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Brad Booth

Brad Booth is one of the most successful Canadian poker players making a living playing cards in Vegas for the last several years. "Yukon" Brad Booth is quickly gaining recognition in the poker world, not only in his home native land, but playing against the top names in the game from his home at the Bellagio in Vegas. He was described as ‘the best unknown poker player in the world' by none other than 11 time WSOP bracelet winner, Phil Hellmuth.

Brad is a genuine, humble, grounded and amiable human being, who has just begun to enjoy life. And with more stories to tell than a newsstand tabloid. It may take several articles to properly chronicle the man who considers Doyle Brunson a mentor, plays regularly in huge games at the Bellagio and remains firmly rooted as a patriotic Canadian. This is the story of "Yukon" Brad Booth.

Brad's poker career started as a really young kid. He remembers sitting on his Mom's lap while she and her 7 sisters played Rummy. They used to play for dollars and he would always ask if he could play and they said "No, you're too small", but he would sit on his aunt's lap and tell her which cards to pick up and discard and that's how they taught him, and kind of how gambling started in his life.

At about age 7, his father used to take him to his grandfather's barber shop who taught him how to play no limit 5 card draw. When he would get a customer though, Brad always heard something like "Alright Bradley, go play in the corner" and grandfather would give him the deck of cards and chips and off he would go into the corner and practice shuffling cards and chips, and playing poker by himself.

He was so interested in this game that he would take a deck of cards and a bag full of pennies to hockey practice, and he would teach the rest of the kids in the dressing room how to play no limit 5 card draw poker. Most of their parents would give them $5 for the concessions or whatever and they would gamble it away. This was when he was 10 or 12 years-old.

Then when he was 13 and going into Grade 8, some of the older kids in school were having home games where they would play Kings-and-little-ones, Stook, 5 card draw and 7 card stud and those types of games. No Texas hold'em back then, but they played Omaha and such, so he learned there and really got into gambling at that stage.

When he was 15 and in high school he got a part-time job at Little Caesar's, but after he started going to these poker games and hitchhiking out of town to play, he ended up quitting school and working full-time. His parents didn't know he had quit school, so in the morning he'd get up as if he was going to school, and with them thinking he had school books in his bag (which was really his Little Caesar's work clothes!) they'd go off to their jobs and he would go off to work himself. Around 3 or 4 o'clock he would leave work, and go back home with his work clothes back in his bag.

In the evening, he would say he was going off to do homework at a friend's house, and of course what he'd do instead is head out to the highway, stick his thumb out, and hitchhike out to Vancouver to play in some of the underground clubs. He would cash in his whole $340 paycheck and take the whole thing to the table. He'd put $328 on the table and leave himself $12 for a snack and enough money to get home because he didn't want to hitchhike all the way home since he had to work at 9 am the next day.

What would invariably happen is he would be almost felted because his chips would just keep dwindling away and he'd have $18 or $20 left. He'd think "If I can pull out this $12 from my pocket and get 3 or 4-way action, I'll be right back in the money!" Then he'd plan to rat-hole like $5 off the table and stuff it into his pocket and make sure he had enough for a bus ride home. He was always scared about getting caught at the table though so he generally just left his money on the table and, of course, he hit the felt, completely busted, without a penny in his pocket. It would be 4 am, he started work at 9 am and he had to hitchhike all the way back home - sometimes he'd be hitchhiking between 5 and 8 hours! Also, he'd have to sneak in the house before his parents realize he'd been out all night.

He learned hard lessons there and the reason he never told his parents wasn't that he was fearful of telling them that he didn't like school, but it was that they had told me, "Brad, when you're sixteen years old and if you're still in school, we'll reward you with a Sprint." It was like an '87 Sprint that costs $800. Since he had quit school when I was 15 and a half, he had to pretend he was still going to school so he could get this car, quit hitchhiking, and finally drive himself to the games.

At that point he was looking this opportunity as a poker hand with a car in the pot and he really wanted to win this pot. On his birthday he finally won the ‘pot' (the Sprint), and two days later he let Mom and Dad know that he had quit school, was moving out, and was going to play poker and pool and gamble for a living. They didn't really know what the hell to think at the time. He was also playing junior hockey at the same time so they were really confused and kind of just wished him the best.

At 16 he was living in Abbottsford, BC with two RCMP officers who took really good care of him. They were my hockey billet so to speak, and they made sure he went to work and hockey and tried to do some alternative schooling on the side, in a home-school kind of way. He got a job at Save-On Foods, was making more money than ever before, he looked a little bit older, and he had a car! He started going into the States and sneaking into Lummi Island and Nooksack Casino. He was making money there and made enough to buy myself a motorbike. He was able to go in and out of these places all the time, while his bankroll went up and down.

