On the Button: With poker pro Will “the Thrill” Failla

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Will “The Thrill” Failla, 46, is a Long Island pro known as one of the most engaging and entertaining personalities in the poker world. He has 13 major victories, including six at the Borgata and a recent Foxwoods title, as pictured above. Our Dave Lemmon spoke to him on Poker Action Line.

Congratulations on your victory at the Foxwoods, another of your great accomplishments in the Northeast. Thanks Dave, even a busted clock is right twice a day.

Tell us about it. One kid had the short stack of about a million chips, while the other three of us were around three million. So he says, “You wanna make a deal?” I’m not a dealmaker; I like to keep the pressure on people. Of course, I’ll listen when it gets down to two or three players, but I normally don’t like to chop. So the short-stack wins one hand, then knocks out one of the other guys, and my friend Tommy (the other player left) asks the guy again. He says, “There’s not gonna be any deals.” I say to him, “Who are you, Mr. Deals Alzheimers?” Then, after he loses a couple of big hands he starts asking for a deal again. I tell him, “You had your chance, no way!” but his brother, who was standing behind him tells us that the guy has four kids and they would really appreciate it if we made a deal… so I guess I caved in.

Which is more important to you, the money or the trophy? It’s funny you ask that; I’m a trophy guy and this was a really nice one, and the money always means something, but when you have kids like I do, I can be showing it to them years later and it really means something. The money comes and goes, but the trophy is forever. That remembrance really means a lot to me, so if there’s ever a discussion for a chop, I always get the trophy or there’s no deal.

Have you ever been in one of those head-to-head marathons that last four or five hours? My first serious tournament win was in 2007 at a WPT Foxwoods $5K when I played four hours against Kathy Liebert, who was the No. 1 female player at the time. She had me 3-to-1 and my knees were shaking; I suggested a chop, but she said, “Sir, there will be no deals.” I vowed not to get a single chip in bad and I just played so tight, but it worked and I finally won. It’s a great feeling and like I said when I won the WPT Legends, I wish this for all my friends in the poker world … when you put your heart and soul into this game, you should finally get a chance to win a major event.

Ryan Riess won the WSOP, and even though I thought you were the best player in the world, he said he deserves that honor, so I’m wondering who’s right? Well, he’s got 8.5 million reasons to think that way right now and I don’t, so I can’t argue. The kid played really aggressive and remember he got great cards. He got smashed over the head with the deck, and I’m a little bit envious but he played good and ran good so I give him all the credit in the world.

How about online poker in New Jersey? How will it affect you? Probably not much. I’d have to drive over a bridge to go play online; I can only play against people from New Jersey, and they suck already … I mean, I could do it in my hotel room or sit around the lobby and play, but I’m not racing over there to do that, I can tell you.

Will it save Atlantic City? It’s not going to be a windfall until this country gets united behind online poker. You could get the Borgata running a Sunday tournament with 3,000 or 4,000 people sitting in their living rooms around the country playing poker and winning big money. That would be great. But we’re not united and it’s gonna be a long, long time for that.