Bernard Lee is living proof that the World Series of Poker changes lives.
Lee finished 13th in the 2005 WSOP, just missing the final table in the event eventually won by Australian Joe Hachem. He did beat out a field of 5,606 other players, however, and then arguably leveraged that finish better than anybody else, including Hachem.
Within two months of his finish in the WSOP, Lee found himself a job as a newspaper columnist with the Boston Herald. It is a job that he says literally fell into his lap.
"Being the top New England finisher in the 2005, I got a lot of press," says Lee. "Right after the tournament the editor of the Boston Herald was coincidentally looking for a poker writer and contacted me and asked me if I would be at all interested in writing a poker column. I said 'why not?' and decided to give it a go."
That column is still running today and uses real-life scenarios to create understandable lessons and give readers a glimpse into the intense world of tournament poker. It is the basis of Lee's first book, The Final Table, Volume I.
Lee says that he regularly has people asking him how they can get their hands on older versions of his column, and that the book will now make that possible. In addition, he has enhanced older columns with additional commentary throughout, making it a valuable addition to the libraries of those fans who've been following all along. According to at least one recognized pro, Bernard's teachings in the book are a must for those trying to master the game.
"Bernard has an amazing ability to take complicated tournament strategies and make them easy to understand," says pro player Linda Johnson. "To say that he is a master teacher would be an understatement. Whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player, his lessons will enhance your play and help to increase your bankroll."
Coming from the former publisher of CardPlayer magazine and a WSOP gold bracelet winner who is often referred to as "the first lady of poker," those are pretty high accolades.
Lee himself understands how fortunate he's been since his WSOP run and says he is now trying to build a brand around himself not just as a poker player, but as a media personality.
"I never really had aspirations of being a writer, it literally just landed on my plate," says Lee. "The other stuff, the TV commentating and the radio shows, that I probably had a little more aspirations for. But it's funny that the writing was the launching pad for all of that."
It certainly wasn't like Lee finished well in the WSOP and his poker career just took off on its own power, however. In fact, he says plenty of people have had the same types of finishes and not done nearly as much with the opportunity.
"The coverage that I received on ESPN [during the 2005 WSOP] put me in such a good light I was really fortunate and it was really my launching pad," says Lee. "From that moment on, however, I had to work to continue to build on that 15 minutes of fame. I can name some other people who had equally good coverage and didn't take advantage or who didn't have the good fortune that I had with the Boston Herald. From there I took the initiative to seek things out."
And that initiative paid off. In addition to his column, Lee now writes for ESPN and has his own radio show. However, he still had to convince his wife that he could make as good a living in the world of poker as he did as a well-paid marketing professional with Boston Scientific, a Fortune 500 company. But he eventually did that too, and is now fully immersed in the world of green felt and inside straights.
So does he miss his old life as a high-earning marketing executive?
"Not in the slightest," says Lee. "And honestly, I loved my job. I really, really loved it. But I love poker more.
"I am a poker player. That is the No. 1 thing I am. All of the other stuff is great but my No. 1 goal is to continue to work on my game."
Lee's book is available in bookstores across the United States and on his Web site, www.bernardleepoker.com. Anybody who purchases the book from his site will receive a signed copy.