How to Win at Poker Without Ever Playing a Hand

Published in 2007 Texas Super Lawyers — October 2007

Some of the world's best poker players call on Steven Ladik before they're ever dealt a hand at a tournament in the United States. Recognized as one of America's top immigration attorneys, Ladik, the managing partner of the Dallas office of Berry, Appleman & Leiden, has secured visas for some two dozen professional poker players from other countries.

Ladik knows how to start at the top. The first poker-playing client he secured a P-1 visa for was Toronto native Daniel "Kid Poker" Negreanu, a two-time World Poker Tour titlist who has earned more than $9 million in tournament prize money.

That was four years ago. Ladik had already established himself as the go-to guy for foreign-born professional athletes seeking visas, the first being South African golfer David Frost in 1989. "David and his agent were so happy with how smoothly everything went that my name started spreading throughout the PGA Tour," Ladik says. "Then word spread outside of golf circles and into tennis players, ice skaters, circus performers and the NBA and baseball. Through that one case back in 1989, it has grown into a nationwide practice." He currently serves as the outside immigration counsel for the PGA Tour and the Texas Rangers.

He also handles immigration matters for multinational corporations. Securing visas for sports stars and entertainers constitutes only 1 or 2 percent of his workload, but supplies about 20 percent of the enjoyment, he says.

"Each case is different and it's fun meeting the people involved. I've had the opportunity to go to [pro golfer] Vijay Singh's house, who is probably one of the nicest people you could ever meet, contrary to what you hear in the press.

He's also flown to Las Vegas to watch Negreanu and other clients compete in poker tournaments. "They're amazing," he says. "They'll play all day and come back and do it again the next day. To have that kind of focus with that much money at stake ... it amazes me that they're able to do it."

Thanks to Ladik, they can do it here.

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