Let’s talk about 10-5 offsuit, is that OK with you?
Yep, that’s good. I knew that’d be the first question, so go ahead.
Can you tell us a little bit about the hand on Day 6 of the WSOP Main Event this year (his opponent ended up having aces) and what your thought process was?
First of all, in the hand, it’s so different when you watch stuff on TV. It’s all edited in its own way. But still, I’m gonna say before I discuss the hand, going back I wouldn’t do the same thing. But I don’t think it’s as bad as people think. When people see it they think “Oh my God that’s just terrible!” First of all, I was kinda watching the table out of my peripheral vision. And the guy was looking at his cards before it was his turn. And I thought I could kind of see if he had a really strong hand by how he was looking at his cards and by how people were reacting. So he checked his cards and for some reason I thought he was weak. … He raised it to 300,000. … I made it a million. The next guy goes all-in for a total of 2.4 million. So it was the guy from the cutoff who raised and I raised from the button. Now, I have a pretty crazy image; it’s not like I was a real tight player that was making this move. … I was getting creative, making a lot of moves. So people knew I didn’t necessarily have to have anything, and this is my thought process. So then when the guy moves all-in I just don’t think he has to have aces or kings right there. I thought he could easily have ace-king, ace-queen, even like nines or eights, or something in that range, just tying to catch me bluffing. So I went and took a chance. … So I decided there was a good chance he had ace-king or something like that so I went and took a chance. You know I really wish I wouldn’t have, obviously going back. But that was kind of my thinking behind it.
Some of the comments you made on TV made it seem like you really believe in things like destiny. That’s usually not the mantra of pro players. Are there really occasions where you think you’re destined to win like that?
Yeah, I think so. I had actually gotten it in bad a lot of times in that tournament, again because of my aggressive style and my nature and I got it in bad a lot of times, and I just thought maybe it could happen again.
That call with 10-5 seemed to combine your gut feelings with math. Is there ever a moment where you ignore the math and just fold? Like, if you were getting 3-to-1 on your money in a cash game, but it would cost you a third of your net worth to call with 10-5, would you still do it?
In situations like that I would fold. For the situation at the time I just didn’t think he had to have that big of a hand. In a cash game it would be a completely different scenario. But at the time I really didn’t know that much about my opponent and that didn’t help.
In our eyes you’re having a fantastic year. You won the Bay 101 Shooting Star; you played unbelievably well at the Wynn Poker Classic, and you were on the cover of Bluff in October. But would you say the way you went out of the main event soured your year?
Yeah, actually, in my article in Bluff I wrote about that. I was really upset. I did not even play close to my best poker, like compared to Bay 101. At Bay 101 I thought I played unbelievable at that final table, just played great. In the main event I made a lot of errors. I really shouldn’t even have gotten 20th place. I really made that many errors. You know, sometimes you’re running good; I was really running good during the main event. There were a lot of situations where I’d get it in bad and come out good. But you know that’s how poker is, situations like that. … I was really upset, I mean, after I busted out of that tournament I was in tears. I couldn’t believe I could blow a situation like that. It completely took a lot out of me. I was really depressed after it. I’m a lot better. It’s hard to watch, that coverage for me is really hard to watch.
Will this motivate you now?
This did motivate me, and I really thought I was gonna win a tournament right after that ended. I just really did and I made a couple of good runs at it. … I still think I’m gonna win something else.
Tell us about the home games and blackjack games you played as a kid.
When I was really young, like 8 or so, I was playing blackjack with my grandpa, and he would give me the money. But I was still playing for those stakes and he let me keep what I won. So it got my gambling juices flowing at a pretty young age. … I was thinking back, on how high stakes $20 a hand is now, because that was like almost 20 years ago.
Is there any better preparation for life as a poker pro than the childhood you had at playing those levels?
I really think as a kid, playing all the games that I did, because I was playing all of the poker games really, really young, just playing cards it seemed every day for so many hours a day, that it really did help my mind. Even if it comes to a new game now I’m pretty fast at picking it up. … It just seems like it doesn’t take me as long as it does a lot of people.
What’s your favorite game now besides no-limit hold’em?
You’re gonna laugh but it’s hearts actually. Me, and Gavin Smith and Layne Flack and a couple of other people have been playing hearts, and we’ve been playing pretty high stakes; $100 a point and you have to pay every person below you. We’ve been having marathon sessions at it. That’s our new favorite game to play.
Do you still consider short-stack play to be one of your weaknesses?
Yeah, I do. I try too hard to get a big stack and I know it’s one of my weaknesses. I have a hard time sitting there and just waiting things out and waiting for the perfect spot, and I know it. I just try to get in there way too much, just try to get all the money in there and see what happens.
Is it because you play so aggressively that it’s hard to play when you don’t have the ammunition to fire back?
Yeah, I think so. I would say that is exactly why.
So what would you say is your best attribute as a poker player?
My big-stack play. Usually, except for the main event this year, if I can really get a big stack I can usually do something with it. It’s by far one of my strengths.