The WPT Borgata Winter Open has a new millionaire event winner, but this one has a unique story to tell when it comes to how he learned to play poker. Ex-con Joe Reddick says he mastered the subtleties of poker while doing time in federal prison for cocaine drug trafficking.
And Reddick had plenty of time play: he served a 15-year sentence for his crime.
Reddick hit the headlines late last week after he topped the WPT’s $450 Borgata Winter Poker Open $1 Million event, and his story is a made-for-TV movie if we ever heard one.
According to an interview in The New York Post, Reddick was originally sent to prison in 1993, long before the Moneymaker poker boom, and fell in love with the game after seeing some inmates playing Seven Card Stud.
Initially anteing up as a way to pass the time, Reddick claims he lost around $7,000 worth of candy bars in his first session, but quickly improved his poker skills. We don’t even want to know how you come into possession of $7K worth of Milky Way bars in the joint.
Following that initial session, Reddick says he was hooked and reportedly played as many hours as the day would allow in a bid to perfect his game. And after learning from a cross-section of inmates, including a Colombian drug lord (we don’t know if they had any prior connections), Reddick eventually took charge of his own games.
“We gambled anything that had value, from cans of tuna fish to sweat suits and tennis shoes. People were losing … [the equivalent of] thousands and thousands of dollars,” Reddick told the Post.
Claiming that there was always a sense of honor and decorum at the table, Reddick soon became known as one of the top poker players in the prison system.
With his passion for poker at an all-time high, Reddick saw an episode of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) on ESPN, and focused on how he could make use of his new skills following his release from prison.
Thus, in 2008, the now-sprung Reddick took his $500 bankroll to Atlantic City’s Taj Mahal Casino and the rest, as they say, is history.
As well as touring the US in search of the next poker tournament, Reddick has written a few novels, including “Movin’ Violation,” under the pen name Joe Black (“Black” had been Reddick’s street name in his pre-prison days on the street). Now, in addition to keeping him out of trouble, the game has earned him in excess of $1.5 million.
His recent win at the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open (he outlasted 3,267 entrants) earned Reddick $217,792, but that’s not the end of the story, according to the man himself.
With his biggest win now in the bank, Reddick is looking to steal the limelight from the likes of Phil Ivey and break records at the WSOP by becoming the first African-American player to win the Main Event.
“That’s the dream. I won’t stop until I win it,” said Reddick.
Lock up your candy bars.