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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – Lee Markholt

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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.

Being that I’m rapidly approaching 100 “Where Are They Now” profiles, I have read and learned about quite a few interesting things regarding these players.  On the other hand though, I’ll admit, some of them start to read similarly sometimes, at least in parts.  A kid stumbles upon a poker game, or is taught poker by a member of his family, early in his adult life, usually around college he realizes he could make money from the game, and then they make the inevitable move to Las Vegas, and the next thing you know I’m writing about them and they are winning millions of dollars.  But, today’s subject, Lee Markholt, doesn’t fit that bill.  Instead, he took the road less traveled.  I can safely say that no other player that I’ve read about went from riding bulls and being a meat butcher to cutting down players at the felt.  

Lee Markholt was born May 24, 1963, in Tacoma, Washington, and never really made it that far from home, now residing in Eatonville, Washington.  As a youngster he was surrounded by poker being that his dad played some cash game poker in local Washington State card rooms.  However, Markholt never really held an interest in the game until much later in his life.  Instead he sought after something that provided a little more physical strength, bull-riding.  While Markholt never became an official full-time professional bull rider, he was a part-time professional, participating in some of the bigger bull riding circuits on the west coast.

Markholt saw himself riding bulls for quite a long time, but a series of injuries, including a shoulder injury that kept him in bed for a few months put an end to those thoughts prematurely.  It was while recovering from the shoulder injury, in his early 20’s, that he picked up one of the poker books his dad had, and before he knew it he had read everyone in the house.  As soon as he was feeling well enough, he headed over to a local casino and sat down at a cash game for the very first time in his life.  Needless to say, the poker bug had bit.

Markholt began at the lowest levels, playing Limit Hold’em and Omaha Eight or Better and at the same time he picked up a job at his father’s butcher shop.  At first Markholt only played when his job allowed him, but after his game began to improve seemingly overnight, he realized that making the decision to go to work was costing him money that could be made at the poker tables.  By that time Markholt was playing $10/20 Hold’em and $20/40 Omaha Eight or Better.  These aren’t huge stakes by today’s measures, but back then he was making a fine living on it, especially in the Pacific Northwest.  At age 25 Markholt made the decision to become a professional cash game poker player.

Where Markholt’s story differs is that he didn’t automatically move to Las Vegas.  In fact, he never moved there at all.  He felt there was plenty of money to be made at Washington State card rooms, and while sometimes he said it was a bit of a grind, he was right.  When he was about 27 years old, after about two years into his career as a cash pro, he started getting the itch to play tournaments.

Markholt started making the drive to Las Vegas to dip his feet into smaller buy-in tournaments, while continuing to play cash in Washington.  His results were modest, at best for the first five years, with his best cash being just over $7,000.  However, as these things often do, something finally clicked and since then, Markholt has quietly become one of the better tournament players.  It started in 1996 when Markholt placed 3rd for $30,750 at the L.A. Poker Classic.  Markholt also finished 1996 with a handful of final table appearances.
In 1998, Markholt both entered and made his first WSOP final table, finishing 8th in the $2,000 Pot Limit Hold’em Event, which would eventually be won by Daniel Negreanu.  Despite all these final table finishes, it wasn’t until November of 2000, 10 years after his first tournament cash, that he finally won a tournament.  It didn’t seem to matter that it was only a $100 dollar buy-in, because it opened the door for many more first places, and big cashes, just a few years later.
Markholt has said he came close to quitting poker a time or two, and after 10 years of playing the tournament circuit it can be understood why he had these negative thoughts.  However, the last few years have made up for the bad luck he had early in his career, and it can be all contributed to his perseverance.  

Markholt’s first five figure cash came when he won exactly $10,000 by finishing first in a tournament in October of 2001.  Just seven months later, Markholt made by far and away his biggest cash, winning the $1000 buy-in second chance tournament at the 2002 Second Chance Poker Tournament in Las Vegas.  However, much bigger prizes were in Markholt’s future.

The World Poker Tour has proven to be a kind friend to Markholt.  All said, Markholt has 17 cash finishes on the WPT, including winning the 2008 World Poker Championship in Reno, Nevada for a career best cash of $493,815, which is just one of four six figure cashes Markholt has made.

Markholt has shown no signs of slowing down lately.  This month alone he has made two final tables, including winning the $5,000 No Limit Hold’em Event at the Seventh Annual Five Star World poker Classic in Las Vegas.  First prize for that was $65,000. 

Now, I’m not claiming to be a bull-riding expert, but it’s my guess the three million plus Markholt has won in tournament poker would have taken him an eternity to make on the pro bull riding tour.  Also, when he first started he was worried he would never meet the adrenaline rush he got from riding a bull, and who knows, maybe he hasn’t, but it has to come pretty darn close when you win a hand that wins you nearly half a million dollars. 

Lee is a Full Tilt Poker Pro.

*Read Billy Monroe's Blog*

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