LAPT7 Chile: Talking to Teach
Ken Aldridge is a player who always catches everyone's eye thanks to the consistency with which he shows up to tourneys dressed in a bright yellow jacket and matching cap. He's had remarkable consistency with his play as well, winning a WSOP bracelet in 2009, taking second in a World Poker Tour event in 2011, and adding numerous deep runs at the WSOP and elsewhere.
Having caught our eye yesterday when he appeared to play Day 1B, we spotted him again today sitting behind a stack of about 90,000 during the early stages of Day 2 -- just about the average among the 140 players heading into Level 13. We decided to see what brought the 62-year-old retired teacher all of the way from his home in Pleasant Garden, North Carolina to play this week's event in Viña del Mar.
"What I'm doing when I still have my health at my age is to try to travel the world," he began. "And poker has given me a way to do that... to go to new places while also giving me something that is comfortable for me and that I enjoy doing."
Though retired from a long career teaching at Page High School in Greensboro, Aldridge still keeps busy with a used car dealership which he has also maintained for the last 25 years. Two young grandchildren also provide a lot for him and his wife to do when he's home.
"My business keeps me from playing a lot of poker, but when I do play I want to go somewhere that's new and different. I'd never been to South America, and a friend of mine from Canada had the idea to come and so we traveled down together. He's also interested in seeing the world, and we actually drove from Santiago to Bolivia when we first got here... it's been great."
Over the last year he's been to London and Ireland to play, as well as to the Bahamas for the PCA back in January, all great experiences he says. So far his first visit to the LAPT has been a positive one, too.
"They run their tournaments so well, I'm very impressed," he says. "What's really neat, too, is getting to meet old friends and making new ones. As a matter of fact one gentleman with whom I've played has invited to take me wherever I want to go while I'm here."
"Poker's brought the world to me, it really has. I have phone numbers of people all over the world now... it's been really great."
As a teacher Aldridge worked with disadvantaged students, both economically and academically, and he notes that sometimes those he taught were troubled.
"I think that experience helped me at the poker tables, because I'd sometimes have to read what the kids were really telling me -- that is, apart from what they were saying. And now I'm having to read these young men and women at the tables."
The longer one talks to "Teach" (as he's known around the poker circuit), it becomes clear that Aldridge is himself a highly motivated learner, with both poker and travel providing ways for him to continue his own education.
Having only taken up tournament poker seriously five or six years ago, Aldridge has shown he possesses both the capacity to learn the game and the wisdom to know his own strengths as a player.
"I don't study or play enough to be a great player, but I seem to do well when I play," he says. "I have a knack for the game. The math is easy for me -- that's been a strong suit all my life -- and I enjoy the competition. But I'd never call myself a professional."
Aldridge is still learning, perhaps, but he knows a lot already.
"I'm very pleased with my game and the success I've had for no more than I've played. I feel very confident in my game and that I can compete with anyone."
A player with whom he played stops by to ask Aldridge how he's doing, and his answer -- "I'm average" -- seems to echo the humility he's been expressing. Then comes a grin and a flash of that competitiveness.
"Average is fine," he says. "I just want to be average when it gets down to one!"
The player leaves with a chuckle, and Aldridge turns back toward the other kind of learning he's getting to do on these trips -- the learning about other people and places that can help broaden one's life experience so greatly.
"That's someone I met playing," he says. "I love that... I love getting to know new people and having these new experiences."
The break over, Aldridge takes a seat once again to absorb still more lessons about poker and life. And perhaps even to teach a few, too.
Photography from LAPT7 Chile by Carlos Monti. Follow live streaming coverage throughout LAPT7 Chile in Spanish at PokerStars or via Facebook as well as in Portuguese, also at PokerStars or via Facebook.
Martin Harris is Freelance Contributor to the PokerStars Blog.