Todd Machado has been playing poker most of his life. The Merced native has fond memories of playing seven-card stud with his family during their Easter get-togethers.
"I loved doing it. We used to have family stuff and do it and then I started noticing I could be pretty good at this. I stepped up my game and started reading books and figuring out what you need to do to be good at this," said Machado.
The life-long walnut grower — who said poker and farming are similar as they're "both gambling" —has been taking the game seriously for five years now and reaping the rewards.
The largest pot he ever won was at a tournament in Lake Tahoe, where he brought home $18,000 for second place. While a large stack of cash is always nice, Machado said he prefers the trophies that you can only get by winning.
"Money only lasts so long, but that trophy or that ring or whatever you have, it lasts forever so you can brag about it — 'hey, look at what I've got,'" he said.
Machado will have bragging rights for the entire year at the Turlock Poker Room after winning the 10th Anniversary Series Championship title in October. He was the top performer across the 10-day series, making four final tables including a victory in the All-In-Or-Fold Event 2 and a runner-up finish in Event 6, a $125 Bounty tournament.
The title came with a commemorative jacket, trophy, his banner being hung from the poker room's rafters — and daily tournament entries for a year, valued at more than $14,000.
Throughout his success, Machado has learned a few things about poker.
"Math plays a big part in it, figuring out your odds, and trying to read people, how they play ... their betting pattern," he said.
Playing in a tournament with a title on the line is different, however, than when he's at a table with family and friends.
"When you're playing for fun sometimes you do things you shouldn't do just to try and beat the person you're playing against. But here (at the poker room), the chips and the money you bring in...that's just how we keep score in this game, and you don't want to give your chips to someone unnecessarily. So here, I'm a little bit more conservative. When I'm playing against my family, I just want to win," he said.
Machado can be found four to five days a week at the Turlock Poker Room, continuing to work on his game and prepare for the next big tournament.
His tip for those just getting into the game: "Win. Win and everything's good."