Sky-Rockets in Flight for Dan Wilson in PokerStars Event

It is rocket-science  

The week after he watched the successful space launch of the James Webb telescope, a project with which he felt a deep connection, Irish poker pro Dan Wilson rocketed his way to the top of chip-counts in the PokerStars Winter Series Two Million Event. 

After a bit of business heads-up, a protracted battle ensued versus UK poker veteran Andrew Hulme. Wilson ultimately emerged victorious to take down the tournament for $226,733, his biggest ever online result. 

he won the Irish Poker Open for €150,000 ($169,660)

Wilson has been a professional player for over a decade, initially playing online whilst completing his doctoral thesis in astrophysics. Despite being predominantly an online grinder, his live results are not too shabby. In 2016, he won the Irish Poker Open for €150,000 ($169,660). In 2018, he came third in the Goliath Phamous Poker Main Event for $250,422. He also made deep runs in the WSOP Main Event in 2014 (65th) and 2018 (71st). 

VegasSlotsOnline News spoke to Wilson, who is also a qualified pilot, an avid landscaper, and a snooker centurion, about poker and rocket science. 

Sky-rockets in flight

On Christmas Day, the most ambitious and expensive robot probe ever built, the $10bn James Webb telescope, blasted into space on top of a giant European rocket from the Guiana Space Centre. Described as a ‘time machine’ by scientists, it will allow astronomers to study the beginning of the universe shortly after the big bang, 13.8 billion years ago, while also searching for signs of life-supporting planets in our own galaxy. It will succeed the Hubble Space Telescope as NASA’s flagship mission in astrophysics. 

Wilson told VSO he was super excited about the launch. “My PhD centered around the modeling of space telescopes, in particular the Planck telescope, a predecessor to the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope. These kinds of projects can take decades from design to launch and are often the work of some scientists’ entire careers, never mind a four-year PhD. Some folk I worked with were involved in the James Webb Space Telescope project since its inception 30 years ago. For them, watching the launch on Christmas day would have been unbearable.”

After 27 minutes of powered flight, the telescope separated from its launcher’s upper stage and began its planned trajectory. Once in orbit, the telescope’s solar arrays unfurled and the observatory began what will be a million-mile voyage to its final destination, a region of deep space from where it will send back extraordinary glimpses into our universe’s past. “Thankfully it all went off without a hitch,” said Wilson, “and it should now lead to the mission being a great success, giving us a glimpse back to the early universe, and searching for life among the thousands of solar systems in our sleepy galactic neighborhood.”

Winter Series delight

On Monday, Wilson returned for Day 2 of the PokerStars Winter Series Two Million, a $215 tournament that attracted 10,176 entries. Seven hours later, he was heads-up with a 4:1 chip deficit. “I really did cruise through the event without major incident or decision until the final table,” said Wilson, “which is kind of incredible given the field size. I was on the receiving end of more gifts in that event than I got all Christmas so perpetually had one of the larger stacks from maybe 400-500 left, and thankfully the other shoe never dropped.”

Wilson was up against another top pro in Andrew Hulme so the two agreed to chip-chop what they could and play on for $20,000. That guaranteed Wilson $206,733 and Hulme $240,619. After the deal was done, Wilson kicked on, mounting an impressive comeback to notch up the victory for a payday comparable to that of fellow countryman Fintan Hand’s SCOOP victory last April.

by far the highlight of my online career.”

Wilson was quick to give credit to his opponent. “Andrew put me in some tough ICM spots late as he dominated proceedings with the big stack, but I’ll have to look back at the replay to see just how badly he caged me,” Wilson commented. “Fortunately, once the ICM shackles were off, I fought back to record my first 6 figure score online and by far the highlight of my online career.”

Finding motivation

Wilson is one of the best Irish online poker players of his generation. Year in, year out, he has been consistently at the upper echelons of the game. There was a time when he strongly considered a more traditional career, perhaps something in the field of astrophysics, but coming out of academia during a deep recession in Ireland meant that he and others had to improvise. “A swath of young hungry players emerged from those of us leaving the education system disillusioned and jobless,” recalled Wilson. “I think that’s part of the reason why the Irish have consistently punched well above our weight for a country so small.”

The game of poker is continuous and so pointing to arbitrary points in time is a little silly, but nonetheless, a result like this at the start of a calendar year can be either motivating or de-motivating. Wilson insisted that it will be the former. “This will help me to settle back into a much better routine in the coming year. Through the pandemic, I really struggled to put in the hours I had previously, and came to realize just how crucial the sporadic live trip was to my level of motivation.”

You often don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone and for a lot of poker players, striking a balance between live and online is so crucial to a happy life. “The accumulation of all those seemingly minor moments, chatting with people at the tables, replenishes my love for the game and the community as a whole,” said Wilson, “and they were sorely missed sitting in my office alone for a year and a half. Now that things are hopefully returning to normality, and with live trips becoming less precarious, I can’t wait to catch up with old friends and keep up the momentum for a huge year.”

Time and tide wait for no man, nor space telescope

After ten years of academia, Wilson was in awe of his colleagues, women and men who continued to contribute to space telescope projects like Planck and James Webb. “Spending the best part of a decade in scientific academia, and realizing just how smart the smartest people in the field are, doing in an hour the kind of theoretical work that would take you days, you stop obsessing as much as they do and just enjoy the work for what it is, and the opportunities it offers you.”

I have a healthy amount of dedication to things that pique my interest”

After ten years of poker, buoyed by this latest result, Wilson is still hungry, still dedicated to staying ahead of the poker curve, but his once all-consuming nature has matured into a healthier type of devotion, not lacking a tenacious resolve, but without the same compulsive zeal that characterized his youth. “I’d like to think I have a healthy amount of dedication to things that pique my interest, but the obsessiveness of my younger self who played snooker 15 hours a week has probably faded.”

Time and tide wait for no man, nor space telescope. After 10 years of space travel, the James Webb telescope will eventually run out of fuel, at which point it will slowly drift off course, becoming the most expensive piece of space junk ever built. 

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