Brian Tate: From Magic: The Gathering Nerd to High-Stakes Poker VIP

David Benyamine, Josh Arieh, Erick Lindgren, Todd Brunson and Brian Tate were seated at the same table during Day 1 of the $50K Poker Player’s Championship yesterday.

You may not recognize the last name on that list, but Doyle Brunson does.

Brian Tate, 26, has gone from playing Magic: The Gathering with friends to playing poker's highest stakes in Bobby’s Room with legends like Doyle Brunson in just seven years. 

Initially, the two things couldn’t seem further apart, but Tate says he wouldn’t be where he is without Magic.

#tbt Me at age 15 competing in a big Magic The Gathering tournament. Wouldn't be where I am today without this game as a transition to poker. Wow I was a nerd!! #stillam #greatmemories #mtg #poker

A post shared by Brian Tate (@thebriantate) on

“I think [MTG] is a great breeding ground for that competitive environment you have in poker,” Tate said on a break from the $50k Player's Championship last night.

“You have these young kids that are maybe a little nerdy in high school and good at math that learn to compete. It’s just an easy transition.”

Tate’s trifecta of nerdiness, math skills and competitiveness helped him succeed in Magic, but he says the biggest factor to improving his game was discussion and study. Just like poker.

“In Magic you work on your game a lot away from the table and the same skills are required in poker,” Tate said.

“It also helped to have a nice little group where you can communicate and share ideas and you know, everybody kind of progresses as a little group. There are a lot of parallels in between [poker and Magic].”

There's More Money in Poker Than Magic

"I just kept playing Limit Hold’em."

One of those friends, Brandon Demes, then introduced Tate to a more profitable and slightly less nerdy card game, Limit Hold’em.

“At the end of high school, Brandon [Demes] started playing poker and was saying, ‘Hey, there’s more money in this,” Tate said.

“This was around the poker boom, when there was a lot of money in poker, even at smaller stakes, it was so easy to break into. I just played in my parents basement non-stop.”

Under the name “grpoker” Tate slowly continued to grind up until he became a regular in the $10/$20 and $30/60 games on PokerStars.

“Those games got pretty tough and most people transitioned to [NLHE], I stuck with it and just, you know, kept playing Limit Hold’em,” Tate said.

The move was a testament to Tate’s adaptability to poker’s ever-changing nature while also being essential to his transition to live mixed-game player.

“I moved to Arizona when online slowed down a bit. Coincidentally I moved to probably the best $40/$80 to $75/$150 LHE game in world, Casino Arizona.”

From Arizona to Los Angeles to Bobby's Room

“It was right before Black Friday and luckily I kind of transitioned to live the last year of online poker so I had less money online and more cash.

“I was playing the $40/$80 and $75/$150 LHE games. That game kind of died out and transitioned to a crazy mix of games which forced me to learn all the mixed games.

The Commerce tournament room
Cut teeth at Commerce before move to Bobby's Room.

“We played a lot of weird games like badeucy badacey, they made games up, they played any-high, any-low triple draw, just random stuff. They made a lot of games up.”

“Luckily I got to play a lot of hands of badeucy and badacey at relatively small limits like $40/$80, $75/$150, when the only other place to learn them would be Commerce at $200/$400+, which at the time I couldn’t afford to play.”

But Tate kept adapting and -- after giving up a bit at first -- started turning a profit in the wild Arizonian mixed games. He soon found himself at the $200/$400 Commerce games and became a regular there.

When Tate was comfortable there, the next logical step was the one of the most famous high-stakes poker rooms in the world, Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio.

“It was a little intimidating because a lot of players I saw in there are people you see on TV,” Tate said.

“At the time I didn’t know a lot of them personally so, you know, it’s kind of a weird experience getting thrown in with all these superstars.”

“It got a little more intimidating when I started playing the mixed games I wasn’t more familiar with. Learning those 'as-you-go’ at high stakes and with players that are very, very good at them, that was tough.”

On a First-Name Basis with the Godfather

Those days are far behind Tate. He’s on a first name-basis with Doyle Brunson and the Godfather of Poker even Tweets at him.

"Yep, we played Brian Tate says today. We will know better next time. #doyleSez"— Doyle Brunson (@TexDolly) March 13, 2013

It’s a you’ve-made-it moment in 140 characters or less.

Aside from the high stakes -- Tate played up to $1,500/$3,000 -- one of Tate’s favorite things to do in Bobby’s Room is listen.

Doyle Brunson
When Doyle knows your name, you've made it.

“The day-to-day talk in there is really entertaining,” Tate said. “They have all these colorful histories.

"Doyle has some of the funniest stories and Billy Baxter has hilarious stories. Everyone there just has great stories.

“[Erick] Lindgren made a comment that we should put a camera in Bobby’s Room and live stream it for entertainment.”

The high stakes would also make it compelling for viewers. Tate says the games at Bobby’s Room have been at $1,000/$2,000 the past few months but have bumped up to $3,000/$6,000 and $4,000/$8,000 recently.

While that’s going on, Tate’s deciding to stick to a game he hates.

“There’s this $1,000/$2,000 Super Stud game I’ve been playing, so I’m sticking with that. It’s a good game, but it’s a terrible game. I don’t enjoy it.”

$50k Championship Nice to Switch It Up

$50k tourney a "nice change" from cash games.

While Tate indulges in his masochistic tendencies via Super Stud, he’s at the WSOP for something he enjoys, the $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship.

“I played it last year and really enjoyed it. It’s a fun tournament so I figured I’d probably end up playing it every year,” Tate said.

“I always hesitated to play it before but I’ve been playing more of the other games, H.O.R.S.E. games, lately.

“It’s fun though, I mostly play cash games all summer so it’s kind of nice to switch it up.”

Tate's made it through Day 2 of the $50k Player's Championship with a stack of around 200k. Follow his progress and check event results on our 2014 WSOP page.

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