November Nine? Meet the Florida Three!

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The November Nine features three Floridians this year vying to become the World Series of Poker Main Event Champion. John Racener of Tampa, Michael Mizrachi of Miramar and John Dolan of Bonita Springs carry the hopes of a state still looking for poker respect. Each one of them chatted with Ante Up’s Chris Cosenza.

MICHAEL “THE GRINDER” MIZRACHI: 14,450,000 CHIPS (SEVENTH)

Michael “Grinder” Mizrachi is in demand, and is it any wonder? The 2010 Ante Up World Series of Poker Player of the Year sits seventh in chips at the WSOP main event final table and could become the most successful tournament earner in history if he wins the big one. If you saw him during the three-month hiatus you may not have recognized him as he seems to have a cell phone fused to his head these days to conduct all of those interviews. He also made good at home as he taught a DeepStacks Live course at Miami’s Studz Poker Club (though this is not unprecedented as he was once part of the Pros vs. Joes series at One-Eyed Jacks in Sarasota, Fla.). Here is what he’s been up to since making history.

What’s life been like after making the final table? I’ve been traveling like crazy. I went to a Full Tilt tournament at Cyprus; I played the high-rollers; I played the main event. I was playing a lot of water polo in Cyprus, starting to get in shape, swimming a lot.

After Cyprus I headed to Israel to be with my family. We went to the Western Wall, prayed for a little bit, as you know what I wished for. (laughs) From there we went to Romania for a day and a half and played some cards there. Then I went to France (to play the Partouche tournament), then London (for the WSOPE) then back to Miami (for his son Paul’s sixth birthday party), then to New York for my cousin’s wedding, and to ESPN’s studios to do some interviews, then I’m headed back to London tonight to play the Full Tilt Invitational.

At what point in the main event did you think, “I can make the November Nine?” When it was the end of Day 6 and into Day 7 I believe I was second in chips with 7.5 million I felt like no one could stop me now. I’m second in chips and I feel like I have a big advantage, just the fact that I have so much more experience than everybody else. And I’ve played a lot more situations. I felt like if I play well, play my game, I’ll get there, I’ll make it to the November Nine. Fortunately I did.

What’s been the reaction of your family/friends and the media? Um, well, the media’s been crazy. I’ve been averaging two interviews per day. The first month and a half was hectic.

A lot of my friends are excited. Everybody wants to go. Hopefully I can get enough tickets to get everybody out there. … It’s gonna be tough. I don’t want to handle that part though, because it would stress me out, so I let (my wife) Lily handle that.

You’ve played with John Racener; what do you think of his game? I played with John the last three or four years. I would say sometimes he mixes it up really well. He’s aggressive and likes to play pots in position.

Have you mixed it up with John Dolan before? No, not really, just when we were down to the final 10. I’ve heard he’s really, really good. And he knows how to get chips, that’s for sure.

What do you think it says about Florida poker having three of its players at the final table? We are the Sunshine State. And I think due to the fact that we have the beaches and great lifestyle that Florida’s come out with some good poker players.

There’s a limited amount of great players, but there’s a lot of good players. Florida’s got talent, and we have high stakes. Maybe they have the Mizrachi blood, who knows? (laughs)
What will you do (or what have you done) to prepare for the November Nine? All I’ve been doing is traveling. … I’m actually doing a class for DeepStacks Live at Calder Race Course. But there hasn’t been much preparation. … When I get to the final table I’m just going to make my adjustments and hopefully I could take it down.

If you win it all, what’s the first thing you’ll buy? I don’t know yet, maybe a nice car. But I don’t know. We’ll see.

What do you think life will be like if you’re the world champion? If I do become world champion my lifestyle will stay the same. I’ll be the No. 1 tournament earner in the world for all-time winnings. You know, enjoy myself and enjoy my family. Maybe take it easy and not play as much poker as I did in the past. It will still be my full-time job, but I’m gonna take a nice long vacation and enjoy myself.

JOHN RACENER: 19,050,000 CHIPS (FOURTH)

John Racener is no stranger to World Series success, having won a circuit event in Atlantic City in 2007 and scoring a dozen WSOP cashes in his career. And that’s just live. Racener, of Tampa, Fla., is one of the top online players in the world, going by the handle $JMONEY$. But all of that pales to what’s possible for Racener this month as he’s playing for nearly $9 million and poker immortality. The celebrity of making the November Nine already is paying dividends. He was invited to a special fund-raising dinner for Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s Senate campaign. “It was really cool,” he said. “They had (bodyguards) there and everything. … He said he heard about my success and said congratulations and good luck.” Here’s an update on Racener’s life during the three-month hiatus.

What’s life been like after making the final table? Pretty amazing… A lot of people congratulating me, sending me funny Facebook private messages and chats, text messages, stuff like that. People come up to me when I’m out at night, or even when I’m at the pool laying out people come up to me. … it’s what I dreamed about so I like it.

At what point in the main event did you think, “I can make the November Nine?” When there was about a hundred people left and I won that big hand, queens vs. aces, that they showed on ESPN, that put me in the top three with like a hundred left. I knew then I had a really good shot. … I first thought about the November Nine when we were 27 left and I was top three, two, I might even have been at the top, I don’t know, but I knew then I had like a really, really good chance at it and it was most likely going to happen.

What’s been the reaction of your family/friends, and have a lot of long lost relatives come out of the woodwork? Well, obviously my mom and my sister are extremely happy, my closest friends are really happy about it. We’ve been talking about it 24/7. … I actually had a really funny private message on Facebook. Some older-looking guy, he looks like Santa Claus (laughs), private-messaged me saying he used to be good friends with my dad (who passed away about a year and half ago) and saying, “If you need assistance or help with the money…” I just laughed about it and moved on and didn’t reply.

