Professional poker players are always looking to exploit any edge; it's what separates the great players from the good ones. For William "Wild Bill" Franceshine, he's upfront about two of his edges: becoming an expert in sit-n-go's, and maximizing his ROI. How do you maximize your return on investment? Well, one way is to pack up your belongings and move to the paradise of Thailand, with a low cost of living and an unlimited source of excitement and adventure. Who said poker is a tough way to make an easy living? Maybe poker in paradise is an easy way to make a tough living. At the very least, it gave him the peace of mind needed to take down over $100k and first place in the $2k buy-in Mandalay Bay Poker Championship on May 26th.
CC: Tell me about how you started playing poker, as well as how long you've been playing.
Wild Bill: Me and my friends in college at UCSB watched Rounders one weekend and caught the Texas Hold Em craze from the movie. We used to play games several times a week, for very small stakes, with each other. This was in 2001-2002. Then Chris Moneymaker won the World Series in 2003 and poker mania began in America. We played more, and I began to play online and at a local Indian casino in Santa Barbara. I played primarily limit hold em back then and was a horrible player. I just loved to raise and bet and people loved to call me down even more. I had no understanding of what proper play was; I just loved to gamble. After about six months of this and roughly $10,000 in losses, I bought Super/System and learned some basic strategy. This improved my game a ton. After this I got into reading, studying more and more. I finally found 2+2, and my game took off in a hurry. I also switched to No Limit, and this had a great impact on my game, as I am definitely more naturally suited to this game. I've been a winning player since 2004, a professional since July of 2005.
CC: Take us through how you came to the decision to play fulltime.
Wild Bill: I had been running a company for some time, with a partner, and as the company struggled it was my poker winnings that were keeping it afloat when cash got short. The company was making money overall but in the end I was making a lot more playing poker, even at the part-time hours I was playing. Also running the business was a ton of work, and poker comes a little easier for me than hard labor. In the first week of July of 2005, I cashed for over $15,000 in a Super Monday tournament on PartyPoker and effectively more than quadrupled my bankroll. Since we had just relocated our company and currently had 0 employees, it seemed like a bit of fate. I took some time off and went to the World Series, then took a trip to New York, and it all kind of just felt right. I've always wanted to travel and poker is something that I love, the freedom it provides as a career is just amazing. I said what the hell and started up my blog on day 1 and just did it.
CC: Why did you start focusing on SNG's?
Wild Bill: Even when I was a losing player, I was always very good at SNG's. Something about my natural poker game is just well suited to that structure. The first forum I got into on 2+2 was the SNG forum, and I just dove in and studied them like crazy for a long, long time. I really think it is a very positive thing to find a niche in poker and go after it full force, rather than trying to get good at all these different games and forms of the game.
CC: You were playing 1,000 SNG's a month, with a goal of 40 per day. It is an amazing volume of play. How did you tactically build to that, and is it achievable?
Wild Bill: That's actually not that much for many people. Eight tabling is only maybe 100 hours per month of work; 25 hours per week. Go tell my dad (a sheet metal worker) that that is a lot of work. It is VERY achievable, and many people do that and more every month.
CC: Tell us about your decision to head to Thailand from Northern California.
Wild Bill: My college roommate and one of my best friends' Father is Thai, and he has been going there several times a year since I've known him. He was always telling me how amazing it is, and last October I finally decided to go with him. It's that freedom I was talking about. I took my laptop and went over for three weeks, spending most of that on the islands. I just fell in love with the country. The people are so amazing, it's so cheap, and the internet is suitable for online poker. Perfect combination. I figured if I'm going to be playing poker online for a living, I might as well do it from wherever I please, so I moved to Thailand.
CC: What has it meant for your game?
Wild Bill: Well unfortunately, I play a lot less when I'm in Thailand. Peak time US hours are like 6am-2pm over there. Often times we are out too late to be getting up that early, so that makes it hard. Being there and being totally focused on one thing (poker) and going at it as hard as I have been for this long, has had some amazing results on my game. I think I am seriously 10 times the player now that I was when I went pro. It's shown in my results as well. I'm playing far bigger stakes, and making far more money now than I ever thought possible.
CC: You seem to have a strong network of players that you interact with. What has it meant to have this support network?
Wild Bill: It has meant absolutely everything. The key to my progress has been the friends I've made through 2+2 and my blog, such an amazing community of people. When times are bad, you have people there to prop you up; when they are good, you have people to brag to and get that positive feedback that is missing in poker. It's great for plugging leaks and staying on your game, and staying ahead of changing game conditions. I can't stress enough how important that network is if you want to go pro.
CC: You've been widely successful but you've also had some significant losing runs. How do you know you're in a slide, and what is your advice on how to get through it? How tough is it to follow your own advice?
