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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – Jeff Lisandro

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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.

Poker players come from a wide range of backgrounds, as documented in our “Where Are They Now Series,” but it’s the ones who are seemingly born into it that often provide the more fascinating stories.  More than a few of the players were born right into some form of gambling, while others had it on the back burner in case their other plans didn’t work out.  Of the nearly 50 people we’ve documented there are only a few that I can remember that actually started gambling for serious amounts of money before they were legal, and most of those were the “Wild West” characters that were seemingly born in a pool hall with a poker game in the back.  As we’ve chronicled players in a more modern time we see that a majority of the players started with college, then a regular 9 to 5 job, which they eventually quit for a life of poker.  Jeff Lisandro is a blast from the past, and makes this one of the more unique stories of the bunch.

Jeff Lisandro was born in Perth, Australia, which is located on the western side of the country.  Just because young Jeff was born, his parents didn’t see any reason to stop their weekly poker game, which involved both friends and other members of the family.  When Lisandro was five years old he was allowed to sit at the table, and to humor him, his parents would let him play some hands every now and then, mostly to get a laugh from the other members of the game.  Little did they know that even at five years old Lisandro was already attempting to take the game seriously.  

Lisandro has said in a number of interviews that by the time he was eight or nine he was consistently better than most of the people in the game.  The kid who they agreed to let play because it looked cute was now the kid winning most of the money on a weekly basis.  By the time he was 12 years old he was making more money playing poker than if he would have gotten a job doing neighborhood chores, such as mowing lawns.

When he turned 18, which is the legal age to gamble in Australia, he made the decision to become a professional poker player.  It wasn’t so much of a cut and dry decision as you would think, as Lisandro had taken up a few part-time jobs and was left with the thought of if he should go where he knew he could make money for sure every day, or take a career in poker where the downswings could mean no money for a period of days.  In the end he says that he realized if he played poker he was playing against people he knew he had an advantage over and thought, ‘where else can you make money day in and day out where you know for a fact that you are better than most of the competition?’

When Lisandro decided to go pro during the mid 1980’s, there really wasn’t a big tournament poker market, so he stuck with cash.  His first game of choice was pot limit hold’em.  After just a few months Lisandro realized he had made a good decision with turning into a professional poker player because, at least for the time being, he was making more money doing it than any of the part-time jobs he ever had.
Lisandro is an interesting player in the sense that he sets a monetary goal for himself every year and when he reaches that he makes sure not to go below that point.  It is unknown what the yearly goal was during the early part of his career, but for the last decade it has been one million dollars a year.  He’s eclipsed that mark each of the last ten years, and because of it has concentrated more on tournament poker.

The switch to tournament poker wasn’t a sudden one for Lisandro
.  He started doing it eventually because it was a nice opportunity to travel, as he has played tournament poker in nearly every continent.  He first started playing tournament poker at the age of 27, finding success nearly right away.  In his first two tournaments he made the final table in each, but the money he made in those ten hours or so (around $2800) he could have made in just a few minutes at a cash game, so it was hard for him to get excited about tournament poker.

Despite only playing a handful of tournaments a year, Lisandro made a final table in England, Austria, Netherlands, Slovenia and the United States in his first two years of tournament poker.  In 1997 he made his first trip to the World Series of Poker.  Lisandro cashed in two events that year, including finishing 7th in the $3,000 Hold’em Pot Limit event for $12,700.  Despite the success it wouldn’t be until the “poker boom” that Lisandro would make his mark on the WSOP again.

In the meantime he continued to rack up thousands, if not millions of dollars in cash games, while continuing to final table tournaments all around the world.  His first big tournament score came in 2003 when he finished first in the $1,500 Pot Limit Hold’em event at the 2003 Bellagio Five-Diamond World Poker Classic.  Because of the escalating prize pools in tournaments Lisandro thought it might be best for him to stick around in the United States for a while.

In 2004 he returned to the World Series of Poker with a bang, finishing in the money of five events, including three final tables.  What made Lisandro really stand out is that his five money finishes were in four different types of poker, showing he was a true student of the game.  The next two years he would finish in the money of money in eight more events, including 17th in the Main Event that year, cashing for $659,730, his biggest cash to date.  Another interesting thing happened during this tournament when Lisandro by all accounts and purposes forgot to put in a $5,000 ante. Prahlad Friedman, a fellow poker pro, felt Lisandro had done this on purpose, despite nearly everyone at the table and on the rail feeling it was a complete accident.  Friedman refused to let it go, talking about it for hours, even calling Lisandro a cheat.  That put Lisandro over the edge, which is very hard to do considering no one has ever really seen him tilt.  He told Friedman he would “knock his head off” if he kept bringing it up.  Eventually order was restored when the tournament director was called over.  The director sided with Lisandro and that eventually led to Friedman settling down.

Despite the big score Lisandro wanted to win his first bracelet to be considered up there with the best players of all time.  He wouldn’t have to wait long, as the very next year, 2007, he took down the $2,000 Seven Card Stud event, securing his place in poker history.  Earlier that week he had narrowly missed winning his first bracelet when he was eliminated in second in the $5,000 Pot Limit Hold’em event.  At the 2007 WSOP he would finish in the money in six events and bring home nearly $400,000 for his efforts.
Since these events Lisandro has decided to concentrate mostly on tournament poker, as he feels it is nearly impossible to be great at both cash and tournament poker at the same time.  In 2008 he continued to show he was one of the better tournament players, finishing in the money in three more events at the WSOP, including just missing a second bracelet when he finished second in the $5,000 No Limit 2-7 Draw Lowball event.  To date, Lisandro has finished in the money at the WSOP 24 times.
Back in 2006 Lisandro drew some criticism from the regulars at “The Big Game” at the Bellagio after winning a few million dollars in a few days and never returning to the game.  Certain players believe that they should have a chance to win back their money over a series of games.  Lisandro has explained in interviews though that because he set a goal for himself every year to win X amount of dollars he didn’t feel he needed to go back just to lose it all.
It’s believed Lisandro earned his nickname the “Iceman” at the poker table because he doesn’t show any fear at all playing the top players in the world.  While that may be true, he actually earned the name because he always chews “Ice” Chewing gum, and a local gift shop clerk would say “Look, here comes the ‘Ice Man’ when he would run in during breaks to go get a pack of the gum.  The nickname, just like his game, then works two ways.

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