Daniel Kind wanted to be a pro footballer. He was good. He was damned close to a try out with Middlesbrough. That's how good he was when he was young. It was a dream in the making, one snapped in two pieces the day his leg did the same thing. That was more than seven years ago. Today, he's a manager in a factory that makes crisps, snack mixes, and mixed nuts. Remember his story for a moment as you consider a couple of other men.
Emil Georgiev works in a bakery. He from Bulgaria, but he doesn't live there anymore. He's reticent on the subject, but recalls the end of his time in his country as "bad." He moved to Cyprus and doesn't like to give out pictures of himself. His screen name on PokerStars isn't something like "CRACKyoR0ckets" or "PocketFlushes." Instead it's an almost sad "(RIP)C.McRae," an homage to the Scottish rally car driver killed in a helicopter crash in 2007.
In the past year, Javier Fernandez's life turned upside down. He got married a year ago. Three months ago, he became a father for the first time. He now lives in a constant state of half-awake, half-asleep, two conditions that don't change for the first year of a child's life. In the meantime, he plays poker fulltime in an effort to support his new family.
These three men live in different countries. They have different lives, different goals, and different ways of approaching their days. One man oversees the production of snack pretzels. The other bakes bread. The other changes diapers. There is barely a common thread among them, except for the fact that within the last week each of them has won a World Championship of Online Poker bracelet. Kind won his in Event #19 for $132,000. Georgiev took his first title in the 2-7 single draw event. Fernandez capture his bracelet in Event #9.
While all three men may only be tied together by their gold bracelets, something else stood out about each in their interviews. While they all struggled to come to grips with their new championship reality, they all seemed to focus more on their everyday lives, as if somehow success repositioned their perspective.
Asked about his plans for the $40,000 he won in his event, Fernandez only said, "I will probably celebrate with my wife in a nice restaurant and save the rest for our newborn diapers."
Meanwhile, Georgiev cared to talk less about himself and more about the late McRae. In an email to the PokerStars Blog, the new champion attached a photo of the onetime rally car champ and begged we use it here in this report (we can't due to copyright issues). It's been five years since McRae died, and Georgiev still pays tribute. "I adore him," he said.
Which brings us back to the man who dreamed of a place on the Middlesbrough team, a man whose dreams broke with his leg. On his 20th birthday, the UK's Daniel Kind couldn't go anywhere. His leg was in too bad of shape. But a friend of his had recently gotten a job in a local casino.
"Because I couldn't go anywhere on my 20th birthday, he taught all the lads how to play (poker)," Kind said. "From then on I loved the game."
Though Kind enjoyed the game and joined PokerStars not too long after that night, he had never played a WCOOP event before. That changed this year. Indeed, his first ever WCOOP entry ended in a bracelet. It was, in his words, "a dream come true."
Though today Kind is more than $130,000 richer and a man graced with a dream turned real, his thoughts are elsewhere. His dad is in poor health, and though this is the biggest win of Kind's life, his perspective is rooted in reality.
"You dont realize just how important family are untill something triggers it, when really we should know all along," he said.
It's a curious thing, success. I've seen it countless times over the past decade of live tournaments, WCOOPs, SCOOPs, and more. In the course of 24 hours, the lives of many young men and women change. They go from near-broke to having more money than they've ever had. For many of those people, the gold is blinding. They see nothing but more money and victory ahead of them. There's nothing wrong with that, per se. It's natural. It's human nature. Success begets new dreams.
But walking in lockstep alongside those dreams is real life. New babies. Lost heroes. Families holding on to each other. These three new WCOOP champions are among those who have opened their eyes in such a way that the shine of success only serves to illuminate what really matters in their life. Or, perhaps put another way...where gold lasts forever, the rest of life does not, and sometimes it's best to remember that.
Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging