Hand a fake ID to your average 20-year-old American male and you can almost guarantee his first stop would be at a liquor store.
When Ashton Griffin got his, he did something completely different.
Otherwise known as Ashman103 online Griffin went straight to the Bellagio and found himself a seat in Bobby's Room surrounded by the best poker players on the planet. At just 20, Griffin is playing against poker's best on a regular basis, for sums of money your average American twice his age doesn't make in a year.
"I wouldn't think it's too out of the ordinary," Griffin told PokerListings, despite the fact playing for so much at such a young age would be unfathomable for most.
Ashton Griffin: Tilt and Money Issues
Apparently nothing seems too out of the ordinary when you've been a millionaire, near broke and back, all in under a year - and all before you're legally allowed to drink.
Griffin's path to Bobby's Room and the highest real money poker stakes online has certainly been a turbulent one. With self professed "tilt and money issues," Griffin has repeated a vicious cycle, running up huge sums of money only to bust in a single night.
He first found the game playing 5¢/10¢ with his Mom and Sister, but didn't take it seriously until he played with friends in high school. That's when he realized the game could be both fun and competitive.
It didn't take long for Griffin to take that love of competition online. He was almost immediately "mass multi-tabling $60 SNGs and small-stakes six-max," and continued that routine throughout high school.
Although with his studies and the high school wrestling team, he never had enough time to take the game too seriously, Griffin always knew he had a knack for poker.
"I told my dad my sophomore year that I was going to be a millionaire in two or three years," he said. "He half believed me and I only half believed myself because I knew I was too erratic with my bankroll."
The summer after high school Griffin was on the downswing of one of his now infamous build-up-and-busts.
With just $200 to his name he knew he needed to get serious. He took a landscaping job, but quickly decided it wasn't for him.
"I told myself that I was going to take poker seriously and be rich," he said. "I had a lot of time to think and focus on what my plan was. I turned the $200 into about $10k around the end of August and decided to quit school."
But that isn't the end of the story. Those "tilt and money issues" were doomed to rear their ugly head again.
In just a year's time, Griffin grew that $200 nub into a roll that was big enough to play $25/$50 full time "with stellar results."
Playing Ivey at Rail Heaven
In August 2008, just a year after the initial run, Griffin made $1.2 million in the first 29 days of the month. He lost just under a million the very next week.
"I was playing a mix of $500/$1,000, $200/$400, $300/$600, and $2,000/$4,000 Limit O8," he said. "Most of my losses were to [Phil] Ivey and [Hac] trex [Dang]."
Tilt manifests itself in many different ways, and in Griffin's case, it came in the form of bad game selection.
Ivey at Rail Heaven, trex in the mixed games, and Benyamine at his best game: Omaha Eight or Better.
Left to rebuild once again, Griffin put his nose to the grindstone and made back $600,000 over the next four months.
He also made a prop bet with the HSNL forum on 2+2 that he wouldn't play stakes any higher than $25/$50 until he made $500k in a one-year span.
He lost that $20k bet in February 2008 when he dropped $400,000 in a single night.
"It was more about the embarrassment for me," he said. "I felt pathetic."
Looking for a Stake
Determined to fight back once again, he restarted the bet the next day. He lost a little over the next two months and by April was looking for a stake.
Once staked, Griffin found some marginal success right away; eventually he paid off his backers and began rebuilding with $8,000 in his online roll. He hit the tables starting at $1/$2.
"I had a good day and by the end of the week was short stacking $5/$10," he said. "By the end of the month I was short stacking $25/$50 and the following month I won $600k playing $25/$50."
To cap off the rebuild, Griffin booked a $23k prop bet win by passing the $500k mark at $25/$50 or lower and won the $25,000 Heads-Up tournament on Full Tilt Poker for $551,250 the very same day.
"It all happened pretty fast and one thing that made it a little more awesome was that I won the prop bet like hours before the $25k heads-up started," he said. "Otherwise I couldn't have played."
