The 2014 World Series of Poker is on the doorstep again and the buzz is already vibrating out from the Rio doors.
With a $10m guarantee for the Main Event, 65 more gold bracelets for the taking, the return of the $1m Big One for One Drop and "the best WSOP schedule ever" on tap, the 45th edition of poker's greatest series will be another barnburner from start to finish.
Who should you keep your eye on? PokerListings feature writer Lee Davy knows a few people.
By Lee Davy
At just 27 years of age Sam Trickett already has life pretty much licked.
Good looking, beautiful fiancé on his arm, money in the bank and a card game that matches up to anything you will see anywhere in the world.
And yet he chooses to live in Retford.
"I Need People"
I’m not saying there's anything wrong with Retford. I’m an Ogmore Valley man myself.
But when you find a man who can live anywhere in the world and he chooses to live seven miles from the home that he grew up in, you don’t have to be a nuclear physicist to work it out.
Trickett is a family man, pure and simple.
“I moved to London, for a year, when I was 24 years old," Trickett says.
"I was never one to sit indoors and I doubt - in all the time I stayed there - that there was ever a night that I stayed in my apartment and watched the television.
“I need people around me. I need that energy. It’s what drives me.
"And I feel more alive when I am in the midst of my family and friends. It’s more important to me than anything."
"I First Kissed Her at a School Disco when I was 15"
The move to London came at a critical juncture in Trickett’s life.
At just 24 the former footballer, scaffolder, sports-shop assistant and gas fitter had found something that he enjoyed, excelled at it, held the world in his hands and then allowed it to slip through his fingers and shatter all around him.
“The main reason that I moved back to Retford, from London, was to get back with Natasha.
"I first kissed her at a school disco when I was 15 years of age and have been dating her since I was 19. When I went broke I had no choice but to move to Cape Town to work as a poker coach.
"I had £30-40,000 worth of debt and was desperate to pay people back.
“Natasha and I broke up but when I got back into the country we started to patch things up; she didn’t want to move to London, I wanted her back in my life, and so it made sense to go back home.
"I have been here ever since. I love it. Everything that I need in life is right here.”
New Deal, New Fire
Losing everything he had was the best thing that could have happened to Sam Trickett. It turned a boy into a man.
He learned about responsibility. He learned about love. Then he got his head down, didn’t mope around and worked his bollocks off.
Now look at him. He's one of the most successful poker players in the game. And with a new sponsorship deal with Everest Poker still ripe at the edges, there is fire in the belly.
It’s roaring, and somebody is going to get burned.
“I went through a funny phase about six months ago. I don’t know what the matter was, but I just couldn’t get going.
"My motivation had gone. Having money does that to you. Suddenly, having more of it doesn’t really change your life like it once did. Something needed to change.”
Quite why another major poker site never picked up Sam Trickett is a mystery to me. When you compare him to other sponsored pros there doesn’t seem to be anything that stands out to me.
He plays in the biggest games in the world, he beats those games and, apart from getting a beating leaving a club at the 2012 WSOP, he stays out of the seedier side of the limelight.
Their loss is Everest’s gain. And it was just the change that Trickett needed.
"Poker Means Everything to Me"
“I feel like I have a job again, and that’s important to me.
"The motivation has returned because I want to do well for my employer, and for the Everest players who have a piece of my World Series action. I am determined to do well for them.”
And what a start as an Everest pro he's had. In his very first tournament Trickett very nearly walked away from the World Poker Tour (WPT) Venice Grand Prix with the title in his pocket.
Only for the sake of a few different turn and river cards, Trickett would have bagged the first of his "Big Three." The man is back, and he is on top of his game.
“Poker means everything to me. I’m not the type of person who sits around thinking about why the planet turns on its axis.
"I am focused on a few important things. Making my friends and family happy, and making the best decision that I can every time I am dealt a hand of poker.
“I remember watching Noah Boeken in the Masters Classics in Amsterdam. It was a time when I thought I knew everything about the game, when in fact I knew nothing.
"I asked my friend, 'Why does he always seem to win?'
“'Because he always makes good decisions.' said my friend. I have been trying to make good decisions ever since.”
Follow Trickett's journey at the 2014 WSOP right here on PokerListings starting May 27.
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