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  1. Last week, David D RoRowan (pictured) came away with a third place finish in the weekly PokerStars Sunday $100 Rebuy. The tournament drew more than 1,200 players and well over $400,000 was given out, nearly double the event's guarantee. Rowan collected $41,000 as his reward and is nearing an amazing $2.5 million in tracked cashes in his PocketFives profile. How'd he do it? PocketFives virtually traveled to his home to find out. The final table was full of veteran poker talent, including Sorel Imper1umMizzi, U.K. player Rick TheClaimeerTrigg, Germany's pappadogg, and recent Triple Crownwinner LiroLa, several of whom are in the top rungs of the PocketFives Poker Rankings. "It was a tough table for sure," Rowan said of the group. "I didn't have any significant history with anybody. Sorel gave me a hard time three-handed and it seemed like I was always adjusting a second too late. Otherwise, I didn't get into too many battles or confrontations." On his last hand, Rowan jammed his final 13 big blinds with Q-7 offsuit and received a call from an opponent with K-J in a blind-versus-blind confrontation. Rowan flopped a queen to grab an early lead, but his opponent hit Broadway on the river for the win. PokerStars member paulitschMCultimately took down the entire tournament for $76,000. Also ongoing on PokerStars is the annual Spring Championship of Online Poker, or SCOOP. The series wraps up on May 20th and Rowan was looking forward to the "straightforward" events: "I'm looking forward to all of the regular and Turbo No Limit ones. I'm kind of put off by all the gimmicky stuff. I don't mind rebuys and tournaments like that, but the Action Hour thing was ridiculous and a Super Knockout - I mean they're cool and force you to adjust and all, but I think PokerStars would attract more players with more straightforward tournaments." Rowan had played in an Action Hour event just before PocketFives caught up with him and discussed why he wasn't enamored with the structure: "Basically, there is and hour-long rebuy period that plays like a Turbo. Then, the blinds reset after the add-on. The last level in the rebuy is 150/300, and it typically resets to 40/80. Tonight, it reset to 5/10 and they didn't miss a level from there." Only one Action Hour tournament was on the 2012 PokerStars SCOOP docket. The poker community has made significant adjustments following Black Friday in 2011. For Rowan, relocating and taking a staking deal were the consequences of the U.S. Department of Justice's actions. "I took a staking deal after relocating," Rowan recollected. "I'm looking to get back to playing on my own as soon as possible. I need to get my bankroll to a point where I feel I have a very small risk of ruin playing a normal high-stakes MTT schedule full-time." He added, "This year, I'm looking forward to getting back to playing on my own dime and always striving to find the life/poker balance." Besides SCOOP and the one-year anniversary of Black Friday, one of the other hot topics in the poker community right now is the rumored PokerStars purchase of Full Tilt Poker, which neither party has commented on officially. "It seems like everyone wins if it happens," Rowan observed. "It was definitely pretty low on the list of possible scenarios I pictured playing out. The GBT deal seemed promising. It seemed like the only option on the table, so of course I was optimistic about it." Other recent scores for Rowan include a second place finish in the PokerStars Bigger $162 for $32,000 and a win in the site's $109 Cubed for $11,000. He's at #190 worldwide in the Rankings and has been a card-carrying member of PocketFives since 2007. Sign up for PokerStars today.
  2. There have been several mammoth tournaments held so far during the 2012 PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker, or SCOOP. And, believe it or not, there have been a few of them that didn't feature PokerStars pro Viktor Isildur1Blom at the top of the leaderboard. Among those flying high so far is Sam TheSquidGrafton (pictured), who recently won a PocketFives Triple Crown and was part of a five-way chop of the high-stakes version of SCOOP Event #2. Grafton walked away with $234,000 from the $2,100 No Limit Hold'em tournament following the deal and received the event's largest payday. He officially took third place and told PocketFives how the chop went down: "We were five-handed. I had the chip lead and decided to look at the numbers. I clicked the button to discuss a deal and we made one instantly. I guess the others had already clicked it and we just took ICM." He pocketed $234,000 from the ICM deal and played on for another $20,000 in cash. "I was confident I would win, but when we played it out for the remaining $20,000, I was the chip leader and got coolered, running T-T into A-A and two pair into two pair. It just shows the variance." PokerStars member greezhool, who hails from Lithuania, officially came away with the win in SCOOP Event #2 and banked $220,000. Second place and $193,000 went to Germany's @cey@lone, while a familiar face in the PocketFives community, Canada's Luke IWEARGOGGLES Staudenmaier (pictured), finished in the #4 spot for $187,000. The U.K. native is the holder of four Triple Crowns, the most recent of which was solidified on the final day of April. He shot up from #123 worldwide in the PocketFives Poker Player Rankings to #70 when the standings were recalculated on Wednesday and is the #8 player in the United Kingdom. Getting to represent his U.K. countrymen, several of whom have been active in our new United Kingdom pokercommunity, was a thrill. "I'm just excited about the SCOOP," Grafton shared. "There are so many incredible English players, so I'm glad I got a good result. I'm sure many of my mates will get results soon." Grafton holds the top Sliding PLB score in the city of London. He'll now head to Las Vegas for the 2012 World Series of Poker and shared his advice for those looking to strike it big online. You're not going to believe this one: "My one recommendation to the poker community is to make sure you have a good avatar." Yes, it's all about the avatar. Grafton explained that a simple avatar change seemed to be the key to victory: "In the first few months of the year, my avatar had members of the community who are good friends: mcc3991, EMSGAWA9, and OMGJayGatsby. I ran terribly. Over the last two months when I got my Triple Crown and the SCOOP score, I went for the big hitters: badpab2and moorman1 (pictured). I've run like God ever since." Maybe it's not a coincidence. At this year's WSOP, Grafton has his eyes set on Event #28, a new $2,500 No Limit Hold'em Four-Max tournament. The event is bound to feature plenty of action, with Grafton previewing, "I can't wait for the Four-Max. I love the battles, the blind wars, and all that stuff." He has one WSOP cash to his credit, a $25,000 haul for taking 14th in a $2,500 Six-Max No Limit Hold'em tournament last June. He's maneuvered his way to a number of solid cashes as of late, including a win in the PokerStars Big $109 in January for $18,000 and a 98th place exit from the WCOOP Main Event last year for $17,000. He has $1.3 million in tracked MTT cashes to his name and holds the 51st best PLB score worldwide. Don't forget, PokerStarsis running a special freeroll on Sunday, May 13th at 2:30pm ET for PocketFives readers. It's a winner-take-all freebie for a $1,050 ticket into the 27th event of the Spring Championship of Online Poker. We'd like to thank PokerStars for bringing this type of value to the PocketFives community. Sign up for PokerStars today.
  3. In recent days, Tripp trippkirkKirk (pictured) took down his second gold ring by virtue of winning the World Series of Poker Circuit Main Event in St. Louis, Missouri. After outwitting, outplaying, and outlasting 624 opponents, he earned $190,000, a six-figure sum he'll now bring back to his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. Poker isn't his full-time career, as he works for a software firm, but he's learned from some of the game's best, like PokerSkiBumand four-time gold ring winner Kyle da_kyky Cartwright. We caught up with Kirk just after his big victory to learn what it takes to win two WSOP Circuit rings. PocketFives: Tell us about the significance of getting your second gold ring. Tripp Kirk: It was a pretty good day, and then I woke up the next day and found out we might get our Full Tilt money back. Ha. Winning a second ring makes the first one not feel as fluky, especially being a Main Event. It adds some validity to it. Live poker is just so high variance that I never really pictured myself winning something as large as a WSOP Circuit Event. It seems somewhat prestigious and tough. PocketFives: Talk about entering heads-up play with a 2:1 chip lead against Tim "Killer" Killday (pictured). Tripp Kirk: I coolered Chris Conrad three-handed pretty bad to get it heads-up. I was confident too. I got my start playing low-stakes heads-up cash games on PokerStars and Full Tilt, so I was confident in my heads-up abilities. I wanted to keep the pots small, whereas Killer's strategy was to play these huge variance pots. Conrad opened one time under the gun and Killer put in 55 big blinds with jacks and beats tens. PocketFives: Talk about the final hand. You had aces-up, whereas Killday was on a stone cold bluff with Q-10 on an A-7-4-2 board. What were you expecting him to turn over? Tripp Kirk: I thought maybe he got tricky with 7-4 and flopped bottom two. He could have turned over a straight draw or a middle pair. I knew my hand was good and didn't think there were any aces in his range. I think he would have shoved over my pre-flop raise with an ace rather than see a flop. He was trying to get all of his chips in the middle. PocketFives: How excited are you to qualify for the WSOP Circuit National Championship, a gold bracelet event? Tripp Kirk: I'm very excited for it. I've never played a $10,000 buy-in event, which is basically what this is. I'm excited to play a $10,000 event and excited to play against some of the stars. If you win a WSOP Circuit Main Event, you automatically qualify for the tournament, and there are other ways to qualify as well. PocketFives: Can you talk about your online poker career following Black Friday? Tripp Kirk: I haven't been playing online much recently. I had some money on Merge and played the nightly High Roller, but that's been about it. I've been busy and have been traveling. The prize pools online don't interest me as much. Three or four of my really good friends all want to play these live events and the players are so bad, so we try to get to as many of them as possible. They're a lot of fun. PocketFives: What went through your head when you saw the news that PokerStars could be on the verge of purchasing Full Tilt? Tripp Kirk: I was excited and encouraged. I only have about $3,000 on Full Tilt, but the intrigue about the site being open in the U.S. market again is exciting. I think part of the reason I haven't been playing on Merge is because I don't like playing two or three tables, which is about all of the relevant tournaments. Merge and Cake are not Full Tilt and Stars. There just aren't the prize pools. Grinding out $44 tournaments for eight hours to win $2,400 doesn't sound that fun. PocketFives: How did you get started in poker? Tripp Kirk: In college, we started playing $20 buy-in poker games. After college, a couple of my close friends, including PokerSkiBum, taught me the ropes. I spent a lot of time watching him and studied the game intently. He taught me how to think about the game, like what things to look for at the tables and things I had never thought about before. He taught me stack sizes, exploitable spots, and how to think about the game.
