Prahlad Friedman may not be the name that features very high on many people's Spotify playlists at the moment but check him out in a year or two and it could be a very different story.
For the uninitiated, Friedman is a star poker player who is now starting to make some fairly serious waves in the world of rap thanks to his association with the Brazilian singer Aida Leal Magalhães.
As his partner since 2013 and mother of his first child, a little girl called Zaylee Diana Leal Friedman born in June 2018, it's Magalhães who has encouraged him to develop what was previously an amusing sideline to his poker table action - and it's seeming likely that he will soon be abandoning the poker room for the recording studio full time.
Friedman has always been one of the most fascinating characters on the poker scene and he's also a person who is turning the traditional on its head. For example it's well known for performers to be drawn to gambling but it's far less usual for players to fancy putting themselves in the public eye.
But then everything about his background has been unconventional so perhaps we shouldn't be so surprised. For example, there surely only is one vegan, Hindu, liberal poker player who has also won, and lost, millions of dollars over a lifetime and who is now looking to a complete career change as he heads into his 40s.
To understand Friedman's career trajectory, it's important to look at what has led him to this point in his life. He was born in Los Angeles in 1978 to parents who had an essentially liberal and hippy outlook on life, encouraging him to go his own way in life.
He first got a taste for poker as a teenager when he witnessed his father pick up $11,000 in a game. Feeling that he could easily master poker, he spent the next few years lying about his age to get into California card rooms where he began to specialise in Texas Hold'em. He also enrolled into the University of California at Berkeley. You might expect him to have studied a subject that was math or stats-based but, ever defiant of expectation, he chose ethnic studies instead.
But he was never to graduate as a professional poker career had started to take off in a spectacular fashion. He was already making enough money to live on but his first major breakthrough came in 2002. At the tender age of 24 he took part in the Bellagio Five Diamond Poker Classic earning himself a $101,446 payout, The next year he won a $1,500 pot-limit Omaha event at the 2003 World Series of Poker, the ultimate event in the poker world and which attracts hundreds of thousands of poker hopefuls to Las Vegas each year. Friedman not only picked up $109,400, he was also awarded a highly coveted WSOP gold bracelet, the only one of his career.
His tournament play went on from strength to strength with his greatest success coming in 2009 when he won the L.A. Legends of Poker Main Event and a prize pot of $1,034,000.
But in the background of all his live play, Friedland was also more than coming to grips with a new phenomenon to hit the gambling scene, online poker. Playing under various aliases including "Spirit Rock", "Mahatma", "Zweig" and "Prefontaine" he quickly began to amass big wins by concentrating on his favourite game, Texas Hold'em. Like all poker players, he also had to suck up some big losses too. One instance was when he dropped a cool $600,000 in a game to an opponent called Taylor Caby who Friedman described as being "just too good to beat."
Nevertheless, Friedman continued to amass a huge fortune enabling him to buy a 4,200 square feet Malibu beach house where he lived with his then wife, and fellow poker pro Dee Luong who he divorced in 2013.
For all its success, Friedman's career has not been without its controversies and two in particular are always mentioned when reviewing notable events in his rise to the top. The first came in the World Series of Poker Main Event in 2006. This is the highest paying event of the year with a first prize that often exceeds $8 million. So, understandably, tensions run high and when Friedman suspected an opponent called Jeffrey Lisandro of not putting up a $5,000 ante, he was vociferous in his objection - but was ultimately shown to be wrong. The pair nearly came to blows and the match referee had to intervene.
In the 2010 Main event there was another incident in a conflict with fellow player Ted Bort. On this occasion Friedman was timed out in a hand in controversial circumstances and his reputation took another blow.
Although he rode out both of these incidents they may have been the impetus that sent him off in the direction of rap. He started by doing in fill-in spots for the ESPN WSOP TV channel but it's really since getting together with partner Aida Leal Magalhães that he's become more serious. Their first joint collaboration "Hazy Eyez" was released as a single in 2016 and as a multi-track EP in 2017.
So while rappers like Nelly may also be moving in on the poker world, Friedman could well be doing the opposite. As to whether he's going to be as successful behind the mike as he has been at the table, we'll just have to wait and see.
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