Happy shining poker faces: Randy Ohel's reworked life

Randy Ohel
Haley Hintze Author Photo
Haley Hintze
Posted on: June 21, 2023 08:55 PDT

Poker can be a tough slog when the downside of variance rears its ugly head, especially when that downturn reaches extreme limits. Sometimes stepping away from poker, totally or in part, can work magic on a person's life persepctive and appreciation of the game. Randy Ohel's been there. The formidable mixed-games player took a break from poker after lean years at the table in 2021 and 2022, when his occasional good results withered in the face of too many tourneys and cash games that just didn't run his way.

Ohel has been a steady presence in mixed-games events at the WSOP for well over a decade and a half. He picked up a bracelet in 2012 in a 2-7 lowball triple draw, has a couple of runner-up finshers among many deep runs, and has amassed more than $2 million in winnings at the WSOP alone.

And yet, as he's admitted, he was visibly in a funk during the 2022 WSOP as his downturn drifted on. What happened next, as he tells it, is that he stepped away from poker into the "real world," found himself healthier and happier, and now enjoys poker -- on a part-time basis -- more than ever.

Here's how Ohel began the tale of how his life took an unexpected turn:

"I’d been suspecting for a couple of years now that I needed to find something else," Ohel told PokerOrg. "So after the WSOP of 2022, I spent the next six months doing things like online boot camps, things like that, to help develop technical skills. I talked to people about what areas my skill set could best be used in the real world.

"After finishing the boot camps I started applying for jobs, and I applied to over a hundred jobs. I told my wife that with my particularly odd resume, that as soon as I found someone that looked at my resume and said, ‘This is someone we’re interested in interviewing,’ then I thought I had a good chance at landing it. I thought that getting the interview would be the hardest part, and then the first interview I got, I landed it.

"I now work for a company called Red Dog Media and I’m very very happy there. It’s a great company to work for. And it’s like seven minutes from my house! I’m basically a data analyst and we’re a search-engine marketing company."

Was it the right choice for a former full-time grinder? For Ohel, there's no doubt whatsoever. "First of all, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my entire life," he said. "I wasn’t sure that I would like being the sort of person having a job, but I guess I’ve taken to it sort of like a fish in water. I would add that, present company excepted, my company does a very good job of hiring, and every day when I get to work with a bunch of smart, nice people…. I enjoy going in every day.

"I think the biggest difference compared to poker in having a real job, from a mental perspective, is coming into work and being part of a team. Being with a group of people who want you to succeed and who you want to succeed. It’s so much more mentally healthy and better for me than the cutthroat poker world, so to speak."

The new balance in Ohel's life includes his company's support when he wants to take an occasional run in a poker tourney. "They’re very flexible in terms of me getting to do this a little bit this summer, meaning playing a few WSOP events. What I’ve been doing is leaving work an hour early when I want to play a tournament, then telling my supervisor at the end of the night if I have to take the next day off."

Ohel was on one of those special days off as he spoke with PokerOrg, in the midst of a deep-in-the-money run in a $1,500 H.O.R.S.E. event. “I sent a quick message at one in the morning and put an ‘Out of Office’ on my calendar."

Putting a limit on the "grind" factor is its own benefit as well, Ohel confirmed. "It definitely puts me in a better mood. I don’t know if I play better or anything like that. I have heard some people say that they think that people with a job [outside of poker] play better. I don’t know if it’s true, but I can say I’m having more fun being a recreational player than I was as a pro. I’ve been told by a couple of people that the look on my face last year was really negative and defeated. I didn’t know it was that obvious until everyone started telling me how happier I look this year.”