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.
Approaching nearly 150 poker profiles has allowed me to examine, and hopefully capture, all types of personalities and trends in the poker world. Some of my favorite people to write about are those that make a big splash in the poker world seemingly right away, they disappear for a while, then comeback even stronger. An example of this can be seen in Chris Moneymaker, who of course is more than partly responsible for the biggest emergence the game of poker has ever seen, but then following that victory he seemed to fade away. Then he started his comeback, having multiple good showings in the biggest online tournaments, and again with his name near the top of leader boards in live events.
Another player that has followed a similar trend is Prahlad Friedman. Friedman jumped onto the poker scene with a huge tournament cash in the first major tournament he ever cashed in. He had some good success for a year or two thereafter, but then seemed for the most part to disappear. He followed the same route with online cash games, once destroying the high limit and no limit hold’em games across a number of sites, and then all of a sudden stopped showing up. As you will see he has enjoyed a career resurgence, and it will be interesting to see if he can remain among the cream of the crop for years to come this time around.
The name Prahlad is derived from the Hindu Mythology figure Vishnu, who is hailed as the highest of the five gods in Hindu religious texts. In Sanskrit his first name means “one who brings joy.” That seems like a pretty big role to fill based on name alone, but as when he showed up on the online scene in the early years of internet poker many people viewed him as a “poker god,” and those who watched him certainly felt a certain joy. Born on May 20, 1978, Prahlad wasn’t interested in poker until one day as a teenager his father came home $11,000 richer after winning a lowball tournament. Young Friedman asked his father everything he knew about the game of poker. His dad knew that unlike a lot of other kids, when Friedman showed an interest in something he was going to stick with it. Having been born in Los Angeles, Friedman was aware of the poker scene, but it wasn’t until he was 19 or 20 that he began heading to the casino with his father to play low limit hold’em, trying to stay under the radar of the casino staff, as he was under 21.
Progressively he moved up in stakes in and around the Los Angeles casino area, and developed a reputation as one of the best players in both limit and no limit hold’em games. In fact, Friedman has said that the regulars at these casinos started refusing to play with him, and therefore Friedman was left wondering what to do with his poker career. Naturally he decided to go to the land where he knew he could get a game anytime he wanted, and wouldn’t be singled out.
Frequent trips to Las Vegas, where he continued to well, caused him to drop out of college at the University of Berkeley, but, his parents saw his success and that he was happy, so they approved of his decision. It was also around this time that Friedman started to become interested in tournament poker. He played some low-stakes tournaments to get used to the structure and the feeling of playing in them, but then jumped straight to the bigger tournaments.
Friedman finished second at the December 2002 $3,000 No Limit Hold’em Main Event at the Bellagio Five Star Poker Classic winning $101,446. His 2003 would show continued success. In the very first World Series of Poker event he cashed in he also won his first bracelet, winning the $1,500 Pot Limit, event for $109,400 in April of that year. He closed off his 2003 with a pair of in the money finishes on the World Poker Tour.
Because of the huge increase of bankroll from his successful 2002 and 2003, he began playing some of the highest cash games the internet had to offer at the time. The biggest game offered then was 50/100 NL at UB Poker, and for a good while he destroyed the game, being involved in the biggest pots in history during this time frame while playing the likes of Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey, and Doyle Brunson. Friedman also played at a number of other websites, but most of his action came from Ultimate Bet. Unfortunately Friedman was one of the most affected people by the “Super-User” scandal at UB, where a handful of users could see the hole cards of their opponents. Before he was aware he was being cheated he started to lose confidence in his game, and his play suffered across all the websites he played on. He ended up changing the way he played from a hyper aggressive style to a very tight style that didn’t fit him. For a few years his results suffered both online and in live cash and tournaments.
For a few years Friedman was more known for his raps that were featured on telecasts of the World Series of Poker then his poker play. In both 2005 and 2006 he was featured singing a rap about poker on the ESPN telecasts, both of which can been found online, and have received millions of views. He was also known for an altercation at the 2006 WSOP with Jeff Lisandro. Friedman believed that Lisandro had failed to post a $5,000 chip ante, and therefore the player who won the pot was “robbed” of $5,000. Lisandro snapped at the idea that he was purposely trying to rob anyone, and eventually told Friedman “I will take your head off, buddy.” Lisandro had or has no reputation for trying to cheat, and has an outstanding reputation in the poker community, so many people sided with him in the debate. Friedman eventually tried to apologize during further hands, but Lisandro ignored him the rest of the time they were at the table together. Eventual replays showed that it was an unnamed third player that had forgot to post his ante.
Just when it seemed Friedman would only be remembered for some questionable raps and an argument he was on the wrong side of, he reappeared again with a vengeance. Friedman began playing online again, even forgiving UB Poker, feeling it’s safe to play there again since everybody is watching it. The names he plays under are “Mahatma” at UB, “Spirit Rock” at Full Tilt Poker, and “Prefontaine” at PokerStars. Over the last two years his win rate has been near the top of the list among his fellow pros. *Note – the Ultimate Bet cheating scandal was resolved and players were reimbursed for funds that were stolen during that time period.*
In tournament poker he showed he was back by making a strong showing at the WSOP Main Event in 2009, finishing 64th. While he wasn’t able to make the final table of the WSOP, he was able to beat someone who did make the final table a few months later at the $9,800 World Poker Tour Championship Event at the 2009 Legends of Poker in October. Heads up Friedman defeated “November Nine” member Kevin Schaffel, earning his biggest prize to date of $1,034,000. One month later, Schaffel would finish 8th at the WSOP final table.
Friedman is married to poker professional Dee Luong. They met each other when Friedman first started going to Vegas about ten years ago, but they didn’t get married until three years ago. Friedman has credited Luong with helping him get through all his tough times, from the decision to quit college, to the aftermath of the UB scandal.
Friedman is the epitome of the old poker adage “poker isn’t a series of sessions, but one long session.” Friedman has had more ups and downs than most in the poker world, but right now he is riding high on success, and by all accounts he appears to be ready to stay atop that cloud for the foreseeable future.
Prahlad Friedman became a 'Team UB' member in early January, 2011. Look for him at the tables under 'Prahlad' and don't expect the game to be easy.