 WSOP Main Event buy-in at no markup. He quickly found willing investors, but then a few others decided to be even more generous.

MJ Gonzales, who helped coach Daniel Negreanu during his online heads-up challenge against Doug Polk, offered to pay the entire buy-in and allow Graydon to keep all winnings.

Jonathan Depa then stepped in to split the buy-in with Gonzales. The generosity from the poker community didn't stop there. Maria Ho then offered to pay for Graydon's flight to Las Vegas for the WSOP. The Alabama Crimson Tide die-hard ("Roll Tide," he proudly proclaims) said he plans to fly out November 6 to enter the Day 1D session.

Michael Graydon
Michael Graydon & daughters.

But, wait, there's more. All-American Dave, a healthy food-eating truck that caters to poker players, is going to provide Graydon with free unlimited meals while he's in town.

"I was absolutely blown away," Graydon said of the poker community's generosity. "I shouldn’t have been surprised because I’ve seen the poker community step up time and time again for everyone. They seriously have a heart of gold and always take care of their own. What’s even more crazy is MJ Gonzales offered to cover my entire entry so that I could keep 100% of myself and the people that wanted to buy pieces were totally thrilled about that and the ones that already had paid me told me to keep it for accommodations. Maria Ho has already paid for and booked my flight."

Playing Poker for Years

Graydon, who owns a landscaping company, won't be stepping foot in a poker room for the first time when he enters the Main Event. He competed in the world championship event in 2019 and reached Day 2, but fell short of the money. In 2009, however, he cashed in poker's most prestigious annual tournament, a 483rd-place finish for $25,027.

"I’ve always loved the game and when I’m playing all my cares and worries go out the window," the father of two stated. "I started playing in the back of a Mexican restaurant when I was 15. In the past 10-15 years I’ve just entered some of the WSOP Circuit stops where I’ve had some cashes here and there with my best finish being 11th at the WSOP Circuit Main Event in Atlantic City in March of 2017. I cashed in the marathon a few years ago at the World Series. Due to always having to work, I’ve never took the leap into poker full time."

Not a Death Sentence

michael graydon poker

Being diagnosed with terminal cancer isn't easy on anyone, especially a parent of young children. But he isn't about to just stop battling the disease, and he remains in good spirits.

"Initially, I was in shock because it didn’t seem real," Graydon said of his reaction to finding out about his condition. "But the weeks following it actually made me love life more and focus on the things that really matter in life. We aren’t promised tomorrow so make the best of today and I’m always looking to see how I can better someone else day because you never know what people are going through. And someone always has it worse."

Graydon doesn't know how long he has left to live. He said it could be one to two years, but if all goes well with his treatment (radiation and chemotherapy), he could live for 10 more years, maybe even longer.

While the future remains unclear, one thing is for certain, he will soon be in Las Vegas competing in the 2021 World Series of Poker Main Event!

Check out our 2021 WSOP Hub here!

*Images courtesy of Michael Graydon.

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  • Read our exclusive interview with Michael Graydon, who is fighting brain cancer.

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