  4. On March 18th, a four-way deal ended matters in the PokerStars $100 Rebuy, which sported over 1,000 players on that fateful day and shelled out a prize pool of $340,000. Each player involved in the chop banked $31,000, while Kevin lobbyludParkes (pictured) officially came away with the win and booked a $35,000 payday. He's just $21,000 shy of his $1 million cash badge here on PocketFives and spoke to us about his monumental score a few weeks after the fact. "Obviously I am delighted with the win, but in hindsight, I am a little disappointed with the final table deal," Parkes admitted when asked how he was feeling a few weeks removed from the chop. "It was a lesson learned. I played well and didn't get unlucky." The other three PokerStars members involved in the deal were OBigO, ministerborg, and Kessbert. Last August, Parkes final tabled the weekly PartyPoker $200,000 Guaranteedfor $7,000. About a week ago, he took third in the PokerStars Big $55 for $10,000. Still, the Sunday $100 Rebuy chop, perhaps not surprisingly, stands out from the rest. "This win is probably the best I've had given the tough field," Parkes asserted. "It's always nice to add $35,000 to your bankroll." Well said. He'll be using his $35,000 shot in the arm in part to fund an upcoming family trip to the United States. He told us that he's looking forward to claiming his $1 million cash badge soon, and is proud to represent the United Kingdom in the process: "There is clearly a huge pool of poker talent in the U.K. It used to be moorman1(pictured) flying the flag, but now there are numerous players pushing the top of the rankings. There have also been significant breakthroughs on the live poker scene, with Moorman, Jake neverbluff67 Cody, and Sam Trickett leading the way." Parkes sits in the top 100 of the Sliding PLBfor the U.K., a list that features Christopher NigDawG Brammer (pictured) at the top. He's come a long way since haphazardly finding out about professional poker at a golf club: "I got into poker when a friend at a golf club suggested I might use my math background to make some extra money. I joined the original PokerSchoolOnline and learned the basics. I play poker as a hobby, albeit a serious hobby, and have no intentions of playing full-time, as I own my own chartered accountant practice." On the live poker circuit, Parkes has amassed over $104,000 in winnings, according to the Hendon Mob. "I've played a little live poker, but have only managed a few relatively small cashes," he told us when asked if he's had any success so far. "I am playing in the UKIPT Nottingham, so I hope this is the turning point in my live career." Speaking of UKIPT Nottingham, the PokerStars-backed tournament started today, April 11th, and runs through April 16th. His largest live cash to date was worth just over $20,000 and came during the Grosvenor U.K. Poker Tour Summer Series in 2009. That series took place in the city of Bolton, where Parkes took down a £500 No Limit Hold'em Main Event and defeated a field of 77 players. Here were the results for the March 18th PokerStars Sunday $100 Rebuy, which reflect the four-way deal: 1. parksy1066 - $35,500.00 (lobbylud) 2. OBigO - $44,000.00 3. ministerborg - $57,157.60 4. Kessbert - $31,500.00 5. jackellwood - $17,871.00 (jackellwood) 6. Mysters_Y - $14,467.00 7. Tribeca1999 - $11,063.00 8. montecarlo13 - $7,659.00 9. sappy123 - $4,765.60 (sappy123) Visit PokerStars for more details.
  5. In the month of March, inhoo(pictured) has been on fire. He's already up to over $100,000 in tracked online poker winnings, one Triple Crown, and four major tournament titles. Oh, and he took the first two-and-a-half weeks off to visit Thailand. It's just another day at the office for the Swedish online poker pro, who sits at #30 worldwide in the PocketFives Online Poker Player Rankings and has been a card-carrying member of our community since 2008. If you're looking to run well online, the solution is apparently to take a two-week sojourn to Asia. inhoo told PocketFives that he was well-rested following his recent excursion: "I just got home from a two-week vacation in Thailand. I didn't bring my computer, so I got home really refreshed and excited to play again. That and, of course, running really well have led to my recent success." He came back to the felts like a man possessed. On March 18th, he won the PokerStars.fr Sunday €200 Six-Max for $13,000. One day later, he was back at it again, this time taking down the $530 Monday Omaha on PokerStarsfor $19,000. The next day, players on Titan Pokerwere his victims, as inhoo won the $40,000 Guaranteed Super Tuesday for $10,000. And finally, on March 22nd, four days after his rampage began, inhoo brought home the win in the $100 Rebuy on PokerStars for $11,000. You can do the math to see that's over $50,000 in winnings in a four-day span. On which one of the tournament victories stood out the most, inhoo assessed, "It has to be the $100 Rebuy or $530 Pot Limit Omaha freezeout on PokerStars. It is always fun to win big tournaments that are not Hold'em." In early February, inhoo won the PartyPoker Winter Millionfor $130,000, which stands as his largest tracked score to date. Over the weekend on March 25th, he booked another $31,000 by final tabling the PokerStars Sunday Million. Clearly, he's doing something right. "The $100 Rebuy on PokerStars is a tournament I've wanted to win for a long time. I have been running awful on PokerStars in the bigger tournaments, so it was a relief to finally get there. Hopefully my success can continue now." We think it will. Last week, he rose from #34 to #30 worldwide in the Rankings and has the top PLB score in Sweden. His second Triple Crown should go a long way towards what could be a run at the top 20, or perhaps the top 10, in the world. "This was my second Triple Crown, so it feels good, but it's not close to the first one," inhoo remarked when asked to compare his two coronets. "With the first one, I really had to grind it out and was smashing things when I didn't get there at first." According to our Country Poker Rankings, Swedenis #16 in the world in terms of the combined PLB score of its top 20 players. It is sandwiched in between the Ukraine and the Netherlands and its players have amassed 14 Triple Crowns over the years. Perhaps Sweden's most famous online poker product is PokerStars pro Viktor Blom (pictured), the high-stakes young gun better known as Isildur1. Other Swedish poker players include Martin de Knijff and Chris Bjorin. We asked inhoo how he got started in poker: "The same old story. I started out playing small tournaments, moved over to cash games, and grinded mid-stakes games for a while until I got back into tournaments again. I have been grinding those most of the time now." He's averaging $943 across 1,202 cashes that have been tracked for the Rankings. Finally, we've seen online poker players in the United States, Sweden, and around the world attempt to strike it rich on the live circuit. Is inhoo one of them? "I was grinding most of the European Poker Tour events last year and had one final table bubble," inhoo said. "Besides that, I have not had any big successes. I haven't had the patience you need to get deep and have been spewing too much." We've awarded five Triple Crowns in March. Will you be next? Learn how to take home your own online poker Triple Crown.
  6. Two weeks ago, Morten MortenVMMortensen (pictured), who hails from Denmark, finished second in the $530 buy-in PartyPoker High Rollerfor $23,000. The tournament, which is also run on sites like WPT Poker, carries a $100,000 guarantee, which was smashed on that fateful day when 304 players turned out. Mortensen fell heads-up to OjanViskaSyn, who reeled in nearly $40,000 for the win, and the top 40 finished in the money. If you don't already have a WPT Poker account, sign up through PocketFivesand lay claim to a $100 bonus if you use the code P5WPT. Plus, we'll give you one free month of PocketFives Trainingwith no sign-up fee if you make a deposit. Get started. Other scores for Mortensen include a $19,000 haul for taking fourth in the PokerStarsSuper Tuesday last June and a $15,000 payday for being the runner-up in the site's Big $55 five days ago. One successful Sunday will earn him his $500,000 cash badgehere on PocketFives and he can be found at #219 worldwide in the Poker Player Rankings. According to the Hendon Mob database, Mortensen has over $300,000 in career live tournament cashes. It took us a few days, but PocketFives managed to run down Mortensen to discuss his life in the Scandinavian country. PocketFives: Thanks for joining us all the way from Denmark. Tell us how you're feeling about your PartyPoker High Roller runner-up finish. Morten Mortensen: It's a really nice feeling to end Sundays with a big score. That being said, there are always mixed feelings when you finish second in a poker tournament, and since I have buy-ins between $4,000 and $8,000 on normal Sundays, the finish is not something I gave too much thought to. I had a nice dinner with my roommate and fellow poker player Rasmus RasA86 Agarskov the very next day. PocketFives: Tell us about PartyPoker's High Roller. What is the field like? Morten Mortensen: In general, all High Rollers are a bit more difficult than regular tournaments. I actually feel like Party's High Roller normally has the strongest field of players of the weekly High Roller tournaments, except for maybe the Super Tuesday on PokerStars. PocketFives: You have more than 10 poker site names verified in your PocketFives profile. What are a couple of your favorite tournaments on those sites? Morten Mortsensen: The $525 Ongame High Roller each Tuesday is by far my favorite. It has a lot of good players for sure, but Ongame runs a lot of satellites to it as well, which keeps the regular field a bit softer than the usual High Roller tournaments. The PokerStars Sunday Warm-Up and Sunday Million would be the obvious picks for #2 and #3, but I haven't done really well in either of those. My last picks would be the $200 Sunday ChampionChip on Ongame and the Super Tuesday on PokerStars, not because they have many weak players, but because I really enjoy playing the more expensive online tournaments. For some reason, I seem to play them more seriously than the $50 freezeouts, a leak I need to get fixed. PocketFives: How did you get started in poker? Morten Mortensen: Pretty much the usual story. I started playing home games and stuff like that. I quickly started experimenting with online poker and ever since, poker has been my profession. To start with, I played heads-up sit and gos, but these days I play almost all tournaments, both live and online. PocketFives: Why did you want to play poker full-time? Did you have any other options? Morten Mortensen: The youth in Denmark have all the options in the world since education is free here, and so did I. But to be honest, I just fell in love with idea of being free and being able to travel and knew the only way I could realize that was by playing poker.
  7. It means no worries for the rest of your days. In the final days of February, PocketFives member Dimitri van Leent (pictured), who is better known as Lion Kingon our site, took down the 888 Sunday Challenge. There were over 800 runners in the online poker tournament, which allows one rebuy and dished out a prize pool of $116,000. Simba's namesake is on the cusp of cracking $600,000 in tracked scores here on PocketFives and hails from the Netherlands. "The structure is awesome," the Euro told us about the 888 Sunday Challenge. "If you take the rebuy right away, you start with 500 big blinds. The level of play is a bit lower than in most tournaments, even on Sundays, since most good players don't play on this network. There were a couple of good players left deep in the tournament, especially gnat777, who made my life tough. But, because of the good structure, we had a lot of room to maneuver." By the way, gnat777 finished in 20th place for just short of $600. Leent is ranked 130th worldwide and talked about the final stages of the landmark Sunday Challenge: "On the final table, the play was a lot shallower. This had to do with the people who tried to fold themselves to a couple of more dollars, which created some ugly ICM spots for me. Luckily, the big stacks were on my right for most of the final table." The largest tracked cash of Leent's poker career came last November, when the Dutch player banked $36,000 in the PartyPoker $100,000 Guaranteed High Roller. "This win boosted my confidence since I've been known only to peak in tournaments with fewer participants," Leent explained. "I won the High Roller on PartyPoker in November 2011. I've also had an awesome February where I won a High Roller on Ongame, got second in the iPoker High Roller, and won a $100 freezeout on Pokerstars.fr." In addition to proving that he can win a big-field tournament, Leent's win in the Sunday Challenge was well timed. He's planning to play in his first European Poker Tour event in the very near future, specifically the EPT Madrid Main Event that begins on March 12th. He said he prepared for Madrid by "following the last two days of EPT Copenhagen and I've been watching more EPT and World Series of Poker events." According to the Hendon Mob database, Leent has $113,000 in live tournament cashes, nearly half of which came by taking down a VIP Days Holiday Edition event in the Netherlands last July. He's looking forward to putting his live poker skills to the test in just a few short days: "I feel I've improved a lot in the last few months as a player. I'm more experienced in live poker as well." He's the #2 player in the PocketFives Sortable Rankingsfor the Netherlands, behind only Joris Jorizz Ruys (pictured) in a nation that has 318 registered PocketFivers. The two are friendly as well, as Leent told PocketFives that he's "learned a lot from Jorizz by talking about poker with him." "I played a bit when I was in college," Leent responded when asked how he got started in the game. "I was not very successful, but at least I didn't lose money. When I graduated, the job market in my field was really poor, so I decided to give poker a more serious shot. I started out by playing the 45-man sit and gos on PokerStars and worked my way up from there." Leent observed that the poker boom in the Netherlands is still in full swing: "I hear everyone talking about the poker boom being over, but I don't really agree with that. Whenever I play poker, whether it is online or live, there are a lot of recreational players. Being a Dutch tournament pro, it's a bit hard since the tax legislation makes it difficult to play live tournaments abroad. That's why most tournament pros turn to cash games." By the way, if you don't already have an account on 888, you can sign up through PocketFivesand get a 100% up to $600 deposit bonus instead of the usual 100% up to $400. You'll also be entitled to $8 free and one free month of PocketFives Training if you make a deposit. Plus, you'll be supporting the PocketFives community.
