Last week, Glendale resident Martin Oganov, a self-acclaimed poker addict, sat down at a casino table with top poker players, betting with the thousands of dollars he had won in an online poker competition.
It was fun, it was exhilarating, but he went bust before his first day at the tables was over.
"When he came home [after playing], he was so excited," his wife, Svetlana Oganov said. "His face was glowing."
For her husband, just attending the World Poker Tour event at the Bicycle Casino satisfied his cravings for the card game.
"He wasn't feeling like he lost anything," Svetlana Oganov said, speaking for her husband who is often shy about his English language skills.
To Martin Oganov's credit, he had only played poker live at a casino a handful of times. On the first day he played at the casino in Bell Gardens, he was seated next to a past World Poker Tour winner and a two-time World Series of Poker winner, said Brian Cooley, a spokesman for the World Poker Tour.
Martin Oganov netted a free spot at the multi-day tournament after he beat out roughly 2,300 people in an online poker competition operated by a tournament subsidiary, clubwpt.com. As the online winner, clubwpt.com paid for Martin Oganov's $3,500 buy-in and showered him with swag.
The total prize pool at the tournament, which ended this week, was approximately $2.4 million. About 700 contestants competed in various rounds to make it to the final table. The first-place winner netted about $613,000.
The final table is scheduled to air on Fox Sports Net next year.
The 57-year-old didn't start playing poker until he happened to land on a poker-game broadcast while flipping through television channels two years ago. He was interested in the game's strategy and started to learn and play poker online.
Online gambling sites boomed nearly a decade ago in the United States, but they've faced hurdles due to government regulations. While gambling online is banned in most states now, subscription services that offer prizes are allowed.
Oganov, who moved to the United States in the 1990s as a refugee from Azerbaijan, now can play up to eight hours of poker online.
"This is not a hobby," Svetlana Oganov said. "It's part of his life now."