Meet Dustin Mele, PokerStars Passport Winner

Last weekend, we learned who will spend the next year traveling the world on PokerStars' dime as the holder of the one-of-a-kind PokerStars Passport. Dustin Mele has earned himself buy-ins and travel to ten high stakes poker tournaments all over the world. Now, as he gets ready to set off on his first adventure, it's time to introduce you Dustin Mele. Mele will be providing us with accounts of his travels over the next year. In the meantime, here's a brief introduction.

By Dustin Mele

I am 23 years old, and it has been a very long poker journey to get to this point. I will start where my poker journey started.

It was 2005 when I first discovered PokerStars. Honestly, PokerStars is one of the best things that ever happened to me. I started playing regularly, increasing my skill level and bankroll slowly but surely. Soon, I discovered satellites. It was amazing to be able to play in a $10,000 buy-in for as little as you want. Before I knew it, I had won three satellites and I was about to play in the WPT Foxwoods Poker Classic, WPT Mirage Poker Showdown, and the World Series Main Event, all $12,000 packages.

I had very high hopes for myself and WPT Foxwoods was my first stop. On the end of day one at Foxwoods, I had more than 100,000 in chips and was in the top ten chip stacks. I continued to play my best, cruised through Day 2, and entered Day 3 with about 200,000 chips. I realized that I could do this and was playing with the best. I took out Chris Biggler, winner of the Professional Poker Tour, and was beating players that I had watched play on TV. It was a surreal feeling. On Day 3, I got up to about 250,000 chips when it finally happened--my aces got cracked for about a 400,000 pot. It crippled me. This was with about 45 players left in the WPT event. It was crushing. I still managed to make it into the money and finished in 38th place, cashing for $12,650. Not bad at all, but obviously not what I was aiming for.

My next stop was WPT Mirage. This was a trip in which I had fun. It was my first trip to Vegas. The tournament, however, I would rather forget about all together. I took a bad beat to eliminate me on Day 1.

Next was the 2006 WSOP Main Event, a trip I will never forget for the rest of my life. I played safe on Days 1 and 2. When my table was changed, I sat down with a table full of known pros, such as Chris "Jesus" Ferguson and Mark Vos. This is when one of the craziest things ever took place.

We were not far from the money at all. There were about 1,000 players left, so I was being as safe as possible. I was limiting my play to only great hands and was not stealing blinds or making moves until we reached the money. The dealers changed, and before I knew it I picked up kings once and queens twice. It seemed that there was an ace or sometimes two on every flop, and players were betting, raising and flipping over pockets aces. It seemed like aces were everywhere. Finally, I had the aces, a player raised under the gun, and I pushed all-in.

The player that raised was the only caller and the dealer said, "Turn your hands up." I turned over the ace of clubs and ace of spades. The other player turned over ace of spades and queen of hearts. What in the world?

We both had the ace of spades in our hands.

We were at the end of the blind period and we had been using this deck for a long time. I had lost one pot to Chris Ferguson worth more than 100,000 using this deck and guess what? He had aces full to my jacks full using a flawed deck. Now, the five aces in the deck were discovered when I finally picked up pocket aces and I was forced to split the pot with the other player in the hand. I was screwed out of all the chips I had lost using this bogus deck.

Crippled with the blinds going up, I went out right before the money. I complained to the tournament director to no avail. That about sums up that horrible experience.

Because of my two unsuccessful trips to Las Vegas, and because of how long I was there for the 2006 World Series, my bankroll had dwindled down much further then I liked. I had to start all over, getting a job as a cook and continuing to play on PokerStars. I started playing much smaller buy-ins than I was used to. So, I continued grinding it out because I knew I did not fit working as a cook in an environment where I was paid poorly and treated poorly. I was very determined, to say the least.

I continued to grind when I realized that you can be rewarded handsomely on PokerStars for being in the top 100 of the Tournament Leader Board, or TLB. At this point my bankroll was back to a comfortable size from playing on PokerStars. So, I quit my job as a cook and went to working full time on PokerStars. There was nothing that could stop me from being in the top 100 of the TLB.

I played with more commitment and determination than I ever have in my life. I knew playing poker is what I want to do and what I love to do. There are not too many good things in my life other than poker and playing on PokerStars, so this is what makes me happy. I set my sights on the TLB and managed to get in the top 100 and stay there. This was not an easy task by any means. There are many dedicated and skilled players on PokerStars, so I had to play a ton of MTTs and SNG, and do very well in them, which takes a lot of hours.

So, finally I was in the top 100 for November and December and had two great freerolls to play in. The first was for four packages to the PCA. I earned this freeroll for being in November's Top 100 TLB leaders in November. I had no luck in that one.

The next freeroll was for the PokerStars Passport and $25,000 in cash. This was one of the hardest tournament fields I have ever faced. At the end of the tournament I had all of the chips and, honestly, words cannot express how I feel or what this means to me. It is the best thing that has ever happened to me in my life, by far. This next year is going to be amazing. I am going to be living the life that I have been striving for and dreaming about for years. I can't wait to travel the world and play in the greatest tournaments at the greatest destinations in the entire world.

I really cannot express how kind and generous PokerStars is to its players. Poker Stars provides the best site with the most freerolls and the best services from a support staff anywhere. This just proves that anyone can do it. If you want something bad enough and work hard for it, you can accomplish anything.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in PokerStars news