WSOP 2017: The math geek turned polymath, aka the maturation of Randy Lew
For the first few years in the social media life of Randy "nanonoko" Lew, fans headed to his Twitter page, YouTube channel, Twitch stream, etc., etc., for a strict diet of high-octane, high stakes, multi-table poker action. It was poker, poker, poker, all day, every day and at a higher level than you could possibly imagine.
But something happened over the past couple of months that apparently transitioned the Team PokerStars Online superstar from poker-math geek to full on polymath.
All of a sudden there's nanonoko at the Colosseum in Rome. There's nanonoko outside an ancient castle in Budapest. There's nanonoko balancing the Leaning Tower of Pisa on his biceps. And there's nanonoko outside the Academy of Athens. While I'm sure we'd all relish a heads-up duel between nanonoko and Plato, it's not something we were expecting.
The truth of nanonoko's extraordinary European odyssey, which has taken a brief hiatus as he plays the World Series of Poker this week, is that he is finally making all the hours he put in at the online tables pay.
"That was for the PS Lifetime trip," Lew says during a break in play on Day 2 of the Main Event. "I was one of the few players on PokerStars to make 10 million VPPs. Then they give you a trip wherever you want to go. I said I wanted to go on a cool vacation to hit up all these spots."
The full itinerary so far has allowed Lew and his girlfriend, fellow Team Pro Celina Lin, to visit Budapest, Athens, Rome, Santorini, Paris and Berlin, before landing in Vegas. After this, they're heading to Korea for the PokerStars Festival, and then to Australia and possibly New Zealand.
"You could go anywhere you want, which is awesome, right?" Lew says. "If I wanted to go to the Bermuda Triangle, Antarctica, I can go."
Here in Vegas, nanonoko has played five World Series events so far, but even while in the home of poker has been feeding the travel bug. Lin and Lew headed to Antelope Canyon for Lew's 32nd birthday last week (as well as a celebratory hamburger).
"A lot of people say, 'What's the coolest thing about being a poker player?' We say, 'The travel' and it's nice to actually get to do that. I played a minimal amount of poker in that time, but really it was embracing the good part about being a poker player."
But fear not: the old Lew has not disappeared completely. For all the history and culture, Lew says he's still a reluctant museum-goer. The couple have spent almost as much time during their travels playing around 30 different escape games in various major cities, and then cramming in the historical buildings as and when they can.
"I learned some history, but to be honest, I try to avoid the museums, or reading the stuff," Lew says. "It's not really my forte. I absorbed it, but I tried to minimise the reading."
Although Lew says he is still fully in love with poker, he is happy to be maturing as a person as he also adapts his game to a less demanding style.
"As I get older, and as I've been in this game for a while, I've kind of transitioning out of that massive grinding-type player," he says. "It's exhausting. No limit cash games is what I did when I was grinding and while I don't think I was the very best or anything, I think that I did pretty well in that field, so I don't mind moving on to a different format. A little bit more tournament poker, or things that aren't related to results: doing some Twitch and things appeal to me more."
Right now, what appeals to Lew most is building a stack at the Main Event. He's sitting with around 92,000 chips having lost 20,000 early in the first level, but earning them back before the break. (Lin, on the other hand, is out, losing with pocket queens to ace-king--she flopped a queen, but it went runner-runner straight.)
And even if things don't quite pan out at the tables, the more mature 32-year-old Lew doesn't appear likely to be fazed. He adds, almost apologetically, "I don't know, I just want to be happy. It's weird."
Maybe those philosophers of ancient Greece were on to something after all.
WSOP photos by PokerPhotoArchive.com.