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Shaun Deeb is one of the original online tournament grinders and we flew to Mexico to shoot the latest episode of Easy Game as he played the biggest tourney in online poker, the WCOOP Main Event on PokerStars.com. Deeb shares his story and tells us how a college dropout from New York became one of the most successful online poker players in the history of the game. Stay tuned for more episodes of our Easy Game mini-documentary series as we show you the many sides of online poker culture.
Shaun: It's absurd to really think about how many different times in my career . . . I can name five exact times where if I didn't win this at all and if I didn't win this tournament, I would have gone broke in poker, would have quit, and would have been back in school or working for the family business. It's just crazy to constantly realize, "Yes, I'm living in Mexico, I had no real job, I dropped out of college, and I've been able to support myself and pay for all my fun habits."
Speaker: Shaun Deeb was the original high-volume online grinder. One of a few early internet MTT players who inspired a generation of multi-tabling, strategy obsessed professionals who amassed small fortunes from behind their computer screens. Before Black Friday, Deed could grind from home, but when the US Department of Justice cut Americans off from online Poker, he moved to Mexico to keep playing. Now Deeb lives in Playa del Carmen along with a growing group of American poker pros, and we flew there during the biggest weekend in online poker, the WCOOP Main Event on PokerStars.
Shaun: Yes, this is kind of the make or break time of the year for us. It's the biggest tournament online of the year by far and $5K buy-ins, couple thousand people, couple million dollars a first, all done in two days, all done on your computer. It's insane. I actually am more excited now because back then I wasn't properly ruled for the 5Ks. I was scared. I was like I didn't think I was really good enough for the high-buying levels at that point. Then now I feel like I'm one of the people that people see show up on a table in the W2 Main and they're like, "Ah man, Shaun Deeb is at my table.
Yes, when I was like 16, one of my friends was like having a poker tournament and they invited me over just playing on a pool table. And I was like, "This is a lot of fun." I played card games since a young age with my grandmother and family members. And so it was an easy adjustment for me to play that. And I said, "Okay, I wanna start doing this" and then every Tuesday night happened to be when they had the World Series Poker coverage. So every Tuesday night we would run tournaments at my house. Seems insane looking back on it that it was just a little game like that. Now I've become a really well-known poker pro playing the biggest buy-ins, being in the World Series, getting so much TV coverage, It's just amazing the progression over that many years that happened.
Our generation, similar to the old school road gamblers generation is now we're on the road day in, day out. We're not seeing our families. We have no home-base. We're forced to live out of a suitcase and kind of struggle at times. It's slightly ironic, I hope I'm using it correctly - I never do, that an American dream like us Americans are now living in Mexico because that's where we have to work, and a lot of Americans think that it's always the Mexicans coming to take their job. Yes, so when I turned 18, I went to college like most kids do, and I went to Bentley University. And it was a really well-known school for finance, and I was going to be a stockbroker was my whole plan. And once I got there, the first week of school we played some home game. I met a few kids on my floor. We all liked poker and the day I turned 18, I deposited online. I wasn't winning money back then, but I was still playing and hooked.
It's crazy to look back then and see all the stuff we were talking about. Me and my one good friend, his name is Foster, we always used to talk about coming out for the World Series, and now look at it. I'm at every World Series. It's dictating my whole life. Everything I do, every time I travel, every plan I make is related to poker. It's truly consumed my whole life.
Marco: Shaun and I maybe starting playing poker almost ten years ago online or eight years ago so we've been around since the beginning. We started at the same level small tournaments. We worked our way up to the bigger game. Now we both play in some fairly big games in Las Vegas, and remembering playing with him in three dollar, ten dollar tournaments just adds to our friendship. Like we've just kind of taken a similar path to get where we're at today.
Shaun: I had a lot of gambles for sure in life. Obviously moving to Mexico was quite the gamble. It worked somehow. I still look back and try to figure out everyday, and it makes no sense to me how I got to where I am.
Randal: The first time I met Shaun Deeb, we were both playing at the same poker table online and we got to talking from there. And me, him, and two other poker players roomed together on the same poker trip in New York at a casino when I was 18.
