Brian Townsend: Former Professional Poker Player
Brian Townsend had a bright future ahead of him after graduating from the University of California with a master's degree in Economics. Instead of becoming a budget analyst, like he originally was planning, Townsend decided to pursue a different career. He took the road less traveled and became a professional poker player. Throughout his career, he has earned over $500,000 from live tournaments alone and has donated a good portion of that to charity.
Although he no longer plays poker professionally, he has no regrets about his early career choice. To learn more about Brian Townsend, his childhood, his journey to becoming a professional poker player, his donations to charity, and to see what he is up to today, feel free to read through this detailed biography.
Brian Townsend was born on May 15, 1982, in the quaint town of Dunsmuir, California. He was born to Richard and Loretta Townsend and was the oldest of three children. He had two younger sisters, Marsella and Macie. They would take family camping trips often, enjoying the scenery that the nearby Mt. Shasta had to offer.
Townsend was always very active. He enjoyed rock climbing, mountain biking, and hiking. Any opportunity he had to be outside, he took it. In high school, he was captain of his school's lacrosse team, being a very skilled goalkeeper. He was so talented that he actually earned himself a scholarship to attend the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Townsend had a hard time deciding what he wanted to major in. While initially thinking a career path in medicine was the way to go, Townsend started his education in pursuit of a bachelor's degree in pre-medicine. About halfway through his sophomore year, he changed his mind and decided to pursue a bachelor's degree in economics instead. Once he had completed that degree, he attended the University of California's grad school to obtain his master's degree in economics, as his new dream was to become a budget analyst.
It was during his time in grad school that he was first introduced to poker, as his college roommates played poker online almost every night. The first game Townsend played was a .25/.50 Limit Hold'em game, which he lost horribly. As Townsend was not someone who could handle losing, he spent countless nights honing his poker skills and trying to become a better player. His hard work paid off, and soon he was unstoppable when it came to playing low-limit hold'em online.
As time went on, he started to take more risks and would play for higher limits. He eventually started playing No Limit Hold'em, which is still his game of choice today. By the time he was ready to graduate and enter the workforce, he was making about as much through playing poker as he would be as a budget analyst. Despite his parents' disapproval, Townsend decided to pursue a career as a professional poker player.
Professional Poker Career
Townsend became well known throughout the poker community by his online username, Sabrugby. While playing on sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, he became known for his aggressive playing style and his ability to execute bluffs well. During this time, he was making about $25,000 a month on average.
His performance online earned him a spot on the Game Show Network's television series High Stakes Poker. On this show, both professional players and amateur players come together to compete in a series of No Limit Texas Hold'em cash games. Luck was not on Townsend's side over the course of his time on the show, as he lost $100,000 in just 3 episodes.
Despite his poor performance on the show, Townsend did enjoy playing in a live setting. He started entering live tournaments all over the states of California and Nevada, bringing in thousands of dollars in the process. His first significant performance was landing a 10th-place finish in the No Limit Hold'em event of the 2006 World Series of Poker, which came with a cool prize of $22,000.
Just two years later, he was asked to join season 4 of Poker After Dark, a televised poker tournament that airs on NBC. Up against other professional players like Doyle Brunson and Tom Dwan, Townsend still managed to come in first place. This meant he got to take home the grand prize of $120,000.
Soon after his performance on Poker After Dark, he was approached by Full Tilt Poker, who wanted to sign him on as one of their "red pros." Townsend loved playing poker online at Full Tilt Poker and felt honored to join their team. They offered to pay him a salary of $100,000 a year and provide him with a Full Tilt Poker uniform and various Full Tilt Poker accessories.
As a red pro, Townsend finished 15th place in the World Championship No Limit Hold'em tournament in England for $82,297. He then went on to take 13th place at the WSOP No Limit Hold'em 40th Anniversary event for $128,665. In between these live tournaments, he continued to play poker online. As part of their arrangement, Townsend agreed to play at Full Tilt Poker exclusively under his real name.
Townsend noticed that not as many people were willing to play against him on the Full Tilt Poker website due to his pro red status, which made finding games difficult at times. Although it was against the rules, Townsend decided to play in several low-stakes games under the username Stellarnebula. The higher-ups at Full Tilt Poker eventually caught on to what Townsend was doing, giving him a 6-month suspension as punishment for his actions.
Townsend publicly apologized in an interview with Poker News, saying, "I hope that people can not only look to me for poker education but also for the way to live their lives. I made a mistake and I am willing to take responsibility for it. I am willing to stand up and face the music. I apologize to the entire online community."
That wasn't the only time Townsend would have something to apologize for. In December 2009, Townsend was suspended for another 30 days for conspiring with Brian Hastings and Cole South to take down Viktor "Isildur1" Blom. To show his sincere regret for his poor behavior, he apologized to Blom and donated $25,000 to a local charity in his honor.
While many people were surprised to hear about the donation, it really wasn't out of character for Townsend. Since he became a professional poker player in the early 2000s, he has been giving anywhere between 10% to 20% of his winnings to various charities across the world. His favorite charities to donate to are St. Jude's Children's Hospital and the Boys & Girls Club of America.
His hope is that the money he donates will have a positive impact on the youth of America. The St. Jude's Children's Hospital is near to his heart because they helped one of his nieces overcome leukemia when she was just 4 years old. He donates to the Boys & Girls Club of America because he believes that the foundation strives hard to ensure every child receives the proper education and health care they deserve. In total, Townsend has given over $70,000 to these two charities alone.
Moving on from Poker
Townsend's last major win was at the 2010 World Series of Poker, where he managed to take 10th place at the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. Championship and a cash prize of $48,638. The following year, he stepped down from his position at Full Tilt Poker after the events that occurred on April 15, 2011: the date that would later become known as Black Friday.
It became obvious that Full Tilt Poker was involved in a serious scandal that resulted in the loss of millions of dollars for their players. To show his deep regret for Full Tilt's actions, Townsend refused to continue playing for Full Tilt Poker, and he took several years off from playing poker altogether.
Now, Townsend will occasionally enter an online poker tournament, but his days of being a professional poker player are over. He has since decided to join the corporate world and become a market researcher for a startup gaming company in Southern California. His educational background and experience in the online gaming industry made him the perfect candidate for the position. He loves working there and can't wait to see how the company will expand in the years to come.
Brian Townsend's professional poker career first took off in the mid-2000s when online poker's popularity was at an all-time high. While his career was short-lived, he managed to be a part of Full Tilt Poker's red pro team, win a Poker After Dark tournament, and place in several World Series of Poker events. Townsend will not only be remembered for his poker performances but also for his generosity when it comes to giving to charity. We were sad to hear about his retirement and wish him luck on all of his future endeavors.