American poker pro Prahlad Friedman hails from Los Angeles, California. The 40-year-old has logged considerable online hours under the names “Spirit Rock”, “Zweig”, “Pragress”, “Prefontaine”, and “Mahatma” on various well-known poker sites Such as PokerStars, Ultimate Bet, and Full Tilt.
As a teenager, Friedman became interested in poker after his father won a local Lowball tournament and $11,000.
Before he was old enough, Friedman was sneaking into casinos to play. When Friedman attended University of California at Berkeley (where he majored in ethnic studies but didn’t finish), he frequented the Oaks Club and honed his skills at $15/$30 limit Hold’Em games before taking on no-limit Hold’Em (NLHE) games at the Lucky Chances casino.
He developed a reputation for being a hyper-aggressive player and soon found that many wouldn’t play with him.
Prahlad Friedman: A true original
At this time, online poker was becoming quite popular.
Prahlad Friedman was one of the original online prodigies before such household names as Tom “durrrr” Dwan and Viktor “Isildur1” Blom entered the spotlight. While these top players were teething, Friedman was starring front and center at Ultimate Bet’s high-stakes NLHE tables where he made millions and was considered among the best in the world.
At this time, Friedman began to frequent Las Vegas where he met his now-ex-wife, poker pro Dee Luong (the couple divorced in 2013.) He credits Luong with keeping his spirits up during some of his low times.
Making a splash
Friedman burst onto the live tournament poker scene in December, 2002, placing 2nd in his first major tournament—the $3,100 Bellagio Five Diamond Poker Classic NLHE Main Event—and pocketing slightly more than $100,000.
In 2003, Prahlad Friedman won a highly coveted WSOP bracelet in the $1,500 Pot-Limit Hold’Em tournament along with $109,400.
In 2005, at a WSOP circuit event at Harrah’s Rincon, he came in second, winning just over $363,000.
Friedman played in the 2006 WSOP Main Event and finished an impressive 20th—outlasting more than 8,700 other players—and took home nearly $500,000. During this event, an altercation arose between Friedman and Jeff Lisandro about a missed ante that led to some bad blood between the two, a physical threat, and much criticism of Friedman.
He revisited the Main Event in 2010 and was involved in another incident, this time with an odd Ted Bort that revolved around a questionable clock call. Friedman was, again, criticized. This time, however, he was lucky to remain in the tournament but was eventually eliminated on Day 3 without cashing.
Friedman’s highest cash prize came in August, 2009, at the WPT Legends of Poker $10,000 NLHE Championship Event where he defeated 2009 Main Event “November Niner” Kevin Schaffel heads-up. The prize: a hefty $1,034,000.
To date, Friedman’s total live tournament winnings are slightly shy of $2.45 million.
Victim of the Ultimate Bet scandal
With his rapidly increasing bankroll from live tournament play, Friedman took part in some of the highest limit cash games available online—most of them through Ultimate Bet—where he rubbed virtual elbows with the likes of the Phils—Ivey and Hellmuth—and Doyle Brunson. During this time—completely unaware that his opponents could see his hole cards—Friedman’s confidence took a hit and his play suffered.
Understandably, eyebrows were raised when, in December, 2010, Prahlad Friedman announced he would be signing with Ultimate Bet. Many questioned how he could even think of aligning himself with a site where he had lost so much; however, Friedman said that he felt taken care of afterward, having been repaid some of his lost money.
Ultimately, in May, 2011, Ultimate Bet terminated Friedman’s—and ten other sponsored pros’—contracts. This came less than a month after the infamous Black Friday.
Prahlad Friedman: Rapper and music producer
Prahlad Friedman’s raps are the subject of many online poker message boards and YouTube videos. Opinions definitely run the gamut from Eminem to Vanilla Ice.
In 2005, Friedman rapped for a “The Nuts” segment during ESPN’s coverage of the WSOP circuit event at Harrah’s Rincon; for the 2006 WSOP Main Event; and for the poker site RakeBreak.
In September 2016, Friedman and hip-hop artist and current girlfriend Aida Leal Magalhaes (who he met on Tinder) released “Hazy Eyez” together. In April, 2017, they released the song’s EP track. Check out the official video here.
Friedman was a guest on Joey Ingram’s Poker Life Podcast in September, 2016 where he discussed his poker life (obviously), musical career, love life, and pretty much anything else you’d like to know. Stick through to the end for some freestyle rap.
For the latest on his poker and musical endeavors, you can follow Prahlad Friedman on Twitter and Instagram, as well as on his Pragress Records Twitter feed. He is definitely an interesting character.
Until next time.
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Natalie Faulk is a Las Vegas-based freelance writer/blogger and the author of several books. She is an avid low-stakes (for now) poker player and huge Vegas Golden Knights fan.