David Peters wins … and has secretly been doing it for a while now
David Peters has quietly amassed more than $3.8 million in tournament earnings over the last nine years — as quietly as someone who’s won $3.8 million can do it. Add another $3.5 million-plus online during that period and the 26-year-old Peters has a strong argument for being one of the best No Limit Hold’em tournament players in the world.
Peters finished the 2013 BLUFF Player of the Year race in third place, putting together a career year chock full of impressive numbers. He had 22 cashes for $1,391,555, with nine final tables including two at the World Series of Poker and one on the World Poker Tour.
While Peters fell short in his pursuit of a WSOP bracelet or a WPT title, he recorded two wins and two-runner up finishes in 2013. Peters kicked off last summer with a second-place finish at IPT San Remo and a sixth-place finish at the WPT Championship — his first career WPT final table.
He was a model of consistency throughout the 2013 WSOP, but the big money eluded him for the most part. After busting out of the Main Event, Peters went down the road to the Bellagio for one last shot at making something out of the summer. Peters made the most of it, getting heads-up with Jason Koon for the Bellagio Cup and eventually beating him for the largest win of his career.
“Yeah, finishing the summer like that was great,” said Peters. “It was such a frustrating summer; I had eight cashes, I think. I was going so deep in every tournament, and just having not the best luck at all when it went deep — I had a lot of 20ths and 30ths. I [finished] eighth in the opening event, which was pretty frustrating, but still a nice way to start the summer. To end with a [big] tournament win was amazing. It was a very good way to salvage the summer.”
Peters capped off 2013 by making his fifth career WSOP final table, finishing fourth in the €25,000 High Roller at WSOP Europe, and a win in a big side event at EPT Prague. He may seem almost overdue to add a major title to his resume, in a career that dates back almost 10 years.
“I started when I was about 17,” said Peters. “I was a junior in high school, I think. I never deposited anything — I just basically searched all the sites looking for the best freerolls. I eventually found one on InterPoker that I would play every Sunday. After five or six times, I won it for $600, so that kind of gave me a bankroll.”
The kid from Toledo, Ohio, pulled from a competitive spirit that had been developed and nurtured by a childhood love of sports.
“If there was something I was interested in that I wasn’t good at, I would kind of obsess about it until I got very good,” said Peters. “When I was a kid I played a lot of sports — I’ve always been really into basketball, but I also used to play football and baseball. I’ve always been really competitive and hated to lose.”
A drive to excel helped him more as his attention turned to poker, even when it didn’t come easily.
“This addictive personality definitely helped me with poker,” said Peters. “Once I started playing I got hooked — I wasn’t good at the beginning, but I kept playing and thinking about the game a ton and did whatever I had to do to get good at it.”
As he’s done through most of his career, Peters worked his way up the ladder at the beginning. It started with low stakes Sit & Gos, and as he built his way up in stakes, he also played more and more tournaments. After a strong start, Peters’ victory in the $200 rebuy on PokerStars in late 2006 allowed him to consider poker as a career.
He also started to venture out to play live tournaments, though he still couldn’t get into most American venues.
“When I was 18, 19, 20 I played a few international tournaments here and there with the same kids,” said Peters. “I went to Niagara Falls, and then in my first live tournament in the States, I actually won a $1K at Caesars for $80,000. That was a good start to turning 21.”
Peters reached yet another milestone in 2008, securing his first notable live success on the WSOP Circuit. He won two WSOPC rings and finished second in the Harrah’s Rincon Main Event for more than $120,000. That October, Peters would get another of what would eventually become many successes at the Bellagio.
“That’s one of those things that gives you a lot of confidence, when you win a tournament that convincingly,” said Peters. “Then a couple of months later, I think, I won a tournament at Bellagio, a $3K. I was definitely starting to build a lot of confidence around then and, yeah, it was a very good start.”
Despite years on the road, and the inability to play online poker from the United States, Peters has never left his home state for long. Its location is convenient, and offers a surprising amount of flexibility in his schedule.
“I’ve never moved, I’ve always lived in Ohio,” said Peters, “I’m actually home in Ohio right now, but I’ll just drive up to Windsor, Canada, which is about an hour away. I’ll just rent a hotel room up there and play for the day and drive back. Lately I’ve just been doing that for Sundays. It’s not too bad — pretty convenient that I live an hour away from the border, so that part’s nice.”
It wasn’t an idea that Peters embraced in the days just after Black Friday, but after a rough run on the live circuit, the call of online poker would soon drive him to dive back in — head first.
“Yeah, I actually waited it out a little while, just traveling, playing live poker,” said Peters. “That was a rough year — one of my worst years as a pro. After about a year or so, I decided to rent a house in Canada with a few friends. We were there for about eight months.”
Peters regained balance in his poker life, and that balance has allowed him to excel both live and online over the last few years.
“After being away from online for a year-and-a-half it’s definitely nice to get back online,” said Peters. “Where you can actually grind out small profits rather than just trying to go for the home run live scores. There’s so much variance in live poker, and it definitely helps having that online backup and not just swing for the fences all the time.”
When added to all of the success he’s achieved over the last few years, Peters’ return to the online realm has helped him to achieve true independence in determining his own schedule.
“I just decided I wanted to travel and play all the best tournaments,” said Peters. “There were so many great tournaments in Europe that I just wanted to go play them all — just trying to get that big live score that seemed to have evaded me. I’ve had some fairly big ones, but not as big as I’d like, considering I’ve played so many big buy-ins.”
“I love traveling Europe,” said Peters. “So much fun, such a great experience seeing so many different places, and it’s definitely something I wanted to do — and something I’m going to continue to do for a while.”
While he’ll often fly solo, Peters is among a group of highly skilled young players who crisscross the globe to play poker tournaments. He’s friendly with the vast majority of them and well-respected in the community, but Peters tends to spend his time on the road with two similarly talented players in particular.
“Two friends I hang out the most are Byron Kaverman and Shannon Shorr,” said Peters. “All three [of us] travel quite a bit. Usually, if I’m staying with someone, it’s either one of them. They’re two great guys, and great poker players, so it’s nice to have people like that hang around with, talk hands with and improve each other’s game. Both have a great outlook on the whole [when it comes to] poker, and it’s definitely nice having good friends to travel around with — especially when poker can leave you pretty sheltered.”
Making a living as a professional poker player allows folks like David Peters the chance to live well, if things are going well. As in any industry that entails lots of travel and living out of a suitcase, though, there are some drawbacks.
“I would say the hardest part is maintaining a healthy lifestyle,” said Peters. “It’s easy to get caught up in a routine of staying up really late, waking up with just enough time to take a shower and head to the tournament without going to the gym or anything. Living in hotel rooms a lot and not having a kitchen makes it much more tempting to just go to the nearest fast-food place or get room service. That’s something I’ve been getting a lot better at lately, and I think it’s important to not get caught up in those bad habits.”
Whatever Peters is doing while on the road, he should keep doing it. He’s singularly focused on becoming the best poker player he can be.
“There are a lot of people that fall off, and a lot of people slack off,” said Peters, “And then their game slips. I just want to continue doing what I’m doing and try and not to slack off. Hopefully I’m able to continue playing all the biggest buy-in tournaments, where I feel I have a big edge.”
“My goals are basically to just always keep getting better,” said Peters, “Just staying ahead of the curve. There are a lot of good up and coming players who are constantly getting better, so I try to keep improving my game and basically just try and get to the top of the poker world. If I get there, I want to stay there.”
Most of the work that Peters does happens at the tables. The significant volume that he puts in both live and online provides a wealth of information to tap into when he wants to break things down.
“I guess I don’t go too deep,” said Peters. “I mean, I use PokerStove a decent amount and look at ranges and calculate certain odds, like what I should be doing in certain spots. Then on top of that I try to talk hands with some good friends who I know are very good and we always go back and forth with hands. I try to do that quite a bit. I watch videos of good players whenever I can. Stuff like that — anything that just keeps my mind flowing, focused on poker.”
Peters has a pretty firm grasp on how to play a winning style of No Limit Hold’em, and it’s no coincidence that he’s found success in major events with good structures.
“There is always a lot of play, [and that] definitely helps, since I’m very comfortable with deep stacks as well as shallow stacks,” said Peters. “Some people don’t have much experience playing deep stacked, since a lot of tournaments get pretty shallow towards the middle and end stages.”
“The people who are comfortable with all stack sizes have an advantage with better structures,” said Peters, “Since there’s more room to maneuver, and there aren’t as many all in situations where it’s out of your control.”
Peters is comfortable taking his game up against almost anyone in the world. He’s found some success in big buy-in events, and you’re likely to see Peters play even more of them in 2014.
“Yeah, I’m definitely comfortable playing High Rollers,” said Peters. “I’ve played quite a few of them, and I’ve also been in a lot of situations where I’ve played for huge amounts of money. That experience helps.”
A lot of discussion of late has been focused on the long-term sustainability of such tournaments, especially with the flurry of High Roller entries at the Aussie Millions. For his part, Peters sees profit to be made by entering these events.
“I do think there’s money to be made in those tournaments,” said Peters. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t be playing them. I’ve never been the type to have a big ego and play something I didn’t believe I had a good edge in. I have a ton of confidence in my game, plus there are usually several rich amateurs that play these, so I think there’s a good amount of value.”
Peters is far from the only player to believe in his poker abilities. He was one of the first players tapped to join Ivey Poker, and Peters will have a hand in its recently launched training site.
“Ivey League just launched, and it’s going to have some great players making training videos and it’s going to be a lot of great insight. The lineup of Ivy Poker is very good. I’m very excited to see how it turns out, and there is going to be a lot of great information out there for players who are looking to get better, and want to learn from the best.”
As for his long-term vision in his role with Ivey Poker, Peters is looking forward to the expansion of online poker in the United States.
“Hopefully, one day,” said Peters of his hopes for the return of the game to the US. “No one really knows about legislation or how that’s going to pan out or anything, so who knows when it will be a real money site — but that’s ultimately the goal. Hopefully soon, that will be a possibility.”
The main focus for Peters right now, though, is following up a career year with even more success in 2014. Peters is planning on giving himself every opportunity to succeed, and that means a busy schedule leading up to the WSOP. It’s likely only a matter of time before his name is on the WPT Champions Cup, or a bracelet’s on his wrist — and Peters is going to strike while the iron’s hot.
“I’m doing that whole California swing,” said Peters, of his plan to attend all three West Coast WPT stops in March. “It’s pretty nice having three big tournaments like that back to back to back, all in the same area, so I’m looking forward to that. Then after that Jacksonville, and I’m not sure about after that — probably do the WPT Championship and then Monte Carlo. A lot of busy months coming up, and a lot of big buy-ins, so hopefully I can hit something.”