John Morgan: “Most Players Start at $1/$2, I Started in Ivey’s Room”

There was a breakout star in the Aria Super High Roller series last year and it wasn’t a poker pro or social media celebrity.

It was 70+ year-old businessman John Morgan.

Morgan happily traded blows with some of the best poker players in the world and even shared stories from his youthful days, when his friends referred to him as “Bong Hog”.

After the show aired, a few of his younger family members asked him about it.

“I had to explain to my grandson that it was a long time ago, back when I was in college,” laughed Morgan.

“It was interesting.”

'Bong Hog' Finds Tournament Poker

John Morgan
John Morgan

Morgan has been playing poker since he in high school but he didn’t get into No-Limit Hold’em tournaments until 2006. He was instantly smitten.

“I like the entertainment value of it,” he said.

“It’s a great social game. I have a competitive nature so I like that part of it. The fellowship is also really good. I certainly don’t do it for the money.”

That makes sense since Morgan is the Executive Chair of Winmark, which has a market cap in the hundreds of millions.

The parallels between poker and business are not lost on Morgan, who referred to poker as a “businessman’s game.”

“I think the strategic element in poker is very valuable,” he said. “Being able to read people is a good trait to have in business as well as poker.

"The money management part is another way that poker equates to business.”

Playing the Best of the Best

Morgan has jumped into poker headfirst and has now played some of the biggest tournaments in the world including two $1 million buy-in events and the $500k buy-in Super High Roller Bowl from last year.

He’s no poker snob, however, and can also be found playing $60 buy-in events if nothing else is running.

SHRB tournament floor IMG 4148
The $300k buy-in Super High Roller Bowl

“I just love to play at any level,” he said. “I’ll play small tournaments, big tournaments.”

Today rates on the rather 'big tournament' side as Morgan is in the thick of the 2016 $300k buy-in Super High Roller.

You might wonder why someone such as Morgan would choose to battle the most elite players in the world.

“It’s fun to play against them,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for them. I feel privileged to have the chance to play with them. You learn some things by playing them.”

That’s not to say Morgan would avoid a game with his fellow businessmen though.

“I like playing against the business guys, too,” he said. “If I’m going to play something and maybe make some money it would be playing with business guys.”

Going Straight to $300/$600/$1200 NLHE

In the last couple years Morgan got into cash games and he started in the most improbable place.

Mikhail Smirnov
Folded quads to John Morgan

“I started at the highest level right here in the Aria,” he said. “Most guys start at $1/$2 or $5/10 and work their way up. I didn’t do that. I got right into $300/$600/$1200.”

You might think he would be fodder for the high-level sharks but Morgan says he’s been doing alright.

“When you make mistakes it’s very expensive though,” he laughed.

For the next few weeks Morgan is going to take a break from the cash games, however, and focus on the World Series of Poker.

Of course Morgan was already part of one of the most famous hands in poker history.

If you Google “John Morgan Quads” you’ll quickly learn that Morgan actually made opponent Mikhail Smirnov lay down quad eights during the inaugural $1m buy-in Big One for One Drop back in 2012.

Smirnov put Morgan on a straight flush in the hand and decided to throw his monster in the muck.

Morgan has never told anyone what his hand was and it sounds like he doesn’t plan on revealing it anytime soon.

“Only to Mikhail Smirnov and maybe to Guy [Laliberte],” he said. “We’ll see.”

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