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Person of Interest

Poker Hero

Residence: Homes in Naples; Foscoe and Greensboro, N.C.; and Fairfield, Texas

Family: Wife, Marsha; daughter, Tawnya. Daughter Jessica died Dec. 15, 2004, at age 13 of brain cancer.

Inspiration: After surgery left Jessica partially paralyzed, she passed time watching poker on TV and watching Cole play online. “She thought I was the best. She said, ‘Why don’t you go play [on TV]?’”

Homework: “I studied the betting patterns of all the pros. My wife—I drove her crazy.”

Day job: He is a retired owner of a modular home company; owner of a golf course and tree farm in Texas; investor and board member of Stonefield Cellars winery in North Carolina.

On tour: Cole plays No-Limit Hold’em in Game Show Network’s World Poker Tour and ESPN’s World Series of Poker. His total winnings: $500,000 … and counting.

First big win: His first non-televised win was $10,460 in May 2004. “That one hooked me. I came in 11th. They show the final nine on TV. [Jessica] was still alive at that time. I was so close. I knew I could compete.”

Wish come true: His first televised win came five months after Jessica died, during a World Series of Poker circuit event in New Orleans. He took fifth place, winning $147,630. “I didn’t make it in time—but I made it. I feel she was watching.”

Upper hand: “Somebody like me, who can afford to lose a tournament, is more likely to put all their chips in and put somebody to the test.”

Poker face: “It’s very difficult to pick up a read on me. I tease people that I get Botox so I can’t move my face, but it’s just a side benefit.”

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