Wild Bill: It's obvious when you are losing, but the hard part is staying on top of your game. For me, I'm lucky to have saved enough before this started to not ‘have' to play. I take time off when I'm running poorly, drop down, change games, and study. I made a huge mistake about a month ago and moved UP when I was running bad and had my biggest losing day ever. Big mistake. Luckily I've recovered it all and plenty more but it was a big lesson to learn. It can be hard to take your own advice at times, but repeating it over and over helps to reinforce it, for sure.
CC: I'm very familiar with the moving up when your on a slide strategy-a nice way to depart from your bankroll. Congratulations on your biggest win yet, the $2k buy-in at the Mandalay Bay Poker Championship. First, tell us about your preparation for the tourney. Had you been running well?
Wild Bill: Over the previous few weeks I had been doing very well in cash games though over the last few sessions in Vegas, I was actually running somewhat poorly; though it was brief, and as I said, at the tail end of a l-o-o-o-ong heater. I'd been PLAYING very well, that was the key and the reason I decided to buy-in direct to the event on my last day (or so I
thought!) in the states before heading back to Thailand.
CC: I heard you had an interesting start to the tourney?
Wild Bill: I played a hand very poorly on the 3rd hand and sucked out to double up, after that the chips just starting flying my way. I was chip leader from that 3rd hand all the way to the end of the tournament. This hand gave me a very large stack (twice as big as anybody at my table in an already deep stacked event) and a bad table image, so I got paid off extra good on all my big hands the rest of the day.
CC: What was your focus after you had the chip lead on the first day?
Wild Bill: Growing my stack. I'm not one to really sit on my chips and blind off to go up in the prize money. Once I get a hold of some chips in a tournament, you do not want me at your table. From the first hour of the tourney (after I doubled up again, having over five times my original
stack), my whole focus was on the win. Keeping that mountain growing and preparing to take advantage of timid play from people who wanted to get into the money or make the final table. I think I did an amazing job of that too, even though I did misplay a few hands along the way. The beauty of the big stack is you can do that, and still win.
CC: What was some of the advice you got from your friends after the first day?
Wild Bill: I'm very lucky to have a large support group of people who've done even better than I have in poker and I had the chance to speak with a few of them after day 1. They told me to not do anything stupid w/my chip stack and to feel the table out before deciding on a course of action. Basic stuff that I already knew but it was nice to have it reinforced.
CC: Were there any key hands at the final table?
Wild Bill: Several, but I'll go over one. Without a doubt this was the best hand of poker I've ever played, and also the most important. We were seven handed and two people had already busted out. I still had the chip lead but not by much as Mike Sica had been going crazy raising and re-raising people and building his stack. The table had been playing very fast but I had decided to stay out of the way and let them bust each other. The hand right before this one was the first one I played since we started about a half hour before. On that hand, I raised in early position (with AcKc) and got the blinds. This hand I raised with 6-6 and Mike Sica came over the top of me. I started the hand with about 125,000 in chips and he had about 110,000. I made it 5,000 to go w/ blinds 800-1600 and he made it 25,000 to go, a very big raise. It folds back to me and I hesitate about two seconds and announce that I'm all in. Mike goes into the tank for what seems like an eternity and finally folds after much internal and external debate. He said he had pocket queens and James Van Alstyne later told me he believed him and actually saw his cards, making out a queen for sure and another face card. Mike went over that hand with me the next day and said again he had queens and told me it just wasn't worth it to bust out in 7th for very little money when he'd have so many chips left if he folded.
This hand was a very loud and clear statement to the table that even though I wasn't playing fast yet at the table, I was to be respected and I had come to play. The table was full of pro's and I was an unknown. I believe I earned a lot of respect on that hand and it showed as I wasn't re-raised again for the rest of the tournament. It was smooth sailing after that, I won the majority of pots that I entered; they just didn't want to tangle with me.
CC: Tell us about your plan for the WSOP tourneys. What do you think this win does for you heading into the WSOP?
Wild Bill: It certainly gives me a lot of confidence that I can play with the best in the game and not be intimidated and at least hold my own. I played with a ton of world class players and outlasted the field, with a lot of luck but also a lot of skill. It also gives a nice boost to my bankroll. My plan for now is to arrive on June 26th and play in Event #1, the $1,500 NL event. From there I'll see how things go. I have my seat for the Main Event now so I'll definitely be in that. Cash games have been going very well for me lately and I've been studying them a lot. I really feel like I'm in the zone with them, and at the WSOP there is some big action. I may decide to put my focus into that for much of the series, though I'm flexible. As for goals, my only goal is to play my best and manage my bankroll well. We'll see how things develop but I'm feeling very optimistic about my chances in the series.
You can follow Wild Bill's future adventures by visiting his blog: