Jared Hamby may very well be one of the most accomplished poker players without a major title.Until this moment.He had accumulated more than $1.7 million in live tournament winnings, in addition to vaulted status as one of the top online pros, before so-called “Black Friday.” Known as the The Waco Kidd, the former Baylor University college student posted consistent results for close to a decade, without ever getting much attention for winning tournaments.However, Hamby finally took the giant leap forward that is pivotal to all serious poker players, winning his first career gold bracelet. He outlasted a whopping 2,161 players in the $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold'em tournaent, and ended up with poker's most prestigious prize. He also pocketed a sweet sum of cash, amounting to $525,272.Hamby was overcome with emotion afterward, fully understanding the gravity of the moment. Nearly a decade as a poker player, including leaving college seemed to be validated, although his results up to this point would seem to make that inconsequential. But Hamby understood what a big deal with was, and had to stop himself several times while trying to compose his thoughts during the post-tournament celebration.Hamby was born in Indiana. However, his parents moved to Waco, TX when he was 13-years-old. Hamby graduated from high school and attended Baylor University, where he majored in business. Despite the school's strong religious affiliation, Hamby discovered a thriving underground poker scene both on campus and around Waco, and began enjoying himself as a recreational player, at first competing for just a few dollars. Over time, Hamby improved to the point he was making decent money at poker, playing part time.Some time later, Hamby decided to move to Las Vegas. He played in both live games and online, building up a significant bankroll. Hamby got off to a good start early at this year's series. He finished fourth in the first open event on the schedule, good for $154,000 and then cashed two more times prior to this victory. Despite the strong record of cash earnings, nothing quite substituted for the void of being without a gold bracelet. And now, that void has been filled with the satisfaction of victory and the notariety that a gold bracelet shall now forever be his.The final hand of the tournament took place when Hamby won a huge race holding king-ten versus runner-up Peter Hengsakul's pocket fives. Hamby caught a king on the turn, making a higher pair, which held up. That proved to be the decisive hand of the event, giving Hamby his first gold bracelet.MEET GOLD BRACELET WINNER – JARED HAMBY
Name: Jared Hamby
Current Residence: Henderson, NV (USA)
Birthplace: Elkhart, IN (USA)
Marital Status: Single (girlfriend)
Occupation: Professional Poker Player
Previous Occupation: College Student
WSOP Cashes (including this event): 19
First WSOP Cash (year): 2006
WSOP Final Table Appearances: 3
WSOP Wins (with this victory): 1
WSOP Career Earnings: $938,532INTERVIEW WITH THE CHAMPION
WSOP: How does it feel to win your first WSOP gold bracelet?
Hamby: I'm overwhelmed right now. I'm obviously elated. I've been through a lot to get here. This has been a life goal of mine. It hasn't sunk in yet.
WSOP: This was a remarkable day, considering you struggled to come from behind multiple times.
Hamby: I came in today as the third-shortest stack. Then, I came into the final table as the second-shortest stack. This happened to me, not just as the final table, but several times during the course of the tournament. I just tried to make the best decisions I could all tournament long. I picked a lot of good spots. I passed on a lot of spots where I would be gambling, and passed on that. I also ran good at the right times and just managed to survive.
WSOP: Can you discuss your strategy a bit?
Hamby: When people see my hole cards they will be surprised. I had a reputation for being a nit, but I was bombing it, especially heads-up. It worked out for me and I was able to win a few big pots. You have to do that to win a tournament.
WSOP: Are you doing anything different at the WSOP this year as opposed to previous years?
Hamby: Im not doing anything different, that is at the tables, but away from the table I'm in a better spot right now I'm happier. My life is better. I think that allows me to have a clear head and make better decisions and then to be more comfortable with those decisions that I make. It's a combination of playing good, running good, and just being in the right state of mind.
WSOP: Despite your nickname, Waco is not really an area where we would expect to see a WSOP champion. Can you give us some background about that?
Hamby: Baylor is the largest Baptist school in the world. Gambling is frowned upon by some in the community, but Baylor is actually a more liberal environment in some ways. There were a lot of underground games in the area. A lot of locals play in the games. That also affected the college students, especially at the time of the poker boom. People were playing live and online. I happened to improve my skills in a live cardroom before playing online, which were those local games.
WSOP: Can you discuss the transition from making a living online to more of a live setting, especially after Black Friday?
Hamby: I had an (online poker deal). I was making a good living. It was pretty bad to have the rug pulled out from under us like that. But I had some money at the time. I was not one of the guys who went to Mexico or Canada, or whatever. I just sat with what I had. So, just about every summer I have been putting my heart at soul into the WSOP. I play a few WPT Main Events. Other than that I have not changed my lifestyle very much. I just grind high stakes tournaments and the WSOP.
WSOP: What will the more than half million in prize money do for you at this stage of your career?
Hamby: This is huge for me because I have one-hundred percent of me in this tournament. That's something that's rare in tournaments. A lot of guys are backed or on make-up. I get the whole piece of this one. It's a huge score.
WSOP: Can you tell us about the ups and downs of all three days?
Hamby: I was short on Day One. I was short on Day Two. I was short on Day Three. I was short halfway through the final table, but I just ran it up at the right time. I passed up a lot of marginal spots because I thought I could get into a better spot later.
WSOP: Tell us your feeling upon winning the final hand, by catching a king on the turn.
Hamby: When I saw that king it was like nirvana. When I saw the king, it was like a bracelet. I mean, it was right there. For the first time in my it was there for me....after that it was cloud nine.