There are a lot of poker players out there – even a lot of professional poker players. Every one of
them has a story, and I bet many of those stories would be worth hearing. But I doubt many of
them involve both a WSOP bracelet and living in a car.
Meet Carlos Welch, former math teacher
I got introduced to Carlos ten years ago – he was a guest on Andrew Brokos’s and Nate Meyvis’s
extraordinary Thinking Poker podcast in July of 2013.
Years later, Andrew would say, “When I met Carlos, I knew why we had created a podcast.”
I promise you, if you listen to that episode (Episode 39), you’ll understand what Andrew meant.
Many of us came to poker as entertainment, and/or a way to pick up a few extra bucks.
Carlos, he saw poker as a way out of poverty. That will make you study hard.
As the years went by, Carlos would occasionally pop up on the Thinking Poker podcast, and we’d get stories from the road. Literally.
See, Carlos used to be a math teacher and owned a house. When he quit his job and started traveling for poker, he didn’t want to spend buy-ins on the mortgage payment while the house sat empty. He was splitting his time between being a traveling substitute teacher and pro poker player (almost exclusively online tournaments) and coach, so he decided to get rid of his house and move into his van.
The WSOP winner who lived in his car
“I want a Tesla, but just so I can study push/fold charts while it drives me down the road,” he said.
Eventually, he developed a routine where he slept in his van, which he ultimately upgraded to a
Prius because he could power his poker monitor using the hybrid battery. Then he did a
Wyndham Hotels status match to get Caesar’s Diamond status, which allowed him to get cheap
(read “nearly free”) rooms during the week with no resort fees. So he’d stay at a Caesar’s property
during the week to play online tournaments, then move into his car during the weekends,
when room rates skyrocketed.
With the Covid pandemic, he had to give up his substitute teaching gig – Carlos Welch was
officially a full-time online tournament grinder. And grind he did, including taking down a
WSOP bracelet and $124,000 in an online event in July of 2021. The Thinking Poker community was intrigued. Would he acquire a permanent home? [Hint: don’t be ridiculous.] He won the bracelet from his hotel room on a Thursday and didn’t even extend his stay due to the expensive weekend rates.
And I think that’s what has always drawn me to Carlos. We live in a world where money is used to keep score. Many people want to show that they’re “winning” by displaying monetary wealth. Fancy cars, expensive meals, designer watches, etc. I had been at Ground Zero of the online poker boom – I had seen the meals at Nobu where they did credit card roulette for checks that ran to $500 per person. I had heard of (but not seen) the visits to the strip clubs where the bill ran to ten times that.
Carlos saw his WSOP bracelet windfall as bankroll padding – greater security. He didn’t need a
bigger watch – he wanted his tournament buy-ins to reflect a smaller percentage of bankroll, and
maybe play some slightly higher buy-ins.
The years have gone by, and Carlos was happy alternating between his car and low-end Caesar’s properties, while crushing the online tournaments and coaching tournament players.
Is a Prius big enough to hold true love?
Then life took an unexpected twist.
In November of 2021, Nate Meyvis retired from the Thinking Poker podcast, and Andrew Brokos brought Carlos in to be his co-host. This led to some new and interesting guests appearing on the show, including more women, people of color, and the often-overlooked women of color such as Caitlyn Arnwine. A podcast that I consider to be one of the best in the space grew in diversity and interest.
Another guest that Carlos brought in was a poker professional named Gloria Jackson. Gloria had
moved to Vegas from Jacksonville, Florida, and is continuing her career as a poker pro. You can
hear her fascinating story on Thinking Poker Episode 401.
But in the process of arranging the podcast interview, and talking with Gloria, an unexpected
thing happened to Carlos – he fell in love. After discovering how much they have in common,
Carlos finally left the Prius – he and Gloria became a couple.
Like Carlos in the online world, Gloria has been a force on the live tournament scene for a
decade. She started out grinding home games and progressed to traveling to tournaments across the country, mostly in the South and on the east coast. She got her big break in November of 2016 with a third-place finish at the Borgata for $106,000. She followed that up with another huge score of $93,000 in a heads-up chop at the Venetian in 2021. That year, she ranked 6th in the world on the Global Poker Index Female Player of the Year list.
The parallels between these two players are a bit spooky. They both used poker to escape poverty
and gain a sense of freedom. Both began their careers in the Atlanta area and ultimately ended
up in Las Vegas. But somehow, they never crossed paths even though they both specialized in
satellites, a niche market with a relatively small player pool. They didn’t meet until Carlos reached out to Gloria for an interview. From that first conversation, they instantly felt a sense of familiarity with each other – as Gloria put it, “It was like we were a couple together in a previous life.”
When I had lunch with Carlos and Gloria in Las Vegas, I could only marvel at the
metamorphosis that Carlos Welch has gone through. Sure, there’s no danger of him buying a Piaget watch, and he still loves to talk about 3-betting ranges on short stacks. But there was a lightness to him that I can only attribute to his finding a new dimension to his life.
I wanted to confirm this thesis and asked Carlos how Andrew Brokos feels about this turn in Carlos’s life. Andrew and Carlos have been like brothers for a decade now, and Andrew is an old soul with deep intuition into others.
“He’s giddy,” said Carlos.
That’s all I needed to hear.
Poker’s an amazing game, and I’m more than willing to talk hand histories for hours. But the people – it’s the people and their stories who are the most extraordinary part of this game. I so appreciate Carlos and Gloria sharing their story with me and letting me pass it along to you.