Behind the Bets

Think about Peter Eastgate, who, at 22, came from nowhere to win $9 million in the World Series of Poker's main event last year.

Tony Cousineau does.

Think about Mike Eise, that out-of-work plumber whose $1,500 buy-in this year turned into a WSOP bracelet and $600,000 in cash in his first event.

Tony Cousineau does.

And after nearly a decade of playing pro poker, he wonders: What must that be like?

Cousineau holds a WSOP record for most cashes without ever winning a bracelet. And he's closing in on Phil Hellmuth's record of most cashes ever, bracelet or not. "If I could trade all my cashes to be the one lucky kid who won an event on his first try, I would," Cousineau says. "But I have to take what the cards deal me and accept my poker lot in life and just stay positive."

While everyone marvels at Phil Ivey, grinders like Cousineau get overlooked. Which is why I'm making him BTB's official favorite poker player. After all, the man rings the register more than a counter kid at Mickey D's. He is a poker pro, grinding it out in 50 to 70 tourneys a year, from Vegas to the Bahamas. If he wins $400,000 in a season, which is about what he's on pace to win this year, he'll spend more than half of that on buy-ins, plane tickets, hotels and food.

"Last year at the World Series I finished 704th, and the top 666 cashed," he says. "For a day I wanted to jump off the top of the Stratosphere."

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