One player who recently jumped into the field is 42-year-old Riky "RikyOneTime" Lara, a father of four girls and married to "a super supportive" wife.
Hailing from southwest Detroit, Lara is a $1/$2 and $2/$5 no-limit hold'em live grinder who started to play more tournaments before the pandemic hit.
"I play most of my cash game poker sessions at Motorcity casino in Detroit," he told PokerNews. "I also like hit up MGM Grand poker room when I’m trying to change things up. I do travel to the World Series of Poker (WSOP) every year to grind cash games. I usually stay three weeks to a month each year to grind these juicy cash games."
In addition, Lara is a regular at mid-major tour stops such as the Mid-States Poker Tour (MSPT), Heartland Poker Tour (HPT), and WSOP Circuit in the Ohio, Chicago, and Indiana areas.
"I do most of my traveling alone but I usually link up with friends from the felt at the WSOP," he said. "From time to time, I’ll take my wife with me on a road trip to a poker tournament."
It's an enjoyable experience for Lara, who grew up in what he called a "bad neighborhood" in Detroit, one rife with gangs, drugs, peer pressure, and a ton of violence. Poker has been a vehicle away from all of that.
"Poker for me all began at a very young age. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my grandmother, my mother, and my Aunt Carmen, who’s probably the reason for me being a poker player. We’d stay up playing Mexican bingo for nickels, dimes, and quarters all night, and every time I won a bowl of change, I remember thinking it was the greatest thing ever.
He continued: "It wasn’t just about the quarters for me though. For me, it was more about the win. After that, I started playing five-card draw and some seven-card stud with the grown-ups. Even when I got to the age of 15 I found a way to go play poker at other people’s houses. There would be a table full of grown-ups drinking smoking cussing and then there would be me.
When he and his wife first got married 20 years ago, they were barely making ends meet, but that didn't stop him from playing a weekly $25 buy-in tournament.
"We’d get around 8-10 people and somehow I always would win or chop. That money helped us out in so many ways. We even almost depended on it every week to help out with everything. That’s where my wife’s strong support came from when it comes to playing poker for me. She really enjoyed watching me play poker. So when it comes to any games even if there out of town she’s the first one getting me out the door to go grind."
Prior to PokerStars coming to Michigan, Lara had never played online.
"I know it’s going to be such a big change for me," he said. "I’m looking forward to the challenge and trying to see the positives in online poker. Instead of having to buy airfare or lodging or renting a car, I can try to makes some money in the comfort of my own home in my PJs. I look forward to putting a lot of time and energy into online tournaments since I’m mainly a cash game player."
In addition to MICOOP, Lara has been dabbling in $0.50-$1 and $1-$2 NLH.
"I don’t want to just dive in and make mistakes so I’m taking it slow and getting used to things. I do love how much faster the game is and how much bigger the game plays compared to live. I’m just paying way more attention to betting patterns and the timing of each bet."
PokerNews will be keeping an eye on Lara as he competes for MICOOP glory.