  8. This month, the PocketFives Podcastwelcomes the #8 player in the Online Poker Rankings, Chris Big HuniHunichen (pictured). Now residing in Costa Rica following Black Friday, Hunichen has been on a tear, including a win in the PokerStars Sunday 500 in early February for nearly $70,000. He's on the verge of cracking $4 million in tracked winnings and shared his love of the game, and his Costa Rican entourage, with Podcast listeners in a 30-minute spot. As we said in the opening paragraph, Hunichen recently moved down to Costa Rica, land of rain forests and exotic libations. He gave PocketFives Podcast listeners the dish on his poker schedule: "It's a nice schedule. It's basically 10:00am or 11:00am until 9:00pm or 10:00pm. We have all night to do whatever we want, come home, go to sleep, and do it all over again. There are a whole lot of people in Playas del Coco, where I live... I hang out with a bunch of poker players here. I'd start naming them, but there are 25 of them now." He rattled off nearly 10 roommates and described his Costa Rican beach digs: "I have a house on the beach. I can literally throw a rock into the ocean from my back door. It has to have something to do with how much success we've had. We have this outdoor patio that we call the 'birdcage' because we call our poker tournaments 'birds.' We sit out there and grind in the birdcage." The result: He's up to nearly $200,000 in tracked cashes in February. Costa Rica is quite tropical and filled with monkeys, birds, and lizards. What's not to like? "It's different here," Hunichen remarked. "The food is pretty much one of the only things I had a problem with in Costa Rica. Other than that, everything is perfectly amazing. The nightlife is cool. We're in a beach town, so all of the bars are outdoors. It's all open space, outside. It's different than going to Vegas and having nightclubs... There's a lot of dancing. Costa Ricans love to dance." His hometown has about 5,000 residents, and we're sure Hunichen loves to dance as well. Hunichen told listeners that he started in poker eight or nine years ago: "I started like everyone else - I used to put $100, $200, or $300 on and usually lose it. I was playing $5 MTTs on PokerRoom... That's when I really wasn't involved with the game like I am now." He has been active on PocketFives for the last half-decade and has contributed nearly 400 posts to the site. Despite his cavalcade of wins - and according to Hunichen, he has shipped "hundreds" of MTTs - his first victory still stands out: "Back in 2003, I was living in North Carolina and went to Charlotte to go to a Panthers game. My college alma mater, ECU, was playing on that Saturday in the same stadium, so I took a couple friends down there and we were at the Embassy Suites. I won a $5 MTT on PokerRoom for $400, I believe. It was one of the coolest things that had ever happened at the time." Finally, one member of the online poker community asked Hunichen what changes he's made to his game since moving to Costa Rica: "Bet-sizing is very important in poker. I used to play a little more scared. I used to do a little more pot control... When I moved down here, Gettin Daize (pictured) and I started working on our games, and that was one of the flaws he found in mine - I needed to adapt a little differently to betting styles... My results have dramatically increased. It's been a world of difference." He owns the ninth best PLB score worldwide and the eighth best Pro Poll mark. Hunichen is just seven spots away from owning the title of #1 player in the galaxy: "I've been hitting some big scores lately, so it's possible [I'll make a run at #1]. I do want to get first. I want to make that a goal of mine... I'm not going to be overly aggressive with it, though... Money is way more important than the Rankings." Listen to this month's PocketFives Poker Podcast.
  9. On February 12th, U.S. nomad Kyle KJulius10Julius (pictured) came away with a win in the PokerStars Sunday Million. There were actually two Sunday Million tournaments that took place that fateful day, and Julius was rewarded with a bankroll boost of nearly $180,000 for finishing first in the second go-around. The supplemental Sunday Million of the day brought out 5,671 entrants and offered up a prize pool of $1.1 million. Right before Black Friday, Julius could be found as high as #14 in the PocketFives Rankings, and currently stands at #139. "I was in Niagara Falls for a $5,000 Main Event they had," Julius told us about his big afternoon. "I busted that really quickly and had enough time to run to my room and register for the two Warm-Ups, Millions, and everything else that was running. I had about 35,000 in chips at 80-160 and really never looked back. I felt like I had a ton of chips the entire tournament, and when you get deep in the Sunday Million, there are a lot of inexperienced players who are going to be playing scared. So, I took advantage and just put tons of pressure on everyone, which made it pretty easy to chip up and eventually take it down." We're always amazed by poker players' ability to be able to put a defeat like the Niagara Falls $5,000 Main Event behind them and switch gears for an afternoon of high-stakes online poker tournaments. Julius contended, "You have to be able to just let it go when you bust these things. You are going to bust them more often than win them, so if you dwell on it, you won't get anywhere." He edged out Australia's weygang1 in the un-chopped Sunday Million. Julius gave us a quick scouting report on weygang1, who recently picked up his $1 million cash badge in his PocketFives profile: "I recognized his name and had played a lot with him before. I always thought he played well and obviously played sick to take second in the Sunday Million." The Australian sits just behind Julius at #150 in the Rankings and won the PokerStars Sunday 500 in June. Following Black Friday, which resulted in sites like PokerStars leaving the American market after action from the U.S. Department of Justice, Julius packed his bags and headed for Vancouver. He admitted that he "got set up a few months ago such that whenever I'm out of the country, I can play" and so makes regular trips back to his home in Illinois. He frankly admitted, "It's great to be home and see my family, dog, and friends. There is lots of going out when I'm in the United States due to the fact that I don't have a way of playing poker there." September was a landmark month for Julius, who took down the PokerStars $215 Sunday Supersonic for $38,000 and finished third in a $109 tournament on the same site for another $19,000. In January, Julius broke through on the live circuit with a second place finish in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event following a heads-up chop. The Illinois native walked away with $1.5 million after falling to John Dibella (pictured), who earned $1.7 million and the title. Perhaps fueled by his PCA Main Event success and the risks of playing online poker in the United States, Julius has his sights set on playing more live events in 2012: "I'm just going to play as much as possible live this year until I'm burned out. As long as I'm enjoying playing, I'm going to do so." Julius has been a member of PocketFives since 2006 and is about to lap $2.5 million in tracked online cashes. He has about $1.7 million in live tournament scores to boot, according to the Hendon Mob, and has even recorded a Triple Crown on our site. A total of 810 players finished in the money in the second running of the PokerStars Sunday Million on February 12th. Here's how the final nine cashed out: 1. KJulius10 - $177,391.58 (KJulius10) 2. weygang - $132,134.30 (weygang1) 3. kinamon8 - $93,401.37 4. padjes - $64,082.30 (padjes) 5. 26071985 - $48,203.50 6. engelberth.v - $36,861.50 7. vwborat18 - $25,519.50 8. p.s.newreg - $14,177.50 9. DONTSTAKEME - $9,073.60 The tournament regularly has a $215 buy-in and comes your way once a week. Visit PokerStars for more details.
  10. Last month, the online poker forums here at PocketFives erupted when ApesAreFunearned his $1 million cash badge. Support poured into a Poker Community thread, where a bundle of brand name and longtime PocketFives members chimed in. ApesAreFun collected his badge in style after winning the Big $162 on PokerStars for $17,000; his next one will come when he's racked up $2 million in winnings. Comments in the thread included, "Nice job bro shipping the Big $162 and getting the $1 million badge" and "Congrats Apes! I take it your AA and KK held up for once!" Amazingly, his four largest cashes on PokerStars have all come in $162 tournaments between May 2010 and January of this year. He has seven five-figure scores on PokerStars over the course of his career. ApesAreFun has been part of PocketFives for the last five years and is perched at #285 worldwide in the PocketFives Rankings. He told us in an exclusive interview what it felt like to log onto the site and see all of the congratulatory messages: "It means a lot to me. PocketFives has always been a great place to talk about poker and other things." He's currently #7 in the PocketFives Sortable Poker Rankingsfor his home country, a leaderboard that features MarkusG at the top. In the last five years, he's found time to create nearly 6,000 posts on PocketFives, a pace of about 1,200 per year. He has been incredibly active on the boards and told us how he has found time to contribute so many posts: "I guess you can find a lot of time for it when you sit in front of a computer for so many hours playing poker. It's just nice to browse through PocketFives when you get short on tables." If you take a look at ApesAreFun's profile, you'll notice a shiny "Mod" badge as well. The Norwegian has been a Mod on PocketFives for the last three years and shared what it's like to police the forums: "It's been great. I've learned so much about how to run a site like this smoothly and I love helping out on a day-to-day basis in the place that kind of got me into poker. I got a PM from dhubermexback in 2009 where he thanked me for all of my helpful posts in Poker Discussion and asked if I wanted to get more involved. I have to say, I felt honored when he asked and I obviously said yes immediately." His largest tracked score to date came in September 2010, when the Mod finished fourth in the $750,000 Guaranteed for $41,000 on the now inactive Full Tilt Poker. Not surprisingly, he told us that the score was the highlight of his poker career to date. Last May, ApesAreFun finished third in that site's Turbo Hundo for nearly $13,000. He's up to $1.03 million in tracked online cashes to his name, nearly 30% of which has come on PokerStars, the world's largest online poker room. There are a variety of online poker forums and informational sites out there, but we asked ApesAreFun what makes PocketFives unique. Why has he gotten hooked on our site? He responded, "It's an easy site to read and browse, unlike some other forums and communities that just didn't appeal to me at all. Also, the rankings for MTT players make this a perfect place to be for any MTTer." Last December, he was positioned as high as #247 worldwide and currently has a PLB score just north of 3,300 points, good for the 98th percentile. The PocketFives Mod closed by dropping several names: "I want to say thank you to my friends that I chat online on a daily basis with, especially ImDoneCallin, skydiveoslo, and mendezoo. It's amazing that you guys keep up with all of my whining about running bad. And also a big thanks to PocketFives - I wouldn't be anywhere near the player I am today without this site." Add your own congratulatory message by commenting here or visiting the thread in Poker Community.
