By Sean Chaffin
It was just a coincidence Jean-Claude Moussa was even in the field at the WPT L.A. Poker Classic at Commerce Casino. A friend from Las Vegas had been crashing at his home to play the event. His friend planned to give it a shot at some WPT glory while Moussa would go about his normal routine as a regular Pot Limit Omaha cash game player.
“We just drove to Commerce together,” says Moussa. “My plan was to go play cash games, and his plan was to play the tournament. There were no cash games going so he said, ‘You’ve got to go play in this tournament now.’”
While he was reluctant at first, his friend convinced him to jump in the action. He quickly texted a few friends and had some backers for some of his buy-in, and his day was transformed from daily grinder to tournament warrior. That has turned out to be a great decision.
“I can’t remember the last time I played in a WPT,” he says. “But here I am.”
And after entering this final table in Las Vegas fourth in chips with 1.25 million, Moussa placed fourth and earned himself $346,550.
In Los Angeles last week, Moussa was quite a talker when play neared the final six – smiling and mixing it up with other players. In a time when many players sit stone-faced, he’s animated at the table and prefers a more social game.
Not only does he believe that some table talk lightens the mood, but cuts down on his own anxiety during a tournament. He planned to bring some of that to the HyperX Arena today.
“A lot of them don’t like to show any emotion, and it’s stressful for me,” he says. “Normally I’m not the most vocal. I don’t know how, but I’m the most vocal and social at this final table somehow, but that’s just the way it happened.”
That attitude seems to have worked. While he may be mostly a cash game player, Moussa has some nice scores in tournaments as well. During WPT Season VIII (2010), he finished fifth at the LAPC for $321,840. He’s also had two nice scores in the WSOP Main Event, finishing 503rd in the in 2009 for $25,207 and then 489th in 2012 for $24,808.
It total, Moussa has $516,544 in live tournament winnings. Even a sixth-place score of $201,650 here in Las Vegas adds to that significantly, but he’s definitely hoping for much more.
Life and Poker
This 36-year-old from Brighton, Massachusetts, now lives in L.A. and has been playing poker full-time for 13 years. Before that he worked as a sandwich artist at a sub shop in the dormitories while attending college at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.
When not taking an order for a meatball or chicken sub with bacon and cheddar, Moussa was a regular online poker player. As he won more and more, school and his sandwich gig began to be put on the back burner. He came close to graduating, but his poker career took over and he didn’t quite get to taking home a diploma.
“I did my four years, but they didn’t want to give me a degree,” he says. “That’s on them.”
The academic degree may not have panned out, but he now has a hard-earned doctorate in professional poker with a chance for honors here at the LAPC final table. Moussa is also a family man – married with a 2-year-old son.
When not playing poker, he and the family enjoy playing video games and he also enjoys competing on the tennis court. Like some other great poker players such as 2004 WSOP Main Event runner-up David Williams, Moussa grew up playing Magic: The Gathering.
To prepare for the final table, Moussa did some homework watching videos of his opponents online. Despite that, he plans to rely much more on the skills and experience he’s gained as a daily grinder.
“I had one buddy who said, ‘You’re too old to learn any of this stuff, just stick to your normal game,’” he says. “I thought that was the most sound advice. It’s all logic stuff, I know what I’m doing. I’m excited.”
Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas, and his work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions.