KL: How did you get started playing poker?
Jeff: Just how everyone does, casually. Your friends teach you and then I liked it a lot and started reading poker books and thought that this was something I could legitimately be good at. I kind of just played a lot of tournaments and watched a lot on TV too.
KL: Did you play online?
Jeff: Yeah, I would say that I have always been more of a live player. I played online, but in school I was near an Indian Casino which is 18 and up so I could go there and play. I played there mostly.
KL: Which books did you read and which were most helpful?
Jeff: The first one I read was Phil Hellmuth's book, ‘Play Poker Like the Pros.' That book is really good for beginners. He kinda plays standard poker. He tells you what hands to play, what kind of players you are playing against. That was a good book, and then Super System of course by Doyle Brunson. Dan Harrington's books are really good. I read Barry Greenstein's book which was also good. I have read probably about 15 poker books.
KL: Did you come into last year's series with a plan on which events you would play?
Jeff: I had the money and I thought six tournaments was a good number. I looked at which tournaments I would play that were close together and in the beginning. I had a definite plan, but I knew that if I cashed everything would change.
KL: After you cashed did you start playing every event?
Jeff: I had already bought into 6 and that was the third tournament and then I won the 6th tournament that I bought in to. So after that I bought into whatever I could.
KL: How did you celebrate?
Jeff: During the World Series, it was just nice dinners and partying at the Rio and stuff like that. A couple clubs, nothing too crazy. During the World Series I was focused. I didn't want to party too much, but yeah standard Vegas stuff, strip clubs.
KL: What about after it was all done, you could just breathe a sigh of relief of what you had just accomplished?
Jeff: Yeah, it's crazy. I still don't really believe that I did that well. It's kind of weird. No matter how well you play, how do you get four final tables in a year, you still have to be on an amazing run. Everything has to come together so it kind of felt like destiny.
KL: Do you play all the games?
Jeff: Pretty much, I don't like limit hold'em because I play no limit and it is sort of counter intuitive learning how to play no limit better. Pretty much besides limit hold'em and maybe pot limit Omaha. I don't play it that much, but I still play the events.
KL: Are you going to play the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event at the World Series this year?
Jeff: Yes, definitely. I didn't get to play last year because it was half my bankroll at that time.
KL: Do you think it is the toughest event?
Jeff: I don't see how it couldn't be. What does it mean, tough; tough to win or tough to do well in? That tournament has less than 200 people so in that aspect there are less people. As far as the tournament you are playing with the best players in the world, period. And you are playing all the games and they are good at all the games, it's not just like no limit. You can't just hit a river card. You can get lucky, but it's definitely the toughest.
KL: You frequently amass a large amount of chips, how do you accumulate so many?
Jeff: It's just poker. I'm a poker player so you can't really say one thing. There are obviously a lot of things, but the basic thing is if you play aggressive and you can read people's hands those are the only two things you would ever need. Say you saw someone's hand face up. You would either be betting or would be folding because you know that they are going to call. As long as you can get good reads and play strong you can get chips easily.
KL: Do you think you are good at putting people on hands?
Jeff: I am definitely getting better. I'm not like Daniel Negreanu or anything, but I think that is one of the stronger parts of my game.
KL: How do you know; is it because of their betting patterns, is it the way they look? What makes you know what they are holding?
Jeff: Sometimes it is something obvious like betting patterns. Betting patterns aren't really tells, per say but they are the most important tells. It's like ‘oh this guy check raised the flop', what does he have when he check raises the flop? Stuff like that. Besides that it is just subtle stuff, how they bet their chips, how they look. Each person might be different, but sometimes it is really subtle and I will make the right call or the right fold and I won't even know why because it is a subtle thing and that just comes from experience.
KL: What tough competitors did you have at your final tables?
Jeff: Erick Lindgren was the toughest. At the Omaha final table, Negreanu was there but I played like three pots against him and got lucky and scooped a pot against him where he had a hand too. The first no limit table there were a couple name guys, Julian Gardener who got second in 2002 in the Main Event. I would have to say Lindgren was the toughest opponent for sure.
KL: Did you have any strategy going into the final table and playing head up against Erick?
Jeff: I had seen him on TV and I knew we kind of played similarly. It wasn't as hard to get into his head, even though he is one of the best players in the world. I was kind of on the same page as him. Even when he was in hands with other people I was trying to get into his head. You just have to prepare at the table each day, each situation.
KL: Knowing he has an aggressive style, did that make you play more aggressive against him to combat that because he didn't know who you were?
Jeff: Exactly, that's why it was to my advantage that I was kind of a no name at that point. I had won one bracelet, but he didn't know how I played. I played really aggressive heads up and the bluffs I made kind of worked. I got slightly better cards and won a big race. Obviously you have to get lucky to win a tournament, but besides winning a big race I felt that I played better than him when we got heads up.
KL: Erick had a lot of guys cheering him on, was that distracting?
Jeff: Yeah, but I am going to try to play the same no matter what. I was focused and didn't really think about the crowd.
KL: You said last year playing against Erick you were an unknown and that was helpful. This year a lot more people know you, how do you think that will affect you this year?
Jeff: I'm sure a lot of the amateurs that know me might play a little different. It's just about playing each hand by itself and each situation by itself. You can't have a general plan for the whole thing because it's not going to work like that.
KL: Where did you stay last year?
Jeff: I stayed a few different places. The first hotel I stayed at was Hooters and then it was the Rio eventually. I probably stayed at five different casinos.
KL: What are you doing this year?
Jeff: I bought a house in Vegas, and it was finished May 11th. Hopefully I will get some furniture in there in time! So, I will be in my house this year and that's why I can't wait for it. I think I will play better because I am more comfortable and I am at home.