  11. It's been a topsy-turvy last 10 months for poker pro Christina Lindley (pictured), who is known on PocketFives as lindeyloo22. After setting up shop in Las Vegas to play online poker with fellow female star Lauren locoenlacabeza Kling, Lindley left the United States following the events of Black Friday in order to keep playing online. Now residing in Canada and on a warm weather retreat to Mexico, Lindley sat down with PocketFives to preview the 2012 World Series of Poker schedule and talk about her life post-Black Friday. Her marquee scores include a second place in an FTOPS event for $106,000, a win in a USA COOP $320 buy-in tournament on PokerStars for $127,500, a final table in the WCOOP Super Tuesday for $35,000 last September, and a recent win in a $55 Rebuy on PokerStars for $12,000. According to the Hendon Mob, Lindley has over $60,000 in live cashes to her name. PocketFives: Thanks for joining us from Mexico. Can you give us your general thoughts on the 2012 WSOP schedule? Christina Lindley: I was psyched out of my mind about the new four-max event. That's my new game. There's a four-max event every week on PokerStars that I've been doing well in. When I was in Vancouver during the WCOOP, one of my friends said I was good at six-max and I should try the four-max games online. They are conducive to my bipolar style of play of being nitty and psycho and really emphasize playing the player, not the cards. I also like to play a lot of hands. I've been playing it online every week and doing well. I've been playing more heads-up too and have been working on my short-handed game. One of the huge advantages I have knowing cash game players is that a lot of the MTT regs are good pre-flop, but their game on the turn and river is lacking. They don't know what to do deep on the turn and river with a lot of chips. PocketFives: There's a $1 million buy-in tournament on this year's WSOP schedule, a charity event that benefits the One Drop foundation and also awards a gold bracelet. What's your take on the $1 million buy-in event? Should it award a gold bracelet? Christina Lindley: If it's for charity and people want to play for $1 million and have that official title, then why not? I think that's great. Poker players don't necessarily get involved with the community, so if we can help people on that grand of a level, it's great for the sport and good public relations for poker players in general. It's showing the mainstream world that we give back. If you think about the fact that there are mixed events and the ladies event, for example, there are a lot of tiny field events at the WSOP, so I don't see why this shouldn't be a bracelet event too. PocketFives: Should the WSOP Main Event continue to feature a delayed final table? Christina Lindley: I think that by doing the delay, it increases interest and provides an opportunity for poker to be more like mainstream sports where you can bet on who is going to win. Players can get sponsors, work on their game, and study their opponents. My whole thing with poker is that I want it to be a mainstream, Hollywood-type event where people want to view it, so in that respect, I think a delay is good. If there were an option to do away with it, it would be better to keep it from the perspective of getting endorsements and making it a spectacle. PocketFives: We take it you're down in Mexico right now because of Black Friday. What has your life been like since April 15th of last year? Thanks for snapping this picture of a gorgeous sunset from your balcony for us, by the way. Christina Lindley: Black Friday changed my whole life. I went from living in Las Vegas playing online poker whenever was convenient and spending time with my family and friends to organizing multiple trips to other places. I have my home base in Vancouver and still have a place in Vegas. When the weather got bad, I went to Mexico. It all requires a lot of work and effort and it's definitely been incredibly inconvenient and very stressful. Overall, though, I think it's changed my life for the better. I'm much more adventurous now. I never would have lived abroad. It's forced me to hone my skills to make it worth traveling. When you're spending money living abroad, you had better be making money by playing poker. PocketFives: Do you see yourself eventually moving back to the United Statesfull-time? Christina Lindley: I've always wanted to plan everything, so it's been very challenging to accept that I can't really plan what I'm going to do now. All I can do is set professional goals for myself. I can't say where I'll be living next year or anything like that, so I'm letting myself go with the flow and see what happens. If I win one major live tournament, for example, it could change my life. PocketFives: Is poker still fun after all of this upheaval? Christina Lindley: It's more fun now because I appreciate it more. I never took poker for granted because it gave me a freedom and a lifestyle that I could never have had as an actress. I choose everything now. I can play anytime I want. I can play any tournament anywhere I want. It's given me a freedom I've come to appreciate since Black Friday.
  12. On January 15th and 22nd, Rafael Monteiro (pictured), better known as LiroLaon PocketFives, recorded final tables in Sunday Majors on back-to-back weekends. One of them was even for a win to boot. On January 15th, Monteiro and 3,600 other poker players entered the weekly PokerStars Sunday Warm-Up and vied for a $734,000 prize pool. When the smoke cleared, Monteiro took third place, the highest finishing spot for a PocketFiver, and walked away with $60,000. One week later, it was business as usual for Monteiro, this time in the PokerStars Sunday Second Chance. He officially registered a $45,000 payday for the win in that tournament and etched his name in the halls of poker history. As if all that winning weren't enough, on the very first day of 2012, he finished third in the PokerStars Bigger $55 for over $20,000. "I started the year with a nice score and, fortunately, two weeks later, I got my best score ever in the Sunday Warm-Up," Monteiro told us in an exclusive interview. "I usually run well in the Warm-Up and that day, everything happened great to me until the final table. With seven players left, I was super short-stacked, but came back and finished third." We asked him to walk us through his Second Chance victory, which has helped him in part to leap to #227 worldwide in the PocketFives Poker Player Rankings: "The Sunday Second Chance win was pretty unexpected. My day wasn't turning out to be a good one and, after some hours of grinding, I could see only the $11 Freezeout and Second Chance in front of me. I focused on both and played well against the tough field of the Second Chance. The heads-up part was against a great player and so hard, but finally I won." He edged out PokerStars member DYBYDX in the Second Chance. What's been the secret to his success? How has he been able to come out of the gates swinging in 2012? He told us, "I try to be focused all the time, always thinking about the best line to use, for example.I've improved my psychological factor because last year was not good. I saw it as a test and tried to improve my skills as much as I could, including on the psychological front." Monteiro added that videos and poker strategy articles helped lead to his newfound glory. Perhaps also contributing to his recent success is the fact that he's out of school for vacation until March and can wholly focus on the game. He observed that he usually plays better when school is out. The PocketFiver calls Florianópolis, Brazil (pictured) home and he's been a member of the online poker community for nearly two years. On how he got started in poker, he recalled, "I started in early 2008. My school didn't start until August of that year, so I had six months to do absolutely nothing. I was searching for something to spend my time on and found some sites about poker. I won $1 in a forum and started playing some micro sit and gos. From there, I just studied and my game evolved." He has $450,000 in tracked cashes on PocketFives, one-third of which has come in January alone. Additionally, he has turned in over $400,000 in winnings on PokerStars alone. In February 2011, he grabbed an online poker Triple Crown by virtue of winning tournaments on PokerStars, UB, and Full Tilt. He concluded by saying, "I would like to thank the PocketFives team. I always read the interviews on the site and never imagined that one day I would be interviewed." Visit PokerStars to sign up for the Sunday Warm-Up and Second Chance.
  13. This month, listeners of the PocketFives Podcast, powered by ClubWPT, are in for a treat, as 2011 World Series of Poker Main Event champion Pius MastaP89Heinz (pictured) joins the show. Heinz, who banked $8.7 million for taking down poker's most prestigious tournament last year, spoke with us from the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, which just wrapped up in the Bahamas. Heinz is a sponsored pro of PokerStars. You can support the PocketFives Podcast by signing up for ClubWPT, which offers rake-free online poker to players in the United States. You can play for thousands of dollars in cash and prizes every month and take advantage of unique perks like Entertainment Book discounts, one-click access to WPT Magazine, and the opportunity to watch past episodes of the WPT online. Visit ClubWPT for details - never lose a dime playing poker. "My confidence level was pretty high going in," Heinz told PocketFives Podcast listeners as he rehashed his mindset heading to last year's Main Event final table. "I didn't try to be too stressed out and just tried to focus on my game and focus on playing well. For the first 30 minutes, I was actually quite nervous. I was shaking when I put the chips in, which you could see on the broadcast. Thankfully, we had a break pretty early, so I went outside and tried to regain focus." The result was a heads-up victory against the Czech Republic's Martin Staszko and an $8.7 million bankroll injection. We asked Heinz to rattle off his toughest opponents at the WSOP Main Event final table. Of the eight players he had to choose from, Heinz responded, "I don't think one guy in particular stands out except for maybe Ben BenbaLamb (pictured). He was on my immediate left as well, so he was a big threat to me. The final table in general was tough. We had Phil USCphildoCollins (an accomplished online tournament reg), Matt Giannetti(who used to play high-stakes cash online), and Eoghan O'Dea (who I have a history with online). Everyone at the table was really good and deserved to be there." Heinz' rail at the Penn and Teller Theater at the Rio was quite boisterous and busted into song every time their hero took down a pot. On the contingent, which hailed from the United States, Europe, and beyond, Heinz told Podcast listeners, "Having so many people there to support me was awesome. This was probably the biggest experience of my life so far and being able to share that with my friends and family was just great. That support meant a lot to me." As we said in the opening paragraph, Heinz is a sponsored pro of PokerStars, the world's largest online poker room. PokerStars helped arrange our interview and Heinz justified signing with the site: "I definitely looked into a lot of options. From the get-go, Stars was my favorite by far. They're by far the best and biggest company in the industry and also the most reliable one. Being at the final table, you want to work for the best, and I think PokerStars is by far the best company in the industry. For me, it was a no-brainer to work with them." Heinz took fifth in a $5,000 No Limit Hold'em Eight-Max event at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure for $45,000. He described how others at the table treat him now that he's laid claim to the title of World Champion: "I don't get a lot of respect. People always think I'm bluffing, which I kind of am. That's always difficult to deal with, so you have to play tighter and have good hands more often than not. My image is pretty bad." If you're a regular visitor to PocketFives, then you know that former WSOP Main Event winner Jonathan Duhamel (pictured) was the victim of an assault and home invasion just before Christmas. Heinz described how he's treating his own security following the incident: "It's one of the negative aspects that come with the fame. So far, I've been really lucky, [but] that's something you have to be worried about." Listen to this month's installment of the PocketFives Poker Podcast, made possible by ClubWPT.
