Howard Lederer grew up in a family of five where he had an intuitive knack for number and math. At the age of 16, he took a trip with his family to Las Vegas and hit the gin streak. He would stay in the hotel and play gin for up to ten hours at a time. His family was ecstatic and he became famous.
The rest of the family was in utter shock. They thought he was insane. After he was released from the Eldorette School, he went straight into the casino. He hit three tables and quickly left. He went back to look for more action and there was none. In those days, there where many hustlers in the poker rooms. He went to the Improper and he played cards.
He had a lot of friends and was well known in the card rooms. He tried to get work as a dealer but was awful. 5 years later, he went to Vegas with $1 million to his name. He was working his rear end off for $50,000 a year. He was broke in 6 months.
Howard decided Las Vegas was not the place for him and he had to find another casino. He went to live in Reno and started playing poker. He was well known and people gathered around to watch him play. One day a pair of Australian Doubles came to Bethehome and Howard was dealt 8-8. He was a favorite at the poker room. One of his friends ran up to Bethehome and announced that Howard was a big hero and he wanted to hire him.
Bethehome didn’t have enough money to hire a professional and paid the bluffers to beat him. Howard quit and moved to Las Vegas, arriving with $1.7 million. He was broke in 3 months.
Bethehome wasn’t a nice place to live. Dinner was beans and grains. He would have to get up at three in the morning, drive to the empty lot, and suffer the cold Las Vegas nights.
But Howard knew he could make money in Vegas. He knew his destiny. He knew what he wanted to do. He changed his mind about what job to go into.
He moved to the gin and poker rooms in Las Vegas, made his first millions in hands-on learning experience, and developed the No-Limit Hold’em approach that is now popular.
He decided to hang up his tent and move to California. He was losing money at the poker tables and the money he lost was just as valuable as the money he made. He had no idea of what he was going to do with the new riches.
He started classes in No-Limit Hold’em at the Stanford University Poker Club. He was gambling his life away and actually winning was a thrill. He had incredible lessons about how to invest, how to manage his bankroll, and how to make an incredible income playing a sport that was completely different from poker.
But this feat was not without its peril. Learning poker was a huge obstacle to him. He almost went broke. Once he mastered the basics of poker, poker became just a game. He didn’t know what cards to play, and didn’t know the statistical odds on every hand. He lost virtually everything, and had to return to the poker rooms and grind his way back into the poker club.
He wasn’t discouraged and determined to make a comeback. What he did differently was end up in the highly competitive poker world, where success is compromised of great effort and great daring. He discovered a different way of thinking about poker.
He adapts these poker techniques in the casinos of Las Vegas, while living in a modest home, and spends as much time as possible with his family and watching poker on television.
His children were taught by their father how to play poker, how to lay out a poker strategy for the future, and the values of money and winning. Money is incidental these days. His approach to poker was to earn as much money as possible and lose as little as possible.
Howard made a lot of money in the poker rooms of Vegas, but he was always playing in the companionship of a retired person. After 11 years of this, he had lost an estimated $40,000. He went back to gambling.
Now at age 54, he is at an important crossroads. He either stays at the casinos, or he retires to a quiet life of poker and the occasional cigarette. He has no money of his own. He exchanges favors with friends and relatives, lobbies for change as a replacement for those lost chips, and fishes for the advice of those who are no longer there.
Playing in the poker clubs has been his life; he was there before. Friends survive, rivals are killed. He gets spit on, he gets Owned.