Joe Kuether Takes a Run at POY While Living Out of a Suitcase

Joe Kuether is a grinder's grinder. (Photo courtesy of PokerStars)

Joe Kuether is a grinder’s grinder. (Photo courtesy of PokerStars)

You probably haven’t seen him on TV, you haven’t seen him on stage collecting bracelets and you won’t see him making bracelet bets with poker’s elite, but where you can find Joe Kuether is standing line at the cashier cage. He’s collected 75 tournament cashes, with 29 final tables and 14 wins – all since 2009.

Kuether has been a cashing machine for the last five years and the longest he’s gone in between cashes is six months. Kuether could best be described as a grinders’ grinder. He has results in events with buy-ins ranging from $300 all the way up to $15,000 EPT High Roller events.

The Wisconsin native has spent the last few years racking up over $2 million in career live earnings criss-crossing the country. In fact, Kuether stays so busy he currently doesn’t have an address. “Since September (2013) I’ve been without a home so its easier to travel because I need to find somewhere to go,” he said. “My lease ran out in September and I’ve been without a home since. The last seven months I’ve been on the road the whole time.”

Living out of a suitcase has made for some pretty interesting travel itineraries. He’s most likely the only player in the world to book a flight from the PCA in the Bahamas to Dallas in order to play at the WSOP Circuit Choctaw main event and then fly to Australia for the Aussie Millions – a trip that earned him $154,9787.

The itinerary of that trip didn’t seem too unusual to him. “The people I was going to Australia with were in Choctaw, so it just kind of made sense – plus that main event is pretty good,” he said. “We were flying out of Dallas so it worked out with the PCA ending and leaving for Australia. Just the right place and right time I guess.”

Kuether had lived in Las Vegas for the previous two years before adapting to his on-the-road lifestyle. But before that Kuether was a pretty normal guy – so normal in fact, he holds a degree in accounting. But he never had any intentions of working a desk job, he was pretty quick to admit that he was mostly going through the motions to get his degree.

“Pretty early on I knew I wasn’t really going to use it. Even if I didn’t play poker I don’t think I would be an accountant right now,” said Kuether. “I don’t know – I have a pretty addictive personality so I probably would have found something else and went with it.”

During his college days Kuether was almost exclusively an online player. His first taste of live play came without much planning. “I went to visit some friends in LA and played a few live tourneys here and there. That was my first time playing a lot live,” he said. “I still enjoyed it but still played mostly online except the WSOP for the next year. Then Black Friday happened so I made the decision to play live a little bit more.”

The timing of Black Friday worked out better for Kuether than most people. “The timing of it was pretty lucky for me. It happened right when I was about to graduate. If it had happened a year or two earlier I still would have probably would have finished school but I wouldn’t have played poker for a good year and a half,” Kuether said.

“I’m not sure if I could have made the jump of not having a job and supporting myself from just playing poker. Then I was on the fence of if I wanted to move to Canada or Mexico to play online,” Kuether continued. “My original plan before Black Friday was to move to Vegas and play live while playing online as well.  I had to make a decision of whether or not to move and I decided I was just going to play it by ear. I’m definitely glad I decided to focus on playing live and seeing what happened.”

Seeing what would happen turned out to be better than most; since his decision to play live after Black Friday the longest span Kuether has gone without a cash has been eight weeks. With a track record of cashing so frequently, Kuether ended 2013 ranked 13th in the BLUFF Player of the Year standings and this year he is inside the top 20 again, along with currently being ranked fifth overall in the BLUFF Power Rankings.

But Kuether has been indifferent about playing for rankings. “I see that kind of stuff on Twitter but I don’t pay too close of attention to it. There’s just a ton of events out there to play,” he said.

Because he has so many choices of where and when to play he’s altered how he makes his decisions now. “I wouldn’t rule out any location, but it’s based upon the tournament and convenience,” Kuether said. “Lately, it’s been places that I’ve wanted to go – like the Aussie Millions. I’m trying to see more places with the freedom I have.”

Kuether’s low key personality and willingness to take on life as it comes extends into his future plans as well. When prodded about where he saw his career in five years he said, “Um, I don’t think too far ahead. I’ll probably be playing poker for sure – definitely for the next year or two.”

“I’ll probably look into moving somewhere after the WSOP and play more online – or just not traveling the the live tournament circuit as much,” Kuether continued. “As far as long term future – I don’t really know. I’m just playing it by ear. If I found something else I’m interested in then I might take a break from poker, but until then I don’t see anything else that I’m set on.”

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Paul Oresteen

Senior Writer: Paul Oresteen originally joined BLUFF in 2008 as an intern. He covered two World Series of Poker’s before leaving to join After a two year hiatus Oresteen returned to BLUFF in November 2012. Since starting as a poker journalist Oresteen has covered the World Series of Poker, WSOP Circuit, World Poker Tour and European Poker Tour. He graduated from Georgia State University with a B.A. in Communications in 2008.
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