Mahomet teen takes home $800,000

Mahomet teen takes home $800,000

By: William Payne

By: William Payne

By: William Payne

By: William Payne

MAHOMET – How many 19-year-olds need to find an accountant and financial planner?

Jimmy Fricke of Mahomet finds himself in such a position after bringing home $800,000 from the Aussie Millions Tex-as Hold 'em tournament onJan. 19.

Fricke started playing poker during his senior year of high school, when his friends started moving away from other card games into Texas hold' em.

Fricke, a 2005 graduate of Mahomet-Seymour High School, started his professional card player career with a $10 stake in an online game right after he turned 18, and bankrolled it from there.

"And it just sort of became my job," Fricke said.

Fricke attended the University of Illinois briefly, but found after his first semester that he wasn't really attending classes, but was playing, and winning, in online tournaments.

"I quit so I could go to tournaments."

Fricke says he doesn't walk into tournaments with a strategy. "I just try to make the right decisions. I don't think you can make a strategy ahead of time, you have to play it on the fly to make the most money."

Going to tournaments involves international travel for Fricke, who isn't permitted by U.S. law to play in most casinos in this country. He does occasionally travel to upstate New York to play in a tribal casino, where he only had to be 18 to get started.

"When I'm not traveling, I'm usually at home playing poker online from about 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.," said Fricke, whose online handle is Gobboboy if you dare take him on.

Fricke has played in tournaments in the Bahamas, various countries in Europe, and has now become a big winner in Australia. He came in second place behind Gustav "Gus" Hansen of Denmark, who walked away with $1.2 million.

Asked about the pressure of playing in such a high-stakes game, Fricke said, "there might have been pressure, because I had been the chip leader. I had a 3-to-1 chip lead, and I don't think I played amazingly. He ended up beating me in an hour or so."

Fricke said he's taken it easy this past week but plans to get back online shortly to keep working on his skills. He plans on moving to upstate New York soon with some friends, so he can play "live" more regularly.

"With the way things are going with the expansion of poker, I can probably retire at 25 if things keep going the way they are," he said. "But I won't. I enjoy this so much, I'll keep playing."

His mother, Peggy Klausner of Mahomet, couldn't be prouder.

"I think Jimmy is a very, very smart young man and that he fell into this because he's so intelligent," Klausner said. "There wasn't really anything else out there for him that could capture his abilities the way that this has done."

He was majoring in math and computer science when he was at the UI, but she said he was bored with it.

"He's very strong in math; his high school teachers are just so proud of him," she said.

She admits being scared when he quit college to play poker.

"But he's just so good at this – it amazes me," she said. "I follow him online, and he might as well be a 50-year-old man in a 19-year-old's body. It's flabbergasting to me."

She's not worried about his future or whether he'll go back to college to get a degree.

"I'm not worried about Jimmy at all," she said. "I think Jimmy can do whatever he puts his mind to."

News-Gazette Regional Editor Rebecca Mabry contributed to this story.

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