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Ashton Griffin: From bust to Bobby's Room
Hand a fake ID to your average 20-year-old American male and you can almost guarantee his first stop would be at a liquor store.
When Ashton Griffin got his, he did something completely different.
Otherwise known as Ashman103 on Full Tilt Poker, Griffin went straight to the Bellagio and found himself a seat in Bobby's Room surrounded by the best poker players on the planet.
At just 20, Griffin is playing against poker's best on a regular basis, for sums of money your average American twice his age doesn't make in a year.
"I wouldn't think it's too out of the ordinary," Griffin told PokerListings, despite the fact playing for so much at such a young age would be unfathomable for most.
Apparently nothing seems too out of the ordinary when you've been a millionaire, near broke and back, all in under a year - and all before you're legally allowed to drink.
Griffin's path to Bobby's Room and the highest stakes online has certainly been a turbulent one.
With self professed "tilt and money issues," Griffin has repeated a vicious cycle, running up huge sums of money only to bust in a single night.
He first found the game playing 5¢/10¢ with his Mom and Sister, but didn't take it seriously until he played with friends in high school.
That's when he realized the game could be both fun and competitive.
It didn't take long for Griffin to take that love of competition online. He was almost immediately "mass multi-tabling $60 SNGs and small-stakes six-max," and continued that routine throughout high school.
Although with his studies and the high school wrestling team, he never had enough time to take the game too seriously, Griffin always knew he had a knack for poker.
"I told my dad my sophomore year that I was going to be a millionaire in two or three years," he said. "He half believed me and I only half believed myself because I knew I was too erratic with my bankroll."
The summer after high school Griffin was on the downswing of one of his now infamous build-up-and-busts.
With just $200 to his name he knew he needed to get serious. He took a landscaping job, but quickly decided it wasn't for him.
"I told myself that I was going to take poker seriously and be rich," he said. "I had a lot of time to think and focus on what my plan was. I turned the $200 into about $10k around the end of August and decided to quit school."
But that isn't the end of the story. Those "tilt and money issues" were doomed to rear their ugly head again.
In just a year's time, Griffin grew that $200 nub into a roll that was big enough to play $25/$50 full time "with stellar results."
In August 2008, just a year after the initial run, Griffin made $1.2 million in the first 29 days of the month. He lost just under a million the very next week.
"I was playing a mix of $500/$1,000, $200/$400, $300/$600, and $2,000/$4,000 Limit O8," he said. "Most of my losses were to [Phil] Ivey and [Hac] trex [Dang]."
Tilt manifests itself in many different ways, and in Griffin's case, it came in the form of bad game selection.
Ivey at Rail Heaven, trex in the mixed games, and Benyamine at his best game: Omaha Eight or Better.
Left to rebuild once again, Griffin put his nose to the grindstone and made back $600,000 over the next four months.
He also made a prop bet with the HSNL forum on 2+2 that he wouldn't play stakes any higher than $25/$50 until he made $500k in a one-year span.
He lost that $20k bet in February 2008 when he dropped $400,000 in a single night.
"It was more about the embarrassment for me," he said. "I felt pathetic."
Determined to fight back once again, he restarted the bet the next day. He lost a little over the next two months and by April was looking for a stake.
Once staked, Griffin found some marginal success right away; eventually he paid off his backers and began rebuilding with $8,000 in his online roll. He hit the tables starting at $1/$2.
"I had a good day and by the end of the week was short stacking $5/$10," he said. "By the end of the month I was short stacking $25/$50 and the following month I won $600k playing $25/$50."
To cap off the rebuild, Griffin booked a $23k prop bet win by passing the $500k mark at $25/$50 or lower and won the $25,000 Heads-Up tournament on Full Tilt Poker for $551,250 the very same day.
"It all happened pretty fast and one thing that made it a little more awesome was that I won the prop bet like hours before the $25k heads-up started," he said. "Otherwise I couldn't have played."
Griffin has also had some success in live poker, final-tabling the San Jose, Costa Rica leg of the PokerStars Latin American Poker Tour.
However, his bread and butter has always been heads-up online.
"I have never had as much success at a game as I have with heads-up," he explained.
Though he's back on top these days, the question remains: Is history doomed to repeat itself?
Griffin doesn't think so. He's come to terms with the volatility of the game and hopes to minimize it the best he can by exercising good game selection at all times.
"I'd like to be playing $100/$200 or $50/$100, but the $200/$400 games have been wild," he said.
"I'm taking some calculated shots in those games. Things have been going phenomenal and I've only been playing when I feel like the players in the game are tilting, tired or not playing their best.
"It doesn't happen too often because these are the world's best, but it does happen."
And about that under-aged trip to Bobby's room? While Griffin was successful, it probably won't be a regular thing.
"I don't see myself playing in Bobby's Room too often," he said. "Unless it's heads-up."
Be sure to check out the full transcript of the Griffin interview in our blog.