Cashing-in big time in life - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Cashing-in big time in life

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Posted: Friday, October 26, 2012 1:27 am

Kevin MacPhee, a 1998 Lake City High School grad and Coeur d'Alene native, has spent the past several years traveling the world playing in high-stakes poker tournaments.

MacPhee, 32, won a million euros as the 2010 Berlin tournament champion on the European Poker Tour. He has cashed-in at numerous EPT tournaments and is ranked fourth on the EPT all-time leader board.

"I've been living out of my suitcase for five years, which has been awesome," he said. "All of my stuff has been in a storage unit in Coeur d'Alene."

Along the way, he has found his dream girl, a model and poker celebrity in Europe, Liv Boeree, his current girlfriend. Along with being beautiful and having a British accent, she plays heavy metal guitar and studied physics with astrophysics at the University of Manchester. They have been traveling the world together.

(Yes, all of this has happened.)

To top it off, MacPhee and Boeree have filmed a pilot episode for a new TV show, "I Bet My Life: Monte Carlo," which is scheduled to show at 8 p.m. on Nov. 4 on the Travel Channel.

"In that episode, we kind of do cool things like take a helicopter ride from the Nice (France) airport to Monaco, rent a Porsche and then go up to this French Medieval village," he said. There's plenty more that happens.

If the pilot is well-received, the couple will be filming more episodes.

"If not, at least we had an amazing opportunity to make a really cool show and had a lot of fun doing it," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, it's just kind of like a free roll."

He said people who tune in will get a chance to see a place, Monte Carlo, they likely haven't seen much.

"They'll also get a chance to see what it's like to be a high-stakes poker player," he said.

For the pilot, the six days of filming were condensed to 20 minutes.

There are dozens of videos of MacPhee and his girlfriend on YouTube. There also is a clip promoting the show.

MacPhee graduated from the University of Idaho in 2005, finishing with a degree in general studies. While in Moscow, he spent time studying film and TV production, computer science, education, and philosophy.

"I think he has enjoyed his adventures," said Kevin's father, John MacPhee, of Coeur d'Alene. "It's kind of fun to follow him."

He said he never imagined his son becoming a professional poker player, but knew he would do well, regardless of where he chose to focus his energy.

"We weren't happy at first, but you can't argue with success," he said. "You've got to be winning to pay your way."

Kevin MacPhee hopes the TV show takes off, because he loves the travel lifestyle he has been living.

"Any day to the next, I could be in one city or another," he said. "It's an incredibly fun career."

He is down in Las Vegas currently, supporting some friends in a poker tournament.

Next, he has his sights set on the World Series of Poker in Australia in April.

In the near future, he also plans to play in more tournaments in the U.S., something he hasn't done much.

MacPhee said he grew up in a family that played games.

"In my family, if you play a game, you play it seriously," he said.

Early on, he got serious with the fantasy card game, "Magic: The Gathering."

He became the 2002 Idaho state champion in "Magic: The Gathering." Like poker, it required an academic approach to the game.

"That just made the transition to poker really easy," he said.

He started playing poker online, in his apartment in Post Falls. It paid his rent and put food on the table.

"I struggled with that for like two years," he said.

Soon he was winning tens of thousands of dollars and trips to places like Costa Rica, Macau and Barcelona, Spain.

"I was just a kid from Idaho, and I had never really been anywhere," he said.

Poker gave him an opportunity to travel, and he got addicted to seeing new places and meeting new people, he said.

After Barcelona, he made every single stop on the European Poker Tour.

Then came the big win in Berlin, which will be memorable for multiple reasons.

That day, armed and masked robbers stormed into the room with 20 people still left in the tournament and held up the registration desk, shutting down the tournament for five hours. The robbers made off with hundreds of thousands of euros, he said.

"Five hours later, we were asked to come back and play for a million euros," he said.

The big win that day and the robbery are still hard to believe.

He has cashed-in more than $2 million in prizes. Online, however, he has cashed-in for nearly $5 million in prizes.

The costs to compete have been significant, too, with airfare, hotels, food and tournament-entry fees.

"It's just serious amounts of money that I'm going through," he said. "To me, the journey is just worth it."

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