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Jon Schoder ‘14: World Series of Poker Superstar

In 2003, Chris Moneymaker revolutionized the game of poker as he became the first amateur player to win the main event at the World Series of Poker. At the time, Jon Schoder was 13-years-old, and watched the series intently. Instead of idolizing Moneymaker, Jon became fascinated with Dutch Byod, a 22-year-old wiz-kid who Jon felt he could relate to. After the series ended, Jon purchased books on poker to understand the math and psychology of the game. He also began to play in weekend games with his older brother’s friends, where he consistently beat the older boys and earned $60 in one night (a lot of allowance for a middle school kid!).

In honor of Jon’s 14th birthday, his father opened up an online poker account with $50 in order to teach Jon a lesson—he expected Jon to lose the money and understand the dangers of gambling. However, much to his surprise, Jon was successful in small stakes tournaments and won various tournaments online. During high school, Jon was even featured on Cardplayer.com for a $1500 tournament victory. Because Jon was not 18 at the time, he used his father’s name online and had to pretend to be his father during the interview.

Throughout middle and high school, Jon slowly progressed from playing small stakes games online to operating multiple games on three monitors at home. I attended high school with Jon, where he was known for playing poker games in the back of the classroom (I even remember his laptop getting taken away from him a few times). After high school graduation, Jon deferred his enrollment at Emory to hike the Appalachian Mountains, but could not go through with his plan after sustaining a back injury. Instead, he spent the year playing poker and earning enough money to pay for his college tuition.

Jon continued playing poker in college, and this summer he was finally old enough to participate in the prestigious World Series of Poker. Nonetheless, he was hesitant to partake in the tournament because of the steep $10,000 buy-in, which he considered a risky endeavor. In order to minimize this risk, he sold shares of himself to friends and well-wishers (he staked 40% of the buy-in). After a whirlwind week in Las Vegas, Jon came in 36th place and earned over $236,000 in winnings. He describes the experience as “surreal,” and is so appreciative of the support he received. He distinctly remembers waking up one morning to 61 Facebook notifications, which he qualifies by adding, “1 Facebook notification refers to all the comments made on 1 picture.” When he returned to school, he was shocked by all the attention he received from friends (he says he has even been congratulated by complete strangers at Maggie’s). Jon says he does not see himself pursuing a full-time career in poker, but does not rule out participating in the World Series next year.

When Jon is not playing poker, you can find him in the B-school (where he is studying finance), in economics class (he’s a double major), or hanging out at the ATO fraternity house. He plans on throwing a party at his house October 2nd to celebrate ESPN’s premier of an interview he did during the first few days of the tournament (the interview covers a particular event in which Jon had over $4 million in chips). Party for being on tv, party because he just won a lot of money, party because everyone wants to high-five him at Mags, or party because he was honored with the prestigious title of Her Campus “Campus Celebrity”… Jon certainly deserves to celebrate this wild ride!

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