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My poker journey and how I bagged the WCOOP $2.2million, by Tyson Marks

WCOOP 2009 logo.jpgby Tyson 'POTTERPOKER' Marks
Winning the PokerStars WCOOP Main Event is something that I don't think you can really prepare yourself for... at least for me it was an experience that I will never ever forget. To be honest I hadn't really thought of exactly how big of a deal this was until after I had won.... like I didn't realise I was playing in the biggest online tournament ever, "officially" anyway.

Obviously a $5k buy-in with 2,400 runners is going to be something to write about, but it hadn't occurred to me for some reason that I had just made history, at least in some way. Being able to say: "I'm online poker world champion" is something that still doesn't feel real to say.

I was super short pretty much until 27 players were left, just kinda looking for spots trying to get it in good and maybe get a stack going. It was seriously the best structure of any online tournament I've ever played. It was definitely key in me being able to short-stack ninja and just stay alive for so long.

When we got down to around 15 players my stack was starting to look very good and I was running like GOD, which is when I realised: "Wow, I'm really doing this," which, to be honest, made me very anxious/nervous. I'm very fortunate to have good friends like my friends at home that were watching and my poker buddies constant IM's keeping me focused. When I reached the final table it was weird because I felt so much more comfortable than when I was chip leader with like 13 left... there's just something about final tables where I feel at home, like "it's go time now" and all the butterflies were gone and the only thing on my mind was $2.2million!

I sort of always had a knack for card games and poker in general, my grandmother taught me how to play 5 draw when i was probably 6 years old and I'm going to go ahead and give her credit for starting me on the right path :)


Anyway, I graduated from Great Falls High School in 2002, after which I decided to move to Missoula to go to UoM.....which ended up being very short-lived seeing as I only attended two semesters before deciding I wasn't ready to go back to school. So I had a lot of odd jobs for a while...construction, delivering pizzas, etc....basically just getting by. This is about when Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP. Everyone was getting into poker and I wasn't any different, I went to a freeroll with some friends and I think won or got second the first time i played hold'em... obviously I was hooked!

Some of the guys that ran the local games noticed my interest in poker and natural talent, and asked me if I wanted to deal poker. This was when I think I was 19 or 20. I soon was dealing poker full time but was such an avid player that a lot of time I would end up losing all the money I made dealing (which is pretty good in MT compared to other places at the time, by the way) back in the game I had just dealt in. I was at this spot for a few years, living week-by-week and pretty much just being broke all the time even though I made enough to get buy dealing cards at a local bar.

I played online a small amount in my spare time and loved it, but I was having problems. There were definitely mistakes I was making and everyone seemed to be so much better than me. I was close to being to the point where I would have to just make myself stop playing poker and get a grip and start actually saving money and doing something with my life.

It was about three-four years ago when a kid who had been playing in the game I dealt regularly came to me and basically said: "We should play online and talk about some hands and stuff, I bet I can help you with your game." Eric Pratt, an eventually very good friend and brief room-mate....completely changed how I thought about poker. So extreme that I felt like: "Wow I've been such a donk." Soon after I had my first big score for $7,777...first place in a $26 tourney (I think it was the nightly $30k on stars, actually). That was like so huge for me back then. That's when I quit my job and decided this was what I was going to do!

It wasn't easy. I struggled and struggled. The scores came....and they went....came and went. On and on playing exclusively MTTs (I don't play as well at cash).I was playing so much better but still wasn't managing my bankroll properly at all. It was OK, I was still getting by, and better than I had been when I was dealing poker then donating back! Over the last few years things have gotten better. A lot better. I won two preliminary events in LA '09, a $300 limit hold'em for $20k and a $500 NL Hold'em for around $50k....no chops in either. I also made a deep run in the main event the same year and cashed for $27k.

Last fall i started talking a lot with a buddy I had met through some mutual friends at the WSOP....PAULGEES (Paul Volpe for all the dolts!), a nasty heads-up sit and go player who had just recently started playing a lot of tournaments. It still amazes me how he would ask me about a lot of hands, and seriously within a month I was asking Paul about hands!

Paul definitely had the most influence on my game hands down, everyone has a #1 buddy that they go to when they're in a tough spot and Paul is that guy! He might be the best tourney player I've ever met, and for those who don't know him in real life he's a very good dude! Gotta say good poker buddy of mine Josh(JBT449) has also had a big impact on my game. I've admired his poker style since the first time I watched him play, usually in awe, and have on many occasions tried to duplicate it. He also has an uncanny way of making a seven-hour online session very entertaining, if nothing else memorable. YIKIK... and the whole tattersall gang... Glenn, Jon, Max, Melnick... you guys are the best! Basically just talking with other players about hands is how I've gotten better.

I really love spending most of my free time just enjoying Missoula. I go fishing and play a lot of disc golf tournaments in the summer/fall and snowboard in the winter. All of this can be found about 20 minutes away from here, by the way. There is definitely a reason MT has been called "the last best place on earth".

As far as big purchases go after my win, I dunno really. Most likely a trip for some of my close friends and girlfriend, somewhere cool for some sort of big party. I would really like to do something for my mom, too. She is so supportive, you have no idea. I guess I would like to buy a house somewhere, and perhaps invest a bunch? I'm not like running out tomorrow and getting a new car and wardrobe, I don't feel like it's going to change who i am at all. I have an amazing girl and friends and family who are amazing....this money is really just gravy.

I've considered myself a very fortunate person for longer than I've been playing poker, that's for sure!

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