How was your year as world champ? It’s basically been a whirlwind, taking it one step at a time. But not too much has changed.
What was it like being on Letterman? I was pretty nervous with all those cameras.
Were you more nervous there than at the final table? Oh yeah! (laughs) For sure.
What was the first thing you did when you got home to Michigan after your win? Relaxed. I had to do a lot of interviews so everything was kinda hectic at first and very busy. So when I got home I just took some time away and relaxed a little bit.
Did it take winning the world title to win your parents over to your poker career or did they come around before that? They came around before that. I’ve been doing it for a living for about four years now. After the first year they started coming around a little bit.
Now that you have your relationship with PokerStars how glad are you that you switched from UB for the November Nine? I’m real happy. Before I even signed with PokerStars I made it pretty clear on the radio that I wanted to be with Stars and I wanted to sign with Stars. I was very happy they gave me the opportunity to be part of the team.
And how did that happen? The UB deal was a one-day deal. It was kinda fast … there were like 30 people left and everyone’s coming up to you asking you to wear their patches and stuff like that and you’re kinda focused on playing. UB was one of the few sites that offered a one-day deal and I didn’t want to sign with someone right away. And then I was holding out for Stars once I hit that final table.
You won when you were 21. Most 21-year-olds spend their time wondering where their next meal is coming from and you’re a millionaire world champ. What has that transition been like? It’s a lot less stressful playing. When you go play these ($10K) main events and lose it doesn’t hit you as hard. I don’t know, I guess it’s been a lot more easy-going.
Darvin Moon told us last month he expects to make the November Nine again this year. Will you make such a bold prediction? (laughs) That’d be awesome. But the variance involved in these big tournament fields is very heavy. So I’m gonna try to play my best poker and if it came down to that that’d be pretty ridiculous.
What did you think of Moon’s play? I thought he did a good job. For him to say he wasn’t really an experienced player I think he threw a lot of people off with some of the lines he took in hands. I think he played well.
What are your plans for the Series this year? I’m gonna be playing all of the no-limit and Omaha events.
Wow. And you had three cashes last year at the Series. Were you surprised by your overall success? I guess my in-the-money percentage online is like 18 percent and I played about 16 tournaments so it’s right around there. I had a real upsetting tournament right before the main. I thought it was my only chance to win a bracelet. It was like a couple thousand players and it was down to the final 17 and I was third in chips. It was pretty rough on me, and demoralizing at first. But who woulda known I would have won the main?
How sad are you your year as champ is coming to a close? No, I’m excited for there to be a 2010 winner. There’s a lot of interviews and a lot of pressure. Everyone’s looking at you and how you do in tournaments. Tournaments can be rough because there are so many players. I guess there will be less pressure on me once there’s a new (champ).
You had one live cash after the main event. Were you distracted with the responsibilities of being poker’s ambassador? I wouldn’t say so. I didn’t really play in too many tournaments. I played in a few tournaments at the PCA; I played in Monte Carlo and in Italy and the Venetian. I played in like eight or nine tournaments so one cash in eight or nine is not that far off from normal. These tournaments have a really high variance so a lot of stuff has to go your way to work out well.
Has all of the extra travel been an adjustment to make? When I wasn’t 21 I would travel to Costa Rica and the Bahamas for the PCA before that, and then I was over in Aruba. So, I did a lot of traveling when I wasn’t 21 to where I could play.
Speaking of being the face of poker, tell us about your experiences in support for online poker politically and legally. I made a few trips to Washington already and met with some congressmen and senators and talked about poker a lot. … It’s a step that all poker players are hoping for, that the (legalization and regulation of online poker) passes. It’s a really big step and I think we’re getting a lot closer to passing it.
What were the days of playing live as a 19-year-old in Canada like? Canada actually has a pretty good game. It’s not too far away for me; it’s about 45 minutes away and on the weekends it was a pretty good game, $10-$20 no max buy-ins. I’d make my occasional trip up there to play some live poker. Live poker is always fun, taking a break from online. I had some rough swings over the course of a few years that I’m sure most poker players have. I started off playing $.10-$.25 when I was just old enough to play online and worked my way up to $25-$50, $50-$100.
Do you play any other poker games? I like playing other games occasionally, like stud and razz. But I don’t put in nearly as much time as I do with Omaha and no-limit. Hopefully I can get better at those games and I can play some Series events.
Is it true you play indoor soccer? Yeah, I’ve been playing soccer since I was 4.
Why do you think soccer never caught on in America? That’s a good question. All of the other sports are much better spectator sports. Soccer’s a little slower pace than football and basketball and NASCAR. So I guess that’s the reason.
Would you object to throwing in an extra ball to make it more exciting? (laughs) That would be interesting, I never actually tried that. It’s like throwing in two foosballs then trying to play foosball (laughs).