K L Cleeton talks Daniel Negreanu, Veronica Brill, and why we don't see him at the live tables

Jon Pill
Posted on: August 26, 2020 11:45 PDT

K L Cleeton came to the poker world’s attention back in 2017 when he was one of the fans Daniel Negreanu bought into the WSOP Main Event. 

In a couple of recent interviews with Veronica Brill and Jamie Kerstetter, he opened up about his history as a player. And explained why we haven't seen him on the live poker circuit since that 2017 run.

His was a classic against the odds story. As a baby, he was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) so severe that he was expected to shuffle off by the age of three. He's still going strong at almost 30. 

His SMA means he can't move from the neck down. And though he retained just enough movement in his thumbs to make micro-joystick controls possible for his wheelchair, he was unable to handle his own chip and cards. So, Cleeton’s father sat with him for the series. The doting father peeled cards and cut out bets from the growing chip stack in front of them.

In the end, Cleeton took home 917th in the series, cashing for $16,024. 

Cleeton was the only one of the three fans Negreanu bought in who made any bank in that tourney.

The road to pro

In an  old WSOP interview, Cleeton mentions having picked up poker in his teens, as a form of competition that he could enter on a level playing field. “It was something that didn’t require you to be the fastest or the strongest. You had to be the smartest... and sometimes the luckiest.”

His small-town roots ruled out home games. So, he used his father's ID and started playing online like, according to him, “thousands of kids across the world.” 

He’s a competitive person and poured his energy into poker. After the WSOP he upped his game.

Now he has a Twitch channel on which he plays poker and makes self-avowedly inappropriate jokes. He's involved in both LearnProPoker — a poker training site — and in the company that produces Range Trainer Pro — a poker training app. And he's still showing up on poker's interview circuit.

Planes, trains, and automobiles

Cleeton's WSOP story was one of the heart-warmers from that year. But this still represents the only live cash he’s ever had. In part, that's because airline travel to a casino is not easy for him. Even when he does manage the trip, he can encounter accessibility issues with the casino itself. To compound problems, on the way to the series back in 2017, he had to deal with the van he was in breaking down.

Wheels within wheels

In a recent interview with Veronica Brill, Cleeton told the story of his current vehicle woes. Since then she has started a Go Fund Me campaign to put K L in the kind of ride he deserves. Specifically, what he needs is an adapted van. 

The van needs to be retooled with the addition of a ramp and a lowered floor. The latter is to give the ramp enough clearance that K L won’t whack his skull while embarking the van drunk from a wedding. 

That’s based on a true story, see the video below for details.

Stack this kid

An appropriately-equipped van is out of Cleeton's price range since such vehicles need to be custom made. Worse, a wholly private medical system puts occupational therapy tech out of most disabled people’s budgets.

Brill made the case for getting Cleeton a van in a video on her YouTube channel. “All I want to do is stack this, kid,” she says, adding later. “We need to get this kid to the series to stack him. But right now he doesn’t have a way to get there.”

If you’ve got some spare coin and a kind heart, you can help Brill achieve her dream of putting K L in his place, by clicking  here and donating something towards the cost of his van.