"I'm 3rd generation Hawaiian," said Michael, the unmistakable Hawaiian dialect confirming this. He was born and raised in Oahu, and his road to poker is a familiar one. "I gambled a lot in school at the University of Hawaii," he said. "Actually, I ran craps, booked sports at school. Should I be saying any of this?"
Five years ago, he started venturing into poker. "I played in a game once a week, a 10/20 limit game, either hold-em or Omaha. I started working in real estate and had more free time on my hands. I started playing three times a week and made trips here to Vegas. From there, I decided to just play for a living."
Michael came to the World Series of Poker for the first time in 2004. "I went to the Horseshoe but didn't play, just played in side games and took it all in. I came back in 2005 to play." He cashed in three events, narrowly missing a final table as he busted out in 10th in the $2k LH event and cashing in the Main Event. "I was so close to the final table," he said. "I actually busted on the same hand as the 11th place guy (Charles Brahmi)." It was a tough final two tables that included Greg Mueller (13th), "Miami" John Cernuto (4th), Toto Leonidas (2nd), and Reza Payvar (1st).
He cashed twice more in 2006, including his first final table for 7th ($83,340) that was won by Jeff Madsen. "I don't play as much as I should, probably 20-30 hours a week. That tournament and reaching the final table was the most fun I've had in poker. Cash is a grind, so it was great. The only thing was that I didn't have my friends around for support."
Michael feels like he made a mistake to bust out. "I raised with pocket nines, and the tightest guy at the table came over the top of me. I thought I could push him off his hand, so I moved all-in. He thought for awhile and called with jacks. The nine came in the window, and I thought I was good, but when the dealer spread the flop, there was the jack."
He lives with other poker players and has a strong network from Hawaii. "There are five others who go back and forth to Vegas like I do, so it really helps to have friends that can support one another."
Michael is playing in today's $1.5k LH event, and he'll be out to better last year's WSOP Final Table.