The new Shaun Deeb, but the same shaundeeb, on life and WCOOP
I remember sitting down in a hotel lobby many years back after another long day of reporting. It was Warsaw, one of those early outposts on the European Poker Tour, where the lure of a cultural and historic centre a short walk away was never really enough to counter the lure of a cash game or side event.
But while we slumped exhausted one player nearby didn't seem tired at all. He was talking work with a friend who had just been bad beaten from the main event, but on a level that ascended gracefully out of our vocabulary and into a level of understanding I could never know. It was unmistakably Shaun Deeb.
Deeb is arguably online poker's first authentic superstar. Sure there were those usernames who came in between, emptying a few bankrolls. But over the years Deeb has always been "shaundeeb", online and in real life, nothing mysterious, just the same man, the same player, albeit with a few changes in his life - never more evident when he won WCOOP Event #44 this week.
"Had my wife sitting next to me and my son sleeping in the bedroom nearby," he said proudly. "To be able to enjoy the success with them is great. I wasn't able to during the WSOP."
The last bit refers to the summer, when Deeb earned his first career WSOP bracelet, the biggest live tournament win of his career. Not surprisingly this stands as the highlight of his year.
Winning online though is nothing new to Deeb. There was a time when he seemed to top every conceivable leader board. But it was also a time during which he admitted to always looking over his shoulder (where else is there for the best player look?), aware that others were chasing him down.
Then he eased back. Call it a retirement, call it whatever you like, but Deeb stepped away from the game, to work on a different view of the world. He moved, he married, he settled down. He became a father. In short, he mellowed.
"I don't worry about people overtaking me," he said. "I know they have. There's a reason I didn't play the 50k or the 5k second chance. People have got too good at no-limit and it's not worth the time or effort to study the game, to get to that level. Edges aren't worth it."
Deeb admits he's a little more conservative these days, and while he's still a gambler at heart, he sees the "goldage" of the game as having dwindled. But then WCOOP still has its appeal.
"4-max is a unique style of tourney," he said. "Nothing compares to it. Throughout the tourney I had some crazy aggro tables as well as few super tight tables. Adjusting to a new table was key."
This latest was his third WCOOP, his eighth COOP in total.
"WCOOP is always nice. It was the first big title I ever won. It's a big series and winning an event is always great."
Deeb now divides his time between Mexico and the US, where he opened a fire steak franchise in New York. He travels less, preferring time with his family, and if he does travel he picks a place from where he can play.
"I am grinding with Kevin McPhee. So it's my wife, son, him and his girlfriend," he said, describing his home during WCOOP. "The girls have been great, cooking and cleaning after us and keeping my son occupied while we work and play."
It allows Deeb to enjoy lifestyle to which he's now accustomed; one with investments that mean he's not reliant purely on poker (and the stresses that come with it); one that involves sharing some year old scotch to celebrate a win; and one that puts family first.
"I play a lot of destiny and drink beer and grill. That's my life outside of poker."
Perhaps that's what he set out to achieve all those years ago after all. No more looking over his shoulder, the future is Deeb's new preoccupation. And if that's boring, then tell us where to sign up.
Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.