Poker Prodigy

Marple Township’s Jordan Berkowitz drives an $85,000 BMW, wears a Tag Heuer wristwatch, and is one of the most successful online poker players in the world. Not bad for a kid who still lives with his mom

Jordan Berkowitz is fond of diamonds. Two pavé diamond studs hang from his ears. Twelve diamonds mark the hours on the bezel of his TAG Heuer wristwatch.

On his flat-screen monitor, Jordan is playing four simultaneous hands of online No Limit Texas Hold-’Em. He has more than $2,000 in play at each table. After folding hand after hand, he finally gets two cards he likes. They are diamonds, the ace and the two. The three-card flop brings two more diamonds, the nine and the queen. With two cards to come, Jordan is one diamond short of a nut flush. He fires $400 into the pot.

“Come on, let’s see a diamond,” he growls. He gets a four of clubs. He bets another $500. Teacupper, his on-screen opponent, calls the bet.

“Diamond … diamond … diamond,” Jordan softly chants, and gets the two of clubs instead, making a measly pair of twos. He bets anyway, bluffing big and without hesitation. Jordan is 18 years old and still lives at his mom’s stucco colonial in Marple Township, where he’s found his calling as a professional gambler. Since winning $210,000 in a tournament one night this summer, Jordan has been playing very aggressively. He fires his last $1,000 into the $2,100 pot.

“Now fold, you motherfucker!” he shouts. “Fold!”

I’m sitting on the couch with Jordan’s friend Lee, holding Jordan’s mom’s dachshund, Scooby Doo, in my lap. We watch in silence as Teacupper ponders Jordan’s final bet for a few seconds.

Teacupper folds.

Jordan nods, chuckles, lights a Newport. This is his job — to sit in front of a screen for 10 to 16 hours a day, extracting vast sums of money from strangers with his wireless mouse. While this lifestyle has left traces of baby fat on his six-foot-one frame, his face has toughened, acquiring the elongated features of a politician or a comedian, and half-lidded eyes that sleepily size you up. He’s dressed in Jordan sneakers, a Jordan cap, baggy Jordan shorts, Mark Ecko boxer shorts, an XL Sean John polo shirt, and a bracelet made of his initials in gold. The music-video bling and the baby face with the wary eyes suggest a white, suburban Jay-Z, as does the new, sleek $85,000 BMW 645 coupe sitting in the driveway, awaiting its $8,000 rims, all bought with his winnings.

“What did you have? Did you hit your flush?” Lee asks.

“Nah,” Jordan replies, without turning around. “I had absolutely fucking nothing. But at No Limit, you can really push people around. You bet the flop and they’ll fold. Or they’ll call you and you bet again, and maybe then you make your hand. If you miss, you just keep betting. Betting is awesome.”