John Armbrust isn't your typical poker player, able to change gears and make aggressive plays at pots with any two cards as well as play a short stack like a master craftsman. When you look at the life decisions of the 2007 WSOP Main Event's 18th place finisher, he's not your typical person, either.
"I learned poker playing crazy games like Mexican Sweat. It's a seven card game where you flip up a card then the next person flips up cards until they have the best hand, and so on. I picked up No Limit Hold-Em later; actually, it was when Chris Moneymaker won the Main Event. I put some money on PokerStars, won a $50 buy-in tournament then finished 3rd in another event a few weeks later. I've been playing ever since."
John made a great run in the 2006 WSOP Main Event. He had a large stack on Day 3 only to go through a series of unfortunate events, including his flush losing to quad aces. In a matter of a few dozen hands, he went from comfortably in the top 100 in chips to out of the Main Event, only a few dozen places from the money.
It was a bitter pill to swallow, one of those moments in poker most players have had. If poker defined John, it might have been the start of a downward life spiral for him. Poker is part of John's life, but he is so much more.
He went to Duke for his undergraduate studies, and it was there that he became a Young Life leader. Young Life is a Christian organization developing fellowship groups at high schools and junior highs. Leaders are recruited from local colleges, and the program reaches an estimated 662,000 students in the United States. It was through Young Life that John fostered his sense of purpose. "I looked into the Peace Corps, as well as Young Life leadership. Then I found Teach for America, and I decided it was what I wanted to do."
When you read the facts given on their website, it is a compelling case to get involved. Nine-year-olds growing up in low-income communities are already three grade levels behind their peers in high-income communities across the country. "Half of them won't graduate from high school. Those who do graduate will, on average, read and do math at the level of eighth graders in high-income communities (Source: National Assessment of Educational Progress, 2005)."
So John headed to the public city schools of Atlanta. There, he taught 8th Grade Math at Sutton Middle School, a uniquely diverse school with proven success of educating students of all backgrounds, thanks in part to many dedicated teachers like John. "I love Middle Schoolers. They think they are so cool in 8th grade, and they really aren't," he said. "These students are seven times less likely to go to college as the average American. I was able to invest in their lives, and it was incredibly rewarding for me."
John has been dating his girlfriend from Boston for nine months, and they both are now headed to Los Angeles to start teaching. "I will be teaching 9th and 10th grade Math and Algebra at a Charter School, and my girlfriend will be teaching as well."
John had just moved to LA before the Main Event this year. He sold pieces of himself, creating a fan base of over fifty investors who followed his every move at this year's Main Event. And some moves they were.
He started at the same table as Jeff Norman, who became the overall Day 1 chipleader. "We celebrated until 7:00AM," said John. "And Jeff is just a great guy." Relatively unknown by the poker public, Norman has three WSOP Final Table credits to his name. John finished with 93.5k on Day 1, then built that into 238k on Day 2 and 544k on Day 3.
He got up to 892k on Day 4, then came a wild Day 5. He got down to 220k with fifty-one player remaining, using his few chips to spell "AA" to beg for pocket aces, as well as "ESPN." He built the 220k up to 2.7m by the end of the evening, good for 18th of 36 players.
Day 6 was a run to the Final Table, and John went on a solid run. He played with timely aggression, played back at players with either nothing or big hands, forced very good players to lay down big hands or call with inferior ones. After busting top online player Scott "USCTrojans" Freeman with A-K vs Freeman's tens, John was 4th in chips with eighteen players with over 10.0m in chips.
He lost about 5.0m in a limped pot where Tuan Lam held on a board. His bustout hand is as memorable as they come.
Ray Hanson and Lee Childs limped to 100k, and John made it 700k to go. Childs then raised another 1.6m, and John moved all-in quickly. It was a very questionable play by Childs on the raise, then the call was a tough one as he had . He finally called, and John showed for a likely double up back over 10.0m. was a sick flop, and on the turn finished the hand and John's tournament run. He finished 18th at the 2007 WSOP Main Event, good for $381,303.
John read "Positively Fifth Street" by Jim McManus, and he used it as a blueprint for his Main Event experience. He ordered a salad and grilled cheese with fries at the Sao Paolo Caf