Brian Nadell: A Poker Player’s Poker Player by Patricia Chavira

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Los Angeles-based poker pro Brian Nadell had a great week at the Los Angeles Poker Classic (LAPC). On Monday, January 16, he cashed in Event #4: $350 Pot-Limit Omaha 8 or Better.

Three days later on Thursday, January 19, he made the final table of Event #8: $350 Omaha 8/Stud 8 or Better.

This is no surprise. Nadell has been playing cards since he was a kid, but in his early 20s he would play in a poker game once a week where you could bet up to $3. He says he played every week and never lost.

The first time he stepped into a casino was in August 1987. He was reeling from the loss of his father when a friend asked him to come to the Bicycle Club in Bell Gardens, California.

On that first visit, he played $15/$30 Stud Hi-Low and won $3,300. Gaming Today columnist Robert Turner was responsible for bringing this game to the Bike. Nadell and Turner have been friends ever since.

The First Legends of Poker

 

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Eight years later, Turner created the first Legends of Poker for the Bike in 1995 and made Nadell a Legend of Poker host for the Omaha tournament.

Turner said, “We had an elite group of poker players who were very popular. Nadell was a great host and ambassador for the game of poker because he was such a well-liked individual and a great promoter of the game of Omaha.”

In 1996, Nadell moved back to Las Vegas and played high-limit poker at the Mirage. In Vegas, he found success playing in the WSOP. 1999 was a particularly memorable year.

Nadell at the WSOP

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He placed 13th in the $1,500 Seven-Card Razz, 2nd in the $2,500 Seven Card Stud Hi-Low 8 or Better and 15th in the $1,500 Razz.

He made a dramatic comeback in the Stud event. He was down to one black chip, but went on to capture second place for $85,000. This would become a familiar narrative for Nadell and the WSOP.

Nadell says he has made 11 final tables, and at one time, held the record for making the most final tables at the WSOP without winning a bracelet.

He has made millions playing poker, but he isn’t an ordinary poker player. He ran for U.S. Senate in 2010. He brings passion to everything he does. He is one to watch this year at the World Series of Poker this summer.

Patricia Chavira is a freelance writer specializing in poker. She writes the “Poker Scene” column for Gaming Today. Follow her on Twitter @pinkchippoker.

 

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The First Poker Boom

Stardust

I was discussing music with my wife while we were listening to satellite radio in the car. Some stations were listed by decades. I knew just about every song from the 1960s and 1970s, and I had in fact seen many groups in concert from that era, but I knew nothing of the 1980s, the decade my wife grew up in.

Then the thought struck me that I knew nothing about the 80s because I had gambled away a whole decade. I spent so much time playing poker tournaments and live poker that nothing crossed my mind but poker. I traveled all over the world playing cards seven days a week without stopping to smell the roses.

In that decade, I probably won hundreds of tournament. At the time, it would not be unusual to play in Las Vegas in a poker room with 4-8 tables. The Stardust and Golden Nugget, which were the two biggest rooms in Las Vegas and the world at the time, featured only 15-20 tables.

I felt there was nothing more for me to accomplish, so I decided to retire at 32. I was living in Alabama at the time. I had bought a 2,500 square- foot home with five bedrooms and a huge pool. My mortgage payment was $99.00 a month. It was a great life I had built all from poker.

Then everything changed. California legalized Texas Hold’em around 1986. I was in Alabama thinking of all that gold, and I left for California to seek my second fortune. I was not wrong; poker became huge in Los Angeles and all of California.

In the 80s poker really exploded. George Hardie had a dream to build the largest poker room in the world when he opened the Bicycle Club in Bell Gardens, California, on November 30, 1984. The Commerce Casino opened the year before. These were super poker rooms and brought in new demographics to poker. Hold’em appealed more to the mainstream than lowball. These rooms were no longer considered second class but rather showplaces with the focus on poker for the first time in gaming history.

I was offered a job as a poker manager, then general manager at the Horseshoe in Gardena, California. At the time, everyone was spreading limit poker. Poker players were coming over from Las Vegas and the rest of the world to play poker in California. These players were used to playing PLO and Seven Stud Hi/Lo, so I introduced these games into the game mix in California.

The owners offered me ten percent of the casino to spread the new games as it was all new to them, and they had no business to speak of. I soon found myself in charge of a California casino. I developed twenty poker games in 90 days. It was a dream job.

Las Vegas was now trying to catch up to California. Eric Drache, Poker Hall of Famer, said Steve Wynn was interested in purchasing the Commerce Casino, but laws in California prohibited Las Vegas’ licensees from owning casinos in California.

Steve Wynn set a new standard when he built the Mirage in Las Vegas at a cost of $630 million, which was the most expensive hotel-casino in history at the time. When the Mirage opened in November 22, 1989, it featured the best poker room in Las Vegas with 31 tables. In 1990 Donald Trump opened the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, which would feature the east coast’s largest poker room. Foxwoods opened their casino and featured poker a few years later.

All of these great rooms laid the groundwork for the next poker boom that would take place from 2000 to 2010. I was at the right place at the right time to be a part of both history-making decades. With that much poker being showcased coast to coast, you can see how a person could get totally consumed by it.

I worked so hard for so many years that I lost contact with the outside world. The 1980s were a total blur. If something wasn’t poker or casino-related, it wasn’t on my radar. My friend Eric Drache said he lost the 70s when he moved from New Jersey to Las Vegas, so I’m not alone in this.

I became so consumed by work and gambling that it was like I lived in two worlds—one world with family and friends and regular life and then there was this other world that consisted of non-stop grinding.

Was my poker success worth it? Looking back on the amount of work and poker playing that I did, I would say no. I would not recommend that to anyone. But as Eric Drache said, “What else could we have done?”

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and billiards/casino marketing expert. Robert is most well-known for introducing the game of Omaha poker to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. He created Legends of Poker for the Bicycle Casino in 1995 and Live at the Bike, the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet in 2002.

He has over 30 years’ experience in casino marketing and player development. Find Robert on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thechipburner and on Twitter @thechipburner. He can be reached at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting and teaching.