Jaime Staples was still in bed when the phone rang. He was getting ready to set up his Twitch broadcast stream for the day and easing into the morning.
The voice on the other end of the line said, “Hello,” and Staples knew his life could be about to change.
“I recognized his voice from the 2+2 PokerCast,” Staples said. “He didn’t even introduce himself. He’s like ‘Hello,’ and I knew who it was already.”
The man on the other end of the line was PokerStars’ Steve Day, and if Day had picked up the phone to call Staples, it was going to be a big deal.
“I tried to hold it together,” Staples said, “because I realized this was a job interview pretty quickly.”
By this point, Staples had only been streaming his poker playing on Twitch for four months, but he’d already shown an aptitude for it and developed a serious fanbase. PokerStars decided it wanted to be in the Jaime Staples business, and before long, Staples was an official Friend of PokerStars. Staples hadn’t asked for it. He hadn’t applied. He hadn’t begged. He’d only dreamed loudly enough for PokerStars to pick up on it.
“I maybe arrogantly thought it would happen at some point in my life,” he said. “I always had that belief and that goal, but I didn’t think it would happen that quickly.”
Staples has won hundreds of thousands of dollars online, but his live record is pretty short. He has a few cashes in small events, but nothing to speak of.
In another time, the World Series of Poker would be awash with people who had never played before. Nine or ten years ago, PokerStars was putting hundreds upon hundreds of first-timers into the field. These days, the FPP-qualifiers and massive satellites are gone, and among the people flying the PokerStars flag into Day 2 of the WSOP, Staples is one of only two first-timers (Felix Scheniders is the other), and he’s not afraid to admit that the stars can be pretty bright.
“These are the people I grew up idolizing and looking up to who got me into the game in the first place,” he said. “To be surrounded by them now, talk to them about poker, and grow the game of poker, and have some people view me as an equal in their group, that’s amazing.”
Staples isn’t afraid to admit, there was a time he felt like all those first-timers who didn’t know a thing about being on this playing field. He realized quickly, that was no way to win.
“I try to make a conscious effort to not idolize anyone in the poker world, because I want to be that guy who plays the biggest stakes,” he said. “I try to not put people on a pedestal anymore.”
Nevertheless, that’s not always easy to do. Walking down the hallway of the Rio is like walking through Poker Hall of Fame wax museum come to life. This is where the best in the world come looking for the biggest prize in poker (this year’s winner gets $7.68 million).
“I don’t really feel different about the poker, to be honest. It’s just poker. The opponents are the same. It’s just that the buy-in is a lot higher, and obviously, the stage is pretty big.”
Staples is not only playing his first WSOP Main Event. This is the first $10,000 event he’s ever played. He survived Day 1 and is now beginning Day 2. There would be no shame in a bust-out–thousands of more experienced people have already left the building. With that understood, Staples could turn this story of a surprise job interview into something much bigger.
From sleepy morning job interview to the $10,000 Main Event title in the span of a few months? Now that would be a story worth getting out of bed for.