My friend Kevin

When you’re hot, you’re hot. And right now, there is nobody on a hotter streak than my friend Kevin. Kevin won the Friday no-limit event at the Cash Casino in Calgary, pocketing a cool $16,150. A scant two weeks later, he won a big field poker tournament, the 351-player no-limit hold’em event at Casino Regina’s Harvest Poker Classic. It paid $46,434.

Although Kevin makes his living at the poker table, he is not a professional player but a poker dealer. After winning over $62,000 in three weeks, does he dream of going pro? Not really. He and his girlfriend prefer to plan for stability. They dream instead of their children, in a stable home, pursuing a good education. On the other hand, Kevin admits that he would be tempted to try the life of pro poker if he hits a really big tournament win.

Kevin was born in Asia. He immigrated to America in 1988 with his mother, father, and three siblings. The family moved for the promise of a better life. Although even in childhood he enjoyed card games, it is just three years ago that Kevin started to take poker seriously. Working as a table games dealer at the Elbow River Inn, he took the poker course and was hooked. In his words he could not get enough of the game. He dealt poker, played poker, talked about poker, read about poker, and even dreamed about poker.

In a typical week, Kevin will work five shifts at the Elbow River Inn and play as many small tournaments at the Cash Casino. The Cash offers small daily tournaments at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., plus a slightly larger tournament every Saturday afternoon. It is in one of these tournaments that you are more likely to find Kevin. He does not play online. He tried online poker, but the keys to Kevin’s game are focus and discipline. The money online does not seem real. The game is very fast paced. He finds it hard to maintain sufficient focus and discipline to beat the online game consistently. He is not alone. A lot of successful traditional poker player have struggled in the online environment.

It is these two skills that he mentions over and over again when you speak to him: focus and discipline. First, he recommends that a player have sufficient focus to always concentrate on the game. Second, he points out that no amount of concentration will matter if you do not have the discipline to back your play. The main reason that many players lose instead of win is that they go on tilt and lose control. Many players know how to win, but they do not have the discipline to follow their own advice.

What has Kevin done in the past three years to develop his game? What steps does he take to sharpen his skills? He started out playing in home games. It helped him with his skills and gave him the confidence to move up. Once he developed discipline, things started to fall into place. Away from the table, he reads Card Player magazine. And, he plays practice hands with his girlfriend. If he can’t practice with cards, he practices by thinking about the game. Just playing hands over and over again in his head.

His favorite game is no-limit hold’em as he likes the power of the phrase all-in! And, having played with Kevin during the no-limit event he won at Casino Regina, I can confirm that he is not afraid to put his chips into action. He plays a disciplined, aggressive game with just enough zigzag to throw off the competition, a dangerous player indeed.