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From Broke to €30,000 Months: The Ultimate Poker “Rags to Riches” Story

Meet Steven Tea, a professional poker player from the United States who also goes by the name “IMACHAMPION”. He was the very first Coaching for Profits (CFP) student back in 2012 and is a true “rags to riches” story. It should really take away every excuse you have in life.

Steven went through a lot to get where he is today, much more than most people actually. But he never gave up because quitters get nowhere. “People who feel sorry for themselves think something magical is going to happen to them, been there done that… no more,” said Steven.

“Being motivated gets you somewhere,” he added. “But actually  following through and backing up
your motivation with your actions is when you will finally get somewhere.”

Steven, originally from California, admits to never taking school seriously. His grades were poor, he ditched class, and he just barely graduated high school. He also admits to having a poor attitude and approach to basically everything.

It wasn’t until he started to realize how bad everything was around him, mostly to do with his family’s lifestyle, and he knew that things had to change.

Steven’s parents came to the United States from Cambodia to live the American dream. But with three other children, they were barely getting by and still struggling. This was actually a big motivating factor for Steven because he wanted to change and improve their lifestyle.


STEVEN DISCOVERS POKER

As a child, Steven was always into card games. Then at the age of 14, he discovered poker where he’d play $5 home games with his friends. In the beginning, he didn’t even like the game that much until he realized that he could actually make money with it.

At 16 years old, Steven hustled around $400 selling YuGiOh cards, a popular trading card game. He then gave it to his older brother and asked him to deposit the money on to his Full Tilt account. Within one day, he went bust after trying his luck at the NL100 tables.

“That was interesting lesson, as my brother banned me and told me I could never play poker again on his account,” said Steven.

So he created his own account and grinded up a bankroll starting with freeroll tournaments. He actually binked a few MTTs  and grew his bankroll to around $8.4k! But then the United Sates Department of Justice hit the doomsday switch, infamously known as Black Friday, and Steven was broke.

Steven “ImaChampion” Tea at the BPC poker seminar


CAMBODIA OR BUST

At 18 years old, Steven left his friends, family and everything he had in California to play poker full time. He had a very limited amount of winning samples and was flat broke, as all of his money was tied up on Full Tilt.

All he had was confidence, the NEED to get somewhere, the NEED to change his lifestyle along with motivation. And that was all he needed to make his decision to leave everything he’d ever known.

Steven went to school so he would get “Financial Aid” — money that was supposed to be used for college tuition and other expenses. Instead, he used the money to buy a laptop as well as travel expenses to move to another country.

“I dropped out of school, bought a plane ticket to Cambodia, and there I began something special to come in the very distant future,” said Steven on his decision to leave California.

In Cambodia, he lived with his cousin who he didn’t really know very well. To make matters worse, his cousin’s family didn’t speak English. But that’s not all.

In the video below, Steven gives us a walk through of his home in Cambodia. His grind station consisted of a tiny desk, laptop and a cheap plastic lawn chair. It was definitely cramped and the toilets didn’t even have lids, so you can imagine the smell throughout the house.

Giving up would have been easy. And most people probably would have. But not Steven, because champions stand up one more time than the rest!

His original plan after settling in to his new home in Cambodia was to save up and deposit $1k on to PokerStars. However that plan was foiled and Steven ended up depositing just $50 on to the site and started at the lowest stakes available.

He would grind up to 12-16 hours per day, 7 days per week, starting with the 10 cent SNGs. And when possible, he was playing up to 50 tables at the same time.

“I don’t think anyone played as much volume in 3 months as I did. I played roughly 10,000 tournaments to grind myself up again,” said Steven.

It was at this time though that he realized he didn’t want to deal with variance in tournaments anymore. He wanted to focus more on cash games. But he was not a good cash game player.

“When I first started, I couldn’t beat NL50 and struggled to even beat NL25 because of psychological issues, playing tired, tilted and a combination of barely even knowing how to play poker,” said Steven.

So after paying his bills, he took the extra money he made from playing the SNG tournaments and asked Gordon to coach him.

Click to read ImaChampion’s 2+2 Blog

“Back then, I didn’t know too much about myself, and my poker strategy was very basic – I was just raising and everybody else was folding,” said Steven. “I was active on the forums and Gordon just got my attention.”

He found about BPC’s elite poker courses and knew he wanted to be a part of that. He wanted to be elite too.

“I bought a few courses, and I even had 13 coaching sessions with Gordon, but I couldn’t win in at 6-max cash games,” said Steven. “Then Gordon said to me, that if I really want this, he expects me to achieve Supernova status on PokerStars the following month.”

Gordon actually didn’t expect to hear from him, as this would be an impossible task for many. Not because it couldn’t be done, but more so that most people would just give up.

But Steven was determined. He 8-tabled PokerStars ZOOM for at least 13 hours per day. He would wake up in the morning and immediately start playing. Sometimes he wouldn’t even eat!

“I had to drop down from NL100 to NL5 to do it, but at the end of the month, I achieved Supernova status,” said Steven.

He played more than 300k hands that month and almost went broke to get Supernova status. Because of this, he wanted to give up, more than once. But Gordon convinced him to keep grinding.

Gordon said, “Finish the Supernova status first and then we’ll talk”. So when he finally reached Supernova, he decided to give me a Coaching For Profits deal.


COACHING FOR PROFITS

After a few months of coaching, Steven and Gordon agreed on a Coaching for Profits deal with a €100k contract. On his 2+2 blog titled How to Make a Million, OWN Life, he talked about his achievements thus far and vision for the future.

