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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – Andy Bloch

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Where are They Now is a series of an in depth look at all poker players - not just the pros - as they travel through one long game. Some of the players profiled are deceased but not forgotten.

Andy Bloch is the type of poker player who makes it hard for the “rest of us” to not be jealous.  Many poker players, both amateurs and professionals, toil in relative obscurity for years before ever making any money and a name for themselves.  For those who have been lucky enough to “hit it big” right when starting off in poker, many of them have had to face the cruel reality of “variance,” showing many of us that what we thought would be boatloads of money to come from poker for the rest of their lives, was actually little more than beginner’s luck.  Then there is Andy Bloch, who began winning poker tournaments the first time he ever entered one, and has never looked back.  If it’s luck that Andy Bloch is riding, then it’s been quite a long ride, as he has been among the best poker players in the world for the last 15 years.  If that’s not enough to make you envious of Bloch, he is also smart – very smart – with three degrees from two of the most prestigious universities in America.  

Andy Bloch was born in Orange, Connecticut on June 1, 1969 with a deck of cards in his hands.  Well, not really, but Bloch has said he can’t remember a time when he wasn’t interested in cards.  Bloch grew up playing a variety of card games with friends and family, including poker, but for the most part poker would just be a passing interest until he was in college.  Instead he played gin, blackjack, and other games, usually winning.  Even at a young age Bloch realized he had an edge at cards against his opponents because he had a deep knowledge of probability and statistics.  Much to the chagrin of his parents, he jokes as a youngster that if the whole school thing didn’t work out then he could always give it a go as a professional gambler.

Bloch’s parents got their wish, at least for a time, when Bloch decided to go to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  While at MIT, he completed not one but two degrees in electrical engineering.  During college, especially at an institution such as MIT he didn’t have much time to play cards while finishing up two degrees.  However, after graduating he started to make the trip to Foxwoods Casino in CT. It was here he thought about poker for the first time since he was a child, but he was also interested in a number of other casino games.

On his first trip to the poker room at Foxwoods, he noticed a board in the front of the room that got his attention.  Listed on it was the top tournament poker players from a series they were having called the “World Poker Finals.”  For whatever reason, he became enamored with seeing his name on the top of that board.  Every couple of weeks he would play in some 35 dollar buy-in tournaments, eventually making the list.  Because of that he got to play in one of the World Poker Finals championships, a $100 buy-in, in a game he had never played before, No Limit Texas Hold’em.  He won the tournament.

Despite his early success he felt it was still necessary for him to have a steady job, but after a fight with his boss, he quit and started playing poker, primarily cash, for a few months before finding a new job.  His work life was becoming a bore with him.  He was afraid he would always have a series of jobs he really didn’t like, and wanted something else out of life.  While he was in this phase, he came across a new game at the casino called “Hickok 6-card poker.”  Upon seeing that game Bloch realized that there were mistakes the casino had made to make this game actually favorable for the player, to a clip of six percent, something totally unheard of.  While keeping this fact quiet he developed a series of computer simulations that showed him the optimal strategy for making the most from the casino’s mistakes as possible.  With some friends from MIT, they began grinding out a profit of 30-dollars an hour, before after a few months the casino realized the errors of its ways.  False reports said that the group had won one million from the game, but in reality it was closer to $100,000.
Bloch’s relationship with the team from this poker variation led to him joining the famed MIT Blackjack team, as portrayed in the book and movie “Bringing Down the House.”  Shortly after joining the MIT Blackjack Team Bloch quit his job and began to count cards professionally.  Bloch has said while a member of the team he had at least a handful of nights where he won $100,000.
Despite making a lot of money, Bloch applied to law school.  In 1996 he was accepted to Harvard Law School, and despite the huge course load, he continued to play blackjack with the team, and also started to play in more poker tournaments.  In an unimaginable turn of events for any law student, Bloch skipped the final weeks of classes in both 1997 and 1998 to play in the World Series of Poker

In 1998 he was the first player to ever have his hole cards examined by a camera, when Tom Sims asked him if he would mind being a guinea pig for a “hole card camera,” which would be used in both a documentary and an article for a major newspaper.  This technology of course has been credited as one of the reasons poker took off just a few years later when every player’s cards were available to the television viewing public. 

Bloch did skip the 1999 WSOP, but that’s only because he wouldn’t have graduated from Harvard Law School if he had skipped classes that year.

Despite the law degree from perhaps the most respected law school in the country, he has never practiced law, except for one time, for himself.  In 2003 he was arrested at an anti-war protest in front of the White House, but he was cleared of all chargers, giving him a perfect 1-0 record in the courthouse.
Shortly after graduating law school, while telling his parents he was “looking” for a job, he made his mark at the WSOP.  In 2000 and 2001 he made the final table at both a Razz and Seven Card Stud event and finished 12th in the $2000 No Limit event.  Despite finishing in the money in a number of well regarded poker tournaments, Bloch again started to become disinterested in his career choice, and began once again thinking about other career choices.  However, he soon became interested in a new tournament circuit taking off, the World Poker Tour.
Bloch has said the WPT renewed his interest in poker, and it’s no wonder as he finished in 3rd place in two tournaments that year for a combined $228,000.  Despite his success in the WPT, he made a choice in 2005 to boycott WPT events because of their contract that all players are forced to sign, which Bloch has said gave the WPT gave too much power to do with the players likenesses.  Bloch isn’t the only big name player who has boycotted the WPT, with Chris “Jesus” Ferguson deciding to do the same.

Bloch continues to find success on the poker table, having amassed nearly three million dollars in poker winnings.  Bloch is arguably the best player in the world to not have yet won a major poker tournament.  He has finished in the money 18 times at the WSOP, with his biggest cash being 1.2 million dollars for finishing second at the H.O.R.S.E 50k event in 2006.

Bloch is also a member of the Full Tilt Poker team, but donates all money he makes online to kids in need across the world.  Bloch is also pretty well known for playing lower stakes online, giving lower stakes players the opportunity to play against one of the best in the world for a fraction of the cost, a poker player’s dream.
For now, Bloch seems to be enjoying the poker life.  He continues to play, and do well, in all of the major tournaments.  It’s this writer’s guess that it’s only a matter of time before Bloch is trying on his first WSOP bracelet.  That is, if he doesn’t get bored and does something else before then!

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