Florida-based poker pro Maurice Hawkins talks a big game and judging by his $1.1 million in live tournament earnings, he's got the results to back it up.
“I’m gonna play the same if it’s $2,000 for first or $1 million for first,” Maurice Hawkins told PokerListings yesterday, when there were still about 80 players left in the WSOP Millionaire Maker event.
Hawkins’ antics, constant table chatter and energetic smile made him easy to notice back then, but when he got to the final table he was impossible to miss.
Hawkins was guaranteed $128,150 with a shot at $1.3 million. When play moved to the live-streamed, mothership final table, Hawkins was still Hawkins, constantly joking with other players and getting up to chat with his friends on the rail.
Hawkins has a knack for going deep in big-field, low buy-in events like the Millionaire Maker. In February he won a $580 tournament with over 2,500 players
He pocketed $183,498 for that win and he's got a long list of results stretching back to 2005.
Hawkins: “Give the Ball to Romo”
One topic of discussion for Hawkins today was Tony Romo, and how Hawkins was surprised he could still get a contract despite his constant fumbles. Hawkins then did his best impression of Romo fumbling on the ESPN stage.
“If you got 30 seconds left and you want to lose the game,” Hawkins said. “Give the ball to Romo.”
Hawkins was the first one out of the Millionaire Maker final table, but still took $128k.
Hawkins played Division I college football for Alabama A&M and later for Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Unfortunately Hawkins' stint at this final table was short-lived.
Despite starting the day 7th in chips, Hawkins was the first to go. It was a tough beat for Hawkins as he picked up pocket queens and ran them into Stephen Garner’s pocket kings.
Hawkins was eliminated in 9th place and while the $128,150 payday is Hawkins’ second-largest score, it’s still far less than the $1.3 million Hawkins had his eye on earlier today.
But like Hawkins said before, for $2,000 or $1 million, he won’t change the way he plays.
“I get queens, I’m all-in,” Hawkins said. As for being himself, that won’t change either.
“I just am who I am, I try to be who I’ve been my entire life,” Hawkins said. “I’m pretty much a happy person, I wish everyone could be a happy person.”
“Real Poker Players Know Who the Real Poker Players Are”
Hawkins' happiness is what allows him to be unabashedly himself, something he says most poker players fail to do.
“They’re scared of being who they are. People tend and try to be like everyone else -- dogmatic beliefs -- Instead of being who they are as a person,” Hawkins said.
"The secret to life is comparing yourself to yourself."
“The thing is they compare themselves to other people because they’re not happy with who they are. The secret to life is comparing yourself to yourself and then aiming to be better. Just being happy with who they are. That’s what’s wrong with this poker community.”
This desire to impress others in the poker community, Hawkins said, even overshadows the game itself for some players.
“I don’t think most poker players are that good. They just pretend. They don’t really make money,” Hawkins said. “The bottom line, they sit up and talk in their little groups and huddles and whisper about whatever but nobody’s making real dough.
“Real poker players know who the real poker players are. They make money consistently, it’s really proven, it’s online, it’s tracked. The rest is just rhetoric about what they do. I could care less because I have a family and five kids and it’s the only thing I really care about.”
This is what keeps Hawkins -- who has $1.2 million in tournament earnings and four WSOP circuit rings -- in the game.
“I Wouldn’t Buy-In to $100k Tournament Even If I Could"
“I’ll probably play poker for the rest of my life,” Hawkins said. “It’s a comfortable living, my wife doesn’t have to work, my kids don’t have to want for anything.”
His end goal for poker is to have enough money to set up a barbershop, a carwash and beauty salon back in West Palm Beach in Florida, where Hawkins lives with his wife Apprelle and their five children.
It’s a very different goal than Hawkins had back in 2000, when Hawkins was a linebacker at Alabama A&M.
“I got hurt. I was playing college football, going to the pros,” Hawkins said. “Someone robbed me one night and I chased them, ripped my hamstring. While I was in recovery I walked into a casino and started playing sit & gos.”
Hawkins started moving up the stakes, from $100 sit & gos to $200. Soon, Hawkins was playing $1,000 sit & gos at the Hard Rock and travelling the WSOP circuit. But now Hawkins has reached his buy-in limit.
“I wouldn’t even buy-in to $100,000 tournament if I could,” Hawkins said. “I mean, $50,000 could change my mom’s life, why would I buy in to a $100k tournament? Makes no sense to me.”
Hawkins’ 9th place finish in the Millionaire Maker is his second cash of the summer and second six-figure score this year but his plan for the summer remains the same.
“Play the next $1k,” Hawkins said. “$1k, $3k, $5k, $10k. It’s all I can do.”