Mar 11, 2019
By Sean Chaffin
Throw out the bracelet. Disregard the millions in winnings. All the other final table appearances don’t matter today. David “ODB” Baker knows the task at hand and what it could mean to his career. Entering the WPT L.A. Poker Classic second in chips with 4.8 million, the longtime professional knows the significance of today’s final table at HyperX Esports Arena.
“Without a doubt this would be the biggest win of my poker career,” he says. “I’ve got a pretty big poker reumé, but I have one glaring omission. I don’t have a WPT title. I have no major No Limit Hold’em title, and I have no million-dollar score. And I can check off all those boxes today.”
With that in mind, Baker enters the arena with hours of preparation in hopes of doing just that – no fear, no worries, no regrets.
Originally from Katy, Texas, and now living in Arizona, Baker has $4.4 million in live tournament winnings. In 2012, the 46-year-old notched the biggest win of his career when he took home a World Series of Poker bracelet in the $2,500 Eight-Game Mix for $271,312. He came close several more times, finishing runner-up once and third place five times.
On the WPT, Baker has $397,785 in winnings with his best finish at the Festa Al Lago at Bellagio in Season V (2006), where he took fifth for $125,240.
Before landing in Vegas, some heavy studying occupied the few days when pay ended in Los Angeles before and resumed here in Las Vegas. That included watching the final table from the Season XVII Tournament of Champions in which Darren Elias finished third and Matas Cimbolas finished runner-up as well as some other final tables. Through some work with friends, Baker believes he’s found some opportunities to exploit a bit.
“We spent a few days developing strategies for certain situations and opponents and things like that, so I feel pretty prepared,” he says. “I’ve got 20 years of experience and some special strategies that may seem a little unorthodox and some might not.
“I’m prepared for different situations, and some things might look a little funny but some of them we’ve planned on. I’m prepared for all situations. I have a game plan.”
While a title is the ultimate goal, Baker was hoping to make decisions he could live with and an outcome that would come as a result of those.
“Of course the money matters,” he says. “We’re talking major prize jumps, and I’m by no means rich. I’m by no means set. That doesn’t mean I’m going to play scared. I’m here to play, and I’m here to try and win.”
A master of mixed games, Baker has been determined in recent years to improve his No Limit Texas Hold’em game. That included plenty of work and analysis, but he also believes how he plays, in general, helps him in major tournament situations.
“A year ago I decided to do a little studying,” he says. “I worked through some courses and things like that and discussing different things, trying different things. I’m a non-traditional player as is. Some of the young kids, some of the super high rollers, they may look at me and think a little differently. But I’ve been that way my whole career.”
Winning a major hold’em tournament has been a goal for a long time and the biggest opportunity of his career in doing so is right in front of him. He’s hoping his preparation and ability to adapt serve him well at this final table.
“My whole career people have looked at me and thought I have holes, I’m sloppy, I’m this, I’m that,” he says. “Everybody has their own notion about me. One of my strengths I feel is I’m so diverse in my game that a lot of people have different opinions of me, and I’m pretty good at figuring out which one you think I am and playing off of that.
“I don’t have a style – I can be aggro, I can be tight, I can be loose, I can be spewy, I can be solid, I can be anything. I’ve always thought I’m kind of a chameleon in poker, so my goal today is just to adjust to the situations and try to make the best of it.”
While poker is his passion, his wife, daughter, and mother are the most important people in his life. They are all in Las Vegas to cheer him on as well as numerous friends all sporting black and white #TeamBaker T-shirts.
“Without my family, I couldn’t be in the position I am today because this poker life is not easy,” he says. “All three of them have had to sacrifice to allow me to follow my dream. This is not only a success for me, but a success for them as well.”
Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas, and his work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions.