It would take the average Linfield student 8,750 hours to make $70,000.
Working a minimum-wage work study job one hour a day, five days a week would take that same person roughly 400 months, or 44 years, to earn that amount.
But for one student, it took a focused, intense and ultimately satisfying 10 hours of online poker play.
Senior Simon Lamson, a running back for the football team, has been a member of the Full Tilt Poker community for close to two years.
It wasn’t until last summer that he reaped any serious financial benefits.
“I played a few tournaments during the spring maybe once a month, but I didn’t start playing consistently until the start of the summer when I had all my free time,” Lamson said. “I’d say from June until September [that] I made $8,000.”
He also worked full time for Linfield’s conference and events planning.
But with steady cash flowing in from his hobby, the job was more of a way to occupy the day, making the hours fly by until night’s tournament.
Once the summer wound down, and the twin demands of football and school rolled around, the tournaments and games became less frequent.
Lamson was lucky to squeeze one tournament in every two weeks he said. But on Sept. 26, he found himself with a free afternoon.
“I wanted to play in this tournament. I had $200 extra in my bankroll and used it for the buy-in. The total pot was $750,000, so I knew it wouldn’t be that hard to at least win back my buy-in,” he said. “Play got under way at 3 p.m., and the first couple hours weren’t anything special.
The tournament began with 3,500 people, and play was slow until there were 1,500 remaining, he said.
“I was winging it,” he said. “I was up and down with my chip stack, winning pretty average pot sizes.”
His profits shot up from that point.
“The chip average was at 9,000, I had just won two big hands and jumped up to about 25,000,” Lamson said. “From then on, I was in the top 10 until the end of the tournament.”
During the next three hours, players began to fall by the wayside, their chip stacks exhausted and the tension heightened.
By then, Lamson’s three roommates had joined him around the computer screen, intent on the action.
Lamson’s eyes were set on making the final table.
“The top nine make the final table, and ninth place was $10,000 grand,” he said.
As Lamson continued to focus on making the final table, and, as his roommates cheered him on, it became clear to him that he was on the way to making more money in one night than any one of them had made during their entire lives.
It was 11:30 p.m. when screams erupted from Lamson’s living room. He made it to the final nine, which guaranteed him $10,000, and only eight other people stood between him and the winner’s purse of $120,000.
In tournaments this size, there is a break every three hours. It couldn’t have come at a better time.
“Once I took that break it started to set in — how much money I was actually dealing with. I was fourth in chip stack, but I honestly wasn’t thinking about the money. I was kind of just going with the flow,” Lamson said.
After the break, fortified with a bottle of Vitamin Water, Lamson got back to business.
“I felt like I could realistically make about $20,000, but that $50,000 plus mark just didn’t seem real,” he said. “When I knocked the final pro player out for fifth place, I felt like I could maybe win it,” he said.
Gradually, he moved up to fourth, with a guarantee of $40,000; then third, with a guarantee of $50,000. It was a surreal experience for not only Lamson but also his roommates.
“I’ve never been a part of anything like that, and when we found out how much money was actually at stake, it was like we were all playing in the tournament,” senior Bryce Comfort, his roommate, said.
“Plus, I needed some new headphones, and I heard he had recently bought a pair for himself and one other person who supported him through his last tournament cash,” he said.
One more person dropped out, leaving Lamson in the top three and a guaranteed $50,000.
After 10 hands, the players made a deal to divide the pot based on chip ratio.
“When it was finally over, I didn’t know what to think. I immediately started planning what to do with it but in more of a business sense,” he said. “I never looked at it as if I had a random $70,000, I knew it was important that I did something beneficial with it,” he said.
He will receive payments by check through bank wire transfers until the total paid off.
As for what he’s going to do with the money?
“I’m giving $40,000 back to my parents to pay for school, and sitting on the rest — probably in a high-interest savings account,” he said. “Oh, and maybe finally buy matching socks and new shoes.”
Chris Slezak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.