Brandon Welter, a regular in the Canterbury Park poker room, works as an actuary. He puts his knowledge of statistics and probability to use when he navigates the action on the felt.
Still, he probably didn’t want to calculate his odds of winning the PokerStars Players Championship, where he went up against some of the best players in the world.
During the Mid-States Poker Tour’s 2018 finale at Canterbury Park in December, Welter won a Platinum Pass to the PokerStars Players Championship, held in the Bahamas from Jan. 6-10. The Platinum Pass included the $25,000 buy-in, as well as travel and hotel accommodations.
“It was a really cool experience,” said Welter, 24. “It was a lot more money than I had ever played for.”
Despite going up against a tough lineup of players, Welter was able to cash in the event, busting out in 151st place for a $35,000 payday.
Playing the Best
Sitting down in a $25,000 buy-in event was a little different for Welter, who regularly plays tournaments here and cash games when he ventures to Las Vegas a few times a year.
At the outset of the tournament — with figures such as Chris Moneymaker, Daniel Negreanu and Steve O’Dwyer in the room — Welter said he was playing a bit too tight.
“It was nerve-wracking and I was anxious. I was definitely not playing my optimal game,” he said. “But I eventually got over that.”
Once he settled into the flow of the tournament, Welter said he realized that the game “wasn’t that much of a step up” from the quality of play in tournaments at Canterbury Park.
“The competition in Minnesota is really good too,” he said, adding that the players in the PokerStars Players Championship are “just more well-rounded.”
Overall, Welter said he thought he played well in the tourney. “That’s the best I could ask for.”
Memorable Hands, Payouts
On Day 2, with about 80,000 in chips, Welter found himself all in with QQ and ran into a player with AA who had him covered.
Fortunately, he spiked a queen on the turn, keeping him alive for the $5.1 million first-place prize, which was eventually taken down by fellow Platinum Pass player Ramon Colillas.
“That was a pretty pivotal hand for me,” Welter said.
As the money bubble approached, he found himself with about seven big blinds.
“It was pretty crazy. I felt nowhere near safe,” Welter said.
Making the money was “a huge relief,” he said, but he was also happy to reach the next pay jump, securing $35,000.
Welter eventually busted out when he ran his 44 into Q-10 and his opponent hit two pair.
Rather than disappointment, however, “it was nothing but excitement,” he said, and he was glad to be able to celebrate the cash with his brother, who came along for the trip. Welter said they celebrated a bit that evening at the bar and placed some sports bets in the casino.
Looking Back and Ahead
What does a 24-year-old who hit a five-figure cash plan to do with the money?
“Pay off some debts,” Welter said.
But he also plans to use some of the winnings for poker, as well as “something fun” that he hasn’t decided on yet.
Looking back at the experience as a whole, Welter said he felt lucky, from winning the Platinum Pass at Canterbury Park to battling on the felt with players he admires.