The Prince of Poker
21-year-old Jeff Madsen is the surprise star of the WSOP
Posted: Wednesday July 26, 2006 10:31AM; Updated: Wednesday July 26, 2006 6:07PM
At some point, Jeff Madsen will get used to this whole youngest-player-ever-to-win-a-World-Series-of-Poker-bracelet thing. But for at least the next week or so, he'll still be getting the hang of it. You see, people who win multiple bracelets and $1.4 million aren't supposed to worry about getting a room at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas, which hosts the WSOP main event.
It's only been a few days since Madsen, a 21-year, 1-month, 19-day-old film student from UC Santa Barbara won the second of his two WSOP gold bracelets. He's still carrying a rather endearing innocence about going from college student to poker god in less than a week.
"I got a room at the Rio for the next three days, but after that, I'll have to move somewhere else since they're all booked,'' he said. "I thought about dropping the fact that I won two bracelets, but I don't know if the people at Suite Reservations really care."
Umm. Here's guessing that poker's resident brat, Phil Hellmuth, wouldn't be having this kind of problem.
Maybe it's better, though, if Madsen doesn't stay at the luxury all-suite hotel. After all, he came to Vegas two weeks ago with a college buddy and just enough money to pay for his buy-ins at the WSOP. They booked the cheapest room they could find -- $80 a night at the Hooters Casino -- and played in small-time cash games up and down the Strip to help pay for it and their board.
"He'd never been to Vegas before, so I didn't want him to get lost,'' said Matt Poldberg, 23, Madsen's buddy from UC-Santa Barbara who makes enough money from playing poker online and in Los Angeles-area casinos to live a comfortable life in Isla Vista, the college town next to their school.
`"I wasn't going to go until the Omaha event, but he actually asked me to come with him and show him around," Poldberg said. "I've been to Vegas five or six times, so I went about a week-and-a-half earlier than I'd planned. What was I going to do, let him go to the biggest tournament in the world and sit in a hotel room by himself in a city he's never been in before?''
Here's the thing, though: This was no Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Madsen planned on winning this thing. It's how he sold his parents on letting him take $6,000 from his college fund and a $3,500 loan (he insisted on repaying it) from his parents to pay for his buy-ins to six WSOP events.
"`We actually talked about (lending) him the money two or three months before,'' said his mother, Harriet. ``But he convinced us because he said he could do well. I've always taught my children to believe in themselves, so why should I stop now? I have no worries about my son being a gambler. He's in it because he's a competitor and he loves the strategy. Anything he does, he does it very, very deeply. So he's pretty deeply into being a student of poker.''