Frontpage photo credit: PokerNews.com
This is the first part in a series of interviews with Bryan Micon.
“I made some really stupid kid shit decisions back then when I was 20. I rented an apartment after college which was $2,800 a month for instance with two floors and two balconies. It was awesome, and a very nice place, in downtown Chicago. I just blew a lot of money thinking, “Hey, I’m so much smarter than everyone else and clearly I’ll never have to worry about money,” and that was very naïve. Looking back that was very narcissistic and naïve, I’m 34 now and I look back on the decisions I made over a decade ago thinking, “Look at this idiot kid doing stupid shit.”
Bryan Micon is about as far removed from your average poker professional as possible. It might help that he doesn’t consider himself to be one anymore. Micon burst onto the poker scene for a wide audience when he did his Thriller Dance at the 2006 WSOP Main Event and he was announced as, “The Kind of All Degenerates.” Fast-forward seven years and all of a sudden you’re talking to a completely different person.
Micon is still eccentric, outspoken and always ready for some controversy, but he’s no longer as focused on poker as he once was. The 34-year old Las Vegas resident is married with an infant daughter and he mainly focuses on his job as the marketing man for the Bitcoin poker room Seals with Clubs. Besides playing the Big BTC with 40 Bitcoin guaranteed, on Sunday he only plays poker once a year during the World Series of Poker.
“Most people, and I think that’s from personal experience, don’t know what Vegas is really like. If you would take a camera around the city for 30 days you might realize that you could live here. People who come here just for the WSOP see the Strip, and not much else. I live as far away from the Strip as possible, and I can take my baby to an actual park. I have a grocery store I go to, and they have fresh produce that I like. So in that sense it has to be similar to a lot of other cities in the US,” Micon said about his beloved home base.
“I’ve lived here since 2007, as I had a nice score in the 2006 WSOP. I won about a quarter million there and I was already doing well before that. I was 27 and going through a divorce at the time, so I thought, “Why not start over in Vegas?” I was built for this town, and this town was built for me. I always wanted to land here for some reason, from the time when I was 19 with a fake ID. Even before I knew poker I liked the city, and after that it only grew. I just like the option to go to the filthy Orleans casino on a Friday night to play a $100 tournament with my friends. Maybe I’m crazy, but that’s my idea of fun,” Micon said.
“I grew up in Indianapolis and went to college about 45 minutes South of there at Indiana University. My friends and I would all have fake IDs and go to Las Vegas all the time. We were able to do that because we were making a lot of money in the stock market back then. We weren’t necessarily very rich, but it was a lot of fun to go there,” Micon said about his early Las Vegas exploits.
The Stock Market
“I guess my poker career was launched by the dotcom IPO market in the late nineties. It was a simple process actually. E-trade at the time was a small company and not many people trusted online brokerage. They would entice new customers by offering things like IPOs to these dotcom companies. Nobody really knew about it, but of course they got hot. I had an E-trade account since 1996 and you could just click, “give me some of the priceline.com IPO” and you could just buy 50 or 100 shares,” Micon said.
“In 1997 I’m in Las Vegas with a fake ID and a buddy of mine boots up his e-trade account to check an IPO. I had always read a lot and dabbled in some stocks as a teenager for small amounts. My buddy said that he was killing it with IPOs and he showed me how he was making money. I did that the rest of my college life and it funded businesses that I started after that and I was a beanie baby broker for some time. I don’t think many people knew about that at the time, and my friends and I did this for about a year and a half before it dried up” Micon said about the ways he tried to make money early on in life.
A Young Man’s Dream
“I had no idea what I was going to be when I was younger. A lot of people asked me that, and the answer to that question is very simple “No.” There’s one thing I remember very clearly though from back when I was around eight years old. I hated wearing nice clothes, suits, ties and all that stuff for weddings, funerals and religious bullshit. I really hated religious bullshit, so Church was a double negative for me. I had to dress like an asshole and listen to bullshit. So I remember my mother saying, very specifically, you have to be a lawyer, doctor, or something like that where you have to wear nice clothes, because otherwise you can’t make a lot of money. I remember very specifically being young and going, “Bullshit, I will show this woman!” There was no chance I was going to dress up, and I was going to get paid in this life,” Micon said.
“The IPO stuff that I did was cool, I studied, and I learned and read everything I could about it. Whenever I get into something I have to consume as much info on it as I possibly can. In the late nineties the entire equity market had a worldwide downturn and my strategy that I’d been using became basically worthless. At that point I started playing more poker, even though I had always been playing the game. Just like I did with IPOs I attacked poker the same way and consumed everything there was to know about it. Back in those days there were maybe 10 poker books and no online websites about it.
Micon seems very much in the know about what it took to be successful at poker, but of course that’s knowledge you accumulate over time. We asked him if he had some arrogance towards making money, getting rich and living the life he had in mind.
