The “Unabomber”, otherwise known as Phil Laak, is a professional poker player known for his incredible talent and his dark-colored grey hoodie which he seems to wear any place he travels. He’s earned a reputation as not only one of the most imaginative poker professionals on the planet, but also one of the most entertaining.
Phil Laak, 38, is originally from Dublin, Ireland, but currently resides in Los Angeles, California. The 38-year-old professional spent a considerable amount of time in Wellesley, Massachusetts, as his family moved there when Laak was at a very young age. Throughout his entire adolescence, Laak grew up and matured in the area, and later even attended the University of Massachusetts. It was here that Laak received his degree in mechanical engineering. After receiving his degree, similar to most college graduates, he immediately pursued his intended career path. Laak quickly became a successful engineer, while in between, flirting with the occupations of a stock trader and real estate investor.
Although Laak was extremely successful with his career choices, Laak still possessed higher aspirations. The “unabomber” decided that living in New York City, although very dissimilar to his hometown, would open up better opportunities for himself. Settling into the role of a stock trader on Wall Street, Laak was in a very lucrative position while being in New York.
Despite Laak’s continued success, he certainly wasn’t content. Laak’s childhood was littered with incredible memories of being successful at cards, and the thought of being a professional gambler ultimately still loomed in Laak’s conscious. Although New York City is certainly not famous for its gambling accessibility, Laak quickly found news that a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity had arrived at the poker felt. While the necessary investment was hefty, his friends and sources assured him that his venture was a “sure thing.”
Unfortunately for Laak, his investment wasn’t that certain, and cost him nearly all of the assets he owned. Although it didn’t leave him homeless, the misinformed gambling expediture cost him a lot of his yearly earnings. Although Laak’s pockets were nearly empty, the successful stock broker still had a strong resume to fall back on, despite still desiring to pursue a career in professional gambling.
It was during this desolate time, that the “Unabomber” learned a very essential lesson in bankroll management. If Laak ever wanted to return and be successful in the world of professional gambling, he would have to be sure to monetarily distinguish his gambling funds from his living expenses. While living at a friend’s apartment for awhile, Laak slowly made plans to return to his successful lifestyle. He was certain he would never go broke again. And that he didn’t.
Venturing into the game of backgammon was almost second nature to Laak. Although poker wasn’t readily accessible in the city, the game of backgammon was heavily prevalent. He found games with terrible players, and for a considerable amount of time, made a great income solely from backgammon games. Often spending as many as 80 hours a week playing backgammon, Laak found his niche in the board game, until the action dried up considerably and he needed to make a new career choice. Poker soon became that alternative.
Playing in several underground and private games in New York, Laak learned to adapt to the strategies and concepts involved with poker. Laak ended up being a fast learner, as the culture of card playing was a big part of his upbringing. He began to spend hours at the felt, and soon enough, the game became second nature.
“That was really my baptism into poker. From there, part of myself splintered off to be a part-time ‘poker degeneratum.'”
Known as one of the most thoughtful poker players on the planet, Laak used his imaginative mind to further improve his play. In no time, he quickly received a phone call, from a fellow poker player, best friend, and soon roommate, Antonio Esfandiari. That phone call, ended up being the turning point in Laak’s life.
Laak picked up his things and moved to San Jose, California, after Esfandiari had mentioned that the games running in his area had been unbelievably profitable. Laak jumped at the opportunity to make tons of cash, and easily crushed the games during his first few months in San Jose. For several years, Laak and buddy Esfandiari waded around the Bay 101 Casino like sharks, waiting for high stakes fish to enter their waters. Although the high stakes games eventually dried up, Laak’s poker career was only beginning.
Laak’s first tournament score came in 2004, at the Celebrity Invitational World Poker Tour event. Next year, Laak placed second to infamous poker pro Johnny Chan in the $2,500 Pot-Limit Hold’Em event at the World Series of Poker. In September of 2010, Laak won his very first WSOP bracelet in London, in the $2,500 six-max No-Limit Hold’Em event.
The record for the most hours played consectutively during a ring game session was broken in 2010 by the “unabomber”, who clocked in at an astounding 115 hours. While alloted one 5 minute break every hour, the determined poker veteran insisted on staying in the action, eventually admitting that the lack of sleep surprisingly re-fueled him and his passion for poker. He collected most of his 5 minute breaks to compile them together, to take longer periods of rest. The previous record, set in 2004, was held by Larry Olmsted and came in at 72 hours, 2 minutes. He donated half of the money he generated during his play, to a charity called Camp Sunshine.
The idiosyncratic Laak is known for his incredible ability and magnetic personality. His joy for the game often translates directly to his opponents. Because of Laak’s happy persona, his “poker face” originally had leaks, which inspired his “unabomber” disguise. Closely resembling the serial killer, Ted “The Unabomber” Kaczynski, the hooded sweatshirt with glasses costume became instantly recognizable to both the media and his poker fans alike. Interestingly enough, the “unabomber” personage started simply because Laak was cold while riding his bicycle (and avoiding subway fees) when traveling back and forth between backgammon and poker games in New York City. The best way to keep warm, was simply to wear a sweatshirt.
The poker professional also launched his very own poker room on the Cake Poker network, called Unabomber Poker, in early 2010. The website, features Laak’s personal blog, along with information regarding all of the innovative features provided by the online service.
His exuberant personality has landed him spots on big name television shows such as High Stakes Poker, and NBC’s Poker After Dark. He also co-hosted his own show, called “I Bet You“, with Antonio Esfandiari, that closely followed the intense prop bets that Laak and Esfandiari can often be found participating in.
In Laak’s spare time, he enjoys spending time with his girlfriend and award-winning actress Jennifer Tilly, as well as playing golf. You can also follow all of Laak’s latest antics on his Twitter page.