Connor Berkowitz has played poker casually since high school, but after getting laid off from his finance job with JPMorgan Chase, and entering a few tournaments for fun, he decided to get serious and turn pro—which to him meant tracking his winnings and losses in a spreadsheet.
That was in January. Six months later, Berkowitz recorded a $487,784 profit after winning the World Series of Poker’s Lucky Sevens Texas Hold ’Em tournament.
The 2012 international business graduate admits being a little nervous in the early goings of the four-day event, held at the Rio in Las Vegas. “The buzz around the building was pretty overwhelming at first,” he says, in part because the relatively low $777 buy-in attracted more than 4,400 participants.
But Berkowitz adjusted, and as it turns out, felt most confident while at the tables. “During breaks, when I was walking around blowing off steam—that’s when I felt nervous,” he says.
Any reason for nerves disappeared during the final round, in which Berkowitz knocked off a three-time WSOP tournament winner and another player with more than $5 million in career winnings. The 10-1 chip lead he held by the end made the win more surreal than surprising. Still, when interviewed right after the win, he remembers thinking, “I don’t know what’s happening.”
His only splurge since taking home nearly half a million dollars has been to buy a new car: a 2016 Audi A3. He’s saving the rest of his winnings for entry fees and travel costs for tournaments with bigger buy-ins.
As much as the money helps, getting his first WSOP bracelet (the trophy for winning a tournament) is more exciting, says Berkowitz: “It’s something I watched on TV when I was a kid, so for it to actually happen is awesome.”