Let’s say the game of poker – every famous player, every big result, every variant, its entire history – was wiped clean from our collective conscience tomorrow. What new hobby would you take up? Alternatively, if you currently play poker professionally, what new career path would you take?
Sorry if the mere thought of a non-poker existence made you shudder just now, but this was a real question that Ireland’s Nick Newport was forced to consider roughly 12 years ago, two years into his professional career.
In 2010, Newport enjoyed a sensational breakout year – winning the Irish Masters for €125,000 and crushing on PokerStars, where he plays as “YerSoLucky” – but it was followed by a prolonged period of playing too big, travelling too much, and taking too large a percentage of himself. His six-figure bankroll almost disappeared completely and he went through the wringer to build it all back.
Today, the 35-year-old from Dublin is in a far more comfortable spot: Cyprus with his fiance, to be precise. He won a Gold Pass worth $10,300 through the PokerStars Power Path and chose to use it at EPT Cyprus, where he’s currently playing Day 1B of the $5,400 Main Event.
But what was it like nearing the end of your poker career so early into it? What advice would he have given to himself at his lowest points? And what almost became his new career?
THE OBVIOUS STANDOUT
I’m always curious about what professional poker players decide to use their Power Path Passes for. It’s a qualifying route designed for casual players to get into big live events, after all – many of which the pros would play regardless.
When Nick Newport grinds the $11 Power Path Step 3’s for $109 Step 4 tickets, he doesn’t have a particular goal in mind. But he would prefer to keep it online.
“I was definitely trying to get the $2,500 Silver Passes to use for online buy-ins, for say, the Sunday Million and stuff,” he tells me on a Main Event break. Newport’s not in a position to travel as much as he’d like to these days (we’ll explain why a bit later), so it just makes the most sense for him. It can’t hurt to be covered for the Sunday Million for ~23 weeks.
A $10,300 Gold Pass, however? That’s a different story. “I’d just see what was available,” Newport says, clearly happy with the decision he made. “EPT Cyprus was the obvious standout. Plus, I had a break in my schedule with no commitments.”
Newport is here in Kyrenia with his fiance, who’s currently working back at the hotel. “It works out nicely,” he says. “She can work while I’m playing, and the weather is great. It’s taking a turn for the worse in Ireland as we head towards winter, so it worked out perfectly.”
It all sounds very peaceful. Freerolling your buy-ins and accommodation for a huge live event.
It’s a far cry from how Newport felt 11 years ago.
Nick Newport began playing poker professionally in 2010 and it couldn’t have gone better. He was winning consistently online grinding tournaments, and in October of that year, he took down the Poker Masters. His bankroll had never been bigger.
The issue for Newport was the poker culture he was swept up in at the time. “It was very different back then when it comes to taking shots and selling action,” he says. “There wasn’t really a culture of selling large chunks of yourself.”
The more experienced players around the young Newport told him to go play bigger events and take larger percentages of himself. “It was almost like a macho thing,” he remembers. “Having 100% of yourself.”
So he started travelling regularly on the European Poker Tour (EPT), and that too was very different back then. In both 2010 and 2011, there were thirteen EPT stops, far more than we see today.
“I was selling a percentage, maybe 30% or 40%, but at the time, that was a lot,” Newport says. “It just wasn’t that common, particularly in Ireland, to sell action. So that resulted in me taking bigger shots and putting up larger chunks of my bankroll than I should have been.”
Of course, none of this really matters if good results keep coming, and Newport always felt comfortable playing at the EPT level. That comfort encouraged him to keep going. But the live results dried up, and his bankroll inevitably deteriorated.
“I also suffered from too much overconfidence,” he admits. “I definitely thought I was better than I was and I got a bit lazy as well. I wasn’t working on my game as much.”
It all came to a head at some point in 2012. Newport could no longer ignore the fact that he felt behind the curve and decided, there and then, that he would work harder than ever. But he was under a lot of pressure, bankroll-wise. “I was running bad at the time too, for sure,” he says.
He gave himself an ultimatum:
Get backed or quit the game completely.
“F**k,” says Nick Newport. It’s followed by a long sigh.
What prompted this reaction? I’d just asked him what he thinks he would have done had he actually quit the game back in 2012. He’s deep in the tank.
“I really don’t know what I would have done,” he concludes. “Ireland was still recovering from the recession at the time. One of the reasons I and some other Irish players who were coming up at the time decided to commit to playing poker professionally was because of the lack of opportunities for jobs in Ireland. We’d just left college and a lot of people we knew were either emigrating or unemployed.”
Newport says he remembers considering joining the gardaí (i.e. becoming a police officer) as that’s what his brother had gone into. But that Nick Newport of 2023? Not a chance. “It would be the last thing I’d consider doing now,” he says.
Thankfully, he found a backer, so it never got that far.
“It was very common in the early days for guys to go broke and rebuild,” he says. “That’s the way things were back then. But for me now, it would be impossible. As you get older your priorities change, and you might have more dependents. Plus, Dublin is a far more expensive place to live than it was when I first moved there for college and poker. It would be a lot harder.”
Having endured the hardship, rebuilt the bankroll, left the stake and gone out on his own, and now comfortably making his living as an online poker pro, I ask Newport what advice he would give himself before things reached boiling point and he was considering joining the forces.
“I’d have told myself to play online more and start at lower stakes,” he says. “I’d say ‘Get coaching’. I’d try to surround myself with some better people. The people I was with probably weren’t the right people to be listening to. It’s always hard when you’re in your early twenties and you come into money having no experience with money.
“And importantly, I’d tell myself to continue with the work ethic I had before I had a big score.”
That all sounds like great advice, and if you’re an aspiring poker player with a bankroll that’s slowly (hopefully not rapidly) dwindling, you should take it on board.
Today, Nick Newport has almost $800,000 in live tournament earnings, plus almost $2 million won online. He’s seen many talented players come and go. “Longevity is an underrated accomplishment,” he says.
The reason Newport’s so confident rattling off this advice – and also the reason why he can’t travel for live poker as much as he’d like – is that he’s currently in his second year of a Counselling and psychotherapy course at college. It’s a subject he’s become increasingly interested in over the years, and it’s clear that this isn’t the first time he’s considered what he would have liked to have heard as a young grinder.
“I want to be able to support people when they’re at their lowest,” he says. “I think there are a lot of transferable skills between poker and counselling. Understanding the mental game in poker is so important.”
I suggest it would have been nice for the Nick Newport of 2012 to have 2023’s Nick Newport to talk to. He agrees – if only because he’d be able to convince himself not to join the gardaí.