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From Teenage Poker Degenerate to PokerNews Columnist in Only 42 Years

Tommy Angelo

PokerNews welcomes poker author and coach Tommy Angelo as its newest contributor to our Strategy section. If you don’t know of Tommy and his well regarded writings and contributions to poker knowledge already, read on.

My life began at age 14 in Bobby Taylor’s basement.

“Sit down, you pansy,” said Bobby.

“I don’t gamble,” I replied.

“We’re only playing for pennies and nickels, you wuss.”

“Sounds steep.”

“Not for someone who just sold a nickel bag. Now quit being a baby and sit down.”

I sat down. I put some of my precious money on the table. I was not all that worried because, you see, I knew a thing or two about this game called poker, from playing five-card draw and five-card stud with my older brothers, back in my even younger days. We even used chips. But we only played for funsies.

Bobby shuffled the cards and blurted out “Double draw ducks wild low spade takes half,” and I’m like, what?

They told me the score. I got my cards. I liked my cards. I slid a coin made of actual money out into the middle of the table. And something inside me came alive. A being. No, a beast. A wild hungry beast that could only survive on one thing: More poker.

By age 19, I had my own place, my own poker table, and lots of poker buddies. Ten years and a thousand poker games later, I began my education, using books and road trips, on how to win at casino-style limit hold’em.

At age 32, I quit my career as a musician. It was too easy. I was having too much fun. I wanted something more painful. So I became a professional poker player.

Ten years of not going broke qualified me to write articles for poker magazines, so I did that. Five years later, when the poker boom hit, I started selling my time as a poker coach, and the coaching generated the content for my first book, Elements of Poker. A couple years after that, I made a video series called The Eightfold Path to Poker Enlightenment. Then a second book called A Rubber Band Story and Other Poker Tales. And now I’m writing my third book, Painless Poker.

And now you’re all caught up with my careers so far.

Well, not quite. There’s a chapter I left out. The one about tilt. Here’s the Cliffs Notes: I used to be an expert at doing it, and now I’m an expert at not. I do love teaching betting strategy and I’ve done thousands of hours of that. But what I enjoy even more is coaching experienced players on how to play their best game more often.

How can I be more consistent? How can I plug my leaks once and for all? Why do I get so frustrated and angry? And how much is it costing me?

Those questions fascinate me. Always have. I looked for answers during my playing career, and now I try to help other strugglers. So that’s what I write about, which brings me to how I got here…

If you don’t know who Martin Harris is, let me fill you in. In the pokerverse, Martin is the unsung hero of the written word. From his popular and long-running Hard-Boiled Poker blog to live tournament reporting from around the world, he’s a workhorse, delivering facts and insights year after year, always in expertly manicured prose.

Martin and I have been buddies for 10 years. We see each other at the WSOP, and we email. When my phone rang and I saw his name, I was surprised, and glad, and curious.

“Martin! What’s up?”

Have you seen the new comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine? Hilarious show. Martin reminds me of Captain Holt in the evenness of his voice. You have only his words to go on.

“You are now speaking to the new editor of the strategy section at PokerNews,” he said.

I knew how to read between the deadpan. Martin was experiencing — as Captain Holt might call it — extreme joy.

He continued. “I was wondering if you’d be interested in…”

“Yes,” I said. “I’m in.”

“Excellent. When can you start?”

And that’s how I became a PokerNews columnist.

If there is anything you would like me to write about, leave a comment below or send a note to Thanks.

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To join Tommy’s mailing list and receive updates on his upcoming third book, Painless Poker, plus random musings and advice, click here immediately.

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