“I’ve improved my mindset so much and look at things in a different and much better way. I also have a coach to work with, so two things I didn’t have the previous year. NOTHING is going to stop me,” said Steven.

The first couple months were successful but far from where he wanted to be, as Steven wanted to be the very best. Sometimes he was, sometimes down, and other times tilt was an issue.

He also managed to move from Cambodia to Mexico which seemed to help his mindset. And after about four months, he had a breakthrough where he made $10k in a month (after rakeback) for the first time since joining the CFP program and over $25k total (again, after rakeback). Check out the graphs below.

Steve “ImaChampion” Tea wins $10k in one month for the first time since joining CFP

ImaChampion’s graph after 4 months in CFP


STEVEN FINISHES €100K CONTRACT

The grind continued and Steven began to take shots at higher stakes over the next few months. At this point, he was around halfway through is total profit goal of €100k.

And then in July 2013, just 8 months after starting CFP, Steven won $30k!

“I actually was thinking I was going to have a losing month,” Steven said. “I was running $8k under EV and then within these last 5 or 6 days I just had a big winning day almost every single day. I ended up turning everything around and this became my best month ever.”

Funny thing was, it wasn’t even a full month either as he wasn’t able to play at all until the 14th of July.

Even though it was his best month ever, Steven wasn’t satisfied. “I think next month will be my best month and volume wise it will be insane. I should be grinding as much as I can while I am at my absolute peak of skill level in poker.”

And grind he did as Steven was able to win another $30k the following month to complete the €100k contract. What an amazing story when you consider where he was just 9 months prior. Completely broke to €100k in profits in less than a year!

Steven “ImaChampion” Tea finished CFP with back to back $30k months (with rakeback)


CFP AWARDS CEREMONY IN DUBROVNIK

In 2015, Steven went to the BPC poker seminar in Dubrovnik where he was honored for his achievements while in the Coaching for Profits program.

“This is the guy where everything started,” Gordon said as he introduced Steven. “He was completely young, broke, and naive. I wasn’t even going to work with him unless he proved that he would do whatever it takes.”

Gordon is referring to his challenge prior to their CFP deal, in which Steven had to achieve Supernova status on PokerStars in one month if he wanted Gordon to continue coaching him.

“I really didn’t expect to hear from him,” Gordon said. “Most people are just talk but Steven was different. But he did it. And once he made it I knew we had a winner.”


BPC IS A GREAT ENVIRONMENT TO BE

At the BPC poker seminar in Dubrovnik, we sat down with Steven to talk about his experience as a Coaching for Profits student.

Steven explains that although he won over $9k in a single month playing MTTs, he was still a losing cash game player prior to joining Coaching for Profits. As a CFP student in the NL Heads Up program, however, his best month was around $33k. He literally went from zero to hero!

He also gave us his thoughts on his coaching experience with Gordon.

“Gordon was easy to understand, but also tough with me because I was the first CFP student that he worked with,” Steven told us. “He also made me improve a lot as a person, so it was really great to be able to go through the whole process with him.”

As far as recommending the Coaching for Profits program to other students, he said it’s perfect for “anyone that needs guidance, needs a sense of direction, and wants to become a professional poker player. The results of the students out there that are publicly talked about are unmatched.”

Steven also gives his thoughts on the poker seminar and finally meeting other members of the BPC community. Check out the video below for the full interview.


WEBINAR WITH IMACHAMPION

In an interview with Gordon, Steven provides a detailed account of his personal life, the obstacles he faced, and what he did to over come them before answering questions about his success playing NL Heads Up.

When asked what the biggest lessons he had learned (in poker and in life), Steven quickly replied, “don’t be a cry baby”.

“When I first met Gordon, I showed that I was really determined, but at the same time I felt sorry for myself a lot,” said Steven. “And when you feel sorry for yourself, you get nowhere.”

“Gordon told me to stop being a victim,” said Steven. “And when I realized I was broke. When I couldn’t afford basic things, like shampoo, it made me realize that poker is all I have. Then I actually started to listen to what Gordon had to say (I had a big ego). He rewired my mindset from being a victim to being a champion.”

Check out the entire video below:


LIFE AFTER COACHING FOR PROFITS

After finishing Coaching for Profits, Steven moved in to a grind house in Slovenia with other members of the BPC community. He made a goal for himself and it was to win 100k euro in one month.

Yes, Steven finished CFP with back to back 30k euro months, but he was far from satisfied. You can read all about his wins and fails during this challenge here. Seriously, check it out… so many hidden gems in his blogs.

About a year and a half later, Steven moved to Thailand with Jan “Somebody” and Goodfake, who also finished CFP with great success. They even started a project called “1 Year 1 Mill” and dubbed themselves the “Sunrise Team”. Check it out…

You can also check out what Steven is up to these days on his latest blog, Million Dollar Grind, Billion Dollar Mind. Again, there’s so many great things to be learned from his blogs, so definitely check them out.

As for looking to the future, Steven had this to say.

“I am definitely looking to move up. I want to see if I can make it to the nosebleeds this time. I will try to become the best poker player in the world, because this is all I know, and this is what I am good at.”

“Also, It will take me a while before I am able to play people like Kanu7 or Doug Polk. I have to work way harder to catch up with them, but if I have the opportunity, I will give it a shot.”

ImaChampion still making $30k per month after CFP!

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