Prop player lucks into final tournament

Work 24 hours a week. Get paid to play poker. Make lots of money.

Talk about a dream job.

J.R. Carter, our week 10 winner, left his engineering job, where he worked on the B-2 bomber, Atlas rockets and F-15 and F-18 military planes, to play poker for a living.

"I love this job and never want to go back."

For the last 13 years, Carter, 48, has been a prop player at the Village Club in Chula Vista, Calif., a small casino outside of San Diego. He's played against some of the game's best, such as Mike Sexton and T.J. Cloutier. It seems as though everyone in San Diego County knows he's a card player and Carter is friendly enough that people actually smile when he takes their money. He loves being a prop there and can't envision doing anything else.

"It's like I retired when I was 36."

So, playing in the ESPN Poker Club must seem like a breeze to him, right? Not so much. After a rough Sunday qualifier in week 5, in which he was eliminated in the first hour, Carter wanted to make sure he was in the final.

"That was my goal. I just wanted to get into the final tournament."

Carrying an average stack for the entire tournament, and with the qualifying bubble approaching, Carter needed to gain some chips. The cards finally turned and allowed him to win some big pots to advance to the final.

But the final table is where he truly earned first place. "PokerDr" (his screen name) eliminated more than half the final table, during which, in one hand, both Carter and an opponent held ace, king suited and Carter caught a flush on the turn.

It was just what the doctor ordered.

"My heart stopped for [my opponent], since I have lost on that way too many times," Carter said. He was very lucky, but as he says, luck is part of the game.

"[It's] skill getting to the top 10 percent, but when the blinds are so high, you need to get lucky."

The final hand of the tournament had ace_savoia, with his jack of spades and the eight of clubs, challenging Carter's six of spades and four of diamonds. The flop brought the eight of spades, the seven of spades, and the six of hearts. Carter was way behind with his pair of sixes, but still called a $75,000 bet from his opponent. The turn was a seven of clubs giving ace_savoia top two pair. He bet out $100,000 and Carter raised $200,000. Ace_savoia called hoping that his read was correct that Carter did not have the set of sevens. His read was dead on, but the river brought the five of clubs giving Carter the straight and the victory.

It was just another day in the office for Carter, we'll see if his practice over the last 13 years will help him pull through in the final. If anyone wants to play him in San Diego, he's waiting for you and hopes you bring lots of money.

Andrew Feldman is the ESPN.com Poker Club's Tournament Director. To contact Andrew, please email andrew.j.feldman@espn3.com