Living through long droughts is something Mike Leah's had to endure in hockey, but thankfully not in poker.
From a childhood as a die-hard hockey fan in Toronto to a career making millions of dollars playing poker, one look at Mike Leah’s online poker screen name will tell you he’s taken his roots with him every step of the way.
Playing under the screen-name “goleafsgoeh” online, Leah has put together a staggering list of results since making the decision to go pro in 2008. He’s made over $2.1 million playing high-stakes tournaments on the internet and another $1.37 million playing live.
“In the first six days playing online I made about $40,000 so suffice to say I was hooked on poker from the start,” Leah told PokerListings.com at the 2011 World Series of Poker Europe in Cannes.
“I ended up giving a lot of that back pretty quickly because I just jumped into high-stakes tournaments right away.”
“It would have been better if I had stuck with lower stakes and worked on my fundamentals and got some experience before moving up but the type of person I am - I learn from my own mistakes better than anything else - so it I think in the long run all the experiences I've had have made me the poker player I am now,” he added.
Leah’s mother was a University professor and her postings took the family from Toronto to Alberta, where he finished high school. During that time he was an accomplished wrestler, winning a national championship and demonstrating the competitive edge that is a fundamental part of his personality.
Straight out of high school Leah took a sales job with the Canadian Community Reading Plan, a magazine-subscription group whose sales model revolves around community fundraising programs.
Mike Leah at the 2010 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.
16 years later Leah’s career with CCRP had taken him back across the country to Toronto where he had risen to the level of national sales manager.
“I just turned 37 so I’m a little different than most poker players these days in that I had a 16-year career before I ever started playing poker,” said Leah.
“By the end of my career I had a pretty cushy job but there were certainly many days I’d have to get up early and put on a suit and tie whereas now, playing poker, I despise 12pm start times because they’re so early,” he said with a laugh.
“There are upsides and downsides to any path you take but I’m very happy with my life and the decisions I’ve made.”
Having started playing poker recreationally in 2005, it was in 2008 at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas when he secured a long-term backing deal, moderating the risks of playing poker professionally to the point where Leah could walk away from his high-paying corporate position.
“When I was able to get backers it made it a lot easier to leave a good job because I knew I wasn’t risking my own money that I had in the bank,” he said.
“Also, I was single with no kids and no serious relationship at the time so only having myself to worry about made the decision a lot easier.”
Since making that decision Leah has crushed tournament poker and secured FTOPS and WCOOP titles and most recently chopped the 2011 WCOOP Main Event for his biggest career score, $560,000.
That payday topped his biggest live result, a $320,000 win at Atlantic City’s Borgata Casino in 2009.
Leah still lives in Toronto and he still supports the Leafs, despite the franchise’s four-decade downswing.
“I grew up an absolute die-hard Leafs fan and it’s not that I’m not as big a fan anymore, I’ve just grown up a bit and I don’t live and die with the success of the team,” he said.
“They’re 3-0 so far this year so the perfect season is still alive.
“They’re playing Colorado tonight so we’ll see what happens,” he added, hope easy to see in his eyes.
The Leafs lost against the Avalanche in overtime last night.
Mike Leah is still alive in the 2011 WSOP Europe Main Event. Follow his progress and all the action live with PokerListings.com.
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