Professional poker is relatively young, having started in 1970 with the creation of the World Series of Poker (WSOP). Despite this, it has its fair share of fantastic moments and legendary players. 

There are many timeless legends like Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, and Johnny Moss. As poker continues to flourish, more new pros are born. Let us look at one such modern-day poker pro: Steve O’Dwyer.

Player Overview

Steve O’Dwyer is an Irish-American poker player most known for his tournament exploits. With over $35 million in tournament earnings, he sits 14th on The Hendon Mob’s all-time money list. O’Dwyer has numerous notable showings at the European Poker Tour (EPT) and World Poker Tour (WPT), with two EPT titles and one WPT title. He is also a regular sight at High Roller tournaments like the Triton Poker Series. O’Dwyer is also a strong contender online, winning the Powerfest #122-SHR: $3M Gtd Championship Event for $896,610.

Early Life

Stephen O’Dwyer was born in Colorado Springs on April 6th, 1982. Since his father was in the army and was often getting transferred, his family was constantly moving around. After moving to Pennsylvania, New York, and even Germany, they finally put down roots in Pennsylvania. 

O’Dwyer studied at the University of East Carolina in Greenville, North Carolina, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Communications. He had many prospective careers, from radio to being a DJ, eventually settling on broadcasting.

During his senior year, O’Dwyer saw the ESPN broadcast of the 2003 WSOP. He and countless others globally witnessed the miracle run of Chris Moneymaker. An amateur accountant winning the WSOP as his first live tournament was unreal. The historic win of Moneymaker set the world on fire and kickstarted the massive surge in the popularity of poker. 

O’Dwyer was one of the many new poker pros inspired by Chris Moneymaker. “I knew what poker was, but I didn’t know that there was such a heavy skill element to it,” he said. “I certainly didn’t realize that people were playing it for high stakes and making good money from it. I just figured, I liked games and I was pretty good at them, so maybe I could do the same with poker.”


First Experiences with Poker

O’Dwyer’s poker career began with a simple $5 home game during college. He became incredibly interested in the game, getting into online poker in his last semester. After using this money to pay for school, he moved to Las Vegas with a bankroll of $14,000.

The early years in Vegas were uneventful for O’Dwyer. He frequented low-stakes cash games, winning enough to pay his bills but not much else. He did, however, meet a few poker players who would go on to become his lifelong friends.

One such player was Vivek Rajkumar, a formidable player in his own right. He backed O’Dwyer, giving him the necessary funds to play in games with much higher stakes than he was used to. While O’Dwyer didn’t win much, the games taught him a lot.

In the summer of 2007, his friends Scott Seiver and Isaac Haxton convinced O’Dwyer to play cash games online. For two years, he grinded online poker, becoming far more confident in his skills. However, he moved from Las Vegas to North Carolina to escape the many distractions.

Black Friday disaster

The 2011 “Black Friday” incident was one of the most infamous events in poker history. The government took down the most prominent US online poker sites – PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker, and UltimateBet. Players’ bankrolls were frozen, and all those sites were inaccessible to Americans.

Black Friday hit O’Dwyer particularly hard as he was already struggling with staking debt. Down over $400,000, he could not grind online poker to pay it off. He slept on Seiver’s floor for most of the summer, borrowing money to pay for food.

Thankfully, Seiver and Haxton didn’t give up on O’Dwyer. As players themselves, they understood the downswings that could come with a poker career and continued to stake him in major tournaments.

Better Than Ever

O’Dwyer’s first major win came in the 2011 $5,000 Bellagio Cup for $259,452. While he was not out of the woods just yet, it certainly helped by paying off half his debt. He cashed in a few other tournaments for more five-figure scores, then finished as a runner-up in the EPT for $717,728.

Having paid off his debt and then some, O’Dwyer is forever grateful to his friends for staying by his side. Since then, he’s claimed a WPT title, taking down the 2012 WPT Denmark for $213,796. He has numerous seven-figure scores for wins in the EPT, the PCA, and the APPT.

One of the weirdest bits of trivia about O’Dwyer is from his run in the 2017 PokerStars Championship in Macau. Early in the tournament, he received a mango as a lucky charm from fellow pro Yan Li. The charm seemed to have helped; O’Dwyer defeated Fedor Holz heads-up for a $1,088,941 win.