  14. Early Sunday morning, longtime PocketFives member Shaun shaundeebDeeb (pictured) captured his fifth PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) title, extending his own record for the most ever. He told PocketFives in an exclusive interview following his victory, "Once I get deep, I just know I'm going to win. I have the craziest confidence that I'll make the right decisions and not get coolered or bad-beated." Deeb's latest SCOOP trophy came in the high-stakes version of Event #38, a $2,100 HORSE tournament. The final table was chalk-full of poker talent, including PocketFives Triple Crownwinner Dylan ImaLucSacLinde, Jonathan FatalErrorAguiar, George Jorj95Lind, Russia's Andrey ZayaZaichenko, and the United Kingdom's Jon EMSBas Spinks. On his success in HORSE, Deeb told us, "I play a lot of Eight Game, so playing HORSE is an easy adjustment. I obviously had some key hands when I was short-stacked, but once I got chips, I never really lost two big pots back-to-back; I just keep stealing and building." Deeb faced off against Spinks heads-up early Sunday morning and entered with a 3:2 chip lead. We'll let the PokerStars Blog describe the last hand, which came during Limit Hold'em: "[Spinks] and Shaun Deeb saw a Td-8s-5h flop. Deeb check-called [Spinks'] bet, then check-raised the turn when the Kc fell. [Spinks] three-bet to 30,000, Deeb capped, and [Spinks] called all-in, turning over Ad-5c for bottom pair. Deeb showed Qs-Tc, his pair of tens in the lead. [Spinks] needed an ace or a five, but the river fell a total blank with the 6c." Deeb gave his two cents on the talent-rich final table in SCOOP Event #38: "Luckily, a lot of them were tighter. I was able to steal a lot knowing how rarely they played back. Lind(pictured) has really impressed me this SCOOP with his skills in other games. I used to think he wasn't good at them and was just playing the satellites and hypers for VPPs, but he's definitely a great overall player and deserves a ton of respect for his grinding and skill." The PocketFives forums were also buzzing with word of Deeb's fifth victory in a SCOOP event. One PocketFiver from the United Kingdom was looking for action on Deeb's World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet chances: "He's done it again... Absolutely incredible. Any bets he ships a bracelet this year in a Stud or HORSE event?" An Aussie PocketFives member echoed the same sentiments, posting, "He must be pretty psyched for WSOP Stud and Mixed Games at this point." Deeb also has victories in Stud, Triple Stud, and Stud High-Low tournaments during the 2012 SCOOP. His first SCOOP title, which came in 2010, was in Pot Limit Omaha. Deeb is fired up for the WSOP, which begins next weekend from the Rio in Las Vegas. And even though he won't admit it, we think he's a little more stoked given his recent SCOOP success. "I couldn't get more excited than I was before SCOOP," Deeb claimed about the WSOP. "The WSOP is just the end boss of the year, and being close to so many people who have had great WSOPs in the last few years, I want to join them." By the way, Deeb's latest SCOOP event win was worth $46,000. Here's how the final eight players cashed out: 1. Shaun shaundeebDeeb - $46,325 2. Jon EMSBasSpinks - $31,450 3. Dylan ImaLucSacLinde - $23,800 4. BiatchPeople - $16,150 5. Andrey ZayaZaichenko - $11,900 6. Sivokhan - $8,925 7. Jonathan FatalErrorAguiar - $7,225 8. George Jorj95Lind - $5,525 Deeb has nearly double the number of overall SCOOP leaderboard points with 825 thanks to eight top 10 finishes and four wins. He'll take home a trophy and a 2013 European Poker Tour (EPT) Grand Final prize package for blowing away the pack in that competition. He's also pacing the high-stakes SCOOP leaderboard and will likely get a 2013 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure prize package for winning. In the low-stakes SCOOP leaderboard, Deeb can be found in a tie for sixth place, with another PCA package on the line. Deeb told us that he'll look to add to his arsenal of leaderboard points by entering all three SCOOP Main Events on Sunday: "I am a super long shot for the low-stakes leaderboard. Plus, I love adding to my Player of the Year score, which is something that no one will ever beat, I think." Visit PokerStars today for the 2012 SCOOP finale.
  15. One of the major headlines of the ongoing PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker(SCOOP) is the solid play of Viktor Isildur1 Blom (pictured). The cash game guru won two tournaments in the first three SCOOP events, taking down a $215 No Limit Hold'em event and a $530 Six-Max No Limit Hold'em event. He's finished in the top 100 in three other SCOOP contests and solidified his name as not only a ring game whiz, but also a force to be reckoned with in MTTs. Blom is a sponsored pro of PokerStars, which was kind enough to arrange an exclusive interview with the Swedish native for PocketFives. Sign up for PokerStars today. PocketFives: Tell us about your early supremacy in the 2012 SCOOP. Do you feel like you have momentum headed into the rest of the SCOOP schedule, which wraps up this Sunday with three Main Events and $5 million in combined guaranteed prize money? Viktor Blom: I was very happy to win the two SCOOP titles. It's nice to win, of course. I take each day and game as they come, try to play my best, and try to keep up the momentum. PocketFives: Are the two SCOOP titles meaningful to you? They are not for as much money as your PokerStars Caribbean Adventure High Roller win ($1.2 million), for example, as well as some of the cash games you've played. Viktor Blom: Yeah, they are very meaningful. When I started playing online, I mostly played in small tournaments, and so winning these gets me back to that feeling when I was initially so excited and enjoyed it so much. After the PCA High Roller, these are my two biggest cashes in my life, so I'm very happy. PocketFives: We saw you cut your hair. Who suggested you trim it and how big of a change has that been for you? Viktor Blom: Next question! PocketFives: How excited are you for your first World Series of Poker this year? What tournaments are you looking forward to the most? Viktor Blom: I'm really looking forward to going to Las Vegas, playing in the Main Event, and just experiencing what it's like to be there. I haven't quite decided which events I'm definitely going to play yet, but I'm under pressure to decide. I talked to a lot of other players in Monte Carlo recently about what it's like over there and it sounds full on, so it will be cool to actually experience it myself. PocketFives: Will we be seeing you in the $1 million One Drop eventat the WSOP? What do you think of a $1 million buy-in tournament in general? Viktor Blom: I think it's too much money for one tournament. Maybe it also takes away the prestige from the other smaller tournaments to have one with such a large buy-in. PocketFives: How have the online cash games changed since Black Friday? Have you been able to find ample action since then? Viktor Blom: There is great high-stakes action every day at PokerStars, so for me, everything has been good. PocketFives: Do you face any kind of pressure having such a loyal online following? Does that give you even more pressure to perform online and live? Viktor Blom: I think it's fun that people are following me. It makes me want to do my best for them and give them something good to follow. PocketFives: Do you have anything else to prove in the cash game world? Are there other games you want to prove yourself in? Viktor Blom: I take it day by day. I want to improve at all of the games I play. In the future, I might try some others, sure. PocketFives: Finally, what advicewould you give to a brand new PokerStars player? Viktor Blom: Just play as much as you can if you enjoy it. If you like something, you'll get good at it as long as you put in the time.
  16. The most recent PartyPoker Pokerfest Main Eventwas monumental for Andy Bonified Ward (pictured). The United Kingdom resident became a "bona fide" champ and walked away with $216,000. The $640 buy-in tournament was one of the richest held on PartyPoker in recent memory. We caught up with him to discuss his big breakthrough. PocketFives: Thanks for joining us. Tell us about your run through the Pokerfest Main Event. Andy Ward: It was standard for a while. I was playing some SCOOP and other tournaments, but when it got down to about 100 players on PartyPoker, I was one-tabling by that point. The average stack totaled around 25 big blinds for quite a while, so I was hovering around there, just playing basic technical 25 big blind poker. Once we were down to around three tables, people started tightening up, especially the satellite qualifiers. I made the final table with the same 25 big blind stack and thought, "It's mostly luck from here on, so I'll just see if I get lucky." I doubled up through a guy with J-J against 6-6 on a 9-7-5 flop and then won two massive flips. Heads-up, we were pretty even, but I picked up a lot of hands. He probably thought I was bullying, but I really had it pretty much all the time. PocketFives: Do you have any specific plans for the money? Andy Ward: I've always been careful with anything I've won. I invested in property and so about one-third of this will go to fully pay that off. The games aren't getting any easier and I wouldn't want to spend a lot and then find myself rolled short for anything I do want to play. PocketFives: What's your take on large-scale tournament series like the PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker(SCOOP) and Pokerfest? Andy Ward: I'm not a massive fan of SCOOP because I think the tournaments go on too long. This is a bit of a bugbear of mine. I don't think anyone should have to play 20 hours straight to win a tournament. If a tournament takes 12 hours or 20 hours, it doesn't make that much difference to your edge in my opinion. I know recreational players like to have a "bang for their buck" in terms of structure, but I think it's fundamentally unhealthy to expect people to sit at a poker table for 20+ hours, especially when they have to make decisions for huge money at the end. So, with SCOOP, I only really play the ones that are split into two days. I hardly played any Pokerfest events, just the ones that were on Sundays. PocketFives: How did you get started in poker? Andy Ward: I started playing live poker in 1998. I read an article about tournaments in the Racing Post and thought it sounded like the most awesome thing ever. It was really unknown at the time. They couldn't even advertise and no one knew about it outside the gambling world. I just fell headfirst into this subculture. I used to drive 45 minutes three times a week to play £10 Rebuy Stud tournaments. So, I was a live player first just because there was no such thing as internet poker at that time. PocketFives: Given that, what did your friends and family think of your immersion in poker originally? Andy Ward: Almost without exception, they were fascinated by it, and the majority of them still are. It has been on TV more and it's well known now. But back then, poker had an extra edge in a way because it was really underground as far as most people knew. PocketFives: Last question for you, and we'll ask about poker strategy. You mentioned a strategy with a stack of 25 big blinds. Can you tell us how you approach that situation? Andy Ward: When you get down to 25 big blinds and below, you don't have enough to chips to "play poker," by which I mean take flops with speculative hands, call with the intention of bluffing later, and stuff like that. It becomes very much a pre-flop game where most pots are just raise and everyone folds, or raise, re-raise, and the first person decides to call or fold. It's a hugely important fundamental of tournament poker that most pros know inside out, so if the later stages had been all pros, no one would really have an edge. But, as there were satellite qualifiers and amateurs taking shots, they would make mistakes, generally by being too passive, not raising enough, or trying to call and see if they hit the flop, which you just don't have enough chips to do profitably. Visit WPT Poker, which makes its home on the same network as PartyPoker, for other ongoing promotions.
