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Truck to Table

By on October 12, 2018
Dustin-playing-credit-Hayley-Hochstetler

Trucking Career Complements Poker Passion

BY: Sean Chaffin

Dustin Lindblad eases his big rig into the paved parking lot after a long day on the road. But he’s not here to drop off a load—that was an hour ago. Dustin parks his truck and slides down from the seat, several hundred dollars in his wallet for that night’s activities.

Not a golfer or a man who favors big purchases, Dustin’s primary pastime involves using his mind. He heads into the casino, walking past the craps tables and the twinkling lights of the slots. Dustin’s headed to the poker room. Hopefully another profitable night lies ahead before he rolls back out in the morning.

For this 39-year-old trucker and longtime owner-operator from Omaha, NE, his business fits perfectly with his love for poker—rolling across the country by day and battling it out in some Texas Hold’em by night.

The Poker Road

To say Dustin is a poker junkie is an understatement. He began playing in 1998 while on a trip with some friends to Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri.

“I walked into our room and one of my friends was on the floor dealing Texas Hold’em hands to himself,” he says. “I asked him what he was doing, and that day changed the rest of my life.”

That passion for the game lines up perfectly with his life on the road. As an owner-operator, Dustin is his own boss and hauls agricultural products throughout the Midwest. When he finds a tournament series he wants to play, he books a load to that area and makes the delivery. He has a regular routine to satisfy his card-playing fix. 

That includes staying in the casino parking lot or a nearby truck stop in his rig, or the occasional free hotel room. He showers at truck stops, and his foodtexas-hold-em is either comped at the casino, or he uses fuel loyalty points at truck stops, including TA-Petro’s UltraOne.

“Basically, I get paid for going to the tournament location area,” he says. “I stay in my truck, which only costs me about $15 a night for fuel, and food is negligible. The kicker is when I’m ready to go, I book a load going out of the same area and go out on the road until I find the next stop I want to play. It’s perfect.”

When it comes to hitting the tables, Dustin has been mostly a cash game player during his poker life, but began playing tournaments the last few years. When at a cash table, he plays anywhere from smaller stakes No Limit Hold’em up to games with $30-$60 limits. Even when playing cash games, booking loads following poker tournaments was necessary.

“I sort of followed the tournament circuit because wherever the tournaments are, the cash games are bigger and more available,” he says. 

Dustin now plays about five major tournament stops a year and also plays some smaller casino-run tournaments. He estimates his tournament winnings at about $20,000. His deepest run was a 3rd place finish in a decent-sized tournament at an Iowa casino in the early-2000s. He’s also won several smaller buy-in tournaments at local casinos.

In a game where many players are jet-set, traveling the globe to play in tournaments from Las Vegas to Monte Carlo to Macau, Dustin’s means of travel certainly stands out.

“There are so many advantages of playing poker with a trucking lifestyle,” he says. “Poker players by and large get any free stuff or take any angle we can, so naturally trucking is great. Most poker players don’t know much about the trucking Industry, so they are surprised when I tell them how I travel.”

Behind the Wheel

Life as a trucker began inauspiciously for Dustin about 10 years ago. He and his cousin started off with a pair of $3,500 trucks and began building a business.

“We didn’t even have any trailers,” he says. “We started off scratching and clawing for any bobtail work we could find. Eventually after about a year, we had our own flatbeds and did mostly local work, but some over the road. As time went on, my cousin got bigger and put multiple trucks on the road.”

Dustin decided to stick to his own operation, preferring just one truck. He began hauling anhydrous ammonia, which is used as an agricultural fertilizer and industrial refrigerant, about seven years ago, and that’s still about 75 percent of his work today. That is unless he has some card playing on the agenda.

“I use other trailers when I find better freight, or I want to take a poker trip,” he says. “I can’t use my NH3 anhydrous ammonia trailer because the freight is never near anything poker-related, and we’re not supposed to leave hazardous material trailers unattended, unless the facility is fenced and locked.”

Pulling those trailers is a 1994 Kenworth W900L with one of the first E-Model 650-horse, 3406E Cat engines, running through an Eaton 18-speed, and 3:36 gears. 

“My truck is a no-nonsense piece of machinery and one bad mamma-jamma,” Dustin says. “The truck is pretty much all original and still looks close to new. Let’s just say, “It gets the job done.” It had a Platinum Precious Metals overhaul, new 18-speed and new rears not too long ago. Basically, the whole drive train was redone.”

Married for 14 years, Dustin and his wife, Erin, have a 6-year old son, Cameron. Trucking may run in the family as he‘s already able to tell the make and model of any semi on the road and what it’s hauling. The whole family recently hit the road together, traveling to Kansas City for one of the stops on the Heartland Poker Tour.

When not driving, Dustin admits he doesn’t have many interests outside of family and poker.

“That might seem shallow to others, but to me, those things fill my life and bring me a lot of joy,” he says. “I like to play with my son, party with my wife, and take her out to fancy dinners. She is an amazing woman who puts up with me being gone a lot, and she’s a super mom who works and home schools our son.”

Arranging loads as an owner-operator on a poker trip is pretty simple, Dustin says. A little computer sense, some patience, and a helper at home or in an office goes a long way. What advice does he have for other owner-operators?

“I guess the best thing would be to find something you enjoy—whether it be flat bedding, hopper, or livestock,” he says. “Make sure it’s something you really like doing and figure out the rest around that. I’d rather haul something a little cheaper that I enjoy doing, rather than going for higher pay doing something I don’t like.”

This Nebraskan not only loves hauling, but the poker -player fun it brings him while on the road.

“I have a very sincere passion for trucking and poker,” Dustin says.

Is the next poker trip already in the works? You can bet on it.

Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions. He is also the host of the True Gambling Stories podcast, available on iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn Radio, Spotify, Stitcher, PokerNews.com, HoldemRadio.com, and other platforms. Photo of Dustin Lindblad provided courtesy of Hayley Hochstetler.

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