21:57 22 February 2016
Imagine being on top of the online poker world, having played tens of thousands of hands and spent countless additional hours analysing and improving your game, only to have it swept away in an instant. Such is the story of Kevin “Phwap” Boudreau, an internet poker player who devoted his life to the game of odds and percentages, who at the 2013 World Series of Poker suffered from a freak medical emergency that would leave him on the brink of death.
Unbeknown to him, when Boudreau took a break from the $3,000 Mixed Max No Limit Hold'em tournament, the brief walk to his car would change his life forever. After complaining of headaches throughout the day, Boudreau ended up collapsing on the side of his vehicle, the result of a stroke and major brain haemorrhage caused by an arteriovenous malformation in the brain, an extremely rare genetic condition that occurs in less than one percent of the world's population.
After being rushed to the hospital, doctors informed Boudreau's parents that they should prepare themselves for the worst, as Boudreau's brain had filled with blood and his chances of survival were falling rapidly. However, Kevin fought back from the terrible hand dealt to him, determined not only to survive this ordeal but also to return to the world to which he belonged. Poker.
Down, but not out
After completing his initial physical therapy, Boudreau immediately set out to resume his online poker playing regimen, going so far as to immediately test himself by playing four tables at once.
Even though he still had difficulty communicating with his friends and family, the poker part of Kevin's brain appeared to have suffered very little ill effect. This was one poker player who was not ready to fold just yet.
After visiting his friends at the 2014 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, Boudreau announced that he wanted to return to playing in competitive live tournaments in person. After a fateful meeting with filmmaker and poker player Ian Tuason, a deal was struck that would see the creation of Phwap's Back: A Poker Comeback Story, a documentary that would capture Boudreau's return to the poker scene.
Tuason reached out to the poker industry for support on the documentary and found it from gambling provider 888poker, who agreed to not only finance the film but also provide Boudreau's $10,000 entry fee to the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event, and his travel accommodations.
Leading up to the 2015 WSOP Main Event, Boudreau entered into two different live poker tournaments, making the final table in both of them.
Boudreau ended up eliminated on the first day of competition at the WSOP Main Event, but was still hailed by many as the story of the year for 2015, a comeback tale unlike any the game had seen before. The documentary detailing his journey has since been posted for viewing on YouTube.
What the future holds
Looking ahead, Boudreau now spends the majority of his time working on his physical therapy and continuing to further his poker skills, as if the tragedy had never befell him. According to The Hendon Mob, at the time of this story Boudreau has amassed over a half million dollars in winnings.