Poker Grit with Jordan Young

TAGs: Jordan Young, poker grit, SolveForWhy

Jordan ‘Jymaster0011’ Young steps up to the plate as the first guest in a series looking at what constitutes poker grit, talking about his experiences as a drug addict and falling into hundreds of thousands of dollars in makeup. 

Jordan ‘Jymaster0011’ Young once ruled the online multi-table tournament universe. When in his early twenties, he won both Full Tilt Sunday majors in a single day and achieved the PocketFives World #1 status.

Speaking to PocketFives at the time, Young told Dan Cypra that he had never ‘been in the zone like that his entire life.’ Only a few people knew that Young was struggling with drug addiction during those achievements.

Young was kind enough to be the first guest in a new column that uncovers stories of true poker grit. We talk about his addiction to painkillers, poor money management, getting deep into makeup, and a lot more.

It’s 2010. You’ve just won the Full Tilt Sunday Brawl and the $750k GTD Major on the same day, what was life like back then?

My life was poker. There was no balance. I was grinding daily. I had already acquired a bunch of money one time previously and disposed of it quite quickly. When I won this time, I didn’t have a plan. When it came to turning that money into something positive I was always drawing dead.

But, it was a great learning experience. An adrenaline high. The important people in my life back then were my family and the people I talked to daily when I played – Mark Herm, Jamie Armstrong, and Larry Sharp.

Talk about your financial status back then.

I won those tournaments at the beginning of August, and by the end of the month, I had $200k to my name. By the following April, I was broke. I wasted money on irresponsible travel plans, booking flights and hotel rooms on the same day. I never had a plan. I was a tournament player playing $10/$20 at The Bellagio. Those guys were pro cash grinders. I had no chance. Now I play cash I understand what it takes to win at that level, I never had what it took.

Poker Grit with Jordan YoungWhy the lack of balance? 

I loved the game so much it’s all I wanted to do. I’m an introvert with an addictive personality. I would play 54 holes of golf a day, for months on end. Then I picked up poker. Every day when I had the chance, I would play. Then for three years, it was drugs. Today, I work hard at creating a balance, except the drugs.

When did the drug taking begin?

After a few years of nothing but poker, I put on a bunch of weight and developed back problems. A friend gave me some painkillers, and I took them while playing and felt great. I never thought it would get out of control. The way I see addiction is you’re in your car, and you see a stop sign 100 feet away. You say you’re never going to go past that stop sign and in a blink of an eye, you are 200 feet beyond it. There is no way to stop once you start.

Did taking drugs improve your game or worsen it?

For a period the drugs kept me very relaxed, and I could make my plays. I never missed a spot because I was never scared to take one. Then I was taking 15 pills a day, and everything is numb, I couldn’t even think straight. I got to a point where I couldn’t even play the game.

How did it end? 

I met a girl. During my early 20s, I had issues and very little self-confidence. Drugs and playing online poker in your basement does that to a man. I meet this girl and keep her at arm’s length for two years because I don’t want her to find out, and I don’t want to hurt her. But I liked her and wanted something more.

She came to visit me when I was living in Cabo. I knew I wanted a more serious thing with her. She found out about the drugs, told me she wanted the same thing but didn’t want the drugs in her life.

Three weeks later I went to Michigan for Christmas, told my parents and went cold turkey in their basement for ten days. It was the worst ten days of my life.

How difficult was it to come clean to your folks? 

They picked me up at the airport. I told them how I had become addicted to painkillers. My mother looked at me and said, “I know, you’re my son.” She knew the whole time but was smart enough to know that until I was ready to quit it was pointless approaching me.

Talk about those ten days. 

There was one 96 hour period where I slept for an hour and a half. On the third night, I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I later learned this is not the way to quit drugs. In the back of my mind, I knew enough was enough. If I didn’t quit I would have to go through the process again, and I couldn’t face it. I kept telling myself that the next 12-hours would be better, and after eight 12-hour periods, it did begin to get better.

