Tampa-area poker player wins bracelet 'For Mom'

A professional poker player fulfills promise to win a gold bracelet for his mother.

SOUTH TAMPA, FLA. - You could say that the win was inevitable. John Racener has always been a winner with cards in his hand.

“On my 21st birthday I went and played my very first tournament that I was eligible to play,” he said. “We all took home about $300,000.”

The very next year, on his birthday again, he won the tournament outright.

That was just the beginning.

“I’ve been playing for ten years and have about $10 million in winnings,” he said from his palatial South Tampa home.

Poker has always come naturally for the 31-year-old Racener. He learned the game from his parents. He’d play for $1 per hand with his dad while his mom fixed dinner. After the meal, they’d all keep the game going together.

“I was always a mama’s boy,” he said with a smile.

Racener won all across the country from Atlantic City, New Jersey, to Vegas and back. He’s been featured on TV and magazines and his name is well-known in the poker community.

But still, something was missing.

“For the first time, I think, in my entire career I went to the final table and I wasn’t even thinking about the money,” Racener said. “All I was thinking about is I want to win this gold bracelet for my mom.”

The opportunity to win the coveted gold bracelet game came knocking again in early July. Racener had entered a $10,000 buy-in Dealer’s Choice tournament in Vegas. First place for the winner earned a $273,000+ payout.

But, he wanted the bracelet way more than the cash.

The night before the tournament started he went to Target and bought a pack of white undershirts and a black marker. He carefully penned ‘For Mom’ in ink on the front of his shirt. Very superstitious, Racener felt like the good luck charm he’d hide under a sweater during the card games would carry him to victory.

A few days later he found himself with the winning hand.

“The cash is nice gravy on top but everyone wants the gold bracelet,” he said after returning home from Las Vegas, looking down at his prize on the kitchen table.

John’s mom had to wake up early in order to get to her job delivering mail each day but she would stay up late to her son’s late-night Vegas tournaments online and text him during hands.

He hopes to win more golden bracelets in his career but the first one will always be special.

“She was my biggest fan,” he said. 

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