David Baker, who played in poker home games at Michigan State, wins third WSOP bracelet

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

The way most pros view the World Series of Poker — winning one bracelet can be a fluke, winning two can still be considered lucky, but winning three puts you over the threshold of being a legitimate card shark.

David "Bakes" Baker, welcome past that threshold.

Baker, a Bloomfield Hills native who cut his teeth in poker playing high-end home games during his one year at Michigan State, collected his third WSOP bracelet this week, winning the 34th event on the WSOP's fall circuit in Las Vegas — the $1,500 buy-in limit 2-7 lowball triple draw tournament.

David "Bakes" Baker celebrates his third WSOP bracelet earlier this week.

Baker won $87,837 in winning his first bracelet since 2012.

"You know, it feels really good," Baker said over the phone Thursday, two days after taking down the title. "I was runner-up in '18 and '19 and couldn't quite close the deal. I've been thinking about it for nine years now.

"Once you get above three, that's like the front page of the World Series statistics."

As it stands, now, only 52 poker players have more bracelets than Baker in the WSOP, which dates to 1970 at Binion's, and now is held at Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, just off the strip.

Baker is one of just 111 players who've won at least three bracelets. Others currently with three include such dignitaries as Barry Greenstein, Vanessa Selbst, Sammy Farha, Phil Galfond, Doug Polk, Scott Seiver, Justin Bonomo, Jonathan Duhamel and Antonio Esfandiari. Greenstein is in the Poker Hall of Fame, while Esfandiari is on the HOF ballot this year.

Baker, who turned 35 the day he registered for the event that ultimately landed him a third bracelet, last won in 2012, in a $10,000 H.O.R.S.E tournament. His first bracelet win came in 2010, in a $10,000 no-limit 2-7 lowball draw championship.

While many poker pros specialize in no-limit hold'em, Baker is a mixed-game artist, a skill he began learning during a trip to Brazil in 2010. He had gotten a bit bored with hold'em.

"That's definitely my wheelhouse," Baker, who celebrated his third bracelet with a high-end Thai dinner and will celebrate more raucously at the end of the WSOP schedule next month, said of the mixed games.

Low-ball was a popular card game in the 1970s and early 1980s, but still has a place at the WSOP. The object is to create low hands, rather than high hands. Baker's final winning hand was 2-4-5-6-8.

Baker is the first Michigan native to win a WSOP bracelet since Okemos native and former Michigan State wrestler Dash Dudley won more than $1 million in a pot-limit Omaha tournament in 2019. Shelby Township's Joe Cada, the 2009 WSOP Main Event winner, won his third and fourth career WSOP bracelets in 2018.

The 2020 WSOP circuit was played almost exclusively online because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the exception of the final table of the Main Event.

This year's WSOP was moved to the fall from the summer, which has been welcomed by most poker pros because of the excessive heat in the summer time.

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Baker, who just moved to Los Angeles, only was planning to play 10 or so tournaments in the WSOP, but he's staying put after his win to go for more — and a potential push for WSOP player of the year. He's cashed in five WSOP tournaments, including his win.

Baker, who attended Bloomfield Hills Lahser, started playing hold'em in 2004, at Michigan State. He got invited to a $1-$2 home game, hosted by a bunch of seniors. By the end of the night, the stakes always got pretty big — and the competition was tough. While Baker doesn't identify the players who participated, four WSOP bracelet winners were in that house. There have been rumblings over the years about an epic gathering of young poker players in Massachusetts.

"If that was the toughest home game in the country," said Baker, who has 60 WSOP cashes and $,634,765 in career WSOP earnings, "this had to be pretty close."

Baker eventually left Michigan State to attend college in Miami for audio engineering, but with so much free time, his poker passion took over. And by 2006, he was a pro — which isn't a big deal. Anybody can say they're a poker pro. But not everybody can say they've won three WSOP bracelets.

Baker, after a long, nine-year wait, now can.

Flops, turns and rivers

►Ryan Riess, a Clarkston native and 2013 WSOP Main Event champion, still is looking for his second career WSOP bracelet. And he feels like he's close. He's had seven cashes in this fall circuit.

"Knocking on the door," said Riess, 31, who lives in Las Vegas.

►Cada, Michigan's other Main Event champion, is skipping the WSOP circuit for the first time since he won the Main Event in 2009. He didn't elaborate on why, other than saying there's "too much going on right now." Cada, 33, who lives in Michigan, got married earlier this year.

►The biggest story of the WSOP, so far, has been the play of poker legend Phil Hellmuth, who won his 16th WSOP bracelet, adding to his record. He also has four other final-table appearances.


Twitter: @tonypaul1984