Hometown Hero Takes Hold at Bay 101

Faraz Jaka
'It's always been just a matter of time.'

As Day 2 of the WPT's Bay 101 Shooting Star moved forward in San Jose Wednesday, a hometown hero emerged as one of the leaders, further cementing his status as the hottest player on the tour this year.

Faraz "The-Toilet" Jaka picked up the game in the dorms at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign while earning a degree in economics and business management.

He soon started playing live here at Bay 101 when he was at home and online while at school, quickly taking to the game, booking massive scores and winning packages to play in high-stakes events all over the world.

However, a year and a half of following the PokerStars European Poker Tour and his first half a dozen shots at WPT glory did not bear even a single cash.

Then suddenly, one year ago right here at home, things turned around in a big way.

He booked his first WPT cash at the 2009 Bay 101 Shooting Star before moving on to make third at the hotly contested 2009 World Series of Poker $5k Six-Max event.

Then, when Jaka finished second at the Bellagio Cup this past summer and third at December's Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic, he took the lead in the World Poker Tour's Player of the Year race and hasn't given it up yet.

Add in a final table appearance at the inaugural PokerStars North American Poker Tour's $25k High Roller Bounty Shootout and the San Jose native has cashed for almost $2 million in live tournaments over the past 12 months.

"It's kind of ironic, considering I played so many of these tournaments and then all of the sudden I start doing really well, but it's really just variance," he said. "Obviously I'm constantly improving a little bit, but I don't think there's been anything drastic."

Despite the rough start, having played thousands of tournaments earning over $1 million online before he ever stepped foot on the high-stakes live tournament stage, a 24-year-old Jaka says his confidence never wavered.

"I always thought I was good enough to be at the top of these things and win a few," he said. "It's always been just a matter of time."

Now in the midst of the kind of successful run that would turn even the most seasoned pro green with envy, he's still missing one thing: A major tournament victory.

"I'm definitely ready for a win," he said. "It's frustrating getting second and third so I'm definitely hungry."

Yet he seems to understand opportunities like this won't last forever.

"I'm obviously running amazing this year and it's not going to keep going, I understand that," he said.

In the end, Jaka's just hoping to keep playing his best and let the chips fall where they may, especially here at home.

"This is my hometown," he said. "So this tournament is a little more personal for me. I grew up playing here. It brings back so many memories and I still recognize so many of the dealers here from like four or five years ago.

"It would be really nice to do well here."

Action at the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star continues through March 12. For comprehensive coverage, tune in to PokerListings' Live Updates and News.

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