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The beginning of my poker journey…

I’m Ike Haxton. I’m a member of Team partypoker and I’ve been a professional poker player for fifteen years. Live tournaments are my primary focus, but when I’m not traveling around playing those, I divide my time between Las Vegas, where I play some live cash games and Vancouver. Here’s a brief run through my poker journey up to turning pro.

My first game – chess

Like many poker players, I found my way to this game through my earlier experiences playing some other ones. I’ve been an obsessive game player my whole life. It started with chess. I played, and won, my first chess tournament in kindergarten and was immediately hooked. I loved the thrill of competing and winning at chess felt like the most important thing in the world. I joined my school’s chess team and summer chess camps and private lessons with masters followed soon after that.

But, as enthusiastic as I was, I don’t think I had the aptitude to ever be a great chess player. I had mediocre tactical vision and was unusually blunder prone. As I reached my early teens it became clear to me that even with hard work I was kinda second rate. Every local tournament followed the same script: I’d beat up on some kids who weren’t taking the game that seriously in the early rounds and reliably lose around the semi-final or final to Nick or Anna, the two kids who were much better than me. It felt like I rarely played a competitive game. As I began to lose interest in chess, another game took over my life.

The transition to card games and strategy

When I was thirteen, I began playing a game called “Magic: the Gathering” competitively. It’s a strategy game played with collectible cards. The gameplay features a board of face up cards between the two players and then each player has a hand that only they can see and a face down deck that they draw cards from as the game progresses. Strategically, it combines the turn based tactics of a game like chess with elements of chance and incomplete information from the concealed hands and random cards yet to be drawn. I loved the added excitement and uncertainty, and the way it made games between opponents of unequal skill so much more compelling. It also turned out to be an incredible training ground for poker. Several other top poker players of my generation, including Justin Bonomo and Bryn Kenney, got their start in Magic.

Magic quickly supplanted chess as my main obsession. I played the weekly tournaments at my local game shop every week and started traveling for regional and national events. Every day after school I’d play online and read websites and message boards to stay up to date on the latest tournament results and new sets of cards being released. I got to be pretty good. I got my first taste of playing cards for serious money when I won a junior tournament for $1000 in college scholarship money when I was 14. When I turned 16 and aged out of the junior circuit, I qualified for the Pro Tour. I was flirting with the idea of becoming a professional Magic player after high school when the poker boom hit.

Becoming a poker pro

I graduated in the spring of 2003, a couple weeks after Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP Main Event. That summer I would get together with friends every week to watch the WSOP replays on ESPN. A few of the guys I knew through Magic were a couple years older and had already been playing online poker for a year or two. They were making good money and assured me it was easy, so when I turned 18 I opened my first online poker account, mailed my buddy Joe $50 in cash, and he sent me a transfer and I got started playing $0.25/$0.50 limit holdem. And that was that, I started in on my third gaming obsession and it hasn’t let up to this day.


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