Joey Weissman’s royal flush at the final table of the recent BetMGM Poker Championship Main Event has generated plenty of buzz on social media.
As of Thursday morning, the hand had been viewed over 180,000 times on PokerGo’s YouTube channel — including a couple times by Weissman himself.
Weissman was a 68-32 underdog with ace-jack suited against Michael Wong’s pocket queens. But what started as nothing more than a standard all-in, poker hand ended with a combination of utter shock and jovial laughter as Weissman went runner-runner to drill the royal flush and eliminate Wong and his full house.
Weissman, a New York poker player out of Syosset on Long Island, went on to win the $3,500 buy-in, no-limit Texas Hold ‘Em event, and capture the top prize of $224,236. And that, more than anything, is what has taken up the majority of the conversation within his circle.
“There’s a lot less royal talk than you might think,” Weissman told PlayNY, praising Wong’s professionalism in what was surely a difficult moment. “Because the royal talk that I’m seeing is more in the form of Twitter and YouTube comments — people that I don’t know who are way more into the ‘Whoa! Look what happened in this hand.’
“The reality of the situation is the money just went in. So it hasn’t really been the center of any sort of discussion. It was just kind of like a cool thing that never happens, just an unbelievable, movie type of hand. It just happened.”
Weissman with plenty of NY poker experience under belt
Weissman has played a lot of poker. He has enjoyed a few royal flushes before. But, the 34-year-old conceded, none quite like the payday that the BetMGM royal netted.
“On the turn, that sweaty 10 of diamonds,” Weissman told PlayNY. “Mike and I are close friends. And I kind of just looked over at him, and he’s laughing, and I’m looking at my outs, and I’m like, ‘Man, the queen of diamonds would be quite a card.’ … It’s the last card I’d ever expect to hit. But I did, and it was pretty surreal.”
The odds of making a royal flush in hold ’em are 1 in 30,940 hands. Weissman, a tournament grinder, now has more than $4.3 million in total live earnings, according to HendonMob. He estimates he plays around 200 live tournaments per year — including re-buys.
And plenty of support as he builds a career
The best tournament players cash around 20% of the time — and even some of those end up a net loser. Mental fortitude is required. And, in Weissman’s case, his very supportive fiancé helps as well.
“You really need to show up for that 1-2% of the time where you’re actually going to crack the top-3,” Weissman said. “And for me personally, waking up and knowing that number exists, and I don’t know when I’m going to realize that return on investment. But I know that I have to show up and do the best I can to put myself in a position to realize it is exciting, and I enjoy that — even if it means I might go a year without making a final table.
“That’s always been the way that I view tournaments. People think I’m crazy. And that’s completely understandable. I know a lot of people that prefer cash games for a variety of reasons — flexibility, less swings, you’re having these graphs where you’re making $100 an hour, and that’s super nice. But to me it doesn’t really compare to the dynamic, the competitiveness, the intensity of being deep in a Day 2 or a Day 3, where is there’s life-changing money on the line and all the pressure is on. I just feel like that’s where I feel like I’m most comfortable.”
Poker is in the Weissman genes
Weissman grew up during the poker boom, right in the midst of the Moneymaker effect.
But he also has gambling roots. His paternal grandfather used to run an underground card club in the Bronx, and later moved to Atlantic City — where his grandson would watch him play cash games at the Taj and Borgata. Weissman’s father also played in underground games.
“I just kind of stuck with (poker) while people moved onto the next thing,” said Weissman, who moved to Florida when he was 16. “I started playing small online tournaments and home games. … Loved Rounders. The typical story.”
Weissman briefly tried to work in his family’s steel distribution company in New York, but quickly realized it wasn’t for him. A decade ago, he was sleeping on his best friend’s couch and nearly broke when he won the $2,500 NL Hold Em event at the World Series of Poker for nearly $700,000, springboarding his now flourishing career.
And Weissman looks to continue building to something great
The key going forward, according to Weissman, is to keep studying and stay motivated.
“A lot of people have a tendency — myself included — to bink a tournament and get complacent — whether that sleeping in a bit little bit more, not eating as well, missing a workout, showing up a little bit late, and I am guilt of it, to be honest, over the last few events a little bit. But I really want to continue to capitalize on this opportunity which is the WSOP, and just kind of act as if I’m still looking for that score and doing exactly what I was doing before it happened.
“That’s really my goal. I don’t care so much about the results as I do showing up and doing the best I can.”