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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – Mel Judah

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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.

“Silver Fox” Mel Judah is a name I’ve had on my list to profile for quite a while, but had yet to cover him.  Last night I was watching the World Series of Poker Europe event, and had no idea he was so well respected among his peers.  That’s why it was a no brainer today to write about a poker player who has been among the top players on the tournament circuit for the last twenty years.  

Mel Judah was born in Calcutta, India on October 8, 1947.  As a teenager, Judah learned poker from his father.  Their game of choice at the time was Seven Card Stud, which as his results show, would come in handy many years later.  A lot of poker players we chronicle are by definition “gamblers.”  They gamble on everything from who can lose the most weight to who can find a parking spot closer to the grocery store.  Then we have poker players who wouldn’t even consider themselves gamblers.  Judah fits the latter.  As a child Judah received a piece of advice from his father that he has called the best advice he ever had.  The advice was “to lose the minimum and win the maximum.”  This may seem like simple advice, but it taught Judah to not take risks in poker, and in life, where he wouldn’t be a favorite.  So, a gambler he would not be.  But, a smart poker player he would be.

However, poker wouldn’t become a major factor for a few more years.  As a young man Judah moved to Australia.  After trying a number of jobs that never really held his interest for long he became interested in hairdressing.  As he learned the trade he realized that Australia wasn’t exactly a hotbed for hairdressing if he ever wanted to make any real money in it.  So, that prompted Judah to move to London so he could be around more experienced hairdressers and also have a chance to perhaps get on with a big styling company.

Once in London he eventually worked his way up and got a job with Vidal Sassoon.  As a part of working with Vidal Sassoon he found himself working with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, often traveling across the ocean to do so.  If you feel like you’ve read a strikingly similar story in our series, you will see Judah’s travels closely parallel those of Marco Trainiello’s.  So, if the most unique list in poker was WSOP bracelet winner and Oscar nominee and included just Jennifer Tilly, the second most unique list in poker, hairstylist-to-successful poker player now stands at two.

Eventually Judah opened up his own salon on London’s West End and it was around this time that he also started playing poker again.  At first he just made sure he left himself enough vacation time to take a few trips to Las Vegas a year to play in some tournaments, but as he was showing positive results in them, he wondered if he could turn poker into a more lucrative hobby if he played more.  Judah has said a number of times that he feels that his early work as a hairstylist gave him a chance to really get inside the heads of his customers, and of course that has translated well on the poker felt.  The social skills, he has said, helped him with the psychological side of poker.

In 1989 his early Seven Card Stud games with his dad transformed to a WSOP victory in the same event, earning him $130,800 in the very first event he ever cashed in at the series.  That same year he nearly won a second event, finishing second in a $1,500 Limit Hold’em event.  All said he placed in four events that year, including 17th in the Main Event.

Over the next five years Judah went on to cash in at least one WSOP event.  He has said in interviews that the WSOP tournaments are easily his favorite, and it’s no wonder with results like this.  Judah didn’t cash in any tournaments in 1996, but more than made up for it in 1997 when he earned his second WSOP bracelet, once again in Seven Card Stud, this time earning $176,000. This same year he also finished in 3rd place in the Main Event, the same year Stuey Ungar came literally out of nowhere to win the event for a record tying 3rd time.

Judah has cashed in WSOP events 37 times.  He also won the World Poker Tour 2003 Legends of Poker tournament in Los Angeles for a career high of $579,375 dollars.  Judah has talked openly about the WPT not allowing deals at the table.  He says if they start to sponsor players, or pay them to be in tournaments they could do that, but he doesn’t feel they have a right to interfere in chopping deals.  Because of that he hasn’t played in many WPT tournaments, but the ones he did, he had fine success, making two final tables in just a handful of events played.

A few years ago Judah alluded to the fact he would be cutting back on his tournament play, electing to spend more time with his family in London, where he still calls home.  However, he still seems to show up deep in major tournaments.  Since 2005 he has cashed in 7 WSOP events, including finishing in 21st place of the WSOPE event that I alluded to earlier in the story.  In fact, last month, in January 2009, he finished first in Limit Omaha hi/lo event in Australia.

While Seven Card Stud is the event that has brought Judah both of his bracelets, he says his favorite game to play is Omaha hi/lo and Stud hi/lo.  In reality though it doesn’t really matter what game he plays, because he has run deep, and in many cases, won tournaments in every type of poker.

His advice for being a successful tournament player sort of reflects the advice his father gave him many years ago and that is to be patient, and he sees too many players throwing in any two cards when they could have afforded to wait a while to get it in, in a better spot.  His advice and his father’s advice has seen him make over three million dollars to date.

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