An indecisive decision nearly a month ago changed Todd Estes’ outlook on poker in a drastic way.
Unsure whether he wanted to participate in a Michigan World Series of Poker Online Bracelet event, Estes shrugged his shoulders and said, “why not?”
The 46-year-old mechanical engineer from Milford didn’t regret that shrug.
Estes went on to win the No-Limit Hold’em Ultra Deepstack event, earning his first WSOP bracelet and over $27,000.
It was just one of many positive outcomes from Estes’ hesitant decision. Now, even more positives could be on the horizon for the recreational Michigan online poker player.
Todd Estes on winning a World Series of Poker bracelet
Estes has been playing poker since the early 90s, but it was the allure of a WSOP bracelet that ultimately drew him to a potentially life-altering moment.
On Sunday, June 12, Estes decided to put down the $400 entry just before Michigan’s second WSOP Online Bracelet event began.
“It was just that it was a bracelet event. The idea of potentially winning a bracelet was super attractive,” Estes said of what finally pushed him to enter. “Then the fact that I only have to beat out a couple hundred people. I mean, it made it feel realistic.”
Estes proved to be right on his instincts. He bested the field, leading the chip counts for a large portion of the tournament. As he got to the final table, Estes held more than double the chips of his closest challenger.
“I was definitely nervous, and it wasn’t because of any fear of players, it was more a fear of screwing it up,” Estes said. “I had a real big chip lead for a lot of the event. I’m sure I never relinquished the chip lead after about 25 players or so. Once I got to the final table, I was trying to figure out what’s the right amount of aggression to have. I was trying to find that right mix and not screw things up.”
Getting his WSOP bracelet, and more
WSOP contacted Estes about sending over some reps to give him his bracelet following his win.
Little did he know that a camera man, along with ESPN and famed WSOP commentator Norman Chad, would be appearing at his front door.
WSOP documented Chad’s journey to Milford and giving Estes his bracelet.
Along with the jewelry, Chad offered to fly Estes to Las Vegas to participate in the WSOP Tournament of Champions on July 18, as well as a $1,000 Super Turbo No-Limit Hold’em event on July 17.
“It’s just been super exciting. To win that tournament, that was good enough. Then Norman Chad literally comes to my door, which was crazy. Then on top of getting my bracelet, they offer to fly me to Vegas and pay my way into another tournament. It just kept getting better and better.”
Estes’ schedule didn’t line up with their offer, so WSOP flew him to Vegas to compete in the $3,000 Freezeout No-Limit Hold’em event on June 30.
Estes played well, making it past the opening day. But, he came up just nine spots shy of the money when his pair of jacks lost to a pair of aces.
“Winning five grand or something wasn’t going to change my life, but the potential to win $600,000 would change my life. So, I said it’s a free roll, I’m going to go down fighting. Unfortunately, I just ran into a big hand,” Estes said of playing aggressive so close to the money.
A special presentation of his bracelet was also held during his trip to Las Vegas.
WSOP Tournament of Champions still a go
Estes is going to fly himself out to Las Vegas to compete in the Tournament of Champions. That event features all of the bracelet winners throughout this year’s World Series of Poker.
Unlike his previous event in Las Vegas, the TOC will be packed full of some of the best in poker, including the Main Event winner.
Estes isn’t shaken by that, as he is confident in his skills. Those feelings were solidified by his recent win and his performance in the $3K Freezeout.
“I definitely didn’t feel overmatched. To be honest, there were a lot of really bad players there,” Estes said with a laugh. “I mean, there’s a lot of bad players that have money. There were other were good players too, but I immediately sat at the table and could recognize there were some bad players. There were guys making some really bad decisions early on.”
New life in Estes’ poker dreams
Estes has competed in a WSOP Main Event before, in 2006. His experience wasn’t positive, as he felt overwhelmed and wasn’t a factor.
Following this win, Estes says his desire to pursue the Main Event has been stoked once again.
Thankfully for him, his wife is also now a little more understanding of his poker dreams.
“My wife is always supportive of me playing but you know, the idea of me going away for a week to go play poker is a little bit of a bridge. But, having won this, she was totally supportive,” Estes said. “She’s actually going out with me for the TOC. It is my plan to try and play in the Main Event next year.”
While adding another WSOP bracelet to his collection is a motivator, the Main Event prize money certainly is one as well.
“Winning another bracelet would be great, but just winning life-changing money in the main event would be good enough for me,” Estes said. “I never thought three weeks ago that I would have a World Series bracelet. Now that things have changed, now it’s like well, what else can I do here?”
Immediate future of a WSOP bracelet winner
One of the big questions Estes gets now is, what is he going to do with his bracelet?
“My friends have said I should wear it every time I go play cards or something, but that feels a little weird. It’s just not very comfortable to wear.”
Estes indicated he would likely encase the bracelet with the winning cards of the final hand, or a picture of himself and Chad.
In the meantime, Estes plans on continuing to be a regular online poker player.
With interstate poker play coming to Michigan soon, that could give him more experience playing against others around the country.
“I’m kind of mixed on it right now,” Estes said of interstate play. “I like having the size of the player pools in Michigan. They feel more manageable to me. With interstate, those pools could triple or quadruple in size. That makes winning or finishing in the money a little more daunting. With that said, the prizes will increase too, so that’s a good thing. I think the good players will eventually navigate their way through those early challenges.”