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.
Eli Elezra’s style of playing “any two cards,” especially in televised high stakes cash games, has drawn both the awe and criticism of many people in the online world. Naturally, because of this style he has become one of the most searched players. His apparent calm, friendly demeanor seems more than just a ploy to get others to donate their money to him. However, if Elezra was to never make another dollar at the poker table he would still be a very rich man, both in money and in life.
Eli Elezra truly has one of the more outstanding life stories we’ve covered, and it all started on November 24, 1960 when he was born in Jerusalem. Long before poker was ever on his plate, along with a half dozen or so other business dealings, his dream was to join one of the most elite military units in the world, the Golani Brigade. The Golani Brigade is recognized as perhaps the most decorated unit in the entire Israel Defense Forces. Instead, Elezra was drafted to the basic unit, but he wanted none of it. He decided to sit in a prison for three weeks, asking every day if he can do the tests to see if he can be assigned to the Golani Brigade. Finally, they caved in. Elezra passed all the tests, both physical and mental, with flying colors. Not only did he get to join the Brigade, but he eventually worked himself up to a lieutenant.
If it wasn’t for an injury, Elezra may have been a life long military man; however, fate had other plans. A leg injury in 1982, during the Lebanon War put an end to Elezra’s four-year career in the Brigade, but not an end for his need to explore. He heard of a place in America where there was a lot of money to be made for doing unconventional jobs. If you are thinking Vegas, that’s not right, at least not yet. What Elezra had his mind set on was Alaska.
Elezra landed in Alaska and found a job gutting fish, where he made upwards of $8,000 a month. While that is as little as one big blind for Elezra these days, it was a lot of money for him back then. Elezra stayed there for a few years. When there was work he stayed and tended to the fish, and when there was none he would go and travel the world. Eventually, Elezra left the fish gutting business and took a job in a small town of Kotebue, Alaska, which is just 30 miles north of the Arctic Circle, but was also full of money making opportunities.
At first he took a job as a taxi driver, but shortly after he built the first convenience store the town had ever seen. The store flourished, and after a few years he had a few hundred thousand dollars in his pocket. A phone call from his brother-in-law once again changed his fate. His brother-in-law told him that there was a place in the desert of the United States where there was a ton of money to be made, and he was talking about business opportunities, not just gambling. Once again, Elezra packed up, this time heading south.
It’s not often we get this long into a story without the mention of poker, but for a good majority of his early life poker wasn’t a big deal. He did play the games with his friends in school, and he acted more as a business partner for the group as he participated in the game. Because he was good with money, the group trusted him with the group bankroll. In high school he made the mistake of blowing the entire bankroll, gambling out of his means, and the lesson he learned was invaluable, and he promised himself to never play over his head again. So far, that is a lesson he has taken to heart.
Elezra took most of the money he had from Alaska and bought a film development company. In 1988, by all accounts, Elezra and his shop became the first people to ever buy a new machine that could develop film in just a half hour. This of course was a huge success, and because of this, and other equally rewarding business decisions, Elezra is a very rich man. Over the next 12 years Elezra opened up 28 more shops in the Las Vegas area, but it was his first shop, located next to the Stardust casino that reintroduced him to poker.
Just because he had the money to play the big blinds, he decided to start at the ground floor, starting at low level limit hold’em. It wasn’t easy for him, as he has said for the first year or two he was constantly losing, but at the same time he was constantly learning. At the same time he was building his empire he also started to build his bankroll.
Elezra is always one of the people you see on high stake poker shows, so he has obviously figured out how to play the game. He doesn’t have a favorite game, so that is why his favorite game is H.O.R.S.E, of which he has his own table of at Full Tilt Poker where he is one of their sponsored pros. He is also one of the regular players at “Bobby’s Room,” at the Bellagio, where I mentioned one blind of $4000/$8000 (the featured limit at this private game) is about what he made a week when he first started in Alaska.
While Elezra is more known for his cash game prowess, he has also made quite a bit of money at tournaments. Two events stand out. The first was his one million dollar plus score at the July 2004 World Poker Tour Mirage Poker Showdown. The second one, despite being less money, may have been more satisfying, winning a World Series of Poker bracelet. Barry Greenstein had a prop bet with Elezra for $250,000 that he would never win a WSOP Bracelet. Elezra held up his end of the bet in 2007 when he won the Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo event. The prize money for that event, $198,984 was over $50,000 less than what Greenstein gave him. If you recall, Elezra has a way of getting things that he wants.
So let’s see, he is a full-time cash game pro, solid tournament player, and puts in a number of hours a day going after his portfolio of businesses he continues to own. That constitutes a full-day, right? Not even close. The most impressive thing on Elezra’s plate is the fact that he’s married with five children. He is very adamant about the family coming first. He takes his children to school, and everyday they have a big lunch at home when the kids get out of school. Only after he’s spent time with his family does he go to the casino for a night session. It’s a routine he’s kept up for the last 19 years, the age of his eldest, and one he will continue to do until his youngest, 5, is ready to leave the house. From lieutenant in one of the most decorated brigade’s in a military, to a family man, it’s been quite the journey. Not to mention he’s pretty darn good at poker too.