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John_Reading Council Bluffs Iowa 2015

Poker Diaries Part 1: John Reading

By Michael Iverson

Michael Iverson is a recreational poker player who primarily plays 8/16 and 20/40 Hold’em along with multi-table tournaments at Canterbury Park. He is a contract manager in the legal department at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Michael lives in Stewartville, Minn., with his wife, Andrea and three children Gavin (9), Mackenzie (8) and Blake (4).

We all have that defining moment that sets up most relationships.

Those occurrences can happen at times when no one is expecting anything to come of it.

In April 2015, I like many others before and after me made the trip to Council Bluffs, Iowa, for an opportunity to try and win a WSOP Circuit Event. I stayed for the weekend, busted the events I played but somehow still left satisfied with how the weekend played out.

I was playing my final event of the series and I had young gentlemen on my direct left who was very quiet but also very attentive to what was going on. As a fan of the game and someone that follows the results of the previous events, I was certain that I had seen his photo over the weekend. It was in fact John Reading, winner of Event 6, $365 Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better for just over $10,000.

I immediately confirmed it was him on Hendon Mob and engaged conversation with John.

(Ed note: If you’re interested in blogging about poker for Canterbury Park email

Meeting John

John is soft spoken but he gives you all of his attention and is really listening to what you have to say whether you are meeting him for the first time or if you are one of his friends. If you really think about it, it is extremely hard to find in this day and age where everyone is ready to speak versus listening to what is being said.

Being the “big shot” (extreme sarcasm) that I am I let John know that I was following Kou Vang and his outcome at Running Aces where Kou was able to win the 2015 Spring Poker Classic for more than $40,000. I had no idea that John and Kou were friends but John appreciated me telling him that Kou won the tournament.

We were able to play for a few hours together before I busted. We traded stories and engaged in general poker conversation. I wished John the best of luck before I left the tournament area as John was also fighting for the player of the series for a seat in the National Championship. He ended up with a first, third and ninth, and fell just short of earning the free $10,000 seat.

Place at the Table

I drove the five hours back home to my wife and kids in Minnesota and was asked how everything went. I said that I lost but I met a really interesting “kid” as I told my wife, Andrea. I explained that John was different from most that you run into at the table. She gave me the typical laugh and look she gives when I tell her my stories of the felt.

I proceeded to follow John over the course of the summer via any poker update I could find as I knew he would be playing the WSOP in Las Vegas. It was Event 6, where he achieved poker immortality when he captured the WSOP bracelet in the $1,000 hyper turbo event for $252,068.

John was able to rack up five more cashes before he found himself at another final table, this time being in the $1,111 Little One for One-Drop Event 61, where he took fourth for another $212,559.

To say that summer was life changing might be an understatement. John had cashed seven times for almost $500,000.

That type of money can change people for better or for worse but it can ultimately change you. What I found when that summer was over is the “boy” I had met in Council Bluffs was the exact same. He was a humbled, young man that would always take the time to talk with you.

Of course John had his “inner circle” that he would discuss strategy and hand histories with, including Kou Vang and Aaron Johnson, but he was still the same guy.

Pleasant Company

John and I have exchanged messages on social media over the years and if we bump into each other at local event will exchange pleasantries.

John & Brittany
John & Brittany

John has even purchased a piece of me in a couple events and I would love nothing more than to be able to share a victory with him. Not just because of the money but the fact that he believed in me. I do not play much outside of the fall and winter events, as my family obligations pull me from the tables, but I am such a fan of most of the players.

The local guys might not realize it but in some peoples mind (“especially mine”) you are the Minnesota versions of a celebrity at the poker table. I genuinely look up to these guys and get excited when one of them acknowledges me, whether that be Blake Bohn, Kou Vang, Jonathan Hanner, Aaron Johnson, Paul Cross… the list goes on.

I am not intimidated by them at the table because, as my dad always says, “everyone only gets two cards,” but I always find it such a great learning experience to play with them and hear the stories of traveling the country and chasing glory. I especially love hearing about the stories away from the felt as it shows they have balance between poker and life.

Away from the Tables

John has amassed 56 cashes and almost $900,000 in tournament winnings since 2011. One would think, “geez this guy has a real future in poker.” No doubt in my mind that John will always have a place in poker but John did something in the past few years that most do not do that are part of the game.

John received his degree at Luther College in 2013 and just completed his master’s at the University of St. Thomas in counseling psychology.

I recall speaking with John this past spring about school and he was in the home stretch. He loves the power of the mind and how people go through thought processes and evaluate things. The level to which John processes things I cannot even begin to explain or even attempt to explain, but that isn’t the greatest thing that happened to John over the past few years.

John also met Brittany Hassman. And let me tell you, a girl can change your life in so many ways. John and Brittany are set to exchange vows this coming September. I sent John a private message when I learned of his engagement telling him that I believe finding the “right” one is a “game changer” and that was not meant to be a negative. If you follow John on social media you can see how much Brittany means to John and vice versa.

I always believe that John will have a place at the poker table because he studies the game and thinks at a much deeper level than your average recreational player, hence why John is a “pro.” I am a fan of the game and I can have my moments, but when you talk with people that think at a whole different level it can be extremely humbling and it makes you want to work harder at your own.

John is a hard worker, a humbled young man and soon-to-be husband. If you ever have the luxury of playing with him at the table do not hesitate to talk with him because you might be surprised to find out that not only is he listening to your every word but it could be the beginning of what I presume to be a lifelong relationship.