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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Interviews

Mark Stephen Edwards – Going Pro – From Then to Now

Mark Stephen Edwards - WPT
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In June of 2006 PokerWorks started the 'Going Pro' series that featured players moving into a full time poker job and although it was short-lived, we liked the series and the opportunity to spend some time getting into the mindset of fresh-faced poker players that wanted to move into playing full time for a living. One of our favorites then - and now - is Mark Stephen Edwards.

PW: Back in 2006 in "Mark Edwards – Going Pro" you mentioned the stock market, did you continue pursuing it and investing or was it just an interest in passing? Of course if you invested – win or lose – we want to know.

MSE: Back in 2006, in all honesty — I just didn't have a lot of extra $$$ lying around. It was all tied up either online, on the live felt, or in a strippers G string. I did manage to get some money into the market and I zipped through some investing books (4 pillars of investing, stock market for dummies). Unfortunately, the crash of 2008 really hurt. My stock investing then, and still now is, extremely conservative. I'm throwing chips around every day and they're going up and down like a rollercoaster! I try to avoid huge swings in the market, so I'm building a very safe, dividend paying portfolio! Bottom line: since 2006, my unrealized loss/gain is -$1,400. At one point I was almost stuck $10,000! Though the market throughout the end of 2011 and so far this year has been on a nice uptrend!

PW: And somewhere along the way in your 'grinding career' you opened "Marco's Italiano Restaurant" in Rochester, PA with a friend/partner, do you still maintain an interest in the restaurant or did you leave that project behind? The purpose of this question and the last is to find out if poker is your only source of income, if you've had other financial ventures, please fill us in.

MSE: *sigh* *big sigh* This was my 2nd restaurant. Doubt I'll ever venture down this path again. Living in a cold, eerie, basement to save on personal expenses. Plus I didn't have the time to actually go home — as I was waking up at 6am to open her up for breakfast, finally closing her down around 1amish; and then loading up 12 online poker tables to grind out funds to keep her running. I NEVER slept. It was insanity. My parents were so worried about me as I was working so damn hard. 7 days a week. No breaks. To, 'get out' of working so hard I'd go grind live at the Mountaineer in West Virginia which was not that far of a drive. Funny how my breaks even included grinding!

Unfortunately, or fortunately — just as with the stock market – 2008 brutalized me. I didn't get saved by some US grant, either. If you can't bring in enough business, you get shut down. There's no 3rd party that's going to send you a check or print you off money to save your business. In our capitalistic society that's how it's supposed to be. It was heartbreaking — all those years just flushed down the drain. At least I gained experience, and character... right? :)

PW: You moved to Las Vegas from Florida in 2005 with all your stuff in the back of a truck, got an apartment, and set up shop grinding live and online No Limit Hold'em games. Of course that was seven years ago, a lot has changed since then. Do you still keep a residence in Las Vegas - or anywhere else that you would consider a permanent home?

MSE: I have a mini-camp set up in Las Vegas. My car is garaged at a friend’s where he has granted me a room in his 'Vegas grinder house.' The car is filled to the brim with suitcases and the only seat you can actually jump into is the drivers! Since 05' I was established in Las Vegas. Then I was in and out due to the restaurant. In 2010 I shut down everything, packed up what I had left over and did an around the world tour. Playing poker in twelve countries! Currently, I'm back home in Florida due to a beautiful girl, the new poker law, and my immediate family resides here. It's nice.

PW: When you first hit Las Vegas – and even now when you are in town – what is your favorite poker room and why? What limits do you play now?

MSE: My favorite room bar-none is the WYNN! Even with Deb and Jesse gone — the room is just timeless. Cocktail service is good, the comps are top notch (not as good as they were though in comparison to other rooms in LV), dealers are world class and I just really love the un-capped $5/$10 game. You just never know when there's gonna be a fireworks show up on table 2! :)

As far as limits: I'll play whatever looks good and where I feel comfortable. I've logged so many hours at $2/$5 and $5/$10 that I feel really at home there. Though, during this last WSOP I found myself in some pretty large games. $10/$25 to $25/$50! Of course, I'm not sure I'm a winner at those levels yet. Gotta get in s'more hours in the ol' Poker Journal!

PW: If you hit a good run, would you move up temporarily or buy into a tournament that might normally be too big for your bankroll? And in bankroll-speak, what do you consider to be a necessary bankroll for your lifestyle right now and compare it to what you felt was adequate seven years ago please.

MSE: If I hit a good run now, I just appreciate it for what it is. A good run. I would not move up due to just having a good run, though if the game looked juicy I may shoot myself into a bigger game. I try to move up only when I feel that I've established a large enough sample size at my current limit before jumping up to the next level. Though, I must admit — I've been a little bit too conservative the last few years; and perhaps with my recent win in Florida I'll get in there and gamble/take some bigger shots at not only a few tournaments but bigger cash games.