  17. The April 22nd running of the Ongame $100K was monumental for Finland's Mikael Andersson (pictured), who goes by tohveli here on PocketFives. Not only did he record his largest tracked cash on PocketFives (although he won the same tournament for nearly $30,000 before PocketFives tracked Ongame), but it also meant the first time in a while we can remember interviewing a Finnish online poker player. The Scandinavian nation is home to about 150 registered PocketFives members, all of whom were likely rejoicing that Andersson walked away with a five-figure score in a Sunday Major. We caught up with him to get his take. By the way, if you're from Finland, check out our Finland poker community page to connect with poker players in your area. PocketFives: Thanks for joining us. You've done a standup job representing Finland and placing second in the Ongame $100K. Tell us about your run through the tournament. Mikael Andersson: I ran pretty well, as you have to in order to bink something big in a Sunday Major. The final table was kind of simple because I busted three players holding pocket aces in two pots. Three-handed, it was a little bit tougher, with one player who was in position playing every hand, but didn't get any cards at all, and AnteSvanteS, who was a very tough opponent. I busted AnteSvanteS and played heads-up for a very long time, almost two hours. Every time we got all-in, the shorter stack won. I was pretty tilted when I lost heads-up, but after a good night's sleep, the score felt good. PocketFives: What plans do you have for the money? Mikael Andersson: I just want to add to my bankroll. It will give me confidence for what I am doing. I won the same tournament last year for $27,000, but that was before PocketFives started tracking the Ongame Network. PocketFives: Great job on that untracked score as well. You're the first Finnish player we've interviewed in a while. Why aren't there more Finnish success stories? Mikael Andersson: There aren't that many high-stakes MTT online grinders in Finland, and many of those who do grind online don't have PocketFives accounts. I don't know why that is, really. Many players prefer cash games. We have many Omaha and No Limit Hold'em players, but many of them go to live tournaments and play on Sundays. These guys don't have PocketFives accounts, though, so when they do bink a score, it doesn't show up anywhere. PocketFives: How did you get started in poker? Do you play full-time now? Mikael Andersson: I play full-time. How I got started in poker is the usual story. I started in home games with friends and then played in freerolls. I won one of those and then grinded something like $15 into thousands of dollars. I played cash games for a couple of years and have been playing only tournaments for the last two years. PocketFives: What do your friends and family think about your poker career? Mikael Andersson: At first they didn't think it was a good idea, but now my parents are pretty supportive. Many of my friends play poker too, so they know what it is. PocketFives: What brought your parents around? Mikael Andersson: I've explained to them many times that it's not just playing a game and gambling it up. It feels a little stupid to say, but when I binked my first big cash in a live tournament last summer in Finland, they thought I knew what I was doing even if it was really just the upside of variance. PocketFives: What's next for you? Mikael Andersson: Grinding it up online with big volume through the PokerStars SCOOP. Hopefully, I'll bink something big and then enjoy the summer. I'll also try to keep grinding to keep up my PocketFives ranking, which is currently #305 worldwide. Visit bwinfor the weekly $100K Guaranteed on Ongame.
  18. The fourth event of PartyPoker's Pokerfestsaw over 500 players turn out for a $530 No Limit Hold'em tournament. The $250,000 guarantee was passed by $8,000 and when all was said and done, Denmark's Martin MartinBHansen Hansen (pictured) came away with the win and walked off with $54,000. He didn't stray too far, however, as PocketFives was able to catch up with him to celebrate the big win. PocketFives: Thanks for joining us. What tournaments have you been focusing on during Pokerfest, which ends on May 6th at PartyPoker and WPT Poker? Martin Hansen: My main focus is on the "high" events, and other than the win, I final tabled Event #7, a $50 Speed Rebuy, for seventh place and $2,400. So, it's definitely been a good start with my first series win and another final table. PocketFives: Pokerfest Event #4, which you won, had a pretty sick final table that had Steve gboro780Gross (pictured), Nico PokerKaiserFierro, Vanessa princessdonk Peng, and the Ukraine's touchmynuts1. Martin Hansen: The final tables in $530 events on PartyPoker are always though, but to be honest, I pretty much just ran incredibly well. I started out early with a setup against gboro780 with my A-A against his Q-Q, sending me to the top and sending him down to seventh or eighth place. I had PokerKaiser two to my left and knew it would be a hard draw, but I caught another lucky break, finishing him off in eighth place with my K-Q against his A-X. gboro780 then left in seventh place and I had a commanding chip lead after that. From there on, I pretty much had the chips to be the top player at the table and it turned out great. PocketFives: Tell us about online and live poker in Denmark. Martin Hansen: Online poker has definitely taken a positive turn this year, as we got poker regulated. As of right now, it's completely legal while playing on sites with licenses to host games in Denmark. Therefore, we can't play at some of the minor sites out there, but on the good sites, we know that all poker winnings are legal. We don't really have that much live poker in Denmark, but we have pretty much killed European poker for the last two months or so. Mickey mementmoriPetersen (pictured) took down EPT Copenhagen, Frederik BRINKBrink took down EPT Madrid, Jannick Wrang took down EPT Campione, and my friend Morten Lihn won WPT Vienna. PocketFives: What are your thoughts on PokerStars potentially buying Full Tilt? Martin Hansen: It's both positive and negative. For starters, many of my friends have pretty big bankrolls waiting, so it's obviously a positive thing for them and anyone else waiting to get their bankrolls back. On the negative side, we could see PokerStars being too commanding for online poker, but really, at the moment, I don't think too much about it. Let's see what happens. PocketFives: How did you get started in poker? Martin Hansen: I have always liked gambling, playing cards, and sports betting, and always won in card games. Back in late 2005, I started playing freerolls at Microgaming. In November 2005, I deposited $400 and got lucky from the beginning. The real turning point was qualifying for the World Series of Poker in 2006 because I got to know some good Danish players who helped me become a good poker player. PocketFives: We heard you have a shout out to make. Martin Hansen: I want to dedicate my victory to Lihn. I had a bad run before he won WPT Vienna, where I had a 10% cut of him. Since then, I finished second in the ChampionChip on Ongame for $20,000, I won the PokerStars $215 Weekly Turbo for $15,000, and then I won Pokerfest, so I feel I pretty much owe him some of the credit for making the bad run stop. Sign up for WPT Pokerto play in the final events of Pokerfest. Remember, if you sign up for WPT Poker through PocketFives using the code P5WPT and make a deposit, you'll get a 100% bonus along with one free month of PocketFives Trainingwith the signup fee waived, a $65 value. Get started.
  19. On April 22nd, U.K. player Daniel lucky_scroteCarter (pictured) made his mark on the online poker world. How? Carter chopped the PokerStars Sunday 500heads-up and walked away with $65,000. As a result, he's achieved his highest position ever in the PocketFives Online Poker Player Rankings at #583 worldwide and is the top dog in all of Gloucestershire. PocketFives caught up with Carter for a victory lap of sorts. PocketFives: Thanks for sitting down with us. Talk about the decision to chop with PokerStars member never4getbet. How did the negotiations go? Daniel Carter: The player I had heads-up was a bit of a novice and I originally declined a deal. I think every pro out there hates to say no because you feel like you are under more pressure to win. Eventually, he managed to get about 60% of the chips in play and once again offered an even chop, which I snapped up. PocketFives: Can you talk about the other players at the final table, a group that included fellow PocketFives members MistheMan, rickwaa(pictured), and derrickrose25? Daniel Carter: It was a great final table with an interesting mix of players. Generally, it was soft. It had a couple of PocketFivers with some decent results such as derrickrose25 and rickwaa. These two played fairly tight and straightforward, which wasn't a bad strategy at this final table. They also didn't really get the chance to accumulate any chips, so I didn't get to see a lot of their game. PocketFives: Does it feel good to lodge your first big win of 2012? Daniel Carter: It's a massive relief. You always hear people moaning about how they are running bad. Well, that was me until that Sunday. I was often having days of playing awful because I couldn't get any momentum. A lot of people know how it feels when you have had a dirty cold streak and then you get something going, only to be busted just shy of the final table in some disgusting cooler or beat. It can really mess you up mentally, so massive props to the top grinders who manage to keep their cool. PocketFives: What are your thoughts on the rumored PokerStars buyout of Full Tilt? Daniel Carter: It's awesome, of course. I had no money on the site, but some of my friends had vast sums, so it could be a relief for them. It will be interesting to see what happens if Stars has a bit of a monopoly on the online poker business. PocketFives: You're the top-ranked PocketFiver in Gloucestershire. Talk about the state of poker in Gloucestershire and the U.K. Daniel Carter: I can't say I'm overly proud of being #1 here, as there aren't a lot of grinders in my county. There is no live scene in Gloucestershire. We have no poker in casinos here, and the town I live in, Cheltenham, has no casino at all. Many gamblers may be aware that we have the Gold Cup held here and some other big meets at the Cheltenham Racecourse. I think a casino here would be perfect, as you'd get some super high games running during the meets. PocketFives: Who or what has been the most influential on your game so far and why? Daniel Carter: I've never really looked at anyone and tried to mimic their play, but I have always tried to discuss poker with lots of people I think are good. Years ago, I was talking to all the wrong people because I used to think they were good, but it just turns out they were beating the games in 1997 and still had some money left. I have discussed a lot of poker with John johne147 Eames. We know each other's games pretty well and I always listen to what he has to say. PocketFives: Where does the user name lucky_scrote come from? Daniel Carter: Oh dear, where to begin with this? I spent a lot of time on the golf course in my youth, so I was spending time with people older than I was. So, someone started calling me a "scrote." It wasn't really a nickname that stuck, but when I was trying to think of a user name, I started with "golferscrote". Eventually, I thought I'd go with "lucky_scrote" because people used to always moan about how lucky I was. I was playing a very laggy game in 2004 and 2005 that others didn't understand. Visit PokerStarsfor more information on the weekly Sunday 500.
