In some ways, Dutch Boyd is your typical modern-day pro poker player. He makes most of his money online and travels the tournament circuit to increase his fame. But there's also a lot about Dutch that puts him in a category all his own.
Born in 1980 in Missouri, Boyd and his younger brother were raised by their single mom after their father left. While his mother was busy earning a living as a cake decorator and trying to keep the family afloat, she was also teaching her sons to give them a head start on their education.
By the time Boyd was 3 and his brother, Robert, was 2, they both knew how to read. Even though they moved around a lot while his mom struggled to make money, Boyd tested well at each new school, getting placed in the gifted programs everywhere they went, and eventually skipping several grades of elementary school.
When he was 11, Boyd moved a couple of grades up to seventh grade, where he remained part of the gifted program. All the children in the program that year took the ACT, a standardized college entrance exam, as part of a talent search sponsored by Duke University. Boyd scored a 23; not spectacular considering there were four 13-year-olds in the program who scored a perfect 36, but it was better than the average high school senior at his school. Seeing something extraordinary in her son's abilities, Dutch's mother took the opportunity to ask him if he was interested in trying some junior college classes.
Starting out as a part-time college student and quickly moving to full-time, Boyd had his associate's degree by the time he was 13. He moved on to classes at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, where he finished up his bachelor's degree. He also took the Law School Admissions Test when he was 14. After scoring high on it, he decided he might as well go to law school. Four years later, at 18, he had a law degree and was getting ready to enter the working world.
Rounders: The movie that changed Dutch Boyd's path
Then something happened that would change Boyd's path - he watched the movie Rounders. Matt Damon's character in the movie, who chose pro poker over a law career, struck a chord with Boyd, who also wasn't sure becoming a lawyer was the right way for him to go. While articling at law firms the summer after his first year at law school, he'd seen how miserable and thankless the life of a lawyer can be.
He didn't drop everything and go play poker in Vegas like the movie character did, but he did head to the library and check out the only poker book they had, Thursday Night Poker by Peter Steiner. He read the book and started playing poker online. He also played in a couple of local casinos that didn't always check to make sure he was of legal gambling age.
Boyd's online career began while the sites were still in their infant stages. Slow and unreliable, the Internet poker rooms just weren't up to par for Boyd, and one night when he was playing online he told his brother somebody should come up with something better. That somebody turned out to be them.
The brothers teamed up using Robert's computer background to create the software for their own site. Incredibly optimistic about the project and its potential to bring in money, they had their site up and running a few months later in May 2000.
Getting the business started turned out to be the easy part - keeping it going was where they had trouble. They'd invested most of their money into launching the site and didn't have anything left to market it or even to hire people to help run it. Boyd has said they were obviously in over their heads as they scrambled to keep up with customer service and maintenance on their own. They were even doing payouts manually.
The site did eventually get going and start making a profit. In September 2000, they became the first poker room to introduce tournament play online, and from there they took off. By December, the site was the third rated site on the Internet.
One month later, though, the site's fortunes took a different and unfortunate turn. The company processing all of their credit card deposits informed the Boyds they hadn't processed any funds for the site since mid-December. The problem was supposed to be temporary, but in the meantime Boyd didn't have any money to pay his customers when they were requesting payouts.
When it became clear the situation wasn't temporary, the site had to shut down, leaving about 1,000 of the 8,500 registered players who had real-money deposits unable to cash out. Many were able to get their deposits back, but didn't get any of the winnings they'd accumulated. In Boyd's own words, "It was a big disaster."
After his company crashed, Boyd continued to play poker as a prop player at casinos and did some consulting work for other online gambling firms. While on a consulting gig in Antigua, Boyd came up with his next big idea - a rake-free poker site.
Boyd headed to Las Vegas in search of investors, and instead found himself deep in the poker world again and decided to stay. He played in a few satellite tournaments and ended up winning a seat to the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event.
The WSOP was Boyd's time in the spotlight for something positive - prior to it, most of his notoriety had stemmed from his bad history with the online poker site. He got a lot of attention as he advanced up in the ranks of the tournament, at one time coming in third in the chip count and eventually placing 12th to win $80,000.
The cash wasn't his only accomplishment that year. Just after the conclusion of the WSOP, Dutch used part of his winnings to create "The Crew" with several other up-and-coming players, including Brett Jungblut and Joe Bartholdi Jr., whom Dutch had met in Vegas before. Robert, Dutch's little brother, as well as Scott Fischman, David Smyth and Tony Lazar also joined ranks, and "The Crew" decided to combine their bankrolls, find a cheap house and live and breathe poker together.
The plan was for each of them to put in about 5,000 hands a week playing poker online and to read and analyze each other's hand histories. It was a learning period for them all, dramatically increasing their poker talent as a group while they pooled their earnings to live.
Eventually, the members of "The Crew" were doing well enough individually to strike out on their own and stop sharing their earnings. According to Boyd, they still bounce ideas and information off each other and trade pieces off each other when they're in the same tournaments. There's even a reality show in the works to bring "The Crew" together for a reunion.
Working with the young group of hotshot players certainly didn't hurt Boyd any. He's done well in several tournaments since 2003, cashing in other WSOP events and winning his first WSOP bracelet in the 2006 $2,500 Short-Handed No-Limit Hold'em event.
Young, brazen, bold, and some would say brilliant, who knows what the future may hold for Boyd. Whether it's his poker career, online business (which is still in the works) or even a return to his law background, the cards will probably hold nothing but success for him.