Mar 12, 2019
By Sean Chaffin
While Frank Stepuchin may be a regular at the poker tables in Las Vegas, sometimes a few hours out in the desert can make for a nice getaway. The speed, the landscape, the peaceful atmosphere – it’s become a regular part of life since he moved to Sin City three years ago from Park Cities, Utah.
The chip leader here in the WPT Gardens Poker Championship at HyperX Esports Arena, Stepuchin has owned motorcycles in the past and now owns a Porsche. He enjoys some wide open roads for the beauty of the desert and the solitude the southern Nevada desert provides.
Behind the Wheel
Before action got underway, Stepuchin offered his favorite trip through the desert. Once behind the wheel, he heads outs to the southern entrance of Lake Mead Recreation Area. The park is a year-round outdoors getaway with 1.5 million acres featuring brilliant views of the surrounding mountains, canyons, valleys, and brilliant blue waters of Lake Mead or Lake Mohave to the south.
The area makes for a tranquil drive and serves as a gateway as Stepuchin rolls on. He then heads north on scenic Nevada State Route 167.
“It’s beautiful with desert-scapes and red rock,” he says. “I usually go out on a weekday, but even on a weekend, there are almost no cars. And you can see a long way in the distance that there are no cars coming. There are also big sweeping turns.”
The 58-mile trip brings drivers to elevations topping 2,000 feet and a colorful rocky landscape of red and orange colors. The geography is enhanced with sand dunes and desert flowers. Wild horses can even be seen on occasion.
For “Frank the Tank,” the solitude and open roads offer a chance for something else as well – putting the accelerator on the floor.
“The pavement surface is really nice, so you can go really fast,” he says. “I feel safer during the daytime and there are no cars, so I’ve done like 150 miles per hour in the Porsche on that road.”
As the final table began on Tuesday, Stepuchin was hoping to keep hitting the accelerator here at the Luxor Hotel and Casino as well. After leaving behind his career in residential real estate in 2007, poker became more of a focus. Now living in Las Vegas, playing in cash games and tournaments have become much easier.
“I played a lot of home games in Salt Lake City, and tournament-wise two and a half years ago I started playing more substantial events,” he says.
A regular at cash games at Aria, he also enjoys cash games organized by his friend Sorel Mizzi, including some $25/$50 and $50/$100 No Limit Hold’em action.
The 59-year-old entered the final table with 4.1 million chips and has his sights on a WPT title. His sole tournament win came after playing in the inaugural WPT Gardens event last July. After busting out of that event, Stepuchin headed to the Hustler Casino with Mizzi to play in a $375 event.
When the event was over, Stepuchin was the last man standing and took home $149,220. He now has more than $354,000 in live tournament winnings, but has a huge chance to add to that today in Las Vegas.
Born in Cheshire, Connecticut, Stepuchin served in the U.S. Navy and graduated from the University of Massachusetts. Beyond his career in real estate, he’s also worked as a ski instructor and stockbroker. When not at the tables, he enjoys skiing, surfing, and fishing.
Known for some “unique” antics and personality at the tables, Stepuchin likes to have some fun at the table – and tips back a few beers.
Another interesting part of his game was resurrected in the HyperX Esports Arena, his lucky chicken wing on a fork. The bit started at the World Series of Poker last summer and he’s now brought it out for some luck here at the WPT.
“I want everyone to have fun, always,” he says of his outlook on the game.
The Tank was certainly doing that in the arena. The beer was flowing and the wings were served. Stepuchin is now hoping to win a WPT title and add his name to the Champions Cup – and buckling that Gardens championship belt around his waist would be pretty cool too.
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Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas, and his work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions.