Professional Poker Player David Williams on His Career, Being A MasterChef Finalist, More

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Jeff Bottari/Getty Images for Epic Poker. David Williams at a poker event in 2011

  • Collin Wilson interviews professional poker player David Williams about his career, being a finalist on MasterChef and more.

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The history of poker could not be told without David Williams.

In a career that has spanned almost two decades, the Dallas-Fort Worth native has found plenty of success on the felt. Williams is both a World Series of Poker bracelet and World Poker Tour champion with more than 100 cashes lifetime.

Known primarily for breaking on the scene as the runner-up in the 2004 World Series of Poker Main Event, David Williams has had successful ventures outside of poker — he mastered both Magic: The Gathering and Gordon Ramsey’s MasterChef outside of card room.

I was lucky enough to catch up with David to chat about things inside and out of the poker ecosystem.


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Collin Wilson: David, you are known for having an amazing poker career that kicked off during the poker boom. In between studying at SMU and winning a buy-in online for the 2004 WSOP Main Event, what were some of the first jobs you had in your early 20’s that allowed you to work on your poker game?

David Williams: I actually didn’t have any jobs in my 20s because I started playing professionally in underground games in Dallas at 19 after I left Princeton University in New Jersey.

I did first start working at 15 as a telemarketer doing cold calls asking for donations. I then moved on to Wendys but I didn’t cook, I worked the drive-thru. My next job was at a miniature golf spot followed up with working at Blockbuster Music.

I eventually started playing Magic: The Gathering professionally and made enough to start playing on Party Poker in 1998 and the live games at the underground poker club in Dallas.

Collin: Between the winnings at the WSOP Main Event and Borgata Open in 2004, what was one of the first things you purchased?

David: The first thing I bought was a white gold Rolex with a diamond bezel. I was hesitant to make any big purchases and didn’t even buy a car until after a deep score in 2005. I did pay off my mother’s new home that she had purchased shortly before my runs started.

Collin: 2006 is known for being the year a WSOP bracelet came your way in the $1,500 Seven Card Stud event. Which card game is your preferred choice these days between Hold’em, Stud or Omaha? Is there one better suited for live tables versus online play?

David: I really enjoy Stud and all the limit mix games. My absolute favorite game live or online is PLO. There is nothing like the great game of Omaha. So much action.

Collin: 2006 is also the year your mother competed in the WSOP Main Event and outlasted her professional son. How much fun was it to have mom side-by-side talking strategy or how to read your peers?

David: 2006 was a great year for the Williams family. Seeing her excitement was priceless. I actually busted on Day 1, but she updated me every break for all four days she was in.

The money bubble was one of the most intense moments for me because I knew how much cashing meant to her.

Collin: From one proud involved parent in the gambling business to another, how much fun is it to tell grade school teachers and other parents you are a professional poker player? What tips do you have for a beginning poker player trying to advance their game while being a dedicated parent?

David: I actually don’t tell the teachers and parents I’m a professional poker player because I don’t play as much as I used to. Even though technically it’s still my bread winner, I view myself as mainly retired, and a full time parent. I only really get to play large volume in the summer during the WSOP.

They do know about my poker history because it always gets out, but I think it’s not as mysterious or surprising as it would have been years ago.

I think being a beginning poker player can be really tough while focusing on parenting because both require so much time to be great at, and obviously parenting is the focus. One of the reasons I don’t play much outside the WSOP is because I don’t want to have poker results effect my mood and parenting.

Collin: Is there a particular area of sports betting, point spreads or fantasy, that has gotten more of your volume as the legalization has become more widespread across the US? A DFW native of our age must have had a few wagers on the Cowboys or Mustangs throughout the years!

David: Unfortunately due to living in Las Vegas, I haven’t really gotten to play much DFS, which is disappointing because it seems like a lot of fun. I’m definitely jealous of all my friends that play.

I don’t wager too much on traditional sports betting unless I’m getting down some sharp stuff from some of the groups I’m close with. I enjoy sports so much that I don’t even need a wager on the game to enjoy it.

Collin: You have a list of sin city restaurants pinned to your Twitter profile (@dwpoker). What is the go-to comfort dish you seek during a multi-day poker marathon like the WSOP Main Event?

David: Ramen! It’s the perfect comfort food. I usually go to Ramen Kobo in Las Vegas and get some spicy ramen with all the extras.

Collin: When did you feel more pressure, heads up with Greg Raymer in the 2004 WSOP Main Event or cooking an egg for Gordon Ramsey in the Masterchef Season 7 Finale?

David: Honestly I didn’t feel any pressure in either, as hard as it may be to believe. I’m very good at being present in high pressure situations and just living in the moment.

Versus Greg, things happened so fast that I really didn’t get to appreciate the gravity of the situation. Once it was over I then realized what had just happened and it was the saddest day of my life at that time.

The finale of MasterChef was intense but again, once the clock started, I was in the zone. I had made soft boiled eggs so many times that I had no doubt that the egg was cooked properly. They made it more suspenseful for TV but I would have bet any amount on that egg being cooked properly.

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