How did you develop low self-esteem? 

I think it was trapping myself in the basement for three years playing online poker all day. In your early 20s, you are supposed to be developing social skills to make it in the real world, and I didn’t do that. When I finally came out I was anti-social; I felt awkward. I didn’t feel the same anymore. I think a lot of it had to do with the drugs.

Were you high the whole time you won those majors and reached the PocketFives World 1 status? 

I went from zero to $100k, lost it all at the World Series, had the double major win. I have $200k, and by April I am broke. In September of that year, I moved to Toronto. I was broke, and I was under the influence the entire time all of that happened.

What does it feel like to be broke? 

When you don’t have a plan, it seems like the world is pitted against you and there is no end in sight. Back then I had no responsibility to anybody. I figured I would be afforded opportunity after opportunity and went as hard as I could trying to run $100k to a million. It was stupid. It feels like you are just trying to get by day to day.

But all of the time, I vowed to be honest. I wanted to do this for the rest of my life, and I knew my reputation was everything. When I was broke, I had a good network of friends who had money, and I would ask them for loans. It’s quite a weight on your chest.

Who was backing you during these periods? 

Mike Telker was backing me when I won the two majors. Then I went on my own. In November of that year, Chris Moorman backed me, and I began playing more WPT’s and big buy-ins. I was backed by Moorman when I had the most money I have ever had.

Moorman backed me until Black Friday Hit. When I moved to Toronto 5-6 months after Black Friday, Paul Dlugozima and Elio Fox backed me until I moved out to Rosarito. I got into $350k makeup before they dropped me. I want to say it felt good, but it felt shitty. I lost those guys a lot of money, and we parted ways. Matt Berkey has been backing me in the past year and a half or so.

How did your Moorman backing deal come to an end? 

I don’t think I handled the situation perfectly, and neither did he. It didn’t end well. There was a big thread about it, and I think Chris was in the wrong to do so considering the agreement we made to get someone to arbitrate and agree to go with the arbitration.

Before Black Friday he was backing me and was supposed to be putting me into WSOP events. He didn’t. He couldn’t. After the WSOP I assumed I was free and clear because he couldn’t live up to his end of the agreement. We both should have been more clear about the intention of the other person. We get into a debate over whether I was still backed or not. The arbitrator said that Chris didn’t live up to his side of the agreement so I was free. I went and got backed by someone else. A few days later the arbitrator came back and said I should pay him $30k of my $80k makeup and we part ways. I gave him 10% of my profit until I paid back the $30k, which happened this summer. He was fortunate we split when we did. I went on a huge losing streak after that.

How do you process all of this makeup, and owing people money? 

I don’t know. It’s the way this business operates. I don’t think I did anything malicious. But these guys took a shot on me when I was broke. I needed them and for them to lose money sucks. I have backed people and lost a lot of money, and that’s just the way it is. It’s the nature of the business.

Conversely. last May I won $450k, and I only saw $150k. I paid out $300k to people who took a shot on me. When I won the majors, I gave Telker $145k, and he backed me for two weeks. I always do what’s right when I win. It sucks when you lose.

So you are broke and in Rosarito, what happened next? 

I was in $275-300k makeup. I moved to Rosarito in September right after a breakup with my girlfriend. I don’t know anyone. I have $300k of makeup, I’m overweight, out of shape, depressed. I was there for nine months. I busted my ass to get into shape. I lost 50 pounds. But I lost another $75k or so with Elio.

I always intended to move to Las Vegas after getting out of makeup. That’s where she was. I had also met Matt Berkey, and I thought he could help me, and he reciprocated that view. In April Elio drops me. I go to the WSOP, and September of that year, I move to Vegas, move in with Matt Berkey, and was free and clear.

I had $10-15k to my name. I was fortunate enough to surround myself with people who would help me not only financially. Matt Berkey taught me his entire strategy for cash games. He’s on a different level. He’s playing a different game. I was very fortunate. It took 18 months of living with him and learning from him before he invested in me financially.

