It’s a long road from shuffling cards in 25-cent poker games at a University of Colorado dormitory to winning $324,764 in a 2013 World Series of Poker No-Limit Hold’em tournament at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. That impressive journey took seventh generation Coloradan John Beauprez six years.
In addition to the big bucks, the 28-year-old took home the most coveted award a poker player can win: a WSOP gold bracelet. “I’ve had this dream of playing heads-up for a gold bracelet a thousand times but nothing matches the actual experience,” he told ESPN following the victory.
While the bracelet is not a Super Bowl ring, to millions of poker players it’s the ultimate prize won playing America’s national card game. Like the ring, the WSOP bracelet is worn with pride.
Following graduation from CU, Beauprez often had to answer the question many young college graduates face regarding their career choices: Do I really want to do this for a living? For Beauprez, the question was not one any other graduate asked: Do I really want to become a professional poker player?
Beauprez has an intriguing family history. His parents, Claudia and Bob, operate Eagle’s Wing Ranch in northern Colorado where they raise and sell grass-fed bison. Initially, they were concerned about their son’s chosen career but when they saw how serious he was working to learn the game, they eventually came around.
“My Dad was not a gambler but he took risks in business and politics. He started a family bank, ran for Congress and won, and ran for governor twice. In many respects he’s a gambler so I guess it’s in my genes,” he said.
Poker-playing started as a hobby for the young Beauprez and was reinforced when the game became more popular and mainstream, his friends started playing and tournaments began to be televised.
“An accountant from Tennessee, Chris Moneymaker, won $2.5 million in a tournament I saw on television. He seemed to be an average player and I decided that if he could win, I could too, and started getting serious about the game,” Beauprez said. “I had hustler’s ambition, really wanted to play and that extra $100 a week I won in the dorms helped make my decision easier.”
Beauprez became a student of the game. He devoured every book and video he could find. He eventually learned that winning at poker requires more than technical skills. Grit, determination, patience, self-discipline, money management and being observant matter too.
Once he turned 21, Beauprez and a couple of his CU playing buddies would head to Vegas to play on weekends about twice a month. “We would cram into a room at the Wynn and play the lowest stakes they had. We were learning the game, were not very good but ‘less bad’ than the other players. We would usually take home $300 to $500 after a fun weekend,” he said.
After earning a degree in health care, Beauprez worked admissions during the night shift at a local hospital. The late time-slot was a blessing because early morning hours offered him an opportunity to read about the game and study myriad poker videos. The project took months and he combined this knowledge into an online presentation dealing not only the technical challenges but all aspects of the game.
Using a poker forum, he asked more than 1,000 players worldwide if they would like to see his notes for free.
“The response was overwhelming. There was a genuine appreciation for my poker tips and many recipients asked if I could coach them. I started by charging $50 an hour, developed an ongoing client list which led to a stable income. It opened the door to the business side of the game, which I embraced, so I quit my hospital job,” he said.
Beauprez created a business partnership with longtime friend and former CU student Chance Kornuth. The business is Chip Leader Coaching and is based on a simple concept: clients who want to take their game to the next level are assigned personal instructors “who provide a blueprint for making the correct decisions in every hand.”
The coaching is not fee-based and CLC backs (stakes) clients from to $5,000 to $100,000, depending on the player’s skills. If the client loses, so does the company; if client wins, CLC takes a percentage of their winnings. Today the business has grown to 75 clients and six coaches.
Las Vegas resident Nick Jivkov is a CLC client. He has been a professional poker player since 2008, has a passion for the game and enjoys playing at the Aria, Venetian and Wynn. “CLC has been awesome to work with. They are always helpful and always available. They are trustworthy, and have a very solid reputation in Vegas,” he says.
Kornuth, with input from Beauprez, runs CLC. Meanwhile, Beauprez has set up his own online company, PLO Quick Pro, focusing on creating and producing training videos and guides. He has also written two training books. His business is thriving with clients around the world.
Most people Beauprez meets on the Colorado social circuit are shocked when they find out what he does for a living. “One of the biggest misconceptions is that people believe I’m playing against the house. I’m not, I’m just renting a seat in a card game that happens to be in a casino. Many also believe playing poker is 100 percent luck; they simply don’t understand the skill aspect of the game,” he says.
Beauprez is convinced that half the battle to winning poker is being observant, learning how to read your opponents’ body language and mannerisms.
“I dress more conservatively because I need my bluffs to be more credible. ‘Less kept’ players are more prone to bluff often, so do players in hoods and sunglasses. Shaking hands, sighs, shrugs, eye contact and happy feet under the table also send signals,” he says.
Nearly four years ago, the gambler’s life changed when he married Monica Owens, daughter of Frances and former Colorado governor Bill Owens. Two years ago, their daughter Sofia was born. As a husband and father, Beauprez has reduced his playing time and is now more focused on his poker business.
“I love playing poker but It’s easy to get burned-out. The lifestyle is tough. The emotional pull of ups and down swings can get old. It’s one thing playing as a single man but it’s entirely different now that I have a family,” he says.
Beyond all the straights, full houses and royal flushes, John Beauprez is a modest, humble man who took the road less traveled. He traversed from winning at the tables and with entrepreneurial spirit forged his own successful company.
He will never forget the early days when, if he lost $200, he felt awful and couldn’t sleep. A first online tournament meant a bad case of the jitters. “I was totally nervous and my hands were shaking. I won a whopping $20 and it felt like $200,” he recalls.
“It took me more than a decade to become confident in playing a game in which I will never be perfect,” he says.
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