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888poker Ambassador Jake Balsiger finished third in the 2012 WSOP Main Event and the story of how he got there is incredible. While grinding low-stakes cash and going to university in Arizona Balsiger was hit by a truck and suffered serious brain damage. Miraculously he made a full recovery over a number of months and decided to take the settlement money and go to Las Vegas to play the World Series of Poker. Ultimately Balsiger pocketed $3.7 million and launched a poker career that brought him here to Paris for WSOP Europe.
I'm Jake Balsiger. I represent 888poker from Tempe, Arizona back home where I just graduated from Arizona State, and now I travel the world and play poker. I was studying Political Science at Arizona State. I would play 7-3-5 Live [SP] for a living. Back there, I would play like 30-40 hours a week. I would stay in the casino till like 8, 9 AM in the morning and what not. One thing that happened when I was going to school-, I was biking home, and I got hit by a truck. I had to drop out of school for a semester, because I had brain damage from it, and all kinds of health problems.
But it kind of worked out better than ever, because the settlement from the accident, I decided to take that to Vegas, whereas otherwise I was gonna stay home and play 3-5 back in Arizona. I played a few tournaments there, and then I decided to take a shot at the main event using the money, and [inaudible 00:00:46] of my friends, as well. And ended up getting third in that. So the whole situation ended up working out pretty cool. If I can turn back time and turn away . . . I don't know if I would. It sounds bad, but it's close.
Yeah, I feel like I've been very lucky in life. To make it out of that okay, it looked bleak at the start. I had a black out for seven, eight days. Even for months, I still fully didn't have my mental faculties back with me. And so showing how high variance life can be, from a first person point of view, it's pretty crazy. And then marrying that with poker, you can see how one small part of a day can change everything.
The main event changed my life hugely. Before, I still didn't want to particularly wanna get a job after I graduated. I was gonna keep playing 3-5-5-10 and just stay at home, just do the usual. After the main event, now I . . . that one tournament changed everything, I get to travel the world, now. Play higher stakes [inaudible 00:01:48]. That one tournament changed for me. Just sitting at home in Arizona, playing 3-5 like 40 hours a week probably, to getting able to go all over the world and just play all kinds of fun tournaments.
The people in my life berate me a lot for it, because I still drive-, it's a 2001 Civic. I live in Arizona, the a/c doesn't work on the right side of the car. The windshield's cracked, and every time they just berate me and they're like, "Why? Why don't you use your money for anything good?" It's not really my style, to be honest.
My parents like poker a lot now. They were a little ambivalent about it for a while, they always used to say, "You wanna get a job yet?" Every time I would go over for dinner, she would say, "I mean you really should get a job." But now, she hasn't once asked me to get a job. Both my parents ask me all the time where I'm going next, what tournaments I'm playing. They always say, "Tweet more so I can see your chip counts," and whatnot, and so they get pretty excited about it.
[inaudible 02:41] it's been great. Jesse, Sam, Russell, and [inaudible 00:02:44] are some of my best friends in poker now. Even for trips that 88 doesn't sponsor. I was just living with Russell in Barcelona, so we traveled together regardless. Getting to travel the world with them, and be a part of a little community like that has been a great experience for me.
I only played one day of the main event. I busted a few minutes before the last break. But it was pretty crazy. My table had Jason Mercier, Lee Markholt, Philip Gruissem, David Yan, Scott Clements, and there was one other person also who was really good. It was just the toughest table of Life that I've ever played in my life. But it was fun in a way, you know? And I feel like it's good for me, in the future, because sometimes you can get a little stagnant in poker. And I really started playing tighter, and be like, "Okay, let's play ABC." But watching them play, it it definitely makes you wanna go play like pretty crazy again, against tables that aren't as absurdly tough as that. So I think I'll get back to my [inaudible 00:03:37] game which I had sort of retired from, but am happy to be back in it now.
Big Score opens your life up in a lot of ways. I don't necessarily want to play poker for a living forever. I think another like five, ten years I'd be happy with it. And after that, since there's not the pressure to keep making money, to always have a job, I'd like to go back to school, and possibly become a sociology professor. I spend a lot of time reading about that on the internet, and I just love it in general, so I would like to do that some day.