Tommy Yates has always had a way with cards, buying his very first house in England from the proceeds of Three Card Brag (an early form of poker). That said, going from a 16th-century card game to playing in the Main Event is no mean feat. As is turning a paltry 1 cent buy-in into a $19,500 payday - an astronomical ROI number.
Here, in his own words, is his amazing and remarkable story.
Tommy's Take on Bragging and then Bluffing...
“I had an uncanny knack with cards when I was much younger and bought my house in England cash through playing Three Card Brag [a 16th-century British card game, directly descended from the game of Primero, which is the ancestor of poker]. I knew what cards I was getting before I got them dealt because they don't shuffle, unless there is a “prile” (3-of-a-kind) out.”
“So I knew how to bluff and so on from a very young age. But they didn't play 3 card brag over here [Rhodes, Greece], so I took up poker. If I am not asleep in the winter, then I am playing poker, hundreds of hours.”
On Running a Bar and Gambling in Greece
“We are called “Tommies Bar” and [are] situated in Kremasti, Rhodes, Greece. Why [does] our bar stands out from the rest? Because we have free entertainment nightly, which include quizzes, pool killers, darts killer, cash bingo with 100% pay out; 1 Euro a ticket or a strip of 6 for 5 Euro. And a nightly raffle with the lucky 7 box that has paid 3980 Euro one time. It goes up if they don't open the lucky 7 box.”
“We play live poker on Sundays from 6pm until late, 5 Euro buy-in for 4,000 chips. [The] heads up loser doesn't pay and winner takes the rest!”
On His First Taste of Poker in Rhodes
“They had a poker league over here 5 years ago, and it had been playing for almost 3 months. When I joined, there was only 14 days left to the finals. I managed to come 38th and the top 40 went into the final, with only one winner taking the prize. I won it and went to a 2-day package to Vienna and a 550 Euro buy-in tourney. It paid the top 24, I was 17th with 36 left out of around 600+. I got dealt AK and got raised. I flat-called to see the flop; it was AK7 rainbow.”
“The guy went all-in and, after getting time called, decided to call fearing the pocket 7's. He didn't [have 7's] he had pocket Aces! I went down to around 6,000 chips (crippled), but I built it back up in the next hour to over 76,000. Then [I] got dealt pocket Queens and a guy went all-in with pocket 10's I snap called and a 10 came on the flop and I came 36th.”
Tommy's View on the Media Frenzy...
“ I was very proud to have got to the Main Event for 1 cent, but no way did I expect all the publicity I got. I thought there must be others there that had done the same. And was surprised to find that it was unique.
“Dealing with all the media attention, I am not used to it.”
“I had great support from all my friends, and my poker friends were not surprised at all. Three wanted to sponsor me for 1,000 Euro each for 10% of my winnings. I accepted only one because I was very confident of getting paid, and could not afford to buy the [plane] tickets for my wife and son without it. (The $1,300 expenses I won was not enough).”
On Making Big Folds and into the Money...
“I had a lot of sleepless nights deciding how to play. I could have played my game and gone far into the tournament, or I could play tight and make sure I got paid to make up for the $6000 I refused on the bubble. I decided from the beginning to do the second option.”
“[So] being dealt AK when there was only 1002 left and a guy going all-in - although I could cover the call - it would have crippled me, if I called. So [I] folded. After the bubble had gone I got Pocket Aces against the chip leader on our table, who was dealt AK suited. After [a] raise, re-raise all-in and call, I took it down and went 278,000 chips - my highest count of the Main Event.”
Main Event Tips from a True Poker Inspiration
Decide beforehand, how you are going to play.
Try not to smile and hide your face. It often works to intimidate anyone from raising too high
Get there as cheap as possible! (888poker Steps Satellites).
On Making it to Vegas – Courtesy of 888poker
“Out of this world...Unbelievable...Everything is done in such a huge scale; it is gobsmacking! I needed more 888 stickers for my shirts. I had to wear the same 2 shirts!”
In an uncanny twist to the story, the player who ended Tommy's Main Event dream was none other than Joe McKeehen, current chipleader at the November Nine table. Well, at least his chips have been put to good use..
Hopefully, we'll see Tommy at the satellite tables making a run at the WSOPE later in the year. But that might be unlikely as he “wont be able to now that the bar is in full swing, I will start playing again in September.”
We're betting that he might just change his mind...