“I know this sounds crazy but I wasn’t going to come…”
It does sound crazy, especially coming from Jean-Claude Moussa, the third-place finisher in last year’s inaugural WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas. A guy who turned one of the shortest stacks at the final table into a resume-topping $2,095,000 payday. He says he wasn’t planning on returning for Year Two, but something came up that was able to convince him.
“…but then someone owes me a lot of money, texts me out of the blue saying ‘hey, come to Vegas – this time I’m going to give you all your money,’ and I’d be a fool to turn that down. And if I’m here, I’m obviously going to play even though I kept telling myself I’m not going to play…but I’m here on Day 1.”
Typically, when a poker player finds incredible success in a specific event, they circle the date on the calendar, anticipating its return to see if lightning will strike twice. But if you buy what Moussa is selling, rather than being one of the familiar faces who showed up early on Day 1A, you might have found him holed up in his residence in Minnesota, enduring today’s brisk 25-degree chill. And even if he wasn’t playing poker at the Wynn, he’d still likely be on the grind.
“Unfortunately, I’m a professional poker player living in Minnesota,” he said. “It wasn’t the best move, but I’m primarily a cash game player. I was living in L.A. for the last six years. I was playing a lot of private games and [at Commerce Casiso]. Mainly big PLO games.”
It’s also a little hard to believe that Moussa would have rather been anywhere else when you see his results in World Poker Tour events. As a cash game pro, Moussa’s tournament resume is sparse, sometimes with years in between results. But when it comes to the WPT his record is pretty phenomenal. He has just four cashes, and in three of them, he reached the final table. He took fifth place in the 2010 WPT LAPC for $321,840, fourth place in the 2019 WPT LAPC, and his third-place result last year. In total, of Moussa’s $2.95 million in tournament earnings, more than $2.7 million came from the WPT.
“I’ve run above expectation probably,” he laughed. “I don’t know what it is exactly, I’ve just run extremely good and, I don’t know, I have a lot of patience to kind of get through these huge fields so I think that’s an advantage I guess. But, I think I’ve just run really well and just been fortunate enough where I’m not put in these tough positions against really good players. In fields like this you have to be pretty unfortunate to have a table full of pros. I’d say last year I was pretty lucky with table draws and playing well and getting lucky.”
Moussa comes off as very genuine, very grounded. So maybe it’s not too hard to believe he didn’t have plans to be in Las Vegas. But now that he is, he does admit that “it’s really nice to get to escape Minnesota this time of year.”
As low-key as he is about his tournament success from last year, the former California PLO pro turned Minnesota resident did have something to say on what poker is like in the North Star State.
“They’ve got these laws where you can’t bet more than $100 a hand in Minnesota!” he said “I’m forced to play $40/80 mixed games which I never really play. PLO is non-existent out there and you can’t have PLO because there’s no betting the pot. No limit, the biggest you can play is $2/3 with a $100 cap every bet so yeah, it’s really sad.
“But I like Minnesota a lot…I just don’t like poker out there.”
It’s a lifestyle adjustment and one he seems good with. When someone wins life-changing money, like Moussa did last year, you might think they’d make some changes. But there were no real big moves for Moussa, he decided to keep it simple.
“I bought a TV, that’s about it.”