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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now - Mickey Appleman

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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.

Throughout the “Where Are They Now” series I have enjoyed learning about all the great poker rooms and casinos both present and past.  The place I have been most intrigued with is the Mayfair Club, which was home to many of today’s top poker players from the early 80’s until it was closed down by authorities in the year 2000.  When I hear about a place like this I like to think why this place became so legendary.  Was it the location, the time period, or just blind luck?  In the case of the Mayfair Club it’s pretty evident that the amount of talent that walked through the door is what made the club.  Dan Harrington, Howard Lederer, Steve Zolotow, and others we have profiled learned their trade there, and in turn have won dozens of World Series of Poker Bracelets and countless millions of dollars.  One player that has also made part of his living from poker also helped bring the Mayfair Club to its current legendary status is Mickey Appleman.  Like more than a few poker players, Appleman is a gambler first, and a poker player second.  In recent years he had admittedly cooled off a bit in terms of crazy bets, but the number of stories he could tell would be enough to fill a book.  Here’s hoping I can do Appleman justice over the next 1,000 words or so.

Mickey Appleman was born in Long Island, New York and lived there throughout his childhood.  Despite having a smallish frame at only 5 foot 5 inches and 120 pounds, he excelled in a number of sports, including track and field, and baseball.  As much as he enjoyed sports he enjoyed academics more, taking an interest in statistics and anything regarding numbers.  Following those likes, Appleman attended Rutgers University, not too far from his hometown, and earned his Masters of Business Administration in statistics.  Throughout his childhood and as a young adult there really wasn’t much talk of poker, after college he took on a number of jobs.

His first job out of college was as a coordinator at a drug rehabilitation clinic in Washington D.C.  He has said that he did the job not because he had a history with drugs or anything like that, but because even at a relatively young age he saw the importance of giving back to people less fortunate.  In addition to working at the drug rehabilitation clinic, Appleman would work in a number of public schools in the inner-city, teaching math and statistics.  Appleman eventually moved to New York City because he said he was interested in the creative vibe he felt from the city.  Appleman was also strongly opposed to the Vietnam War, and with living in Washington D.C. it was impossible to get away from all the news regarding the war, so he thought moving to New York City would be beneficial to him to surround himself with people who shared similar thoughts regarding the war.

It’s unknown whether or not Appleman started playing poker first or started sports betting first, but it is clear that he started doing both around the same time.  Appleman has stated a few different stories in different interviews, most likely not because he was trying to fool anyone, just that he simply forgot after nearly 40 years of gambling.  One story regarding the start of his sports betting career says he was with a sports betting friend who was looking at that day’s betting sheet that said Rutgers was a seven point favorite over Columbia in a college football game.  His friend wasn’t sure if he should take the over or under, and Appleman told him “Rutgers is gonna kill them.”  He was right, as Rutgers went on to win 42-0.  After that his friend said maybe he had a knack for sports betting.  Another story states that he was playing poker and his friend showed him a parlay sheet.   This is where you have to pick winners in multiple games and in order to win the bet you have to win all of the games; the more games the higher the odds, but the bigger the payout.  Appleman successfully picked 3 out of 4 parlays he made, winning his friend a good amount of money.  That same friend introduced Appleman to his bookie, and the rest is history.  Either way, Appleman had a very successful start to his sports gambling career.  He says he started in the mid 70’s and never had a losing year until 1986.

In 1975 Appleman made his first trip to the World Series of Poker and since then has been playing somewhat frequently.  He says it’s hard to sit around and play poker for hours, when he had upwards to $100,000 dollars on a game, especially back when he first started.  Despite maybe treating poker as something to do to “pass the time,” he has made his mark as one of the best tournament players in history.  Appleman won his first WSOP bracelet in 1980, winning the $1,000 Seven Card Split event for $30,800.  It would be 12 years before he won his second, winning the 1992 $5,000 Deuce to Seven Draw event and $119,250.  In 1995 he took down the $5,000 Limit Hold’em event, banking $234,000.  Finally, his fourth bracelet came in 2003 when he won $147,280, when he outlasted all comers in the $2,000 Pot Limit Hold’em event.

It’s hard to determine what’s most impressive about his four WSOP bracelets.  His four victories came over a span of 23 years, a couple of decades that saw a drastic change in the way poker was played, and the amount of entrants per tournaments.  Also, he won bracelets in four separate events.  Most poker players have a specialty game; Appleman’s specialty game is “poker.”  Finally, while he did take poker more seriously at certain points of his life than others, he was able to win four bracelets while having his attention focused on something else during points of his career.  

In addition to being a poker player and sports better, Appleman also enjoys a nice golf bet.  There is something about golf and poker players that are one in the same.  Maybe it’s because they both involve a lot of green (money, putting green, felt, etc.).  Whatever it is, many of gambling’s legendary stories involve poker players playing golf.  One story that fits near the top of that list involves Appleman playing golf in the mid-80’s betting 32 people $20,000 each that he could break 100.  Apparently Appleman was no Dewey Tomko, who has been called the best poker playing golfer in history, because he was able to find that many people who didn’t think he could break 100 on a par-72 course.  Things started out poorly for Appleman, after shooting a 10 on the first hole.  However, Appleman settled down, and throughout the remainder of the round it was apparent to all watching that it was going to be close.  On the very last hole, Appleman was at 95 on a par-5.  On his third shot he was still 50 yards away from the green, and in the rough.  At that point Appleman just wanted to get on the green and knock it in for an even 100, so he could break even.  Amazingly, Appleman made the 50 yarder from the rough, earning him $640,000.  Not all of Appleman’s gambling stories have always ended positively though.  He says a golf bet cost him his friendship with actor Gabe Kaplan, and advises gamblers not to bet against friends.

In recent years Appleman has settled down in Fort Lee, New Jersey with his wife.  In October 2008 he had a chance to rendezvous with five of his old poker mates on NBC’s Poker After Dark, Mayfair Club edition.  The players, in order of finish, included Jay Hemowitz, Howard Lederer, Appleman, Steve Zolotow, Mike Shichter, and Dan Harrington.  Appleman also cashed in two WSOP events, bringing his career money finishes to 39 and his WSOP earnings to over $1,500,000.

*Read Billy Monroe's Blog*

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