Article by Derrick Oliver-Dewan
Like most poker ‘young guns’ these days, Ryan Laplante lives and breathes cards, studying and working on his game to the point of racking up more than 3,300 online tournament cashes in his career so far, and he’s only 24. Like most online superstars, he’s gearing up for three weeks of day and night competition at the upcoming World Championship of Online Poker in September, where he expects to play an incredible 1,500 events. But, unlike most poker pros, Laplante is openly gay.
“I feel as though the poker community is one of the most open-minded and accepting industries you can be involved with,” says the Brainerd, Minnesota native. “It’s filled with many kind, intelligent and hard working individuals and I’m very proud to be a part of it.”
Despite calling a male dominated, seemingly macho and high testosterone industry his vocation’s home, Laplante says there have only been a few minor incidents involving recreational players and a few ‘bad apples’, who have since apologized.
“Being openly gay in this community is much easier compared to high school or even my experience at a rural college. As a whole, it’s very accepting and open-minded and because of that I’ve ran into almost no issues at or away from the table.”
Laplante admits the gay community is fairly small in poker, about 30 players that he knows of, but says it’s a close knit group and they do come together regularly on poker forums to discuss a variety of issues. He points to the success of Vanessa Selbst, another openly gay pro and perhaps the most feared player on the planet, as inspiration for his own career path. Selbst just captured her third bracelet at the World Series of Poker, winning Event #2, the $25,000 buy-in Mix Max No-Limit Hold’em event, for a whopping $900,000. She’s won well more than $10 million in her career, making her the winningest female player ever.
"I think Vanessa showed from the start of her career that you can be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or a woman and be very successful and well-received in this industry. I didn't know about Vanessa when I joined the community as an out gay man over six years ago, but as I learned about her and followed her success it gave me hope for my own future in the game.”
Laplante is finding his own success in poker, and then some. Not even at his 25th birthday yet and he’s already earned more than $1 million bluffing and check raising opponents worldwide. He’s made three final tables and pocketed more than $300,000 at the WSOP, the biggest and baddest series of poker tournaments in the world. This summer, he cashed six times to bring his career total to an impressive 12, and he finished 5th in Event #39 for a cool $114,000 and his first six-figure score.
“Yes, it was a break out year for me and I’ve got absolutely no complaints about the past six months. I am really excited about the next six months, and the next couple of years for that matter, because I feel as though I’m really starting to hit my groove. My game is, by far, at its best ever and I’m starting to catch some good cards as well. You combine those two things and you get some great results.”
Laplante entered his final table this year an an overwhelming chip leader but isn’t disappointed with finishing fifth or the fact it was broadcast to the world via the WSOP ‘Live’ stream.
“My friends who watched the live stream said I played perfectly and brilliantly. They told me there were a couple of spots they would have gone broke but I managed to make the correct decision, either by making a hero fold or a good bluff, and stay alive. I feel like I am playing well enough to give myself a chance to win and make life changing amounts of money, and I think it’s only a matter of time before I win a bracelet and have the success that I want to.”
Success in the game for Laplante includes broadcasting and coaching. He is both well educated and well spoken and was a regular in the booth this summer alongside David Tuchman, providing expert analysis and colour commentary, during the WSOP final table live streams. He is also offering poker instruction through his website www.pokerprotential.com
. You can also find him active on twitter @protentialmn