"Poker's Amazing Big Game Cash Player"
Sexton's Corner, Vol 62, "Part 1"
elcome to the high stakes world of David Oppenheim.  We are about to learn how he
made the huge leap of starting out playing $1/$2 limit poker in 7 Card Stud and Limit
Hold-Em, as he literally had to play poker in disguises at the young age of 16 in the
California Casinos, to become one of the most successful and feared big game cash
players on the planet today!  This is a dream only a handful achieve, as most of us wish
we could only figure out the mysterious secrets to make this actually all happen in our
The obstacles and hurdles a person has to clear in this rare journey to the top of the
poker world, as a cash game player, is equivalent to trying to walk 10 miles on the narrow
width of a balance beam in gymnastics outside during a hurricane!  How easy it would be
to fall off that narrow path to the top, if one visualizes the difficult effort in that light!
David was born on March 7th, 1973 in Culver City, California.  He attended Junior High
and High School in the San Fernando Valley, where he excelled in soccer and baseball
playing in the outfield.  He began playing poker in high school, before attending Cal State
Northridge for one year.  When he was 16-17 yrs. old in high school, he would mostly go
to the Bicycle Club in a variety of disguises and play the lowest limits, like $1/$2 7 Card
Stud and Hold-em.  When asked if security ever stopped him at such a young age, David
said usually his disguises worked, except for one security guard at the Bicycle Club he
couldn’t fool.  By the time he was 18 he had obtained a fake ID.  He had begun playing
$5/$10 limit progressing to $10/$20 limit.  The first year of playing these limits at 18 David
Oppenheim amazingly made $40,000!  If we all think back when we were 18 ourselves,
making $40,000 a year would have seemed like being in heaven!

Perhaps this is why David wondered what he was doing at Cal State that first year, when
making good money in poker seemed so easy.  Most starting jobs back then would have
paid less money he reasoned.  He was a psychology major, but noticed playing poker at
night, he was actually working on his PHD, studying the various players at the tables each
night.  More importantly, he could look around the poker room and see there was no limit
to his earning potential if he was good enough to keep playing the higher limits.
When many of us enter a poker room we look for a small game we are comfortable to play in and remain there for many years.  When David entered a poker
room where he played small limits in the beginning at a young age, he would constantly look at the higher limits as his ultimate goal!  Setting his goals in his
mind to make it to the room’s highest limits is a state of mind in his opinion!  Doing this takes focus, patience, money management, courage, and the hard
reality of self assessment as to your talent at each level as you move up in limits.  Most that try it by jumping up to higher limits before they are really ready to
do so, fail to make it to the top cash games, and have to start over at the lower limits.

I was curious during our interview what the reaction of David’s parents was to playing poker for a living might have been?  I mentioned when Chip Reese
veered into the poker world his parents were very much against it in the beginning.  David sort of laughed as he went into this area, and said, “He was
somewhat lucky that his parents were both poker players, as they played at the Commerce Club almost every day.”  David went on to add, “My parents were
not happy at all about my decision to forego college and play poker.  They tried everything to change my mind. They wanted me to be a doctor.”

We will come back to these earlier days of playing the lower limits, while David was working himself up to the biggest cash games in the world, but a couple of
years ago I remember hearing about these big heads-up matches that involved Daniel Negreanu while he was the poker host for Steve Wynn at Wynn’s
Casino.  Since I live in Las Vegas I stopped by the Wynn Casino to watch the first match.  There he was ………………David Oppenheim sitting across from the
great one, Daniel Negreanu, where they were playing Limit Hold-em for a $250,000 freeze out match! The person next to me in the crowd told me David
showed up a little late, as he had been with a realtor shopping for a house right before the big match.  When I heard this, I wondered to myself, “I wonder what
the realtor thought when his client said he had to go, as he had a $250,000 heads up poker match to play over at Wynn Casino with Daniel Negreanu right
now and was running late?”  While watching this big match, none other than Steve Wynn showed up with a star in the music business.  Steve sat right at their
table and watched the beginning of their publicized match.  At the time Daniel was his poker host at Wynn Casino, and I’m sure Steve was fascinated his host
was putting his own money up to play a series of expensive heads up poker matches, announced to be between $250,000 and $500,000.  Daniel laid the
gauntlet down and challenged all comers to play him in the game of their choice.  Since it was reported that Daniel’s estimated salary was $500,000 for the
year as poker host for Wynn Casino, he was risking everything each week he played in these huge heads-up matches!  The way Steve Wynn has gambled
many times in his career from renovating the downtown Golden Nugget, to building the Mirage with Michael Milken’s junk bonds, to the Bellagio and his Wynn
and Encore Casinos today…………………one could surmise Steve admired Daniel’s bold promotion of taking on the world’s best poker players, and enjoyed
taking his ringside seat!
Steve Wynn didn’t stay that long………maybe an hour and it wasn’t long afterwards that David Oppenheim won the
match!  David is regarded by most pros as one of the best Limit Hold-em and all-around players in the world!
Remember, he was the first one or two to challenge Daniel’s offer.  We all know how good Daniel is in all games,
including the tournament world, yet David Oppenheim was quick to put his money up and challenge Daniel right away!  
Would anyone reading this story do the same?  Probably not…………..but David is no ordinary poker player!  Today
he has the confidence to play against the best players in the world!  He currently plays on a regular basis in Larry
Flynt’s famous game, and the game is Seven Card Stud.  They mostly play $4,000/$8,000 limit every night.  From
$1.00/$2.00 limit to $4,000/$8,000 is a leap of gigantic proportion that boggles the minds of most of us!  

This article merely sets the stage to learn more about this phenomenal high stakes cash game player known
throughout the poker world.  He is known by his peers to be one of the most successful poker players in the business.  
Stay tuned for next week’s column as he gives us his thoughts and philosophy about cash games, tournaments, and
life’s priorities from a recent interview I did with him.  He has a very bright mind and is one successful poker player that
will benefit all of us to listen to……………….that is for sure!

The Cab Is Parked,
Tom Sexton