Who Says Poker and Marriage Aren’t Compatible?

Posted by Davida Mintz, February 24, 2015

vince and debbie burgioPoker players have a hard time staying married. Face it - it’s tough to be in a relationship when poker monopolizes your thoughts and time. Oh, and then there’s the financial uncertainty. “Why don’t you get a real job?” Who hasn’t heard that one? WSOP gold bracelet winner Vince Burgio hasn’t.

Vince, and his wife Debbie, who live in Los Angeles, celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary in January. In September 2013, Vince won $15,243 for finishing first in the $ 300 + 40 No Limit Hold'em event at the WPT Western Poker Challenge. With 31 titles and counting, Vince has walked away with several paydays upwards of one-hundred-sixty-thousand-dollars.

Not the type to blow his winnings on new cars or gold watches, wife Debbie says she’s free from financial worry. “It makes it easier on a spouse when you know that he’s not going to come home and say, ‘I lost our mortgage, or I lost the car.’ It’s never happened. It never would happen.”

Vince says he wouldn’t have stuck with the game if he couldn’t hold up his end of the bargain. “If you’re not successful playing poker, you can have the best relationship in the world, and everything can be rosy, but if you lose money, it’s gonna be a strain on a marriage and a marriage can’t last.”

No problem there. Vince has lifetime poker winnings of $2,180,219, thanks in large part to Debbie who encouraged her husband to play poker. When the couple met, Vince was running his own construction business. She knew he had played in the past, and convinced him to enter some nearby tournaments. He gave himself a year to make a go of it, or go back to business. One year, and $100,000 in winnings later, he was all-in as a poker pro.

vince and debbie burgio


Poker not an obstacle to a stable marriage

Despite the gamble, poker was never an obstacle because Debbie understood the game from the start. “I think of it as his job, because he is a poker player, he’s not a gambler. I don’t have to worry about him playing horses, or going to the blackjack table or going to the craps table.”

You won’t find many poker players in such an ideal situation - free to travel and play, with a wife at home wishing him well. That’s not the case for Pocket Fivers who filled 29 pages of a discussion board wrestling with the question, “How can you explain to your wife, poker’s not gambling?” The most useful suggestions included, “Show her your stats and include her in your winnings,” and “Teaching wives to play and spending time together.” These guys must think Vince in the luckiest man alive.

Many wives would not be as trusting as Debbie, knowing their husbands are on the road, living out of hotels and casinos. “There’s not one minute of any day that he was gone that I ever, ever thought, worried or anything about that. I mean, we made vows in our marriage.” With a laugh Debbie added, “I said if you decide to have a fling or whatever, let me know, we’ll get divorced, and you can have it, and he never worried about me.”

Debbie took six years off of work to watch Vince play, and as it turns out, Debbie was lucky. With his wife there, Vince says he was on a heater. “There’s something about it I’ve never been able to put my finger on, but… My results were remarkable just knowing that somebody was there. I really can’t explain it, all I know is it helped. Maybe I told myself, hey you gotta play good. You got some fans there watching you.”

The Burgios aren’t the only poker couple to find romance. I read a blog about a unique proposal during a poker game. A female player was holding QQ. When a third Q came on the river, she pushed all-in before noticing the writing on the card. She finally read, “Will you marry me?” at which point her boyfriend got down on his knees, ring in hand, and popped the question. He got the answer he was looking for. With any luck, they’ll be as compatible and committed as the Burgios.

Vince Burgio wins


Davida MintzDavida Mintz is a poker player and contributor to Titan Poker. A former television news reporter, Davida’s interviewed presidential candidates and celebrities, even one serial killer. As a poker writer, she’s thrilled to add a World Series of Poker Main Event champion to that list.



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