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Minnesota student brings home jackpot

ST. PAUL, Minn. – You thought your spring break was fun?

Mike Schneider returned to the University of Minnesota this week with a story no one could beat. He spent last week on a cruise ship in the Caribbean, winning $1 million playing poker.

A soft-spoken journalism student with a good memory and math skills, Schneider, 22, beat out veteran poker players for the top prize in the Million tournament, a competition that bills itself as the world’s largest Limit Hold’em contest.

Schneider, from Eagan, Minn., is a regular at the Canterbury Park Card Club and uses poker to pay his way through school. The gig was his second high-stakes tournament.

When he boarded the PartyPoker boat, he wasn’t planning to play, Schneider said.

He had gone with a few friends who qualified for the tournament by playing online.

“I did not initially intend to play in the tournament, but once on the boat, I decided I wanted to. So I bought in directly and sold some of my action to some friends, too,” he said in an e-mail.

High-stakes poker has exploded. Celebrity players have helped make it sexy, and television broadcasts brought it to a huge new audience. College-aged students are among the fastest-growing player group.

While big-dollar tournaments have mushroomed the past five years, it’s still unusual to have someone as young as Schneider win so much so quickly.

As successes go, “it’s a pretty big one,” said Jerry Fuller, vice president of operations at Canterbury Park Card Club in Shakopee, Minn.

Schneider said he began playing poker in home games with friends four years ago during spring break. “We all enjoyed the experience and continued playing with each other until we went off to college, and then I began playing some online, too. I enjoy the challenge of poker and am very competitive.”

Patience, logic, math and observation skills helped him become a solid poker player, he said.

“He’s kind of a quiet kid. I think he’s a smart boy,” said Kathy Schneider, his mother. “I knew he was going (to the tournament) but, no, I did not expect this. I’m still kind of shocked.”

Schneider expects he’ll get about $600,000 of the $1 million after taxes. “My cut will be less than that because I owe some people money due to them taking a cut of my action in this tournament,” he told the Saint Paul Pioneer Press newspaper.

He graduates this year and hopes to play poker for a year or two afterward. Getting a degree is a backup plan “to ensure I have a variety of options throughout life.”


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