Card Player, The Poker Authority, is an industry-leading publication and web portal specializing in poker media, strategy and tournament coverage. Poker Stories is a long-form audio series that features casual interviews with some of the game’s best players and personalities. Each episode highlights a well-known member of the poker world and dives deep into their favorite tales both on and off the felt.
Poker Stories: Ryan Leng
1:28:43Ryan Leng's first love was hockey, competing at the highest junior levels before catching the poker bug at his Illinois high school. He continued to play and deal cards while in college at Arizona State, eventually turning pro. He was a SuperNova Elite player online, splitting his time between Costa Rica, Mexico, and Canada before switching his focus to live play. He broke out in 2017 with a runner-up finish in a WSOP $1,500 no-limit hold'em event for $237,776, along with a deep run in the $10,000 main event for another $176,399. The next year, Leng won his first bracelet in the $1,500 Bounty event, banking $272,504. He picked up his second bracelet in the 2021 online series in July.Then this fall, Leng nabbed his third bracelet in the $1,500 Eight-Game Mix, taking home $137,969. A week later he would finish runner-up in the $1,500 Monster Stack for another $377,220, and he later pocketed a career-best $589,628 for taking second in the $50,000 Poker Players Championship to Dan 'Jungleman' Cates. As a result, he finished seventh in the WSOP Player of the Year standings. In total, the 35-year-old has racked up nearly $3.3 million in career tournament earnings. Highlights from this interview include seeing the country with his hockey team, battling Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel, playing 'in between the sheets,' gambling with Petco gift cards, the ASU heads-up challenge, stud hi-lo with Doyle Brunson's partner's kid, Costa Rica to Mexico to Canada, main event heartbreak, GTO vs. exploitative play, Christopher Frank's motivating photo, being a 'bracelet hunter,' a birthday bracelet, overcoming 'the worst fold in poker history,' speed Rubik's Cube, singing the Beatles in Japan, and his goal of becoming a recreational whale.
Poker Stories: Brian Hastings
55:41Brian Hastings is only 33 years old but he has already been playing poker at the highest stakes for half of his life and has put together one of the best resumes in the game. The Pennsylvania native discovered poker from his high school math teacher, and by the end of his senior year, he had already amassed a bankroll of more than $250,000. Hastings then enrolled at Cornell University, simultaneously earning his degree in economics while also helping to run a poker training site and continue his rise up the cash game ranks online. In December of 2009, he famously took on Viktor 'Isildur1' Blom in a record-breaking heads-up pot-limit Omaha match that saw him win $4.18 million.Black Friday forced him into the live arena for the first time, and he responded with his first bracelet win in the 2012 $10,000 Heads-Up Championship. He added two more titles in 2015, taking down the $1,500 Ten-Game Mix and the $10,000 Stud Championship. He was back in the winner's circle in 2018 for the $3,000 H.O.R.S.E. and just this fall, he earned his fifth career bracelet in the $10,000 Stud Hi-Lo Championship. Hastings is one of just 29 players to have ever won five or more bracelets at the World Series of Poker. He also has a World Poker Tour final table finish under his belt, and he won a WSOP Circuit ring in 2019. The RunItOnce instructor now has more than $4.4 million in live tournament earnings. Highlights from this interview include an inspirational teacher, big winner on campus, the Ivy League, how banking $4 million can spoil Disney World, sending his parents to Italy, earning his first bracelet, tackling mixed games, lucky baby socks, a $500,000 pot against Patrik Antonius, un-retiring, slinging pizza and waving signs, a Rounders limo to the casino, playing with Paul Pierce, and Ukrainian Christmas.
Poker Stories: Josh Arieh
1:27:55Josh Arieh is best known for his deep run in the 2004 World Series of Poker main event, where he was featured on ESPN's broadcast en route to a third-place finish worth $2.5 million. But Arieh was not a product of the poker boom, having already won his first bracelet back in 1999. The Atlanta, Georgia resident continued to travel the circuit for more than a decade, racking up numerous notable finishes. Along the way, he finished third in the World Poker Tour Borgata Poker Open, runner-up in the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic at Bellagio, and won his second WSOP bracelet.Arieh was an unlikely candidate to win the 2021 WSOP Player of the Year race given his casual playing schedule. In fact, he mostly retired from full-time play about a decade ago. But after winning his third bracelet in the $1,500 pot-limit Omaha event, he found himself squarely in the hunt. The 47-year-old then went on to win his fourth bracelet in the $10,000 pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better event. Arieh cashed 12 times overall, with seven top-10 finishes, for a total of $1.17 million. As a result, he narrowly beat out both Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu for WSOP POY honors. He now has lifetime career earnings of $9.3 million.Although he still has a limited playing schedule, Arieh has stayed involved in the poker world with PocketFives, helping to launch the online poker site's brand-new staking platform. Highlights from this interview include eighth-grade hustles, J-Crew jacket heartbreak, pool hall games, getting busted by the cops, Disney telemarketing, going broke after a bracelet, buying a car from Hank Aaron, reasonable markup, caddying for John Smoltz while looking like Angel Cabrera, winning six-figures from NBA player Antoine Walker, and a miserable day with Michael Jordan.
