Heads-Up with Will Ma (TheDreamer)


Just a couple of days before the calendar turned to 2014, Will TheDreamerMa (pictured) won the Full Tilt Poker Sunday Brawloutright for $44,000. The bounty tournament drew over 1,100 entrants and he defeated fellow PocketFiver koczwi heads-up. “I was on a small downswing before the win, so it was nice to get the score,” Ma told PocketFives.

Curbing a downswing was perhaps the highlight of the day. Additionally, the Sunday Brawl marked his first win in a Sunday Major. “I’ve run very well throughout my life in terms of never having gone on a big downswing in tournaments,” he said. “The last month was more like a bunch of small losing days followed by winning the Brawl, which was a change.”

Ma has had a considerable amount of success live and online. In fact, he’s on the cusp of passing $2 million in tracked scores. “It’s not a bankroll-changing score of any kind,” Ma pointed out, “but winning tournaments feels very nice to me. I’d rather win a tournament for $40,000 than get second in a tournament for $50,000. Tournaments are so much smaller nowadays. I came in fourth in the Brawl around three years ago and also got around $40,000, but this one feels a lot nicer.”

If you look at his profile, you’ll notice that Ma has a different user name on each online poker site, from CutiePi314on PokerStarsto HalcyonDayson Full Tilt. “I came up with them in 2006 and, to be honest, I am embarrassed about a lot of them,” Ma said of his potpourri of names. “I have a different screen name on each site because I want it to be harder for people to know who I am. I don’t care too much about the celebrity value of having the same name on every site.”

CutiePi314 is a pun that Ma came up with because he “wanted to have a girl’s name” and is in the process of getting a Ph.D. in Math. HalcyonDays is from a song, said Ma, adding, “I think I should just stop at that.”

Ma played poker throughout undergrad and grad school, firing up tables on Sundays primarily. From 2011 to 2013, his poker career was a bit stunted since he was in the United States. Last September, his time was spread even thinner after starting up his own company in Canada that makes strategy games. Nevertheless, he has been able to play poker one or two days a week.

His startup piqued our interest, so we asked what kinds of games he has been producing. He responded, “We’re making a strategy game of perfect information, a modernized version of chess. It’s kind of the opposite of poker, which is full of randomness and guessing what your opponent is thinking. It plays kind of like Magic and is an abstraction of Starcraft.” The game will be found online once it’s released.

In the live poker world, Ma is probably best known for winning the €10,000 Grand Prix de Parisfor $574,000 in 2007 (pictured). One year later, he finished 10th in the same tournament and booked a $30,000 payday. “I guess poker has always been kind of a side thing for me, but a consistent side thing,” Ma relayed. “I don’t play too much live poker anymore, maybe one or two events per year. I enjoy the online grind and have a good routine and setup for doing it. I last played live in WPT Montreal in May 2013. I might play WPT Fallsview in a month.”

We’ll wrap up our interview with Ma by talking about his poker class at MIT. The high-profile university approved him to teach a for-credit class about poker, which he has taught twice, once in 2012 and once in 2013. “I go through a lot of the mathematical concepts that poker teaches like probability, game theory, and statistics,” he said. Cushy job!

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