He was paying my rent and food every day for 18 months. He wasn’t someone who would throw a couple of thousand dollars at me. Eventually, he knew I was ready and gave me $50k, and I have had a ton of success since.

How did you meet? 

I met him through the girl I mentioned. They are best friends. He didn’t just pluck me out of nowhere. He saw something in me. He knew I had raw talent because I had done well in the past. He helped me out more as a person than just as a poker player. He has made me a better person without actively trying to make me a better person. He has this ability to guide people down the right path.

But past glories mean nothing in poker, he must have seen something else in you? 

He knew I was intelligent, and that I had the desire to get better. He was aware that my goal was to play the biggest games in the world. Most people don’t have that aspiration. Most guys are content grinding $10/$20. I want to play $1k/$2k. Maybe he saw a lot of what he sees in himself – the aspiration to be the very best you can be.

How do you pay him back? 

When we started SolveForWhy Academy, he is a natural speaker and leader. I’m not. My presentation skills are something I have had to actively work on. The way I pay him back is to fulfil what he sees as my ceiling as to what I can offer this business.

He’s a deep thinker, you’ree an introvert. How does that work? 

We have done the Myers Briggs, and we are the absolute opposite. I am an ISTP, the introvert of the introverts. It’s very polarising when you get the two of us together. He thinks about the bigger scheme of things in everything. I have never been the big picture guy. I am trying to see a task and complete the task, and he is trying to expand that into seven other things.

What have you taught him? 

The analogy I use with him is the Beetle in the Box. Everyone has a box and inside the box is a beetle. Everyone knows what their beetle looks like, but nobody knows what anyone else’s beetle looks like. He is creative with the Academy, but sometimes he has a difficulty getting his points across to people. I tell him no one can see inside his box. If he can’t articulate it to the lowest scale, they won’t know what he’s trying to teach. Not everyone thinks like he thinks or sees what he sees. You need to know your audience and articulate to that level, or you could be wasting your breath.

Tell me about the way you got your $50k. I want to know more about the Matt Berkey Business Plan. 

He told me to create a business plan to pitch to investors and act like you are starting with $50k and how are you going to turn it into a million bucks? I had no idea. I tried. The first five attempts were failures, but I learned. I started to get it.

I had to show how much I would spend each month. What percentage I would take on myself dependant on the bankroll. What stakes would I play, and set rules for myself so I can only lose a certain amount per day, only risking a certain percent per day, and scaling it.

I needed to scale it over a period to show how we get to a million. It took me two weeks. He liked it and gave me $50k. I’ve grown it to $130k. I have won a lot more, but I was in debt. I owed people from being broke for three years I paid back $60k, but when I took it out, I had to give him $60k as well. I am doing well. It’s been nine months, and I have it at $130k, and I will stick with it until I get it to a million.

How difficult is it sticking to rules when you have an addictive personality?

I want to break them all the time. But it’s disrespectful, and I have too much respect for him. Maybe some rules need to be revisited. I made the rules. I could alter them if I want, but at the beginning of the year I made them for a reason, and we agreed on them for a reason. They hold me accountable.

When you were at your lowest ebb, why didn’t you just pack it in? 

I never wanted to get a job. I almost went back to school. To be honest, I hated the game for three years, where I was in my life and what it did to me. Looking back I know the game didn’t do shit to me. I brought it all on myself. I have too much pride. I developed friendships with the guys who invested in me, and it would have been cowardly to just bounce on them.

What is your advice to someone in $300k of makeup who has aspirations to play the biggest games in the world 

Develop your network. It’s all about your network. Seek out people who are elite in a particular skill set. Garner relationships with them, learn as much as you can. Our parents were telling us this in the fourth grade. Surround yourself with people who want to be successful, and you will be successful as long as you set your mind to it 

What is poker grit?

Someone who has hit rock bottom, but once they did they just bounce back because they weren’t going to stay there. Poker grit is what someone has when they pick themselves up from that bottom.


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