Phil Laak was born on September 8th, 1972, in Dublin, Ireland.
His family moved to Wellesley, Massachusetts in the U.S.A. when he was four years old. This is where he would grow up and live until attending the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.
Introduction to Poker
Playing cards was a big part of his upbringing. His family would often play Tripoli for pennies. From early, he realized the skill involved in playing cards and his highly competitive nature meant that he always strove to be the best.
A camping trip when he was seven years old would open his eyes to the possibility of using strategy at cards to make money.
The kids on the trip were playing a card game called “Between the Sheets”. Like in poker, everyone pays an ante that goes into the common pot. The 1st player is dealt two cards and they can then bet on the chances that the 3rd card you are dealt will lie in between these two cards. If you win, you scoop the pot, but if you lose, your bet goes into the pot increasing its size.
The youngster quickly picked up on how easy it was to exploit this game playing proper strategy when compared to the other kids. In addition, he realized the power of money and what it could buy. At the time, he was hooked on chocolate bars and figured out that he could buy a lot of chocolate bars by exploiting his edge at cards.
The Young Capitalist
He was a shrewd businessman from as young as ten years old. He was quick to understand the power of money and grasp any opportunity to make it.
It all started with firecrackers. A kid at school was selling them for 25 cents each. Phil wanted in on this lucrative business and asked the kid where he bought the firecrackers so that he could go straight to the source for the best deal. The kid wasn’t willing to share his source and let Phil in on his turf.
A young Laak cut him a deal and offered to pay him $5 to share his source. This allowed him to get the best deal on firecrackers as well buy some buzz rockets that the other kid wasn’t selling. With his outgoing personality, he quickly became the capitalist king of the schoolyard.
The University Graduate
After high school, he attended the University of Massachusetts where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering.
While at University, he continued to play poker as well as other games including backgammon, chess and hearts.
Upon graduation, he wanted to travel and drift about for a bit before joining the real world as an engineer. Little did he realize where his travels would take him and what his life’s work would be.
He decided he wanted to head to San Diego since it was warmer over there and there were no winters. His buddy and him got on their motorbikes and found themselves on the other side of the country. He worked briefly in San Diego and quickly became bored. The travel bug hit him again, this time he headed out to explore Europe and Turkey.
The Perfect Job
Once he returned to the USA, he decided that he needed to find the perfect job. Quite by coincidence he stumbled upon a huge backgammon game in the back of a restaurant where dozens of people were playing backgammon for money.
Although intimidated at first, he quickly realized that he was better than almost all of the players there. He would play them for $10 and $20 a point and was soon making enough money that he could play backgammon as a full time job.
This is when the revelation that would change his life forever hit him “Wow! There’s money in playing games.”
From this point on, Phil Laak realized that his dream job would be playing games for money. What started with backgammon in the back of a restaurant for hundreds of dollars would eventually become televised poker for hundreds of thousands of dollars, turning Phil Laak into a TV star and a multi-millionaire!