Know when to hold ‘em [UPDATED]Published 4:34am Monday, December 9, 2013 Updated 6:35am Monday, December 9, 2013
A lot of things had to line up for Travis Schumaker to make it to his first poker tournament in Las Vegas.
Initially, Schumaker thought the tournament was set for next summer, a time when it is much harder for him to get vacation from his job at Bimbo Bakery in Fergus Falls.
When he found out the tournament took place in November, he was able to take days off because his 12-year anniversary at the bakery, which came one day before he had to leave for the tournament, gave him more seniority and a chance to choose his vacation time.
To get to the tournament, Schumaker won a scratch-off game while playing at Mabel Murphy’s in September to automatically qualify. Qualifying meant his entry fee into the tournament was paid for, leaving only air fare to come out of his pocket.
It almost like destiny for Schumaker to make it to Las Vegas. His experience in the tournament would seem to validate that feeling.
Schumaker finished in first place out of 94 players in a Texas hold ‘em tournament last month hosted by the Free Poker Network. As a result, Schumaker won $2,000 from that tournament and the opportunity to play in three other professional tournaments anytime in the next calendar year.
“Luck is part of it,” he said. “Sometimes you’re going to be behind, sometimes you’re going to be ahead.”
But Schumaker wasn’t done there. He used one of his three tournament entries to join the Heartland Poker Tour Stratosphere main event on Nov. 16 and 17, just one day after he won the FPN event.
Playing next to professional poker stars including Scotty Nguyen and Kathy Liebert, Schumaker finished in 15th place, just missing the cut for the nationally televised game at the final table of the tournament.
For his efforts in the HPN tournament, Schumaker won another $7,300, bringing his weekend total to $9,300. Not bad for an automatic qualifier from Fergus Falls.
“It felt like I had done something really good,” Schumaker said.
Schumaker began playing poker a few years ago after watching on television. He said it took him a while to build up his skills to the point where he was comfortable reading his opponents and not giving much away himself.
When he plays, Schumaker wears sunglasses and sometimes listens to music. He likes the aura of mystery these things present and the glasses hide his eyes, which sometimes still get big when he gets a good hand.
He plays four or five times a month at local bars, mostly at Mabel Murphy’s. He returned to Mabel Murphy’s the day he arrived back in Fergus Falls from the tournament, exhausted from a marathon weekend of poker but excited to see his friends.
“I was very tired and a little sick, but the guys were joking with me,” Schumaker said. “I got a lot of congratulations.”
Though he has no concrete plans for spending the prize money, Schumaker said he is considering buying a motorcycle or a new Macbook. He has also started looking at different tournaments to attend, including one held on a Caribbean cruise ship early next year.
In the meantime, he will continue playing locally with his friends, who were excited for his success in Las Vegas. Though the games at Mabel Murphy’s do not have the glamour of playing on the Vegas strip, it certainly paid off for Schumaker.