Poker Stories: Garrett Adelstein
1:20:14Garrett Adelstein is a high-stakes professional poker player best known for being a regular on live-streamed cash games. The Tucson, Arizona native and University of Arizona graduate has made a name for himself with superb play on shows such as Poker After Dark, Live At The Bike, and Hustler Casino Live. The 35-year-old was seemingly born to be in front of a camera, having also been cast on the CBS reality show Survivor. Adelstein competed on the 28th season of the gameshow in the Philippines for Survivor: Cagayan back in 2013. Highlights from this interview include birthday mysteries, being the valedictorian of his high school, party school life, the big brother program, getting casted at a bar for Survivor, body building on two cups of rice, running it three times with Rick Salomon, getting busted by Johnny Chan on ESPN, playing with armed guards in Chula Vista, a 72-hour session, taking elder abuse at work, a long flight home from a Houston Rockets playoff game, Marty Funkhouser, and sitting on the throne of a commoner.
Poker Stories: Toby Lewis
58:19Toby Lewis got a very early start in poker, picking up the game as a teenager and learning ups and downs of gambling from his father. He was just 20 years old when he broke out on the live tournament circuit, winning the EPT Vilamoura main event for nearly $600,000. He continued to travel the circuit for the next several years with numerous close calls, including final tables at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, the WPT Merit Classic, and the L.A. Poker Classic, twice!In 2018 he found the winner's circle once again, taking down the Aussie Millions main event for $1.15 million. He returned to Australia a year later and won another combined $1.2 million after finishing second in the AUD$25,000 high roller and then winning the AUD$50,000 high roller the next day. After winning two online _WSOP Circuit_ titles this year, Lewis returned to live poker and chopped the _Wynn Poker Classic_ in July for $1.235 million. The Southampton, England native now has nearly $8 million in career tournament earnings. Highlights from this interview include pub poker, learning what not to do from dad, self-deal rooms, becoming an EPT champion at 20 years old, taking shots in Australia, 'volume coming out of your nose,' staking and bankroll management adventures, negotiating deals for others, going viral for quads over quads, getting berated by Tony G, retooling his game in Colombia, losing a WPT title to a criminal, a seven-figure return to live poker, bagging grocery and delivering newspapers, a 36-hour session in London, and finding popularity with the misfits.
Poker Stories: Mike Watson
1:12:33Mike Watson has been one of the more consistent tournament performers over his 15-year poker career, having racked up more than $12.5 million on the circuit. The St. Johns, Newfoundland native broke out in 2008, winning the WPT Bellagio Cup main event for nearly $1.7 million. In addition to numerous final tables on the high roller circuit, he also took down the 2016 EPT PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, giving him two parts of poker's elusive Triple Crown. Watson does have two wins at the World Series of Poker. The first came in a 2011 WSOP Europe side event, and the second was a year later at the WSOP Europe when he banked $1.3 million in the high roller event. Unfortunately, neither of those WSOP events awarded bracelets.In the last couple of years, 'SirWatts' has rededicated himself to online poker, bringing his career totals to $10 million. As a result, he is now Canada's top-ranked online player according to PocketFives, and reached a peak of no. 3 in the world earlier this year. Highlights from this interview include when wedding season collides with poker season, having professors for parents, being a 'math nerd,' the Waterloo-poker connection, life-changing money at Bellagio, re-evaluating his game, winning two WSOP events and getting no bracelets, a big score in the Bahamas, a high-stakes online run, six-figure cash game pots, winning with Sam Greenwood, working as an umpire, fooling Dan Heimiller as Martin Jacobson, and enjoying sushi pizza for breakfast.
Poker Stories: Mark Herm
1:09:30Mark Herm is a longtime professional poker player from Philadelphia who found the game in high school and has spent the last 15 years piling up results. Known as 'Dipthrong,' he has racked up more than $5 million online and was among the highest ranked players in the world for a time. Most recently, Herm became the first player to ever win a bracelet in the inaugural WSOP Online series in Pennsylvania. Herm has also done well in live tournaments despite a limited schedule with nearly $2 million banked. He won two DeepStack Extravaganza events at Venetian and has four WSOP final tables on his resume. Herm also final tabled a $25,000 buy-in high roller at Aria and the EPT Prague main event. Although many players have warned against staking others, Herm has been quite successful with backing and at one point had a stable of 60 players.Highlights from this episode include winning a 'dusty' bracelet, being a 'social mutant,' discovering poker in school, proving mom wrong, being a bankroll nit, finding sobriety, saying no to solvers, dealing with close calls, how to win money staking players, backing everybody, what is fair mark up, all the uses of 'chirp,' high-stakes crypto plays, washing dishes at a seafood restaurant, traveling in style, poker's elite, and paying for food convenience.
