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

Because minors are barred from online casinos, many of Jordan’s poker accounts have been in Pagona’s name. While he works the lucrative graveyard shift, she does paperwork and redecorates, sometimes catching as little as three hours of sleep, then leaves by nine to run the commercial painting business. Around noon, Jordan gets up, takes an Adderall for his attention deficit disorder, makes a pot of coffee, and watches some ESPN before he logs in and settles into the day’s games.

Now that Jordan is steadily winning, their routine is a comfortable one, but it wasn’t always this way. Like most novices, Jordan began his poker career with a long series of losses as better players beat the game’s most basic lessons into his bankroll. At one point, having lost all his own money, he spent $50,000 or so of Pagona’s savings. She gave up on trying to roust him out of bed in the morning and allowed him to drop out of Marple Newtown High School in 11th grade.

“I was making the same lousy plays over and over again. I was so depressed, I just wanted to die,” Jordan remembers. Having won it all back, he now views those losses as tuition, paid to earn “my master’s at poker. Before, I was real bad, a compulsive gambler, hiding shit from my parents. Now I’m a lot better at getting up and walking away when I feel myself starting to wear down.”

Jordan’s father Jay, who lives in Narberth, is a serial entrepreneur who chose not to go to college. Like his ex-wife, he knows there is no deterring Jordan from his calling. “At first I was uneasy with his career choice, but I’ve since accepted it,” he said, adding that he and Jordan review his results several times a week and are in the process of devising a long-term plan for his winnings. But this doesn’t mean Jay is entirely comfortable with being the father of a full-time poker player. “No matter how you slice it, it’s gambling. It’s a very risky business to be in, but if that’s the life he chooses, I’ll support him.”

Jordan’s current plan is to play online and perhaps in Europe and the Caribbean until he turns 21, when he’ll move to Las Vegas. He’d take his shot there right now if he wasn’t scared he’d get carded. In the meantime, he aced his GED exams and intended to enroll at Delaware County Community College. Yesterday was the placement test. He meant to take it, but wound up watching SportsCenter instead.