ASU Poker Millionaire – Q&A with Jake Balsiger

Liberal Arts and Sciences senior Jake Balsiger won $3.8 million during his first World Series of Poker tournament. Since winning, he said, he has gained more Twitter followers and has only bought groceries and a sweatshirt. (Alexis Macklin/DD)

On Halloween, Liberal Arts and Sciences senior Jake Balsiger finished in third place at the annual World Series of Poker Main Event, winning nearly $4 million.

Upon returning to campus late last week, he sat down with DD Sports at Fair Trade Cafe to talk about his recent success and how his life has changed.

DD Sports: What does it feel like to be perhaps the richest liberal arts major?

Jake Balsiger: Definitely not what I expected. My friends always made fun of me for being a liberal arts major, like all the time. They joke about ever getting a job. And now that I don’t need one it feels different.

DDS: How much will taxes be taking out of the what, $3.8 million?

JB: Ya, I think it’s 37% effective, something around there.

DDS: What are you going to do with all this money and what are you going to do next?

JB: I’m not going to spend any of it. Like I said in an interview before, this sweatshirt is the only thing I’ve bought so far besides groceries. I’ve never been a big spender. I’ll keep playing tournaments, that’s you know the main use I’m going to use for the money.

DDS: So has anyone come up to become your friend now that you have all this money?

JB: No. Not so far.

DDS: Has there been any poker groupies that you’ve noticed?

JB: In Vegas, you know, a lot of people said hi to me. You know, it’s like shaking my hand, saying, ‘hey man, congratulations.’ you know not like groupie.

DDS: How many more facebook friends and twitter followers do you have now?

JB: Let’s see. I have like 2,000 more twitter followers and I had a ton of facebook requests. I accepted everyone with mutual friends. That was still like a 100 or something ridiculous.

DDS: Have you ever been recognized on campus, ‘Oh, that’s the millionaire poker kid.’

JB: Ya, there were 3 people yesterday. Yesterday is the first day that I’ve been back to campus and there were three people and they were like, “hey, Jake.” Oh, what’s up man? How’s it going? So it’s pretty cool.

DDS: Have you ever swindled any of your friends out of money?

JB: No, I’m not a hustler. I’m just a regular guy that likes to play poker.

DDS: How did you get started with poker?

JB: In middle school, me and my friends played little 5 dollar tournaments with our parents’ money. That’s when it started. Didn’t really play until I was 18 and then one of my friends who I live with who plays online for a living, he introduced me to online poker and I was like, ‘alright, let’s go with this.’ And it went from there.

DDS: What would you say to people that say poker is not a sport?

JB: I would agree. Poker is not a sport, I think it’s a game.

DDS: Do you think you’ll ever pursue a career in poker?

JB: Ya, definitely. I plan on playing poker for a living for at least the next few years until I feel like getting a job and settling down.

DDS: When you introduce yourself to someone and they ask you about what you’re doing, do you ever mention, “oh, I play poker.”

JB: I’ll mention it, I usually don’t bring up the world series. You never want to be like, “oh, I just won a bunch of money.” It sounds really bad. If they’re asking, ‘oh, what do you do?’ I’ll be like, ‘I play poker for a living.’

DDS: If they do find out, how do they generally react?

JB: I don’t think the public thinks the best of poker. You know like young guys definitely love poker. Older people, or what not, they don’t necessarily think it’s a skill game. You know a lot of people think you’re playing verse the casino and you can’t win a lot of money. Where as you’re playing these other people and the casinos take like 4 percent cut. As long as you’re 4 percent better than the other people than it is a skill game and you can make a living out of it. You get mixed reactions.

DDS: Have people all of a sudden become interested when they find out that you’ve been so successful?

JB: Not really, no. I just hang out with the same people I did before. There might be some people on the street saying congratulations but it’s been pretty much the same.