Poker Stories: Fedor Holz
1:02:21Fedor Holz is just 28 years old but has already put together one of the most impressive tournament résumés in poker history. The German phenom seemingly came out of nowhere in 2015 to tear up the high roller circuit, but he had already reached the highest levels online before making the transition to live play, and in fact was at one point ranked no. 1 in the world.In 2014, he banked $1.3 million in the World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) main event, and that was just the first of many seven-figure scores. He won the Five Diamond World Poker Classic high roller the next year, and followed it up with victories at WPT National Philippines, EPT Barcelona, and the World Series of Poker.His first bracelet win was particularly massive, taking down the $111,111 buy-in One Drop high roller for nearly $5 million. Two years later he finished runner-up to Justin Bonomo in the Big One For One Drop for another $6 million. He also finished second in the Triton Super High Roller Series, and the Super High Roller Bowl. Although he has taken a few extended breaks from the game in recent years, last year he returned to the online arena and did quite well, earning another $1.1 million and his second bracelet in the WSOP Online $25,000 buy-in heads-up event. Holz has racked up more than $34 million on the tournament circuit, which is good for no. 8 on poker's All-Time Money List. He's also added another $11 million online. Off the felt, Holz is also the founder and CEO of Pokercode, a training site and community dedicated to making players the best they can be. You can see Holz and his most promising students on the second season of Grindhouse. The series, available on Pokercode's YouTube page, follows the group's progress as they share strategies and a house in the Austrian Alps. Highlights from this interview include ice baths, gambling with dad's DMV money, early bankroll struggles, a rapid rise up the ranks, not thinking about the money, maximizing his EV, avoiding $25,000 nightclub bills, winning and losing seven-figure pots, getting 'slowrolled' in the Super High Roller Bowl, the $150,000 hotel room match, the four-hour job, playing exploitatively, and what's left on his travel bucket list.
Poker Stories: Joe Stapleton
1:28:40Joe Stapleton got his start in the poker world at Card Player, working the WSOP while on hiatus from his job at Mad TV. The Albany, New York native then moved on to other projects, including writing and podcasting, and commentating work for a number of poker broadcasts and TV shows. Over the years, Stapleton has become a jack-of-all-trades voice for PokerStars, hosting shows such as The Big Game and Shark Cage, reporting from online tournament series like the SCOOP and WCOOP, and working alongside James Hartigan for EPT Live broadcasts and the Poker In The Ears podcast. The 38-year-old was a sideline reporter for the WSOP for ESPN and PokerGO, and was also the host for Poker Night In America and Poker Night Live.In recent years, Stapleton has been touring as a stand up comedian, and even opened for fellow poker player and funnyman Norm Macdonald. He was also hired by legendary screenwriter Paul Schrader as a gambling and poker consultant for the upcoming movie The Card Counter. The film stars Oscar Isaac, Willem Dafoe, and Tiffany Haddish, and opens Sept. 10. Highlights from this interview include styling it out, 'mistakes are my brand,' Smallbany and world expansion, Scott sacks up to L.A., stumbling into a Full Tilt meeting, tagging along for an internship, blowing off Jordan Peele, a strong nudge from Bobby Lee, debuting at the Comedy Store, scoring in London, mini golf with Norm Macdonald, accidentally criticizing Paul Schrader, spotting bing bong dealers, $2-$4 limit with Oscar Isaac in Biloxi, Jon Hamm - the dual threat, an awkward congratulations with Mike Watson, quitting the post office, Hollywood home games, the spray tan prop bet, and winning the lottery for a Dodge Challenger.
Poker Stories: Lex Veldhuis
1:28:56Lex Veldhuis was a gamer from an early age, and found poker shortly after the boom thanks to his friends in the StarCraft community. He quickly shot up the ranks, and it wasn't long before he was traveling the world, playing in some of the biggest buy-in tournaments and cash games available. He was even more prolific online, where he achieved SuperNova Elite status three years in a row. His play caught the attention of PokerStars, which signed him to a sponsorship deal as a brand ambassador. In addition to final tabling the $40,000 buy-in 40th Anniversary event at the World Series of Poker, Veldhuis also won the Dutch Poker Open in his home country of the Netherlands, and has appeared on poker TV shows such as The Big Game and High Stakes Poker. In 2016, he began streaming his online play on Twitch, and it wasn't long before he had one of the most popular poker channels on the platform. In fact, last year he set the record for most viewers of a single broadcast.Highlights from this interview include dad wakeup times, sneaking in Nintendo time, 'leveling up' to higher stakes, sweating Patrik Antonius, the emotional investment of the game, getting some good TV time, becoming Dutch national champion, getting the call for High Stakes Poker, calling down Daniel Negreanu with king high, a series of escalating prop bets with Bertrand 'ElkY' Grospellier, kicking a friend in the head for €100,000, reinventing his career on Twitch, winning a $330,000 pot against Doyle Brunson, his football twin, and why the 'degen fund' is just a marketing expense.