  20. The one-year anniversary of Black Friday meant mixed emotions in the poker community. Many pros are still separated from their bankrolls, but for Alex AssassinatoFitzgerald (pictured), April 15th featured the opening tournament victory of his first Triple Crown. He'd ultimately win a $55 buy-in tournament on PartyPoker, the Merge $60,000 Sunday High Roller, and the Titan Poker $30 Rebuy within a week. Fitzgerald is a featured instructor at PocketFives Training, which provides top-of-the-line MTT training. You can get one month of free PocketFives Training with the sign-up fee waived by signing up for a new online poker room through PocketFives and making a minimum deposit. Learn how. PocketFives: Walk us through each of your Triple Crown tournament wins. Alex Fitzgerald: The PartyPoker win was kind of a lay-up. I ran really well at the final table and nobody really played back at me. The $30 Rebuy on iPoker I was super tired for, as I'd blown up at a long and difficult final table earlier that day, so I was determined to make that tournament count. I still managed to spaz in a few spots, but I took down a lot of pots just by barreling post-flop when the time was right. I felt on my game and satisfied when that win came through. The Merge High Roller came during the 17th hour in my Sunday session. I'd made that final table two times before on a Sunday, coming in second and third, so I was determined to win it. The structure was a little worse than how I remembered, and to be honest, I won more than my fair share of flips. Still, I was proud I didn't budge or give a pot away. I was grateful I was able to finish the job so late in the session. PocketFives: Did you at any point gun for a Triple Crown victory? Alex Fitzgerald: It crossed my mind during the week, but only for a minute. It's a cool feather in the cap, but I've never really gunned for it that much. There have been a couple times I've won a tournament on PokerStars and Full Tilt on the same day and then not played the rest of the week. Now, I'm a little more grateful for the grind and going after everything I should have accomplished before. PocketFives: It seems amazing that this is your first Triple Crown since you've been a part of PocketFives since 2006. What does this award mean to you? Alex Fitzgerald: Over the last few years, I haven't really played tournaments on any sites besides PokerStars and Full Tilt. This was just my second week of playing on more than two sites, so it feels really good to get a Triple Crown so quickly. It shows me I can adjust to different player types and make correct adjustments on the fly. PocketFives: Tell us what's new at PocketFives Training, where you're an instructor. What new videos can we expect to see from you soon? Alex Fitzgerald: I'll be wrapping up the WCOOP Main Event series. I've never gotten so much e-mail about a video series before. I hadn't really played for months before I played that tournament because of Black Friday. When I finally got back on the tables, I was pissed off because of the amount I lost on Full Tilt and was out to smash everybody. It probably wasn't the best strategy, and I did go out in the final 100. However, it's not every day you get to examine a hand history where a player tries to win every single hand deep in a PokerStars $5K. While some of my experiments went awry, I think I did a good job of showing how to go after regulars and make your own opportunities in a poker tournament. PocketFives: Are you still enjoying being a PocketFives Training instructor? What kinds of videos get you the most excited to make? Alex Fitzgerald: I love coaching. I wasn't half the player I am today before I really started teaching the game. Analyzing hand histories and finding new ways to beat regulars is so addicting to me. I never thought I could make a good living from the side business of writing, recording, and discussing my ideas in poker. To be paid to study and present my ideas in the game I love is such a blessing. In addition to PocketFives Training, I also do private coaching. You can check out my Coaching Profilehere on PocketFives or e-mail Assassinatocoaching@gmail.com. Most trainers on other sites don't tell you really what they think of any hand; they just give you a rundown of the basic concepts. They're out for a quick buck and really not going to teach you how to win. I don't water anything down. I put everything I can think of into my analysis and really try to give up-and-comers the mental tools they need to succeed. I've been physically threatened by other pros for giving away so much in my videos, but I think that's the best endorsement I could have. Teaching what concepts people may be using hopefully helps me stay ahead of the curve, so there's a personal motivation as well. Making the best No Limit Hold'em tournament videos I can is a matter of personal pride. It forces me to up my game every day. The videos I really enjoy making are the concept videos. They take countless hours to make, but it's worth it. For example, you can check out my lectures on opening and 3betting at PocketFives Training today. I'm confident I get more ideas across in those few hours than many hand history reviews get across in 20 hours. I don't waste your time and you will have a better grasp on poker once you're done with them. PocketFives: What are your thoughts on the rumored PokerStars buyout of Full Tilt? Alex Fitzgerald: I'm too jaded to take it seriously. I had six-figures on Full Tilt on Black Friday, more than I'd ever had in that account in my life, and there was even more across all of my horses' accounts. A solid year of 60- to 80-hour workweeks was taken from me on that day. I was planning to go to school and not play poker more than once or twice a week, or take time off to write a book. All of those dreams were dashed that day. It took months for me to realize I was broke again and the grind was back on. I was really bitter for a long time. If this buyout turns out to be real, I won't even know what to do. It won't be real to me until the money is in my bank account. I've been grinding really hard on a much lower financial scale since Black Friday. I can't even put it into words what it would feel like to get my money back. It will feel like someone giving me a year of my life back. I never expected to see that money again. PocketFives: Will we be seeing you make a run at the top 100 in the PocketFives Poker Player Rankingsany time soon? You're close at #145 worldwide. Alex Fitzgerald: It would be really cool to make the top 100. I haven't played MTTs exclusively really since five years ago. I think I have a real shot at it now since I'm putting all of my poker playing hours into MTTs. Pocketfives: What goals do you have for 2012? Alex Fitzgerald: Just keep it moving. Wake up every day and try to put everything I have into my work. I want to play every hand hard and with respect for my opponents. I want to keep learning and teaching my students how to shine. I want to keep making bigger final tables. I want to win a couple more Triple Crowns. I want to look back and say, "Yeah, 2011 gutted me, but I shut shit down in 2012." PocketFives: What do you do outside of poker in Costa Rica? Alex Fitzgerald: The rain forest, the mountains, and the beach are within an hour drive of where I live, so I take advantage of those when I can. Whenever I feel exhausted, I just go lay around on a beach or check out a mountain view with my girl. I see a lot of rap battles and movies. I read a lot of books. I take my dog for a lot of runs. I buy PlayStation 2 games for $2 around the university district and play the hell out of them. I eat way more than I ever did in the States. Sushi is delicious and cheap, family diners serve full fish casados for $4, there are about 20 different cuisines represented within a five-mile radius of my house, and my girlfriend's family seems to be on a mission to make me fat with all of their delicious home cooking. I've never been happier living anywhere in my life. Learn how to win your own online poker Triple Crown, and be sure to sign up for PocketFives Training.
  21. One of the perks of watching televised poker is getting to hear the phrase "so sick" multiple times. Whether stemming from a bad beat, a tough decision, or a well-timed call, "so sick" is used relentlessly on poker TV shows. For PocketFives member sosick, who hails from Poland, "so sick" is a way of life. He goes by Pawel in the real world and won last week's PokerStars Sunday Warm-Up for $104,000. His first six-figure score was indeed "so sick." Pawel told PocketFives in an exclusive interview, "That was my first six-figure score and my first Sunday Major title, so I will always remember it." He added what would be even sicker: "The next step for me will be seven-figures." The tournament drew over 3,300 players, 15% of whom landed in the money. We talked to Pawel a few days removed from his monumental win and he hadn't had much time to celebrate yet. Why? "All I had time to do was drink a couple of beers with my friends just after winning. I had the second day of the PokerStars.fr SCOOP Main Eventon Monday, so I had to forget about my score and be ready to play my A-game the very next day." Pawel ultimately finished 44th in the French SCOOP Main Event and walked away with just shy of $5,000. On the €1,000 buy-in tournament, the Polish player remarked, "It wasn't too hard to concentrate on it one day after winning the Warm-Up, as that was also a big tournament with €200,000 for first place. So, that was enough motivation. Plus, winning two big events would be a great accomplishment." He went out of the SCOOP finale after losing a coin flip with pocket queens against A-K and had come a long way in a tournament that awarded 20,000 in starting chips. The blinds increased every half-hour and over 1,200 players signed up. Nearly 150 PocketFives members have filled in Polandas their location in their profile, but Pawel told us that some residents don't look too fondly upon the game: "Being a poker player in Poland is not easy. Most of the people here, especially the older ones, still think it is pure gambling. At the same time, they view the national lottery as a game of skill that's not as addicting as poker." Given that public sentiment, Pawel noted that his status as a "semi-pro" might be more palatable. He has a full-time job with a U.S.-based company and called for poker players to be viewed in a more positive light: "Hopefully, it will change and people will not think about poker players as gamblers and families will be proud to have such individuals." Two friends got him into the game originally. "One was telling me a lot about it, about how great it was, and about some poker schools that gave you a free $50 to start," Pawel narrated. "The same year, I went to the USA for a work-and-travel program and met another friend who got me into poker. He was playing some micro-stakes games in the evenings, explained the math to me, and showed me how it was possible to win money at poker." "We all studied math, so I understood it quite fast," the recent Sunday Warm-Up winner boasted. "I went bust a couple of times at the beginning, but finally found my place in short-handed cash games. Then, at a live game, I met [fellow Polish players]Pyszalekand Olorion (pictured), who were playing MTTs for a living. They inspired me to start playing high-variance MTTs in place of those nice cash games, but it definitely was worth it, as MTTs give you a lot more emotions; that thrill when you play at a final table in a big tournament is great." We've asked a few of our recent interviewees what their advice to up-and-coming poker players would be. Pawel responded, "Keep learning and keep playing. Just think about how to play your best your very next hand and the results will come sooner or later. Also, look for your leaks and fix them." Visit PokerStars for this week's Sunday Warm-Up.
  22. Last weekend, Hungarian online poker player noirduck(pictured) chopped the PartyPoker High Rollerheads-up with fellow PocketFiver Cathal shinerrr Shine. His reward for an afternoon of hard work was $26,000 following the two-way deal in a final table that featured members of PocketFives in the top eight spots, including four of our site's top 100. So what does it take to chop the PartyPoker High Roller? PocketFives went straight to the source to find out. PocketFives: Congratulations on chopping the PartyPoker High Roller. Tell me about the decision to chop. Why did you decide to chop and how did the negotiation go? noirduck: Thanks. That was my last tournament for the day, so I was tired a bit and, more importantly, the payout structure on PartyPoker is really top-heavy. The gap between the first two places was like $15,000 and I didn't feel I had a decent edge on my heads-up opponent, so I suggested we should look at the numbers at the beginning. He said okay and offered me a standard chip-chop deal (he had the chip lead), and I agreed. We didn't play heads-up at all. PocketFives: Your heads-up opponent, shinerrr (pictured) on PocketFives, has nearly $1.2 million in tracked cashes and is in the top 500 worldwide. Can you talk about his game? noirduck: I had no idea who he was at the time. I knew he was a regular with great results on PartyPoker, but that's all. We started to play against each other when we got four-handed. I had the chip lead at that point and luckily was on his left (he had a big stack too). He adapted to the situation well though: He raised with a tight range and played really aggressive post-flop. He fired multiple barrels in blind-versus-blind situations, so he won some pots from me. We didn't play many showdown pots. He seemed to be a competent player and I can't recall any mistakes. PocketFives: You seem to have had a solid start to 2012, with a final table in the PokerStarsSunday 500 and now a PartyPoker High Roller chop. Talk about your poker game this year. noirduck: To be honest, I haven't played a lot this year. After a two-semester break, I'm continuing my university studies, so I can't devote as much time to poker as I did during previous years. I usually play MTTs on Sundays or when a PokerStars series is running. I don't have time for long tournament sessions, so I've been playing cash games lately. I traveled to a couple of EPT stops and can't wait for Las Vegas and the WSOP. PocketFives: What kind of field shows up to the PartyPoker High Roller each week? Is it a regular tournament for you? noirduck: Yes, I play it almost every Sunday. I only play two or three tournaments per week on PartyPoker and regulars have different screen names from what they use on PokerStars, so I can't really judge, but from what I've seen, it's tough. PocketFives: How did you get started in poker? Who or what has been influential on your game? noirduck: I started playing in high school with friends and really enjoyed it. After quitting Counter-Strike, I decided to learn how to play poker. I got a free $50 bankroll and read a lot of online articles and forums, plus I had plenty of time to grind. I was playing only cash games back then, but a few years later, I took a liking to MTTs. We played Sunday sessions in a group and I got a lot of support at those early times. PocketFives: What do you do away from poker? What hobbies or other interests do you have? noirduck: Besides poker, university, and random student stuff, I don't have too much free time. I like skiing, playing tennis, and playing Age of Empires Online (pictured). PocketFives: What advice would you give to low-stakes grinders looking to improve their game? noirduck: Play cash game sessions and learn to play post-flop, especially if you play live events or non-Turbo tournaments. Regulars are not making huge mistakes pre-flop (when stack sizes are smaller), but I think in general they have major leaks in their post-flop game when the stack sizes are bigger (even in higher stakes tournaments). That's where you can have a huge edge. Visit PartyPokerto play in this week's High Roller.
