COVER STORY: He’s just warming up

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It’s been a year since Glen Chorny was the last man with chips at the European Poker Tour’s Grand Final at Monte Carlo. And quite a few remarkable things have happened to the 23-year-old since winning roughly $3 million that day. One would expect to hear about extravagant parties, dining with the principality’s royalty and impulse buys. But when asked about how his year has gone, Chorny’s first thoughts were of the weather.

“I’ve had some good things happen along the line,” he said. “I spent a lot of time out of the country and avoided winter. Pretty much the past two years I’ve avoided the cold, which has just been awesome for me. I’m not a winter person anymore.”

And that’s understandable considering he grew up (and still officially lives) in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, which is about 45 minutes outside Toronto.

“Winter sucks,” he said with a laugh. “Winter is always kind of been a pain in the ass. Growing up there is a great place, a lot of great people and lot of great poker players are from Canada. But I don’t know how long I’m going to be living there. I might be planning on moving to the U.S. in the next year or the year after that. I might be jumping around a little bit. I travel so much, it’s almost worth it to live down here. I kinda want to spend my time between Florida and Vegas. I’m not sure where I’d call home.”

These days you can find Chorny playing in the bigger buy-in tournaments at One-Eyed Jacks in Sarasota. His parents live just down the street and, obviously, he’s a big fan of the weather.

“I love it here,” he said, referring to living in Florida. Then he discussed playing in Sarasota. “I always find it fun. There’s no way I would come here if I didn’t find it a fun time.”

Chorny won the Scott Kazmir charity event in Sarasota a few months ago and a month later he played in the heads-up championship, losing in the first round. So did he sit in on the cash tables after that early exit?

“I never play cash games there; they’re just too small and too frustrating for me.”
But if he ever did sit down at the cash games in Florida he would have a definite game plan.

“I would generally play pretty solid and try to not get in for too much money to start. All of a sudden you get in for $200 you’re not earning that much return on that if you get to $800, as if you were in for $100. You can pretty much sit there and play solid and get paid off all day long. People here are pretty crazy in those cash games from what I’ve heard.”

Turning $2K into $2M

For Chorny the poker bug started when he was in his late teens, playing for recreation with his buddies, but that all changed when he turned 19. Like so many young players he discovered the Internet.

“It was up, up and away pretty much after that,” said Chorny, who goes by “Choron” or “WLUStudent” on the major sites. “What got the bug started with me was seeing that people could win so much money doing it. All of a sudden I changed my approach from playing it casually to actually trying to get better and actively exploit different spots against people. It just adds so many levels to the game once you actually start to think about it and try to get better.

“As soon as I started reading books and the online forums I really didn’t pick anything up that I hadn’t already thought of myself. Experience has a lot to do with poker. You might not be successful your first time trying new things out, but as you keep doing it and you get more comfortable doing it, it comes to you naturally.”

Had the poker gig not worked out he admits he likely would have been a stockbroker or financial analyst (or even a history professor) coming out of Wilfrid Laurier University. But from Day 1 his success was never in doubt, a fact his parents couldn’t ignore or debate.
“At first they were kind of skeptical,” he said as he recalled that conversation. “But when I showed them my bank-account statement and they saw that in like the first year of playing I made like $2 million online, it was nothing they would deny. (They knew) it was kinda like destiny. I pretty much turned $2,000 into that much.”

The year after

It’s hard to imagine anyone so young being frustrated with that much money in the bank and a major victory under his belt. But such is the life of a professional poker player whose success is measured by victories and status, thanks to televised events and media frenzy.
“It’s been frustrating I guess because I haven’t really snapped off a win since then,” he said. “But I really can’t complain; it’s been a really good run. I had some close calls. I could have been a WPT champ, too, but I got one-outed with 14 people left for the chip lead at the Bellagio Cup. Aces over 10s,” he says with a shrug.

He also played in the Bellagio’s $25K World Championship event, which was the day after his EPT win. How did he pull that off?

“Literally I was in Vegas 24 hours later to play in that tournament, and I was playing it all jet-lagged. I got up at 5 a.m. that day of the Bellagio championship to play. I couldn’t have been happier to get up at 5 a.m. that day. It was like the happiest 5 a.m. of my life. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to top that 5 a.m.”

So why haven’t you heard of Glen Chorny? Likely it’s because his major victory was never shown on American soil. No U.S. network has a deal to carry EPT events, but that doesn’t mean Chorny doesn’t get recognized.

“A lot more in Canada,” he said. “Not a lot of people know me outside of poker rooms, but the odd person does. One time I was at the EPT event in Barcelona, and I was at some coffee shop grabbing a sandwich and coffee and the lady is ringing me through and she says ‘Chorny, Glen Chorny?’ I was like ‘Wow!’ That’s pretty genuine, ya know? It’s just kind of when you’ve arrived, when people just recognize you randomly. I’m not saying I’m gonna be a Daniel Negreanu ever or a Phil Hellmuth, but who knows, maybe, if I’m lucky I guess.”

Heads-up and oh so close

One of the perks to winning the EPT Grand Final is getting an automatic berth into the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

“It was definitely something I was looking forward to for a very long time,” Chorny said. “It was really fun and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

His first match came against Margate’s Chad Brown, who has had a lot of success heads-up.

“Chad Brown is a very good heads-up player,” he said. “I think I had a big advantage going into that match on him because of how much he’s played on TV. I found out I was playing him the night before. What did I do the morning of? I watched him in the national heads-up championship on my laptop. I got so much information from that … it helped a lot.”
He didn’t need a lot of help beating his next opponent, Brad Garrett of Everybody Loves Raymond fame. And that match ultimately landed on the featured table as part of NBC’s broadcast.

“It was only the featured match after the Gus Hansen and Huck Seed match ended, which was pretty fast,” Chorny said, laughing. “It went really smoothly for me. I think I won like the first 14 pots. … I told everyone I knew before the match that I would probably get it in with a big hand against something pretty marginal and it would have to hold up and that’s how it went down. I got it all-in preflop with ADKD vs. J9 offsuit with jack of spades and the flop was 10-8-2, spade, spade, spade. Turn AC, river 8C. Pretty sick.”

That match meant $25K in Chorny’s pocket. Not too bad considering it was a freeroll. And he took solace knowing the guy who eliminated him (Seed) won the whole thing.

“Oh yeah, I have a world of respect for Huck Seed. He’s a maniac heads-up, and I don’t mean maniac like he’s loose or crazy or anything like that. I just think he’s just a really good heads-up player. … The matches were real short. I would have loved to have a chance to play more with Huck Seed; I wish like maybe they were best two of three. … there’d be less variance that way and the best player would come out on top. What happened with me against Huck Seed was so cold. I rivered a straight vs. a boat. I had it folded for the first three minutes but then I overthought it. Obviously he’s gonna show up with a boat! It’s real hard to fold a straight heads-up.”

Maybe next time … and there will be a next time for Glen Chorny.