“I guess that would’ve been the attitude in my pre to early before my humbling twenties. I probably would’ve had those narcissistic thoughts, and it even sounds belligerent right now but I that was probably my attitude back then. By the time I was doing scrap metal I’d had years to consider what the future would look like. My net worth from stocks and poker was between $150,000 and $200,000, but I was an absolute atrocious money manager," Micon said.
"I had no clue where my money even was sometimes, and it happened that I found $1,500 in some pants pocket thinking I was broke. In 2003 I had around $3,500 on PokerStars and maybe $7,000 on PartyPoker and I was making some moves. I started up an affiliate program and I was very close to launching DonkDown in early 2004. I had also started a website called GoldenTeePlayers.com in May 2003 as I was really trying to get something going online. I’ve never been complacent or anything like that, I might’ve been a bit arrogant but I also always tried to make something happen,” Micon said recapping how he always had ideas even though he worked in scrap metal for a while before trying the life of a poker professional.
Live Limit Hold’em
“I had a partner in the beginning and we shared a bankroll, I believe that was around the year 2000. It was a live $10/$20 Limit Hold’em where we tried to make $3,000 a month. Occasionally we took a step into the biggest game, $20/$40 Limit,” Micon said as he chuckled about the fact that those were the highest possible stakes back then.
“Looking back it’s kind of cute, but we treated this game very seriously. We would both play eight-hour sessions, sometimes in the same game and sometimes in different games. There were maybe only one or two games going, and it would be a complete team effort. After our sessions we would come back and discuss the hands we played as we did everything together back then. We even lived together and tried to approach it as academic as possible. There were no equity calculators back then, no 2p2, there’s no Cardrunners, there was just a book by Sklansky, which was actually pretty good, for beating Limit Hold’em. It wasn’t perfect, but it gave you a good place to start. That book was a good baseline that you could develop your own strategies on top of. We kept learning, trying to improve but it was very hard to make $3,000 a month playing on Limit Hold’em game,” Micon said about his early poker exploits.
“There have only been a handful of things that grabbed a big of hold of me in my life. Poker was certainly one of them, the stock market was one of them, Bitcoin is one of them and my current wife is one of them. It’s this “drop everything and study,” type of thing. I knew back then that I was going to do poker for a while. There was no plan like, “I’m going to play this for three and a half years and then move on,” it was nothing like that. If I didn’t like it anymore after a while, or if I couldn’t beat it, I would’ve probably moved on to something else,” Micon said.
Things have changed for Micon, there’s no getting around that. The life of someone with no responsibilities and little financial pressure has since been replaced for something as contrasting as possible for a poker professional and all-round degenerate.
“If I all of a sudden walk out of the room it’s because my infant daughter needs to be lulled back to sleep,” Micon said as his wife and supermom, as he said himself, walked into the room to check up on him.
Little Anna Micon is getting quite the royalty treatment as her dad works from home.
“I basically leave the house once a week if I’m lucky,” Micon joked as he got back to the story about his early poker aspirations.
“In the early 2000s I tried winning at poker by playing one table of live Limit Hold’em. That’s a no-win situation, I mean, you won’t lose but you will definitely not win a lot. Playing live with a $5 rake on a $10/$20 game, even with terrible players, is just not a proposition anyone would take as the only way to make money every month,” Micon reflected.
A Different Line of Work
“Live Limit Hold’em doesn’t sound sustainable and it wasn’t. I ended up taking a job for about a nine to 14 month period after that, and that’s the only job I ever had in my life. Well, I also slung hot dogs for three months at an Indianapolis startup called Charlie Dogs and worked as a waiter back in High School.” Micon said.
“This was back in 2003 when I followed a girl to Atlanta and I ended up working in scrap metal for her father. I did really odd things that were very unnatural to me. One day I cut steel with an acetylene torch, that’s something most people probably never have done. Even while I was working that job I knew that I would never be like the 62-year-old guy I talk to on sales calls. It was just something I did for a while, and I even liked the first two months. I got to ride on a crane and on a bobcat, which was pretty cool actually. You don’t want to make a career doing that, and you’ve basically seen all the scrap metal there is in a few months. While I was working in Atlanta I also played poker and that’s when the poker world exploded as Chris Moneymaker took down the WSOP Main Event,” Micon said.
“Before he won the Main I actually played against Chris, and I talked about that to him when I “made it to Vegas” in 2006 and 2007, so to say. I might’ve even played in some WSOP satellites in 2002 together with him. My PokerStars account dates from back in 2002 and I think my Paradise account even goes back to 1999,” Micon said as he switched the subject the online poker.
