About Joe Bartholdi

Joe Bartholdi
Joe Bartholdi

Poker is a profession where players are expected to earn their stripes. Back in the day, that meant hours of grinding it out at cash games and a few tournament wins under your belt. These days, those stripes can be earned much faster and at a much younger age playing online.

Joe Bartholdi is one such individual who has earned some respect in the poker world despite his youth. But some would say he has been honing his gambling skills since a very young age.

Early in life, Bartholdi started taking risks to bring home a little extra cash. When he was in the fifth grade his dad gave the local corner store permission to sell him cigarettes to bring home for him. The young entrepreneur decided to buy extras and sold them at school.

His risky business also extended to actual gambling. Starting in grade school in Southern California, Bartholdi used to flip quarters, and whoever made the correct heads or tails call got to keep the quarter.

Of course, with coin flipping there isn't much of an advantage, so Bartholdi had to find a different way to put those quarters to use. Instead of coin flips, he started a game where players threw quarters at the wall trying to get them as close as possible.

Ever the hustler, Bartholdi practiced until he definitely had the advantage before taking on the kids at school. After that he won all the time against his friends.

Perhaps it was a sign he just wasn't cut out for school. On top of Bartholdi's gambling and hustling, he collected quite a record of "incidents," and a fight during his sophomore year of high school got him expelled for good.

Rather than finding a way to go to another high school, Bartholdi opted instead to get his GED and be done with school.

A couple of years later, he left Southern California and headed to Las Vegas with his dad, a poker dealer. At 18 he wasn't of legal gambling age, but that doesn't mean he didn't find a way to gamble his way into extra money.

At the local pool halls he found a 20-something crowd with too much time and money on their hands. He'd leave for the pool hall with $10 and turn it into $40 or $50 on a regular basis, and then live the party lifestyle with these kids from rich families, using the money he won from them.

He also didn't let a little thing like age restrictions stop him from starting his poker career. His game when he first got started was $1-$5 stud before he jumped to Texas Hold'em.

Bartholdi found he had a certain knack for the game and decided to focus exclusively on Hold'em. He even got a little help from his dad, who told some of his old-school poker player friends his son had taken up poker. One day they showed up at the house with a bag full of every poker book available at the time.

After reading, re-reading and trying to master every concept the books offered, Bartholdi officially went pro when he turned 21 and could play in the casinos.

Unfortunately, talent and knowledge weren't quite enough to make him successful. He lacked the discipline necessary to maintain a bankroll and career as a poker pro.

Bartholdi himself has admitted he had too many leaks early in his career - playing too high, playing badly, playing too long, playing blackjack, you name it. He gained a reputation for running through money like water, causing Rolling Stone to describe him as a "high school kick-out and sometime pool hustler who had run through a succession of five-figure bankrolls with little to show for it except a certain intermittent genius for playing hands full-throttle."

In 2004 when that article was published, Rolling Stone was right.

Bartholdi had so many problems holding onto money he ended up taking a job as a dealer at Binion's Horseshoe. Most of the time when he clocked in to work, though, he would just go play poker until the casino was busy enough that he needed to deal.

He worked at plugging the leaks in his game, and it was while dealing at the Horseshoe in 2002 he met Dutch Boyd, who was there for the World Series of Poker. They became friends and played a lot of low-limit games together.

The following year, Boyd made his big run in the WSOP Main Event, finishing 12th. After his win, he hooked up with Bartholdi and a couple other people and "The Crew" was born.

With Boyd's $80,000 to get them started, Bartholdi, Boyd, Boyd's brother Robert, and Brett Jungblut teamed up to live and breathe poker together. More players were eventually added to "The Crew," including Scott Fischman, but Bartholdi was one of the first to leave.

While with "The Crew," Bartholdi managed to get some of his demons under control. All of them started online and worked and analyzed each other's games to work out any flaws. Bartholdi had even built up his game so he was playing $15-$30 online.

But in one disastrous session, his undisciplined side reared its ugly head again, and Bartholdi ended up losing $4,000. Feeling like he'd let the team down, he decided to quit "The Crew."

Bartholdi gave up online play altogether and went back to the tables in Vegas. There he continued his rollercoaster bankroll management, going broke many times over again.

At one point it seemed like Bartholdi was going to be able to conquer his bankroll problems. A poker site sent him $50 to entice him back to play on their site and he built that up to a few thousand dollars. Then he took some of that money to play at the casino again and eventually worked his bankroll up over $250,000.

Even that large of a bankroll couldn't withstand Bartholdi's leaks. He started playing higher limits, losing chunks of money here and there, and didn't know when to quit. The money slipped through his fingers, and he found himself broke again.

This time it was his old friend Joe Cassidy who came to the rescue. The two had met at the Horseshoe Casino not long after Bartholdi had moved to Las Vegas. They became good friends as they talked poker and analyzed play and have been friends ever since.

Cassidy decided to take a chance on his friend and staked Bartholdi in events at the World Series of Poker in 2005. Two of those events paid off as Bartholdi came in 34th in the $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em event and then hung on to make the final table of the $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em event as well.

His fifth-place finish there won him $71,445, his largest tournament cash to that point, and a new start as a poker pro. He had a couple more cashes in events during the Ultimate Poker Challenge soon after the WSOP, and in early 2006 he made the final table of two events at the Gold Strike World Poker Open in Tunica.

With more than $60,000 in winnings in Tunica, Bartholdi was once again playing on his own bankroll and he continued his winning streak at the cash games in Vegas as well.

After a few short years of serious play, time spent practicing online with "The Crew," and working to get his leaks plugged, Bartholdi finally earned respect among the other pros with a World Poker Tour Championship win in April 2006.

Bartholdi worked hard to earn that $3.7 million payday. In the top 20 finishers alone were poker pros such as Roland de Wolfe, James Van Alstyne, Men "The Master" Nguyen, Vanessa Rousso, Chad Brown, Victor Ramdin, Paul Wasicka, Erica Schoenberg, Patrik Antonius, Surinder Sunar and Ross Boatman.

He wasn't the only one who came out a big winner from that tournament. Cassidy - whose faith in his friend's talent had helped buoy Bartholdi before - and Bartholdi had taken each other for 50% before the tournament began.

Even with half his pot in the hands of his friend, Bartholdi should have a large enough bankroll to survive even if one of his bad swings comes along again. Only time will tell, though, as Bartholdi continues to grind it out in the profession he's worked so hard to dominate.

Tournament Placing

Place Winnings Tournament
1 $3,760,165.00 WPT Season 4 - WPT World Championship
5 $71,445.00 2005 WSOP - Event 43, $1,500 No-limit Hold'em
34 $8,760.00 2005 WSOP - Event 13, $5,000 No-limit Hold'em