The Maryland Taxman at the 2005 WSOP

With the ever-increasing popularity of online poker since the turn of the century since the turn of the century, the poker variant of Texas Hold ‘Em has become a worldwide phenomenon.

Players from all over the globe have been enticed by the lure of winning that one big pot – and they don’t come much bigger than the pot at the WSOP Main Event (World Series of Poker).

A competition that requires a $10,000 buy-in, the winning pot is a multi-million dollar sum (which fluctuates depending on the amount of players competing) and a place in poker history. Part of the attraction to the average poker player is the fact that many rank amateur players have won life-changing amounts of money, showing that the tournament is far from a professionals-only environment.

One of the tournament’s most impressive stories is that of Steve ‘The Taxman’ Dannenman – an accountant who finished 2nd in the 2005 WSOP Main Event. The Maryland native made his way to Las Vegas and proceeded to beat off more than 5,500 starting players to finish behind Australian Joe Hachem (who, at the time, claimed the highest-ever prize in televised poker history) and earn a staggering $4,250,000. Despite this windfall, and in keeping with his everyman story, he still works at the same accountancy practice that he has owned since 1991, while playing some more poker tournaments on the side.

Like so many who play online poker as a hobby, Dannenman had been playing the game recreationally with friends and simply decided that he would give the World Series a try. Not wanting to pay the entire entry fee himself, he split it 50/50 with close friend Jerry Ditzel, who would later pocket a cool amount for his part in backing the accountant’s dream. Throughout a gruelling nine days, the Taxman outlasted the best and most famous card players in the world – even knocking out former Main Event champion Russ Hamilton and four-time WSOP bracelet winner Mike ‘the Mouth’ Matusow. His dream came to an end when Hachem made a straight against his top pair, resulting in both players betting all of their chips – with the Antipodean coming out on top.

It is not just Dannenman’s story that suggests that there is money to be made for an amateur player. For example, prior to the 2003 WSOP, Chris Moneymaker was playing $40 online poker games in order to win himself a ticket to the Main Event. He eventually won one of the tournaments, gained entry to the event and became the Main Event champion – making £2,500,000 in the process. Similar stories are not uncommon, with online amateurs frequently cashing and taking home large prizes.

Texas Hold ‘Em is unique amongst most sports in that it is something that can be practiced until you can compete with the very best. Most players start their careers online, with a poker download from one of the many reputable poker sites on the internet.

With a basic knowledge of poker rules, a beginner can quickly learn through small stake game play and – eventually – begin to advance to higher stakes and more complex strategies. While it may take some time before being able to compete at a level close to the WSOP, many players will progress quickly to a good standard of playing ability. Online card rooms are ideal for a complete novice, as there is neither the intimidation factor nor the embarrassment of making a poor decision that one can feel when playing in a casino environment.

Although Steve Dannenman’s story may still be the exception, rather than the rule – he, and others like him, show that there is the potential for a rank outsider to go to the final table of the WSOP, outplay some of the biggest names in poker and win life-changing amounts of money. Unlike the Taxman, though, most future winners won’t be going back to work the following Monday!