Eight Years On, Justin Young’s Back to Chase a 2nd WPT SHRPS Title

Eight years to the day on which he won the 2016 WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown, Justin Young is back in Florida for Day 1B of the 2024 edition of the event to take another shot at the title.

Tim Fiorvanti
Apr 20, 2024
Justin Young has made three WPT final table appearances, including a 2016 SHRPS championship victory and a career-best $963,760 cash at the 2008 WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic.

When it comes to fixtures in the Las Vegas poker world, Justin Young may well be one of the faces that pops up the most. From tournament series all over town to big cash games at Aria, if you’ve spent enough time around the tables over the last 15 years, you’ll have seen a lot of Young’s face.

For the better part of the last decade, the 44-year-old pro has rarely left the confines of greater Las Vegas to play poker. That makes it all the more interesting that his signature career tournament victory happened to come in Florida, at the 2016 WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown. In that event, Young won $669,161 and a long overdue first major live title 12 years into his career.

Eight years to the day of that triumph, Young was back in the ballroom at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood chasing a repeat performance.

“It came up on my Facebook feed – I didn’t realize it was to the day,” said Young. “I was immediately just taken back to that moment. And it was a special moment – my wife flew in, my in-laws flew in. I was eighth in chips coming into the final table, and I was like, ‘I’m probably gonna lose in 10 minutes.’ But that anxiety and the energy rush leading up to it was out of this world.”

Ten players came back for the final day of play in the 2016 WPT SHRPS, including Young, Alex Foxen, Sam Soverel, Garrett Greer and Cate Hall. Young navigated his way through the minefield, chipped his way up, and reached the final two to set up a heads-up battle against Greer for the title.

Both men had been heads-up for a WPT title before, and each was at his third career WPT final table. But only one could emerge victorious. Greer started the match with the chip lead, but Young won a key coinflip to change the dynamic. On the final hand, Greer seemed poised to double up with Spade A Diamond 8 against Young’s Heart K Club Q after an ace and king landed on the flop. Young picked up a straight draw on the turn, but he’d go on to drill a queen on the river to seal the deal.

A surreal moment surrounded by friends was made to be even more so when Young’s typically energetic and enthusiastic group of supporters on the rail didn’t immediately celebrate.

“Not many people know this… actually, almost nobody knows this. But I went to my rail to sweat the hand, and the way they had it set up on the screen, everyone thought [the hands] were flipped. So everyone on my rail thought I just took a bad beat. Instead, I sucked out on Garrett, and I was the only one jumping up and down going nuts.

“I think the rest of them were like, ‘Does he not know what he has right now?’”

To put a button on how rare an occasion Young’s championship trip to South Florida was that day, over the next eight years he’s amassed a grand total of three live tournament cashes outside of Las Vegas – two of which came on return trips to Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood. Outside of the draw of returning to the site of his greatest victory, some outside circumstances helped guide Young back for another try.

“Honestly, I’ve taken off, probably five or six years from traveling for poker,” said Young. “But my brother just moved here about six months ago, so it just seemed like an easy thing and this has always been one of my favorite places to play. So I just went to visit my brother and my mom, and then came down here and played a couple events, so it’s worked out well.”

Whenever things wrap for Young in Hollywood, he’ll return to a comfort zone in Las Vegas on the brink of another busy summer. Fifteen years into living in Henderson and commuting to the strip to play on a regular basis, there’s still a buzz and an excitement when the action picks up and the rest of the poker world descends on his adopted hometown.

At this point, there’s a gameplan that goes into motion each year as Young psyches himself up for the grind.

“It’s exhilarating at first, and it becomes a little more daunting as it goes on,” said Young. “But in all honesty, leading up to the World Series is kind of when my wife and I especially tried to find some common ground as far as our relationship and some other friendships and [focusing on] things other than poker. But I get my level so high going into the World Series that I don’t really feel the overwhelmingness of it, I guess, until probably halfway through. And by that point, it’s still exciting because you’ve still got the WSOP Main Event to look forward to.”

Beyond his regular high stakes cash game action, the occasional tournament series inside of the PokerGO studios and whatever other poker he happens to get up to, Young has stepped into the world of podcasting. Launched in October 2023, Young and Art Parmann invite guests who happen to drop into their game at Aria into a casual conversation that’s unlike most of the other poker shows you’re likely to listen to or watch.

“Probably my best friend in poker, Art Parmann, he and I started our own private game at Aria,” said Young. “The podcast kind of came from trying to promote our own game a little bit, but it’s turned into something else. We found out that people just want to hear about people’s gambling origin stories, more than anything. Poker drama’s got it’s own category, poker strategy’s got it’s own category. We’re not interested in drama or strategy, because we’re not good at either of those things.

“We just had Brian Rast on for a two-parter,” added Young. “We want to invite someone over, hang out, have a couple of beers with them over the course of an hour and find out how they went from someone with hopes and dreams to someone who’s firing $3,500 in a poker tournament.”