At that point he was a winning player but he had some ‘interesting' habits so to speak. I was buying tonnes of clothes and spending lots trying to be a cool kid. Also through that time he was playing blackjack, sic-bo, roulette and he didn't come to terms with separating the two and recognizing one where you can make a living and the other is just gambling. He learned the hard way like a lot of people do and quit playing the house games, deciding to just play poker full-time.

When he was about 19 and a half his passed away and he found out that he was adopted, which made him a sad kid. Not mad or anything, just sad. A family friend that he had known his entire life and grew up with playing hockey, who had moved up to the Yukon Territory with his family, called and gave him their condolences. The day after his mom's funeral he left Mission, BC and never said goodbye to one high school friend, one teacher, one family member, his dad, his sister, nobody. He just packed up and drove to the Yukon Territory to live in a small town called Haines Junction, with a bustling population of 651 people.

He was just trying to find himself as a person and had a couple of small jobs, like waiting tables and setting up the itineraries for a lot of Europeans and people traveling into Alaska in a place called Access Kluane which offered river rafting, heli-hiking, and glacier flights. All the while he was trying to come to terms with the fact that the people who he thought for his whole life were his biological parents, weren't. Right away he found out about a poker game in Whitehorse which was a 2-hour drive away. I'd go every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, sleep in his car or in a tent, depending on whether it was winter or summer. He played with these guys that were all older than him by at least 20 years and they played maximum $25 bets, no check-raise, no Texas Hold'em but a lot of Stud, 5 card draw, and a lot of Omaha.

For the first couple of years I built up his bankroll like clockwork. He never made less than $300 and never won more than $2,000 three days a week. Finally he built his bankroll up to a pretty healthy level and he'd fly down to Calgary for a week at a time, come back for 2 weeks, go back for 2 weeks, come back up for a month, go back down for a month, et cetera. Eventually he was in Calgary for 4 months straight and had done really well playing pot limit Omaha there. He returned to the Yukon, because during that time he had a girlfriend who was flying down every couple of weeks. After a while in the Yukon, he decided that he wanted to go down south and pursue his poker career a little bit more. He was 22 or so and went and lived in Vernon, BC for 9 months where he met a really great snooker player named Brady Gollan who he played pool and poker together with and he really honed his skills, gave him a lot of ‘self-courage' to develop his poker skills and try to go somewhere with poker.

After those 9 months he moved back up to the Yukon and decided to move into the big city of Whitehorse, which is the capital of the Territory. He was playing in a game at a hotel but that got shut down and they ended up playing in a place that was literally a shack, no bigger than 10 by 10 feet with a poker table. It was smoke-filled and had little plug-in heaters and it was just awful. The place was never clean, everyone but him smoked four packs of cigarettes a night and it was just absolutely sickening. Fed up, he went over to the place one evening and cut a hole in the roof. They were playing cards that night and the guys asked, "What the hell is this hole in the roof?" He told them I did it, as I couldn't stand the smoke anymore. They said "Then don't play here!" To placate them so he could keep playing, he promised he would shovel off the snow from the roof to keep the hole open.

They would play, and of course it was -40 degrees out, and they would say, "OK Brad, time to go shovel off the snow." And he was thinking, "Jesus Christ, every half an hour I have to do this, go outside, freeze my ass off, climb up the ladder, and shovel off the snow" this is so sick! Finally, he built a little teepee on the roof, so the snow wouldn't drip onto the centre of the table amongst the chips and cards. But these old guys were still yelling at him because he was a non-smoker. Finally he said, "That's it guys, I can't play here anymore," and decided to open up his own underground cardroom in Whitehorse. He had one table and was playing $1/2 no limit Hold'em, introduced the check-raise to the Yukon, unfortunately lost a lot of the old crew with the changes but he also got a younger crew of poker players together.

The game got busier so he got a friend of his to build a proper poker table. It was also time to get a dealer too because they had been just passing the deck, dealing themselves, and it was slowing the game down. Later he decided to teach his dealer everything he knew about poker, inside and out – the emotional side, the probability side, everything! A few years later he went down to Vegas for the first time. He was supposed to go down for 3 days but ended up staying two weeks. He did well there and got a little taste of Vegas. He went back up to the Yukon and bought a cabin, a boat and some other things. Two years later he decided to head back down to Las Vegas. He was ready to move on with his life and decided to return to the single life and just go play poker.

In 2005 he played in his first World Series Event and did very well, placing 12th in the $5,000 short-handed event. His initial plan was to go down there for the whole summer but he'd done so well in the cash games and some of the tournaments, that he decided to stay and live in Las Vegas at the Bellagio for a whole long time!

Later he came up to Calgary for the Canadian Open Poker Championships with his protégé who had traveled down to Vegas a week before this poker tournament. He ended up winning the Heads-Up Championship and even knocked him out along the way. That was self-rewarding in itself and made him feel very proud that he had helped develop somebody into a good poker player.

Brad plays at Titan Poker, where he exclusively plays Holdem and Omaha.


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