You’ve played with the Grinder before; what do you think of his game? I think his game is amazing. When I first started traveling around (the poker circuit) I was 21 and I played with him for the first time at the Wynn Classic. We played almost the whole tournament together and we got into a lot of big hands together, a lot of interesting hands. And that’s when we became close friends. When I came back from that trip I told all of my closest buddies and my poker buddies that I think Grinder is the best player I’ve played with so far in my life. I just thought his game was amazing, just the things he does, I thought it was really unique. I kinda actually started to mimic my game after him after that.

Have you played with John Dolan before? No, I’ve never played with him and I didn’t really know too much about him until we were 27-handed and he started the day to my immediate right. He only had like two or three million chips then, and that was the day he went on his big run.

What do you think it says about Florida poker having three of its players at the final table? I do find it really interesting. I think that poker’s really competitive in Florida between Tampa and Miami. There’s always a lot of home games going on, and now that they have (uncapped poker) in casinos, I think the players in Florida might be some of the best in the U.S.

What will you do (or what have you done) to prepare for the November Nine? I went to the Full Tilt event in Greece just to keep my game sharp. And of course I went to the WSOPE (where he made the final table in the PLO event and finished fifth) and the EPT and I did well on those trips. Now I just got back home a couple of days ago and I’ll be watching a lot of the replays and the videos on ESPN. … Just looking at certain hands when these players are in big hands, see what they’re doing, like when they’re bluffing or not, just so I can know what to expect in certain situations when it comes up at the final table. … One of my fellow pro friends came up to me when I was at the WSOPE and he said, “I think I have a tell on you.” So we had dinner one night and he was telling me what he thought was going on. So that’s kinda like something that will help me.

If you win it all, what’s the first thing you’ll buy? The only thing that I really, really want that I don’t have is a big house. I would like to buy a nice four- or five-bedroom house, possibly on the water. Get some jet-skis, maybe a boat, and then I think I’ll have everything I want. … I want it to be somewhere here around Tampa, Fla. I like it here. All of my closest friends are here; my mom lives here. I like the atmosphere around here and don’t think I’d be as happy anywhere else.

What do you think life will be like if you’re the world champion? I kinda already got a glimpse of that a little bit when I was in London. I had people coming up to me on break wanting to take pictures and sign autographs. I think if I’m champion it’s going to be like that all the time. … especially when I’m traveling on tour because everyone knows who the champion is, even if they’re not a full-time poker player. … I feel like I carry myself really well. People around here already act like I’m champion. (laughs)

JOHN DOLAN: 46,250,000 CHIPS (SECOND)

Heading into the final table last year, Darvin Moon said the money wouldn’t change him, and you believed him. But after receiving $5 million for second place and having some time to spend it, he admitted later it did change his life. Yet when you talk with John Dolan of Bonita Springs, Fla., and he says nothing would change if he were to win it all this month, you believe him, too. This former Jefferson County Kennel Club dealer is very unassuming and very level-headed. Don’t be surprised if you see the bling on his wrist when this is all said and done. He has won plenty of important tournaments around the gulf region and has had a ton of online success. Ante Up called a little too early and woke him up to discuss his experiences after qualifying second for the November Nine.

What’s life been like after making the final table? It’s been pretty awesome. I pretty much just traveled Europe and played a bunch of live tourneys and had fun. Seen some old friends or talked to some old friends I haven’t seen or heard from in a while. (laughs) It’s just ’cause of the TV coverage and stuff.

At what point in the main event did you think, “I can make the November Nine?” Probably with like a hundred left. … It’s like, “Wow, this is actually possible.” With like 400 or 500 left you’re like, “OK, this is still like a normal tournament, or whatever.” There’s still so many people left you can’t expect anything at that point I guess. But with a hundred left you start to feel like, “Wow, 10 tables.” And all of the tables have disappeared. It’s a really cool feeling.

What’s been the reaction of your family/friends? My family has been awesome. They’re ecstatic and really happy for me. Old friends think it’s the coolest thing ever, you know, to see me on TV or whatever. That’s the gist of it, but my family’s been awesome.

What do you think of Grinder? Michael is the most accomplished player of anyone by far at the final table. He’s obviously doing stuff right and he had the biggest summer out of anyone. I obviously respect his game a ton. It’s nice to have him not with as many chips, to be honest. (laughs)

What do you think of John Racener? John’s really good. He plays a little different from what I would expect another 24-year-old would play. It’s not at all from what I would expect from an Internet person to play, because I play a bunch on the Internet. He plays a lot of live poker and kinda came up in both. He plays a little different than I would in spots. … I think he is more than capable and probably one of the toughest at the table, to be honest.

What do you think it says about Florida poker having three of its players at the final table? I don’t know what it says specifically because with the exception of homes games and the Internet there really wasn’t anywhere to play in Florida before that. There’s something about it, though, because there are SO many good players from Florida. So many Internet kids, it can definitely arguably be the best state.

Have you done anything (or will you do anything) to prepare for the November Nine? No I really haven’t. I’ve talked to a few of my closest poker friends, just about different spots and what we think people will be doing in certain spots. That’s the extent of it. I mean, I’ll watch the coverage and see if I can get anything off of it, but besides that I really haven’t done much.

If you win it all, what’s the first thing you’ll buy? Probably a house, somewhere in Florida.
What do you think life will be like if you’re the world champion? With the exception of traveling and playing more live poker, I really don’t expect much to change. I really wouldn’t change anything about the way I live. That’s just me. I mean, yeah, I’ll be able to live comfortably and won’t have to worry about things. I wouldn’t have to play poker as much. (laughs) But besides that, it wouldn’t change anything I did all the time.