Matt "plattsburgh" Vengrin finds the source, more WCOOP gold

Imagine waking up every day worried about something. Anything. Nothing. The worries roll in and over like waves, crashing white-capped stressors that beat you into the coral until you're a bloody psychic mess. It can be as exhausting as it is tedious and terrible.

"You can't stop the waves," John Kabat-Zinn once said, "but you can learn to surf."

Kabat-Zinn, an MIT-trained PhD expert on stress reduction was speaking in metaphors, but if you talk to almost any surfer, you'll know what happens just offshore is more than a matter of metaphor. Or, as the kid in Point Break (don't judge me!) said, "Surfing's the source. Can change your life. Swear to God."

But, for second, let's put aside platitudes and consider plattsburgh, better known to his friends as Matt Vengrin, better known around these parts as WCOOP's newest repeat champion. While he may not have been beaten and bloodied by worry, those niggling little life problems weren't helping.


Vengrin splits his time between Mexico and Las Vegas, the latter of which saw him nearly win a WSOP bracelet in the $3,000 HORSE event and post a cash in the Main Event. Still, even in a place surrounded by desert, it's easy to feel like the walls are closing in.

"I was going kind of stir crazy in Vegas," he said.

If he had the stir crazy fever, he knew the only cure: WCOOP by the ocean.

"It was nice to have a change of scenery," Vengrin said this week. "Going to bed by the ocean is something I could get used to."

While the change of scenery may have played a role in Vengrin's most recent success, there's a lot more to it than that, and not all of it is happy.

"I lost a father figure, a mentor, and a friend."

Vengrin tweeted that at the end of last year upon the death of Howard Shultz. Shultz was known in entertainment circles as a famed reality TV producer, but to Vengrin, Shultz was a lot more. He was the man who helped turn Vengrin into the man and poker player he has become.

"He was instrumental in my mental game and being able to close the deal in tournaments," Vengrin said, dedicating his WCOOP win to Howard Schultz and his family.

Vengrin has come to understand that there is a lot more to winning than playing his cards well. He's learned to listen to people who know a little bit about rising above basic accomplishment to something greater.

Vengrin found himself talking to Hollywood writer and director Scott Derrickson (who is currently in the middle of making Dr. Strange with Benedict Cumberbatch and Rachel McAdams).

"I have stopped taking things so seriously. I have found that if I just relax and go with the flow that good things will happen. I have Scott Derrickson to thank for that," Vengrin said. "He took some time to speak with me about success, and I think that really helped me."

Today, Vengrin is among the top ten players in the 2015 WCOOP series. He sits at #7 on the overall leader board at the halfway point in the series. While the leader board is nice, Vengrin's mind may be more focused on another sort of board altogether.


While Vengrin says it's still a work in progress, he's been working on his surfing since this time last year. While he doesn't necessarily come right out and credit his time in the water, he mentions surfing in the same breath as a new sort of peace he's harnessed.

"I am a little more calm. I don't let the little things bother me as much as before," he said. "I think I am maturing. I am realizing that the less you try to control things the more they fall into place. I may be growing up into an adult. It's certainly possible."

Of course, this is also the man who turned his PokerStars avatar into a Klingon (in honor of his best friend, The Omaholic) and still watches Star Trek: The Next Generation almost daily. Nevertheless, we assert this doesn't disqualify him from adulthood.

"I hear the Klingons are planning war on the federation," Vengrin revealed. "I do not suggest this course of action, but it seems as if it is coming. Klingons are excellent fighters with tremendous honor."

And just when we thought we'd put all our worries behind us...

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is the PokerStars Head of Blogging.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in WCOOP