Necessary bankroll for my lifestyle? It's funny — I have no business draining me nor am I a circus/pit game junky any longer . . . I have my 'rock' aka my beautiful female who definitely helps in keeping me grounded. I'm focused on her, the 52 card deck; nothing else. I can earnestly say for the first time that I've grown up! Sure I still have fun, though I'm so secure in the limits that I'm playing there's never any sweat. Taking the emotions out of the game has been one of the most difficult things for me, and I can do that. I never have more than 2% of my BR on the table at my normal limit. Ever! There's truly not a lot of grinders that can swear by that.

Mark in Thailand!
Mark in Thailand!

PW: You had a pack-my-bags-and-land-where-I- end-up travel plan for a while. Tell us where your travels took you, if you were just roaming or had a goal in mind, and if you played poker in your travels.

MSE: I landed in Costa Rica for three weeks. There was absolutely no plan! I had always wanted to learn PLO with the Europeans and luckily had made some friends over the years in Las Vegas who resided in Scandinavia so I went and camped up by the North Pole for a while! Months in Sweden, Finland, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, Germany.... and when the weather started to scare me — I jumped ship and headed over to Asia, spending sometime bathing in the Andaman ocean living on the beaches of Thailand. Tough life, I know. I did play poker while over there, I learned a ton from the Swedes, and attribute any PLO prowess to them.

PW: Obviously Black Friday took the heart out of the online poker world. Were you playing steadily online until that time and still grinding out a massive amount of hands weekly - yes, we would like to know how many tables you played simultaneously? And what online poker sites did you play on?

MSE: *cry* Ugh. Dagger to my heart. Yes, I was still playing online. It was nice skipping around the world and playing online while finding what live games without extraordinary rake to play in. While on the road I was only 8 tabling as I just didn't have the screen space. I have money locked up all over the place. E-walletexpress, Ultimate bet, Full Tilt Poker... I'm still extremely upset at how our liberties were just stripped away from us. This has been catastrophic for our poker economy! $900 Million is it? Stripped and stolen outta the hands of players? It's still unbelievable to me.

PW: Do you have funds locked up on Full Tilt Poker now? And did you consider leaving the United States to play online from another country? When it’s legal in the U.S., do you see yourself becoming an online grinder again or staying mostly with live tournament poker?

MSE: Yes, by the grace of God I'm one of the 'luckier' ones whom didn't have an enormous amount on FTP. Still, not only did I lose out on the money — but all the time it took me to acquire those funds. It's bullshit. I'm fucking pissed off about it and the entire subject as a whole really ticks me off. Excuse me for the outburst, though if wandering eyes do happen to find their way to this humble interview... I'd really like them to know that they hurt a lot of people.

I have considered leaving the US. I spent months upon months in Toronto, and I was just in Vancouver scouting the city to see if I'd like to reside there. My lease here in FL is up soon, and I've got a few overseas locations scouted out. We're also hoping that there's a mini poker boom as the games should be ram and jam as every one’s playing w/ freeroll monies! :) When it's legal again, of course I'll play. I just don't consider myself an online player any longer — more of a hybrid. All the hours and hands I put in online most definitely formed me into the logical/analytical player that I am today... though without all those live hands, the reading of the players, the person to person interaction; I wouldn't be the card player I am today. Oh, I also would never EVER dream of playing JUST live tournament poker. That's suicide.

PW: How did you become a World Poker Tour instructor? What does it entail? How many events have you been asked to attend and show off your brilliant poker mind to the crowds? Do you have a ‘favorite part’ when you are instructing? Share your approach to teaching with us.

MSE: The title sounds so nice. "World Poker Tour instructor" they still haven't given me a cameo on their site, as I've only worked three events. That being said, it is an absolute joy and fills my soul with so much happiness when I can explain a situation to a student/player that is struggling and finally see that light bulb go off in their head when they, 'get it'.

Had a fellow who had a true knack for hand reading etc... but couldn't do math for a lick. During lunch we both stayed back and I just continued to go over a certain situation with him and the light bulb shined! Just the look on his face, his genuine gratefulness for my help... better than stacking up a 1,000 BB pot. Just hope I don't bump into him at a final table anytime soon! :)

I truly dislike the zero-sum part of our game. I dream of living and partaking in a Positive-Sum game. I dream a lot. My approach to teaching is to pound the message of whatever the lead instructor is trying to teach. Annie Duke, 'keeps it simple' though her 'simple' is AMAZINGLY in depth, and fundamentally sound. Hell, even when she's instructing I act as a student and take notes! I cannot emphasize enough what a great job she does, and I just follow her lead and teach, teach, teach! BASIC FUNDAMENTALS AND ABC WORK!

PW: In our first interview with you, you spoke about the ‘ladies’ being one of your major bankroll leaks. You seem to have the problem completely taken care of now – tell us about her!

Note who wears the pants!
Note who wears the pants!

