By Steve Beauregard
He’s won and lost millions on the felt and has been incriminated in the most scurrilous poker gossip of the Moneymaker boom. He’s also achieved what many consider to be the greatest accomplishment in the history of poker: making back-to-back WSOP November Nines. Mark Newhouse is the poker player we wish to become, and the degenerate we hope to avoid becoming.
Mark Newhouse is quirky, bright, somehow likeable, and brutally honest about both his past professional, and personal mistakes.
Born in 1985 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a then-young Mark Newhouse was not into poker when Chris Moneymaker set off the poker boom with an improbable win in 2003. Yet the North Carolinian was intrigued by the game, and ESPN’s broadcasts, and began playing with friends in home games in which the buy-in consisted of just $20.
Shortly afterwards, he’d attend Appalachian State, but just for just two semesters. His burgeoning interest in online poker led to success that most of us just dream about. In fact, playing under the screen name “Newhizzle,” Mark had back-to-back months in which he won over $100,000 each month. Not too shabby for a college student’s part time job.
Mark says he spent that second, and last semester of college, sitting in a lecture hall and paying more attention to the high-stakes limit online Party Poker games, than to the professor. His winning streak convinced Newhouse to quit school and head west.
Specifically, he headed to the world’s busiest poker room, The Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, California, where he would be a constant presence in the high-limit section.
The 2006 World Poker Tour’s Borgata Poker Open was the very first WPT event Mark played. He ended up winning it for $1.5 million, yet it was a tournament that Mark almost didn’t play.
Newhouse told the Bernard Lee poker podcast that he just went to Atlantic City to play in the juicy cash games that typically popped up in casinos holding WPT events during the poker boom. Mark didn’t really care about the tournament, as he was doing well in the $500/$1000 limit game going on at the time.
One early morning, at 5 a.m., when his $200/$400 limit hold’em cash game broke, he entered a satellite into the event. After he won it, a sleepy Mark Newhouse took his spot at the table a few hours later.
The rest is poker history. It was perhaps the height of the poker boom, where Travel Channel’s ratings of WPT events were sky-high, and where $1 million payouts for first place were the norm. Newhouse’s $1.5 million win for first place at the WPT Borgata put him on the map as a young gun to watch out for.
With a $500K bankroll heading into the event, the $1.5 million dollar win meant the young hot shot had both a promising future, and $2 million dollars in the bank.
It wouldn’t last.
After the win, Mark headed back to the Commerce, where he lived –literally – in a room upstairs above the busy poker room downstairs. It was there that he entered a dark phase of his life.
Mark says of the time, “I wasn’t conscious.” More bluntly, he says of his erratic behavior after the win: “I decided I wanted to set all my money on fire.”
Setting up residence at the Commerce, Mark took on all comers, and played the highest stakes available, including $1,500/$3,000 limit. Yet he would not always play well. This, combined with a cold streak and partying, took a toll on the bankroll. Mark says that at one point, he just stopped caring about the money.
His once mighty $2 million bankroll was down to $400,000. To the average American, whose average income hovers in the $40,000 range, this would represent a fortune, yet Newhouse felt broke. His play in the high-stakes section of the Commerce reflected his new poor attitude. “Games were built around me,” he admits.
Newhouse says that his $2 million dollar bankroll disappeared within about a year of his big score in Atlantic City. He started borrowing, got into debt, and continued down an emotional spiral. It was in this 2007-2008 time frame when Mark allegedly had $150,000 stolen out of his online account and became romantically involved with poker drama queen Brandi Hawbaker. Sadly, Hawbaker would eventually commit suicide.
Mark has told interviewers that it took a few years of running out of outs and favors, before things began to turn things around, both in terms of his life on and off the felt.
Long discussions with guys like Joe Cassidy and former WSOP Main Event champ Huck Seed helped Newhouse re-learn the value of a dollar. Newhouse has said that Huck Seed in particular, could relate to his downward spiral and says Seed was once $2 million dollars in debt after his WSOP win.
Mark gained a new appreciation for money, learning that a game that would have seemed small to him, $40/$80 limit hold’em, is actually a big game in the “real world.”
Mark Newhouse at the WSOP
Turning 21 years of age in 2006, Mark played his first World Series of Poker event, the $3,000 buy-in Limit Hold’em tournament. This being Mark Newhouse, he wasn’t content to just cash. In fact, in his first-ever WSOP event, he made the final table, finishing in 5th place, which was good for just over $56,000.
As far as the $10,000 Main Event? Well it’s rare to see a player cash three out of four years. Even rarer to see a player make deep runs in that time frame.
Yet that is exactly what Mark Newhouse has done from 2011-2014 in the World Series of Poker Main event.
It started in 2011, where he made it to day five, and where he lost a big hand to eventual champion Pius Heinz. Mark’s 182nd place finish was good for $47,107. While not cashing in 2012, Mark made up for it in 2013. Did he ever.
Mark navigated the 6,000 plus player field with deftness. With ten players to go, Mark had just six big blinds at one point. Yet he survived to make the November Nine.
He entered the 2013 final table 8th place in chips, but would bust out in a disappointing 9th place. Newhouse has said his early exit, was “more disappointing than he thought it would be,” and wished not to talk about the tournament to friends or admiring fans.
In 2004, “Action” Dan Harrington made it to the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event for the second year in a row. It was thought to be an unmatchable feat – particularly given the increasingly large Main Event fields.
Mark Newhouse entered the 2014 $10K championship with nothing to prove (a 9th place finish the year before is nothing to sneeze at), yet with a chip on his shoulder about how it all ended.
Newhouse says he felt much more relaxed during the 2014 World Series, and had a lot more fun. While he didn’t cash in the 17 preliminary events he played in, his cash game results at the Bellagio made for it.
Amazingly, incredibly, Newhouse made through the minefield that is the Main Event, reaching the November Nine for the second year in a row.
While he had more chips to work with in 2014 (he entered the November Nine 3rd in chips), an ill-timed bluff would leave him finishing in 9th place for the second time in a row. Some have calculated his odds of finishing 9th twice in a row to be a 1 in 42 million chance.
Mark Newhouse Tidbits
Mark made the final table in the very first live tournament he ever played, the 2006 WSOP $3K Limit Hold’em event.
According to the Hendon Mob, Mark Newhouse has just over $3.5 million in career live tournament winnings.
Mark considers himself a “cash game specialist” and rarely plays tournaments.
Despite his success in them, Mark feels that limit hold’em tournaments are “stupid.”
While in possession of a $500,000 bankroll, Mark lost $180,000 in just three days on Ultimate Bet.(Photo courtesy of Matt Waldron via Flickr.)