Dan Sewnig: New Jersey poker royalty
Dan Sewnig doesn't want me to call him the King of New Jersey poker.
"I am far from it! There are quite a few players who are much better than me," he insisted.
I'm not sure whether to believe him. I think he's slow-rolling me.
I met Sewnig last spring when he showed up at Resorts Casino for the Jason Somerville Run it Up Resorts Rumble. Actually, I met Sewnig right after he bested the entire field to win the Run It Up live event while playing on PokerStars New Jersey software. It seemed at the time that he was, at the very least, in line for being a prince. Maybe a duke. It's hard to say. This is America, and we aren't 100% comfortable with the machinations of the throne.
But there he was, standing alongside Jason Somerville looking very much like he needed a crown on his head.
On its own, winning the very first PokerStars-related event in New Jersey might not have been reason for an ascendancy, but then Sewnig went and did something else.
A few days ago, someone at PokerStars emailed me and mentioned the PokerStars Festival had qualified its very first person online.
It was Dan Sewnig.
"I am really excited to see what the PokerStars Festival has to offer. There are a ton of tournaments given the festival itself is only lasting for a week or so, and given last time I was at Resorts I didn't see a poker room, I'm intrigued even just to see where everything is going to fit!" Sewnig said.
Not to worry on that front. The PokeStars Festival people have that all worked out. There are 40 different events and room at the casino for them all. What's more there is a StarsFun Skills Zone, a concert by Sully Erna, a Jason Somerville Run It Up day, and the Chad Brown Memorial Tournament. (You can find a full schedule here).
"There are a few tournaments on the schedule that I'm really excited for, of course including the $1,100 Main Event I won entry to online at PokerStars New Jersey," Sewnig said. "I think the idea of the Stars Fun Skill Zone is a great way of trying to keep poker fun, and I'll go ahead and call my shot that I'm going to win the Hoops Fever Progressive. The series should be a lot of fun, and I'm really looking forward to it."
He's calling his shot, ladies and gentlemen. You don't do that unless you have some sort of divine right.
At 25 years old, Sewnig has trained himself for this moment. He started back when PokerStars was available all across America.
"Black Friday occurred a couple months before my 20th birthday and it was pretty frustrating for me. It was my sophomore year in college and I'd been playing online since I'd turned 18. I built my bankroll from zero, grinding the Hubble's Freerolls because I genuinely just loved playing poker," he said. "I then started getting very small $1 stakes from a small poker forum I was a part of. I'd run the roll up to a few hundred dollars, play out of my bankroll and bust it, and then start over. Eventually I figured it out and was able to spin the bankroll up to five figures. By 2011 I was playing $100 MTTs and starting to see real potential for myself in the game. I was playing as much as I could while simultaneously going to classes and competing in cross country and both winter and spring track. Unfortunately that all got blown away on April 15th and I was forced to simply continue with school with no way to play poker outside of small home games on campus."
And so he did the most logical thing he could. He worked on getting his college degree. He got a degree in math with a focus on education. The plan was to be a math teacher. It almost ended with a bad beat.
"I finished all my classes by the summer of 2014 and then did my student teaching at a great high school at the tail end of that year, planning on graduating December 2014 and looking for a teaching job in January of 2015. On my last day of student teaching my college sent me a notice that I hadn't fulfilled one of the basic courses that all freshmen were supposed to take and I would not be able to graduate until I finished it. At the time it was terrible but when I look back, I wouldn't be playing poker professionally if that hadn't happened," he said.
Now, that's exactly what he does. He plays poker for a living and is doing pretty well at it. He had a $27,000 score recently and, no matter what he says, is quickly establishing himself as one of New Jersey's best.
"I do study as often as I can to try to stay ahead of the curve," he said.
Now Sewnig is readying himself for the PokerStars Festival in New Jersey. If you're looking for a chance to dethrone him, you can still qualify on PokerStars NJ or just show up with your buy-in when it all kicks off.
Wanna go? Get all the details here.
Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging. Follow him on Twitter: @BradWillis.