MSE: Well, she's a winner. She 'puts up with' my Poker lifestyle. Poker trips, long usually late night hours. Her trust in me is key. As awesome as a poker lifestyle sounds, it can be so damn depressing, lonely, and heartbreaking at times. She supports and puts up with all of it. Her and I have known one another since third grade, and through today’s social networking sites reconnected through Facebook. After an around the-world-trot we caught up for a mini date and it kinda just went from there. Been a year now and I don't see either one of us trading the other one in anytime!

PW: We count you as having one World Series of Poker Circuit ring along with a very prestige score in the World Poker Tour Regional Jacksonville and a nice pile of cash, correct?

MSE: I got 2nd in a Spring Series in Jacksonville this year for $32,000 — it really fueled me in capturing a Jacksonville title and that's how I found myself playing so many of the events this summer.

PW: You seem to focus most of your tournament play in the southeast part of the country; do you think the players are easier, the overall action is better, what is it about that part of the country that appeals to your poker sense?

MSE: Well, when it comes to tournament poker — I had this vision in my head. Capture a W in every Southeastern state that holds poker tournaments and hopefully be crowned the, "South East Poker Champion" a Cinderella type story... South East Champ heads out West and captures Bracelet. Sounds cool. Cincinnati Kidish, though this kid’s from the great state of FLOWIDA! The state shaped like a gun! Action is different state to state. Those boys in Biloxi are WOOO WEEEE! Theyz tough! Florida games are good, of course. (Shhhh don't tell anyone! ;) What appeals to me, in general... is that it's close to home. Imma Mama’s boy and I like to stop in and visit with my Moms as much as possible. I'd like to note that I've captured W's in all three southeastern states with Poker ;) *pats ego.* Captured a circuit ring in New Orleans, heads-up in the ol' Biloxi MS, and now the WPT regional in FL! :)

PW: Do you find most of your cash grind is done when you are in Las Vegas or do you play cash games when you can find them in other areas?

MSE: Most of my play in general, is cash games. Tournaments are just a way for me to show my family, that I'm not so bad at this poker thing! While in Las Vegas this year, I didn't find myself in even one WSOP event! Unfortunate, I know. Hopefully in the future I will find myself sitting in more MTTs.

PW: You obviously believe you will win a World Series of Poker event, probably more than one, in your lifetime, do you play strictly No Limit Holdem or do you dip into mixed games or variants from time to time? And we would love to know how many bracelets and circuit rings you figure to capture before you’re through.

MSE: I've played some 2-7, and I've put some hours logging PLO. Oh, I had a great RAZZ teacher also... my mentor in Razz is a two-time bracelet winner with a runner-up in that variant of poker, also. ;)

How many bracelets and rings? Expectations are the root of all heartbreak, isn't that what William taught us? More important, to me... is that I lead a happy, healthy lifestyle. As much as I love poker — I do not want it to control me. Nor do I want poker to represent who I am. I've had thoughts of travelling around to the 'easier' circuit stops to try to and capture another ring or two. As far as bracelets go, there are less of them than Super Bowl rings — they just handed out the 1,000th bracelet this year. If I have the opportunity to grab just one, I'd be in heaven. Anything more than that would be dreamy. One step at a time, eh?

PW: Any unforgettable poker moments?

MSE: Was a hotshot kid sunglassed up in Vegas. Playing in a game that the BR most likely didn't warrant. Guy next to me was drunk as a skunk with piles of chips in front of me (position). My cocky, conceited self couldn't wait to stick it to him and scoop all those chips. Few hands later, he over-set me and stacked me! I'll never forget that hand, the feeling of humility while re-buying and just the thought of... 'If this game were like Chess, there would be no game.'

It's been years and that poker moment/hand really sticks with me and reminds me that Humility is one of a poker player’s greatest attributes. Oh, there was this other unforgettable hand with this stripper from the Spearment Rhino at the Hardrock. . . .

PW: Looking back over the last seven or so years, would you change anything?

MSE: We live this life going forward. That's the toughest part of it all, right? I'd focus more on poker — less on the restaurant, websites, partying, and all the other distractions along the way. ... Could you imagine where I'd be then?

PW: Any thoughts you’d like to share with a fresh-faced poker player that is coming into the mainstream of ‘going pro?’

MSE: Make sure you love the game. Now, if you Love something... try doing it for a living/money — and tell me; do you still Love it? It's hard to keep your passion for the game flowing. It's tough when both winning and losing to wake up and get in there and grind, grind, grind, grind. Matt Mcdermick was so right, "If you're too careful... your whole life becomes a F**ing grind." It does. Balance, balance, balance. Remember to eat, sleep, exercise and maintain a balanced lifestyle. I personally need to practice what I preach! :)

PW: Thank you, Mark!

PokerWorks is looking for candidates to resume our “Going Pro” series. If you are one of the players that never had a job/quit your job, and playing poker is your livelihood, and you would like to be featured on PokerWorks, please send an email to: geenen(at) for possible consideration.

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