  23. When the latest calculation of the PocketFives Online Poker Player Rankingstook place on Wednesday, Ireland's Jono EMSGAWA9Crute (pictured) popped up at #96. It marked his first appearance in the top 100 worldwide and came in part due to having the 90th best Sliding PLBtally in the shire. He just topped $1 million in tracked cashes and sat down with PocketFives to celebrate his big accomplishment. "It means a lot, as it was actually one of my goals for the year coming in," Crute told PocketFives when asked how it felt to make the top 100. "The PocketFives PLB system really rewards hard work and I just wanted to put in a lot of hours this year." In mid-April, Crute chopped the Big $109 on PokerStars and officially cashed for a healthy $19,000, a finish that bolstered his Sliding PLB tally even more. On why making the top 100 in the world was so significant, Crute explained, "It's a good gauge of where you're at and much as I love tournaments, it's important to find other ways to motivate myself after playing so many of them over the last few years." With a renewed drive, Crute sounded energized and, like a kid in a candy store, eager to grind out the rest of the calendar year: "The rest of the year is going to be more grinding online, continuing to work with players in my stable, and heading out for the WSOP Main Event, as it's the first one I'm 21 for. I want to enjoy myself apart from that. I have a big American road trip adventure planned for September, so I want to grind hard until then." The 2012 WSOP schedule begins at the end of May and features over 60 bracelet events in the Nevada desert. For Crute and other poker hopefuls, this year will mark their first opportunity at live poker glory after turning 21. Crute told us that he "won a package. I thought you could take cash for it, as I hadn't planned to go, but we've decided to make a bit of an adventure out of it and are going to Austin for three nights, which I am looking forward to." Crute arrives in Las Vegas at the beginning of July and potentially never envisioned himself on poker's biggest stage competing for what was last year nearly a $9 million top prize. "I got started in poker after watching it on TV when I was 17," Crute shared. "I started playing online after that and joined poker forums. I have gotten so much help from various people since then, but early on, Jon EMSBas Spinks (pictured) really helped my game a lot. I started playing full-time in January 2010 after an adventure to Tokyo with $400 to my name, which was a terrible idea but worked out well." If you haven't deduced by now, Crute is an avid traveler: "I really enjoy traveling and meeting people. I tend to grind very hard at home and then go on adventures. This year, I've been to Boston and Hong Kong and did a Michigan/Chicago unplanned road trip with Gareth ggarethh Cash. Most of my non-poker time tends to revolve around the pub too." His largest recorded cash came in February, when Crute final tabled the PokerStars Big $109 for nearly $40,000. Last July, he made the top two of the PokerStars Sunday Supersonic for $15,000. Also in February, he booked his very first online poker Triple Crownafter snagging victories in $10,000 prize pool tournaments on PokerStars.fr, PokerStars.com, and PartyPoker within a seven-day period. He was one of a dozen PocketFives members to claim Triple Crowns that month. See who else cracked the top 100 of the PocketFives Rankings.
  24. In late March, Brian AKBigFishJames (pictured) struck a deal in the weekly PokerStars $100 Rebuy. His reward was a $55,000 payday after chopping heads-up with PokerStars member jaybeastie, who earned $51,000. The tournament generated a field of over 1,000 players and a $334,000 prize pool was divvied up. The American transplant now living in sunny, sandy Costa Rica spoke with PocketFives about his largest tracked score to date. PocketFives: Congrats on the solid showing in the PokerStars $100 Rebuy. Tell us how you're feeling about it. Brian James: It felt good. I have had a few nice wins, but this one is the best yet. There are not too many prize pools of one-third of a million dollars. PocketFives: We know it had to be special. Tell us about the chop. Why did you decide to make a deal and how did the negotiation go? Brian James: I always want to look at a chop because you never know what kind of a deal you can get. I thought I got a really good one too. I don't remember exactly, but I think when we entered heads-up play, I was down about 10% or more in chips. The deal was that I got just over $50,000, he got just over $51,000, and we played for $5,000. I thought I might have an edge heads-up, but given his lead, I thought it was smart to take the deal. PocketFives: What are your plans for the money? Brian James: Play a little bigger, like start playing the $200 Rebuy on PokerStars. I was getting close to that before this too; Black Friday kind of crushed my bankroll. Also, I am going to buy a car or truck. I'm moving into the interior of Costa Rica (pictured) soon and having a car will be nice for taking lots of trips. Costa Rica is a little bigger than the size of Kentucky, so you can get anywhere in the country in one day. The place I live right now, Vista Las Palmas, is great. It is kind of like the Panorama Towers in Las Vegas. There must be seven or more units full of poker players in my building. PocketFives: Where were you in the United States before Black Friday? Brian James: I had been in San Francisco, but only for a few months. I was trying to find a long-term home when Black Friday hit. I had finally bought all new furniture, a television, nice wheels, and all that. It was the first time in my life that I had ever bought all new furniture. Then, about three months later, Black Friday hit. PocketFives: Are you in Costa Rica permanently? Would you consider moving back? Brian James: "Consider" would definitely be the right word. Right now, I am dating a great Tica and planning to move in with her pretty soon. I would want to live down here another year or so before I make up my mind. Like many poker players, I really feel like our government lost some of my loyalty. If I can be happier down here, I would rather give my tax money to this government. PocketFives: It seems like you've largely flown under the radar, but you're #61 worldwide in the PocketFives Online Poker Player Rankings. Talk about how the general poker public perceives you. Brian James: I think I am relatively unknown and don't really know how the poker public perceives me. That's a tough question. I think some good players probably think I am a donk, and sometimes I try to heighten that image. Sometimes I make terrible donk-ish moves, but in general, I think the guys that play with me know I am dangerous and usually have a good hand when I really should. I started playing in Wrangell, Alaska with friends and have never been around many other pros until now. I wish I could have started somewhere with other good tournament players around, as sharing information can really speed up your development. PocketFives: Are you pumped to be in the top 100 worldwide in the PocketFives Poker Rankings? Brian James: Yeah, it is kind of cool. I like that it would make it easier for me to get sponsored for live tournaments. PocketFives: Can you tell us about your live poker career? Brian James: I decided not to play in this year's World Series of Poker. I might change my mind, but I can wager so much more playing online. For example, in any three days combined, I wager a Main Event entry in buy-ins. I just went up to the United States about a month ago for my grandpa's 90th birthday, so I think I would rather just stay here and grind. Last year, I ran into a group of guys that talked me into putting up something to get backed for the WSOP Main Event. I was really surprised and happy to see that I was booked in less than 24 hours. Having Galen Turk Malloy Hall, who was with those guys, saying I was a good horse didn't hurt. The bottom line, though, is that I like being able to lower my variance, but still wager a ton of money, by staying home. Sign up for PokerStars today.
  25. On March 25th, Sao Paulo's dowghsantostook second in the PokerStars Sunday 500, banking nearly 100,000 Brazilian Real, or $54,000. He just earned his $500,000 cash badge and is one of the most jubilant interviewees we've ever featured in a front page article. Well, if you were an up-and-coming poker player who has made two Sunday 500 final tables in a half-year, you'd be fired up too. PocketFives: Thanks for taking the time to talk with PocketFives. Can you walk us through how the Sunday 500 played out for you? dowghsantos: The Sunday 500 is certainly one of the toughest Sunday fields after the $200 Rebuy and $100 Rebuy, and that makes me even happier for the result. I was playing very tight early on and then got really deep in the middle, which made it easier for me to dictate the pace of the table. Unfortunately, I got short-stacked late, ranging from eight to 18 big blinds for hours until three-handed play. Although I find my short-stack game to be one of my heaviest leaks, I was able to play efficiently and I'm very happy for the second place finish. PocketFives: We know you're thrilled to represent Brazilin the poker world. dowghsantos: Brazil is undergoing a constant evolution, with live and online poker champions springing up. Guys like Alexandre AllingomesGomes (pictured) and Andre aakkari Akkari have won WSOP bracelets, and many youngsters who started playing two to three years ago are now reaping the fruits of their efforts. We have a great number of players between 18 and 22 years old learning and evolving and our online players are now more respected. Brazilians used to be known as calling stations, but now I guess the regular players respect us a little more. I'm glad to be part of this evolution and to represent my country. PocketFives: This is your second Sunday 500 final table in about five months. What abut that tournament plays to your strengths? dowghsantos: Although this is my second Sunday 500 final table, this MTT does not normally appear in my grid. I only play it through satellites or when I win some other regular MTT during the week. I think the deep structure and an aggressive image other players tend to have of me allow me to be able to stack up in the beginning. Moreover, there are a lot of satellite players (such as myself) who are used to playing lower stakes and tend to mess up in such a deep structure. PocketFives: How did you get started in poker? dowghsantos: Six years ago watching an EPT event on television. After I turned 18, I started playing live poker. In 2010, I decided to change my college graduation concentration, but had to wait six months for the change. During that time, Joao joao divino dorneles netoBauer created an online poker team called the Steal Team and I was his first staked player. The team now has more than 40 players, some of them already playing high-stakes. I have played for him and the team professionally since September 2010. PocketFives: What would you be doing if you weren't playing poker? dowghsantos: If I weren't playing poker today, I would have a degree in Computer Sciences and working on software or something linked to technology. I love math and logical reasoning; poker combines those two subjects well. You always have little time to think and reason. It's something difficult to most people, so I guess I have an edge there. PocketFives: Who is your favorite Brazilian poker player? dowghsantos: Andre Akkari (pictured) for sure, not only for his results, but also because he is the main poker ambassador here in Brazil. He is a very charismatic person that 99% of Brazilians like and a fantastic human being who has worked for the good of poker in our country. He was rewarded last year with his first WSOP bracelet. PocketFives: What are your thoughts on the Full Tilt Poker situation? dowghsantos: It's a very sad situation. When Full Tilt closed, I was playing low-stakes, so I was not very affected in terms of bankroll, but today, as a medium- and high-stakes player, I miss another strong option in the market. Monopoly is not good in any sector. I think if the site comes back, it will rival PokerStars again and I will surely play there. PocketFives: Can you tell us a little bit about your live poker experience? dowghsantos: I'm only 22 and this year will be my first in Las Vegas for the WSOP. From December 11th to February 12th, I played two WPT events in Prague and Venice and two EPT events in Prague and Deauville. I finished in the money in Deauville and ran deep in Venice. It was a fantastic experience for me, as we don't have live MTTs that expensive and with such deep blind structures here in Brazil. I was pleased to play live against top online players such as Chris moorman1Moorman (pictured), Moritz CatenaccioKranich, Steve MrTimCaum O'Dwyer, and many PokerStars pros. I guess my short-stacked strategy in the Sunday 500 came much from the patience I developed during these live MTTs, where you can wait for the best spots to make the correct plays and not depend on luck to succeed. Although I have not had many live results so far, I have learned a lot; this Sunday 500 result may be a result of that. PocketFives: We know you have a few shout outs to give. dowghsantos: I need to thank my mom for believing in me, supporting me, and giving me time to develop into a poker player. Unfortunately, there's a lot of prejudice and prejudgment toward poker as a profession in Brazil and having family support is a big advantage. My mom also plays poker in her free time, which is even more gratifying. I would also like to thank Joao Bauer for inviting me to join the Steal Team project. I am honored to have been the very first player to join the project and proud to provide a return. My success would not be possible without the coaches, reviews, and everything else the team has provided to me. Another person I must thank is Rafael Lirola Monteiro, one of the players who contributed greatly to my development and evolved alongside me. Visit PokerStarsfor more details on the Sunday 500.

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