The saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” is much easier said than done, especially at the poker table. If you are handed a basket of lemons in the form of a bad beat in a tournament, oftentimes it’s not a matter of choice whether or not you can persevere and make a comeback. Because of the variance in tournaments and various elements that all must align for a win, redemption can take a while to come.Tommy Vedes has been used to making the best of situations his entire life, so when he was knocked out of the biggest tournament of the year, it was no surprise that he was back in the limelight so soon.Life in QueensVedes was born in Queens, New York, where he grew up as an only child until the age of seven, when his little sister was born. He described himself as a good kid growing up but began traveling down the wrong path in high school.“I went to a private Greek school until eighth grade, and then I went to a public high school. I started hanging out with the wrong crowd, and I was kind of a troublemaker. I dropped out in 10th grade and took my GED .”This was also around the same time his parents divorced. Vedes traveled between his mother’s house in Queens and his father’s house in Pennsylvania. His dad ran a weekly home poker game, and Vedes was immediately intrigued by cards and began playing when he could. During his teenage years, he said he partied, went to clubs, and snuck off to Atlantic City to play poker.“We used to get into all of the clubs in the city with fake IDs and stuff. I’d play poker in Atlantic City, and they didn’t ask for IDs, so I guess I looked a little older at that age.”Vedes played low-stakes limit hold’em. He slowly improved his game and crept up stakes. Throughout his twenties, Vedes held a number of jobs. He worked for an air-conditioning company and a glass company, drove limos for the Yankees and Mets, worked in restaurants, and then contract construction jobs.By 30, Vedes established himself in the construction business, allowing him freedom to schedule his own work, which gave him time to play poker. He was playing $5-$10 no-limit hold’em in private clubs in Long Island three or four nights a week, and also supplemented his income with sports betting, putting up $2,000-$3,000 a bet. After three decades in Queens, Vedes decided he wanted a change.“I just got tired of the New York lifestyle and the grind. I wanted something different.”Vedes moved to Laughlin, Nevada, in 2005. He grinded cash games in the local casinos and made frequent trips to Las Vegas to play. Vedes has made a living doing so since moving from the East Coast.Vedes has cashed in various tournaments and nabbed five-figure wins in both an event in the 2008 Deep Stack Extravaganza at the Venetian as well as one in a preliminary event at the Foxwoods World Poker Finals this year. At this summer’s World Series of Poker , Vedes made the final table in the $1,500 pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better event.“It was very exciting. It wasn’t a huge prize pool, but I was still playing for a bracelet.”Run of a LifetimeWith momentum going in to the main event, and having competed in it the year before with a deep finish but no cash, Vedes felt he was more broken in and confident at the table. By day 7, he was one of the chip leaders.“I just kept the pressure on. I had a ton of chips, and I didn’t really want to get involved in a big pot. I wanted to end the day top five in chips.”With 28 players left, Vedes looked down at pocket kings. After calling Steve Begleiter’s five-bet shove all in preflop, Vedes had his kings up against A-Q offsuit in a 12 million chip pot as a huge favorite. Begleiter spiked an ace hit the turn, and Vedes failed to improve. He was crippled and ultimately eliminated from the tournament in 19th place on day 8, while Begleiter became a member of the November Nine.As Vedes packed up his things to make the lonely walk out of the Amazon Room, he promised he’d be back in contention for a major score, but never imagined it would be so soon.At the 2009 $15,000 World Poker Tour Festa Al Lago championship event, Vedes navigated his way through the 275-player field and entered the televised six-handed final table third in chips. With the lights on and cameras rolling, Vedes was put in a couple of tough, somewhat cooler situations, and all on the wrong end. On a flop of K-Q-6, Vedes had all of his chips riding on his top two pair, but was up against Shawn Cunix set of sixes. Vedes hit a four-outer with a king on the turn to stay alive. Then, he was all in preflop with pocket queens against the chip leader at the time Freddy Deeb pocket kings. Vedes needed to hit a two-outer to stay in the tournament, and he got it.“That’s when I knew I was going to win.”Vedes took home more than $1.2 million and a WPT title. In addition, he was awarded 1,680 Card Player Player of the Year points and is now 15th on the leader board.“The Player of the Year [title] is something that I’m going for, but Eric [Baldwin] is so far ahead. I’d have to win this World Poker Tour coming up in December to even come close. It’ll be hard, but I’m going to try.”Looking to the future, Vedes sees himself continuing to play poker for living. He attributes his hard-working attitude and ability to handle adversity to his tough upbringing in Queens. With the impossible-to-teach talent of being able to dig deep and make the best of any given situation, Vedes will continue to be a formidable force on the poker circuit.
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