Shaun: I owe my early knowledge to the whole Turning Stone Crew. Turning Stone's a casino in upstate New York near Syracuse. I was 18 plus, and growing up in upstate New York, it was a two hour drive for me. I would go when they had a tourny series and met a bunch of guys in the two plus two community. And when I first met them, I'd never even played a tournament online. They all were mostly tournament players and it sounded really cool. And I knew I liked tournaments when I played live, home games, whatever the tournaments I ran. So I started playing tournaments online and kind of mimicking and getting to know these guys.
Randal: Shaun was definitely the first person to take low stakes volume grinding seriously. He even has a very old 180 man grinder guide on two plus two that you can find for back in the day that you could probably apply today to all the turbo tournaments they still run. Yes, Shaun has put forth a lot to the [inaudible 00:05:50] stakes community and you can probably still get a lot out of it.
Shaun: I've always been grinding just like you see know. I used to have Dells, I've switched to Macs now. And it's just me sitting on a laptop. I'm the basic grinder. I don't need my mouse, my dual monitors, this, that, headphone, music. I just play poker.
Robert: I would say so. I would say that he has definitely moved the game a little himself because he's such a grinder. Like a lot of legends like Giabora and stuff, they four-tabled and they went to tournaments. But Deeb played like 50,000 games. I would say he's definitely one of the original grinders or whatever.
Shaun: Yes, I don't even really remember. I just started from day one online poker playing for eight tables then twelve tables on Party Poker the Mac. I got the stars and just kept clicking register and then all of a sudden I'd have 20, 30 tables going at once. I'd be just clicking furiously.
Marco: I think people look up to Shaun because he's one of the guys who play really small tournaments, like three dollar tournaments, he played tons of hour and he just put in so much work because he loved the game. And anyone who's starting out in poker and loves the game a lot and that's what it takes to become successful and that's just your passion.
Shaun: Luckily my family was all for me leaving college for poker. That was strictly because my grandmother plays all the time, a lot of year. You guys watching have seen her in the main event.
Grandmother: Shuffle up and deal.
Announcer: You heard the lady, shuffle up and deal.
Shaun: She's an amazing person. She's the reason I got into cards at a young age, and she was the reason why they said, "That's okay." And she gave me the okay. They all know I'm a smart guy If it didn't work, I'd figure out something else to do with my life. The greatest gift to my career and my success has been putting my grandmother in the main event every year. When I did it two years ago, we were back home in New York a couple months later and she actually told that that was her favorite memory of her life. For her to be 90 years old, and me as a grandchild to be able to give her her favorite memory is just so strong.
Every poker player wants to become extremely successful when they first start, and I think Deeb has kind of pushed out of poker players to become more and more successful. And they want everyone of us to play with Doyles [SP]. Like who doesn't want to go meet Doyles [SP]? So yes, him becoming as big as he is now in the poker world is definitely motivating for people to keep grinding
Shaun: As your career goes on, if you don't devalue money, you're never going to be able to play the highest stakes well or even the medium stakes. You gotta forget that the buy-in is $5,000, 10K, 50K, or whatever it is. You have to ignore that, you have to play as correctly as you know equity wise. It's the one thing that I think non-poker players will never get. The people who have nine to five jobs are like, "How do you not know how much money you have?" Every time I go through a border for customs they're like, "How much did you count?" I'm like, "I don't know. Somewhere between $15,000 to $30,000." They're like, "You don't know?" I'm like, "No." They're like, "I know exactly to the dollar what [inaudible 00"08:53]. I'm like, "I'm sorry, that's not what I do. I spend money, I get money I'm not like aware of how much I have on me at any point in my life.
Marco: I think Shaun is successful because of his personality. He doesn't get upset so he doesn't tilt. He's generally more happy than a lot of poker players and that goes a long way during bad months when you get frustrated and sometimes you feel like everything's going wrong. But staying positive can go a long way.
Shaun: My most memorable experiences right now in my life have been more or less just hanging out with different poker players. So many different stories I heard playing Cash King with Doyles and the old school guys. I just grew up from a family that always told stories, always told about the past. We just kind of recounted and just went back and forth with stuff like that. And I noticed that about poker is one of the really, really cool things is about the community.
Randal: I think you'll see a lot more success from Shaun in the future compared to online. It's just a matter of time and a matter of hands played. I think he's slowly learning where his discipline and his patience lies. I think eventually he'll learn to quit getting it in really on the wire on a massive bluff just be able to show for and learn to just make the best decision possible each hand.
Marco: Life is good. Look at this. We're here partying, Playa del Carmen with friends around, girls around. It's Muy Bueno.