Fading the competition with Tom Wheaton

Paul Oresteen
Posted on: November 12, 2023 10:29 PST

Tom Wheaton is a self-made poker professional making his mark on the poker world from a couple different angles. He’s the owner of Faded Spade playing cards, Above the Felt marketing agency and a passionate poker player.

In 2017 Wheaton turned his passion into his mission to produce the best poker cards in the business. “We want to give the best experience for players and operators,” Wheaton said.

Catching the poker bug

Wheaton caught the poker bug with the Moneymaker Boom and built his poker network organically. “In my 20s I tried to bring everybody across central Florida together in poker tournaments,” he said. “It didn’t matter if there were 20, 40 or even six players, it was about togetherness, building a community and a shared camaraderie.”

Wheaton ended up hosting games quite a bit as an organizer. “I wanted to make sure I had the best cards and best chips; I wanted to give everyone the best experience because it was more than just cards,” he said.

“Now fast forward 20 years later and I look at the companies I have and it’s still about having the best experience for players,” said Wheaton. “The marketing agency is about experiential marketing – to provide and experience for customers and drive business. It hit me like a ton of brick during a podcast with the correlation to my businesses now.”

WPT bestbet Scramble

Success through repeated failure

Wheaton saw the value of getting his cards on live streams early on, but that required him to produce a RFID deck – which are considerably more expensive and temperamental to produce. “We failed a lot with RFID at first, maybe four or five times before we got it right” he said.

“We knew that if we were able to produce an RFID card that lasted longer than other brands and if we put them in the hands of production companies with a similar cost, they would use ours because they show a lot better from a production standpoint,” he said.

“But if they don’t break as much and they won’t halt the production, it gives the production team a better experience. The WPT was kind enough to give them a test and they came back saying that they worked a hell of a lot better and they’re going to put them on TV,” said Wheaton. “That’s how it all started and got the brand out there on live streams for consumer sales and gave us credibility within the poker market.”

Over the last couple of years his cards grew in popularity and are used by several productions and casinos. Wheaton put in a lot of work to build the brand but was careful to keep balance in his life.

“Balance has been my constant focus and adaptation. I’m married, with two kids, and I’ve worked really hard so the businesses don’t take over that part of my life,” he said. “If I ever err to one side, it’s to family. Sometimes business will lose out, but that’s ok.”

“I’d rather have it be that way so I can look back when I’m older and say I didn’t screw this up. In the short term there’s sometimes business takes over but I know long term family is the focus,” he added.

Ryan Haury

On the horizon

Between running two companies, raising a family and working to build a respectable Hendon Mob profile, one would think Wheaton has enough on his plate. “Right now, I have a great team at Faded Spade and Above the Felt and I want to continue driving them forward, but I might have a surprise in 2024.”

“I want to keep everything as is and do everything to the best of my ability, whether it’s business, fatherhood or marriage. But just wait and see what happens next year,” he said through a sly smile.

Images courtesy of WPT