David Williams hasn’t experienced many life-changing moments, so for him, winning $3.5 million as a second-place prize in last year’s World Series of Poker was the best day of his life. Williams, 25, a native of Fort Worth, Texas, put his final semester at Southern Methodist University on hold to try his hand at netting a profit from his passion for poker.
Following his record win in May 2004, Williams won an additional $573,800 at the Borgata Poker Open that September and instantly turned pro with an endorsement deal from online casino Bodog.com.
Of the 300 to 500 players in a tournament, 150 are pros like Williams (Paul Darden and Phil Ivey are two other African American stars). Williams competes in 50 tournaments a year, 20 with a $10,000-plus buy-in and 30 smaller events with an average $2,000 buy-in. A fixture on the circuit, he plays the 16-tournament World Poker Tour with stops in Paris, Aruba, the Bahamas, and the U.S.
“Making the right high-percentage play is the key to poker,” says Williams. “Essentially you’re playing the odds and relying on guesswork to make a play that has a high percentage for success.” Familiarity with percentages and a good statistics base are useful, he adds.
“Once you’ve played a while, your intuition enhances. It’s always best to go with your first instinct—if you have that hesitance and you’re thinking to fold, it’s best to follow through and fold,” Williams says. “You have to trust yourself.”
READYING YOUR HAND
Williams grew up playing strategy games like Scrabble with his mom, Shirley, and building puzzles. He began playing poker at 16 with seasoned friends. For those serious about poker, he recommends Winning Low-Limit Hold ’em by Lee Jones (ConJelCo; $24.95).
Watch the World Poker Tour on the Travel Channel and the World Series of Poker on ESPN. “And put in the hours.” You can visit his Website, www.davidwilliamspoker.com.