When Online Poker Was Still a Novelty
“I played on every single website that was there in the beginning, but Paradise Poker was probably my main stay. When PokerStars and PartyPoker entered the market I moved to them. I actually ended up on Paradise Poker because of an edition of Cardplayer Magazine I picked up at some Indiana riverboat casino which had a two-table poker room on the fourth floor. I believe the add said, “Real Money Poker Games Online,” and me and my friends stared at each other and said, “Does this mean what we think it means?” We ended up playing online Stud in the late nineties, and we didn’t even care about the money,” Micon said about the days before everyone played with a HUD overlay and tracks their ROI.
“It was not like today where you have a bankroll on a poker site. Back then it was just, let’s put in $200 and see what online poker is. I would pass the laptop around with my friends at a party, not even thinking about the money. Later on, I remember e-mailing Paradise Poker saying that they should make these online tournaments that everybody wants. I remember being really mad when they said they were only doing Sit and Goes because, “That would be enough “tournament” for you kid, you don’t know poker.” I actually thought Paradise’s software was pretty good, but I guess you don’t really remember how bad it actually was,” Micon said being one of the few that actually remembered very beginning of online poker.
Micon as the chairman, his SealsWithClubs title.
Dustin Woolf, NeverWinPoker and DonkDown
“My buddy Dusting Woolf had these epic battles I would watch, because he was willing to lose thousands at Heads Up Limit Hold’em. That was actually also the only game that ran back then, Limit Hold’em. Dustin would make max deposits over and over again and he would play the big game back then, which was $10/$20 Limit. I remember him battling with ‘JarJar’ and ‘LastChance’ all night long. We were talking about the hands as young college kids, and it was basically a math problem we were trying to solve,” Micon said about Woolf, one of the first high stakes poker legends.
“Dustin wasn’t really my poker mentor, I installed the poker software on his computer before he even really played. He just wanted to get in there and fire,” Micon added as he reflected on his friend’s craving for action.
“I was in Atlanta when I started DonkDown and I lived there from 2002 until the beginning of 2007 when I moved to Las Vegas. I quit my job in scrap metal and I was playing on PokerStars when I came up with the idea of having my buddy Dustin Woolf play with a NeverWinPoker.com logo as his avatar. Dustin played the biggest Limit Hold’em games back then and I like to believe we were the first to ever try something like that. So I created NeverWinPoker one night after eating a ton of Adderall, before it was even popular, and installed a version of PHP Nuke and created a front page. Nowadays that would be done with WordPress, you pay a guy $20 and he clicks four buttons to set it up. Back then it was so complicated to do something like that, but on those amphetamine I worked all night and when I woke up the next morning I did not even remember how I did it,” Micon said.
“The thing was though; NeverWinPoker was up, running and functional. I don’t think I can do it again today! Very quickly a following emerged and I mean it when I say, that the rest was history. People were ravenous for knowledge about Dustin and at that time he was playing $100/$200 Limit Hold’em. They watched him win and lose $100,000 in one day, which was very impressive for those stakes, but right now something like that wouldn’t even make it to HighStakesdb. Back than this was something completely new, and nobody had ever been destroying the games like he was,” Micon said about Woolf’s rising star and the poker forum’s notoriety.
“I launched an entire forum for it, the idea, the technical aspect, it was all me. Dustin was the personality people wanted to know about initially, and then they found a whole world of free speech and uncensored poker knowledge. That’s what I wanted to do, and that’s the way I had it in mind. When people had a problem they posted, when they had a question they posted it, and the site always kept them under wraps. There were also naked pictures of Jennicide on our forum, as it seemed like the right thing to do,” Micon laughed about his community that brought a very wide range of characters to the poker community.
“You would think that setting up the affiliate program would be the businessman’s first instinct when seeing that your poker site does well. I really wanted to defend the freedom of speech in the poker community. I was monetizing the website, but at the same I also tried to make a little bit of money with it. There were a lot of lessons I learned along the way and back then I really just wanted to produce content above making money,” Micon said.
“Dustin and I ended up selling NeverWinPoker to Tony G in 2008 and we held an equity percentage and managed it. Tony might’ve owned it for only a year after he decided to give me the forum and stories database back, he only kept the domain. This is how Tony and I parted ways, but it’s also how Dusting and I split up. Right now Dustin is recovering from a serious drug addiction. He had a crippling opiates addiction he was very open about, so I’m not saying anything new here, and I’m not trashing my friend here. We talked about this on our radio show many times and he tried to warn other people about the drugs he was using. He’s a really good example of when you use those kinds of drugs for a decade while playing poker. Not many people have run that trial, but he never contributed to our business,” Micon said about his friend and his business.
That’s it for the first part of this interview series with Bryan Micon. Make sure to check back with us on Thursday for the second part. In the second part Micon will elaborate more on the rise and fall of NeverWinPoker, DonkDown, Dustin Woolf and his involvement with SealsWithClubs, the Bitcoin poker room.