Bryan Devonshire has had a long career in poker, but most casual fans only learned his name when he was under the glare of the ESPN cameras.
He was close to making the 2011 WSOP Main Event final table and viewers saw him playing in front of an enthusiastic group of supporters.
But that was far from his first impressive poker performance. Devonshire was already a steady casher at the WSOP and was regularly beating the online games.
His run in the Main Event ended in 12th place, but that didn't damper the experience for him.
“It was a blast; it was a ton of fun. I got to play on Day 8 of a tournament. There aren’t too many of those,” Devonshire told PokerListings on a return trip to the Rio last night.
“Just being under the lights and having the live broadcast, it was just a lot of fun and a great experience. I kind of just sat back and enjoyed it all.
“I shrugged, good game, a lot of fun.”
Down to Last $25k, Main Event Changed Everything
"Let’s play the Main Event and figure it out from there."
Devonshire, who played online as "badbeatninja," was hit hard on Black Friday and his 2011 World Series, to that point, was not going well.
He had just two small cashes coming into the Main Event and needed a good finish to the summer.
“I was down to my last $25k, which is what I came to Vegas with in the first place back in 2006," Devonshire recalled. "I was doing so good six months ago. Then a lot of money goes away (on Black Friday) and I lose a bunch more.
"I figured ‘let’s play the Main Event and figure it out from there.’”
Devonshire was happy with his Main Event finish but felt the first sting when sitting in the Penn & Teller Theater a few months later watching the November Nine.
“It felt great to get that close to the final table, 12th place is about $130k better than 13th place and a whole lot of emotional heartache better than 10th place.”
“If I had busted 10th it would have been the same money and a lot more lifelong angst.
“In November, when I finally ended up sitting 20 feet from the final table, because I have reads on these people and know these guys but it's not relevant anymore, that was when it hurt the most.
"But I can’t complain because it was the best run of my life.”
“I’ve Pretty Much Lost Everything I’ve Touched"
Instead of spending that money in the strip clubs or buying expensive toys, Devonshire bought a Las Vegas home but soon found he needed something different.
“I made that Main Event run and I spent about $105k on a house,” Devonshire said. “Just paid cash for it because I wanted a bankroll but I also needed a place.
Only hours at the felt can give you those chip-stacking skills.
"It was a good time to invest and I ended up buying right at the bottom of the market.
“I’ve pretty much lost everything I’ve touched since then. My backup plan has always been just move back down in stakes, move back to Colorado, chill out there.”
Devonshire had a unique start to his poker career. He was working as a river guide in California and playing online poker on the side. He was able to make good money while still enjoying his outdoor lifestyle.
“I was a river guide in California through college and worked summers. Loved it and was really good at it and kind of always played poker in the background,” Devonshire recalled.
“I was playing on Planet Poker back in 2000 and guiding rivers in the meantime.
“Then I moved to Colorado to guide with this outfit and only lasted one season. I was absolutely crushing online poker and eventually stopped looking for a job. I’m making plenty of money playing poker; it gives me the freedom to go be a river guide.”
Devonshire balanced his life between poker and outdoor adventures but gave it up to concentrate on the tournament circuit in 2006.
He finished 2nd that year in the WSOP Casino Employees event and earned another WSOP Omaha/8 runner-up finish in 2007.
Demons Will Make You Lose in Streaks
“Looking back, balance is how I got into it and then starting in ’06 I lost the balance because I wanted to pursue poker hard,” Devonshire said. “Which is fine, because it’s what I wanted to do.”
“There’s variance in this game, these demons will make you lose in streaks, and if you can blast through those without being fazed then you’ll be fine,” Devonshire continued.
“If all you do is play poker, and all you do is get shit on for six months, it’s kind of hard to be a pleasant human being.”
Devonshire soon found the money and grind were not were not enough to make him happy. He regained his balance with a trip around the country, which ended with him back in Colorado.
“I had all this money, I realized I was happier when I was broke and living in a tent,” Devonshire said. “I went on this giant motorcycle ride and just made a giant circle around North America.
Regaining his life balance has made all the difference.
“By the time I rolled through Colorado, right in that same spot, I decided I loved it there,” Devonshire continued. “My buddy owned a ranch and I told him ‘how about I work for free and you teach me how to be a horseman’ and I’ll find some balance that way.”
Balance is Key to Successful Life as Poker Player
Devonshire spent time on the ranch and has since moved to Frisco, CO where he is a guide on the Blue River.
He no longer plays a full WSOP schedule, instead splitting his time between Las Vegas and Colorado.
“I think balance is absolutely necessary for a successful life as a professional poker player,” Devonshire explained.
“If you have balance and there’s other things in your life instilling happiness when poker is giving you none or even taking some away, then it’s fine. The last four years have been getting back to taking people into the woods, helps keep me balanced getting outside here.
"The ranch has moved on and was replaced with the river where it all started. Love it.”
Devonshire will spend the next few weeks on the river but will return for the Main Event, looking for another deep run before heading back outdoors.