Griffin has also had some success in live poker, final-tabling the San Jose, Costa Rica leg of the PokerStars Latin American Poker Tour.
However, his bread and butter has always been heads-up online.
"I have never had as much success at a game as I have with heads-up," he explained.
Though he's back on top these days, the question remains: Is history doomed to repeat itself?
Calculated Shots in Big Games
Griffin doesn't think so. He's come to terms with the volatility of the game and hopes to minimize it the best he can by exercising good game selection at all times.
"I'd like to be playing $100/$200 or $50/$100, but the $200/$400 games have been wild," he said.
"I'm taking some calculated shots in those games. Things have been going phenomenal and I've only been playing when I feel like the players in the game are tilting, tired or not playing their best.
"It doesn't happen too often because these are the world's best, but it does happen."
And about that under-aged trip to Bobby's room? While Griffin was successful, it probably won't be a regular thing.
"I don't see myself playing in Bobby's Room too often," he said. "Unless it's heads-up."
In-Depth with Poker Pro Ashton "Ashman103" Griffin
What follows is the full transcript of the interview with Ashton "Ashman103" Griffin. Ashman goes into detail about the massive swings he's taken as a poker player and what he's endured during his career so far.
Daniel Skolovy: How old are you and what is your poker story? Like how did you get started with the game to where you are now?
Ashton Griffin: 20, I started when a friend of mine in high school wanted to play cards after a paintball game.
I had been playing nickel and dime with mom and sister since I was young but playing with my peers made it fun and competitive. Naturally I won for awhile and discovered online short after.
DS: What stakes did you start with online?
AG: The next 3 or 4 years I played online while in high school. I had stints with me mass tabling $60 sngs and some small stakes 6max. I never had more than $20k and I would always lose everything in one night playing to get back to my even point.
I told my dad my sophomore year that I was going to be a millionaire in 2 or 3 years. He half believed me and I half believed myself because I knew I was too erratic with my bankroll
DS: What stakes were you playing at the time then?
AG: Mostly 50nl - 400 nl depending on my mood. So months and years of me playing an hour a day I ended my senior of high school wrestling and I played poker everyday thereafter.
Then in the summer of 07 I met this cute girl who kind of made me feel silly being a busto grinder. At the time I had like $200 to my name and I planned on going back to school in the fall so I went to my friend's house and did lawn work to make some money.
Made nothing, told myself that I was going to take things serious and be rich. I had a lot of time to think and focus on what my plan was.
I turned the $200 into about $10k around the end of august and decide to quit school. I started playing heads-up No-Limit, mostly 100nl-400nl. My results were phenomenal from aug on forward.
Until then I had never had as much success at a game as I did at HU. I had rapid success but still had tilt issues and money issues. From then on I just progressed as any player does.
One thing that made me the player I am today was playing grudge matches with aejones who was a lot better than me at the time, but you didn't get run off the street so it made you better ;)
I think it was more of a matter of me knowing I would improve to be one of the best and that I was in poker to be rich and if I didn't learn how to beat a better player than me that it would never happen.
DS: when did you first run your roll up and take a shot at the biggest stakes online?
AG: Hard to remember but I think it was in may of 2008. I had played around with plo with some success, caught on very quick and I've been crushing since early 2008.
I've played a couple hundred thousand hands of 25/50 and have had stellar results. Then in aug 08 I won 1.2 mil in the first 29 days, lost close to a million the next week.
DS: At 500/1000?
AG: It was a mix of 500/1, 2/4, 3/6, 2k/4k limit. Most of it was to Ivey and trex.
DS: So when you lost the money you just moved back down and it was business as usual?
AG: I moved back down and made $600k within the next 4 months. The swings took a toll on me because I was in the middle of wrestling season, cutting weight and going to school. Then in february I lost $400k one night, then lost little by little the next 2 months.
I was forced to get a stake around april 09 where I broke even. I just needed to sort out my money and needed to find out if people were going to pay off debts to me
DS: Is this where you made the no stakes higher than 25/50 prop?
AG: That bet was lost in february the night when I lost 400k, bet was restarted the next day
DS: how much did you lose on it the first time?
AG: $20k, It was more about the embarrassment for me. I felt pathetic. I got staked in April and lost 2k and paid it back with my own money. I was left with 8k online which was the money in equity I sold off for winning the first 3 matches of the $1k msnl hu tournament.
I decided to play 1 dollar 2 dollar, had a good day. By the end of the week I was shortstacking 5/10. By the end of the month I was shortstacking 25/50. The following month I won 600k playing 25/50 and won the 25khu for 500k
It happened pretty fast. One thing that makes it a little more awesome, I won the prop bet like hours before the 25k hu started, otherwise I couldn't have played without losing the bet.
DS: And how much did you win this time?
AG: I won 23k on the bet.
DS: And what was the exact bet? I won't play above x for y hands?
AG: That I couldn't play higher than 25/50 until I made $500k over a 1 year span.
DS: So you shipped the bet then shipped the 25k hu? How did that tournament go for you?
AG: I had Ike in the 2nd round and he has crushed me in the past. I was getting into the match and had this sort of extra gear in me that made me play my A game vs him. Then I beat everyone I should have beat until Benefield where I was lucky enough to have 2 pair vs his top pair for stacks.
DS: Nice congrats on that score, so where are you now? In terms of stakes and stakes you're willing to play and what you've done to ensure that you won't be looking for a stake again.
AG: I'd like to be playing 1/2 or 50/100 but the 2/4 games have been wild so I'm taking some calculated shots in the games. Things are going phenomenal and I've only been playing when I feel like the players in the game are tilting, tired or not playing their best. It doesn't happen too often because these are the world's best, but it happens.
DS: You were in Vegas this year. I saw the mountain climb prop but what other kind of props did you, chewy and Aejones get up to?
AG: The most notorious one was laying 7-1 on whether or not the gatekeeper of this community was a girl or a guy. I was willing to bet the bank that it was a guy. I heard 'it' talk and I felt like I was stealing money from Chewy and Starkey. So one night we go to the gate and there is this young asian guy who dramatically confirms that 'it's was in fact a female.
Chewy goes nuts and I was stunned.
Me and Steve went on some 6 figure swings at Chinese. And I lost $30k shooting basketball with aaron.
DS: what was it like being in Vegas under aged
AG: I was nervous the whole time when I was playing. It made it fun for me and tbh. I dont see myself playing in bobbys room too often unless its heads-up.
DS: What game did you play in?
AG: Ha half and half 1/1 - 2/400, depending on the mood of the game.
DS: How did the games compare to those online?
AG: They play really straightforward and more passive.
DS: How'd it feel being young enough to be most of these guys sons and not old enough to even be able to play in the game but still be able to hold your own and even book a win?
AG: Well we all think alike and poker is a game among humans who think alike. I mean I wouldnt think it's too out of the ordinary
DS: Yeah, but that's because you are doing it. I think if you were tell most people this story itd be fairly unbelievable. Normies at least.
AG: That makes sense. Id tell them I have just as much experience doing this as they do.
DS: Where do you see yourself in five years?
AG: I see myself as a father. Playing WSOP and occasionally during my freetime coaching or helping out with a wrestling club and potentially doing MMA.
DS: Poker would basically be a secondary thing?
AG: It's close. I'd say half the time poker is my job and the other half of the time I figure out how to buy/sell real estate profitably.
DS: And where do you think the game will be in the last 2 years. Make the shift over to PLO or will it move further?
AG: The action will be in 7/8 game and plo. The poker economy is doing fine.
DS: Why PLO?
AG: Most everyone likes to gamble you get that gamble so much more often in PLO and sometimes you don't even have to think.