Madsen, 21, wins second WSOP bracelet in five days
LAS VEGAS -- Jeff Madsen had just won his historic second World Series of Poker bracelet, starting off as the short stack and ending up as the only stack Saturday night. So, what did the rangy, sandy-haired kid barely a month past his 21st birthday get upon becoming the youngest player to win two WSOP events?
A bloody lip, is what.
Moments after winning the $5,000 Short-handed No-Limit Hold'em tournament by running down respected pro Erick Lindgren heads-up, Madsen was embraced by family and friends, one of whom was oversized and overexcited.
Oh, and Madsen also absorbed a payday of $643,381.
Combine that with the $660,984 he collected four days earlier when he won the $2,000 No-Limit Hold'em event and the $97,552 he earned by finishing third in the $2,000 buy-in Omaha High/Low Split tournament two weeks ago, and his total take comes in at more than $1.4 million.
Nice summer work for a UC Santa Barbara film student.
If he still is a student, that is.
"I'm going to finish school," Madsen said shortly after ending a stunning week that few players of any age have accomplished on poker's greatest stage. "I've got one more year. I could drop out, but I like my school. Santa Barbara is a nice place. There's no reason not to go back. But I'll be playing poker the whole time, as many big events as I can."
The rest of the World Series awaits, capped by the main event starting Friday, and then there's the Legends of Poker tournament at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles before school resumes.
"One-point-four-million," Madsen says. "It's just ridiculous. I don't think I could spend that much money if I wanted to."
The film major displayed a William Hurt-like implacability in victory and at the table, even when he was getting ground down by Lindgren in early heads-up action.
Lindgren, a former World Poker Tour Player of the Year who was as close to his first WSOP bracelet as he's ever been, had a support group that included top pros Gavin Smith, whom Lindgren stakes in tournaments, and Phil Gordon, a FullTiltPoker teammate.
Of course, Smith and Gordon were playing what looked like three-handed Chinese poker in the bleachers, but hey, they were there for him.
Suddenly, the Chinese poker and everything else stopped when Lindgren moved in for his $1.7 million in chips with Ac-Kc, putting Madsen's $800,000 and tournament life at stake. Pause. Thinking. Madsen made the call with pocket 8s.
The flop came 9s-Ad-8c. Lindgren had hit his ace, but Madsen had made his set. The turn came the 2 of clubs, giving Lindgren a flush draw. The river came the 4 of diamonds, and they switched chip positions.
Madsen believed one of the keys to playing Lindgren was to give off false tells, acting like he didn't want a call when he actually did. Makes you think that his film studies helped in that area the way some actors who have taken up poker claim.
"I'm not an actor, so it wasn't like that," Madsen said. "I've always been good at numbers and reading people. So, once you can read someone, you can read what they're getting off you. There are different levels to it, but I'm sure watching films helps a lot. I've watched a lot of films and seen people's emotions."
After some aggressive play by Madsen, Lindgren was down to about $300,000 and facing a Madsen all-in on a board of Qc-Ks-2d. After a lot of thought, Lindgren made the call for all his chips with Ad-Jd for a straight draw and an overcard. Madsen showed Qh-9d for second pair.
The turn came the 5 of diamonds, again giving Lindgren flush outs, but the river came the 3 of hearts, and the kid became The Man.
Madsen's dad, Mike, wearing a specially made ballcap that read "Madsen University" and holding a camera, created a touching moment for the assembled. It took awhile to get the glistening gold bracelet to unsnap, but eventually the father made sure that the son's left wrist was double-blinged.
"I'm stunned," Mike Madsen said. "I'm so thrilled for his success. He said he was going to do well here, and he's obviously done way better than well here.
"He had been talking pretty much all last year that he was going to come and play here. We kind of discussed it back and forth. He's been playing local tournaments and doing pretty well over the year. I'm not much of a card player, so I have to take everybody's word for it."
The best part was the kid's pitch to his parents.
"I'd been playing poker for four years and I kept telling them I was good player," Madsen said.
"As time got closer, my wife and I decided that we would be confident that he would bring the buy-ins back, that he'd be in the money," his father said. "We gave him some money and he had a college fund that his grandfather started for him and he took some money out of that. He's going to be a senior, he's almost done, and there's always some extra money there."
Gotta love that, too: Taking money from the college fund to buy into poker tournaments. Parents around the nation are checking student loans for pot odds.
Madsen's a rarity among the crush of young players invading poker in that he did not develop his chops mostly on the Internet, but in live games near campus at an Indian casino, which allows 18-year-olds to play.
Another thing to love about Madsen: He says he has read about every strategy and history book on poker, showing a passion and respect for the game, not coming to it with a sense of entitlement the way some players unfortunately and annoyingly do.
And Madsen knew the history he was challenging.
"I knew Eric Froelich set the record [for the youngest player to win a bracelet] last year at 21 years, 3 months," Madsen said. "Since my birthday is in June (7), I've been saying for the last year that I could be the youngest player to win a bracelet."
And the youngest to win two.
Makes you wonder what's next. I mean, how many bracelets are we talking about for a kid who wants to emulate Phil Ivey's game and is now just three behind perhaps the most feared player in poker?
"As many as I can," Madsen said. "[Doyle] Brunson and [Johnny] Chan have 10, so at this rate, I guess I'll have 100 when I'm Brunson's age ."
Don't read that wrong. Madsen wasn't saying it with any braggadoccio. Just with a chuckle and no little confidence, not conceit.
"I developed a confidence that I can play well," he said. "I don't have to be outwardly loud about it, but if in your mind you know you can outplay everyone, it's going to happen."
It did. It has. And now Madsen is experiencing some "Wow" moments, such as players he's watched on television for years coming up to congratulate him.
"Just walking through the poker room and having people looking at me like they know who I am - that's the crazy part," Madsen said. "I mean, that's what I was doing when I first got here. I saw Doyle Brunson and I'd stare at him. Now people are doing that to me. It's weird."
People aren't just staring at the newest young poker hotshot inside the poker hangar at the Rio Hotel. People are doing it nationally, what with shots on the "Today" show and ESPN2's "Cold Pizza."
"It's nice," Madsen said, "but to be honest, I'm not the kind of guy who wants to be famous."
Too late. The kid who's whose goal was to make a living behind the cameras is now starring in front of them.
Steve Rosenbloom's book "The Best Hand I Ever Played" is available at bookstores everywhere. A regular contributor to ESPN.com, he is also author of a syndicated column for the Chicago Tribune. To leave Steve some feedback or ask him a question for his column, check out his mailbag.
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