CC: David, thanks for taking the time to be with us today. Tell us a bit about yourself.
David: I was born in Connecticut and moved around quite a bit. My family and I currently live in Katy, TX (suburb of Houston), I have been here about 10 years now. I graduated from Auburn University with a Finance Degree and worked in a couple business to business sales positions for 10 years prior to making Poker a full time job at the end of 2004.
CC: How did you start playing poker?
David: I became interested in college in the early 90s when a friend of mine saw an old World Series show and told me about it, then in the mid 90s I played in New Orleans, but that was mostly limit Omaha high only (a sick game!), but I started playing hold em semi seriously around 1999-2000.
CC: What stakes and where did you play starting out?
David: When I started playing hold-em more than once in a while, in 2000, I was playing 10-20 and 15-30 about 3 times a week at an underground game in Houston while making occasional trips to Las Vegas.
CC: You've played tournaments over the last three years, with your first cash in Tunica in January 2004. How did you become drawn to live tournaments?
David: The first I ever heard of Texas hold-em was through the World Series, so I always thought that was an interesting brand of the game. With a full-time job and a limited budget, tournament poker wasn't something I was heavily involved in. Back 7-12 years ago, tournament poker was not like it is now as there was no internet poker or an abundance of tournaments to play or learn from. I remember being in Vegas during one of the Orleans Opens; although I didn't play, I was very interested in what was going on and decided that I would have to look into this aspect of the game and try to play some events the next year.
CC: Your first five-figure cash was at the PartyPoker Million Cruise in 2005. How did you qualify for the event?
David: I won a satellite online for this tournament. After my close call at the $2k limit event in Tunica, playing in this event was a must for me. I knew I would do well here.
CC: Tell us about your run there.
David: I was extremely disappointed by my 31st finish at this event. Even though my experience was slim, my expectations were high. I built my chips throughout the whole event then became one of the chip leaders deep into Day 3 when everything went wrong. I had a terrible last level and lost a couple key pots to Adam Csallany (4th place finisher), then on Day 4m I had a guy try to outplay me when he didn't realize I was short-stacked . Once he realized it, I was all-in and he had four outs to win if I didn't make a flush on the turn. I didn't and he drew out. I was devastated! Then 2006, I had a similar experience when I again built a huge stack on Day 3 only to lose it near the end of the day and finish a disappointing 25th.
CC: You cashed several times at preliminary events in LA then made your first big win of $71k at a 2006 LA Poker Classic. Was this a breakthrough for you, or was it a great result on the broader tournament grind?
David: I was obviously thrilled with this win as it represented my first win at a major tournament and the field was pretty tough even though small. Lots of high limit players and some top pros like Barry Greenstein and Gavin Smith among others. I felt this win was a long time coming, I didn't feel like it was an upset and was glad to get this win under my belt.
CC: What did you learn from this win?
David: I knew I could do it and this validated it. I played from start to the final table with Gavin Smith and he gave me many compliments which helped know that this was not a fluke.
CC: How do you look back on last year's World Series? You cashed five times and were close to some big results.
David: I look back with mixed emotions. I am thrilled that I cashed five times, but more importantly I am glad I was in position for a huge finish in four of them. The 1st event 1500NL, Juan Carlos Mortensen and I were the big chip leaders with about 30 left and in one of the 1500 Limit events I had a lot of chips with about 15 left and took a horrible beat by a known player who had no business seeing the river. He was playing terribly, I finished 12th. I basically chalk up the whole series as missed opportunities, kind of theme for my last year or so, but again just more experience and confidence to move forward.
CC: Most of us would be delighted with those results, as well as winning over $200k since the World Series. What have you seen as the significant changes to how you've approached tournaments?
David: I am delighted with putting myself in position but am extremely frustrated that the big win has not happened. I see all these players getting chips once or twice and converting them into wins, and I constantly build a big stack and normally get my money in so good and have failed to convert. As for my approach, I used to be intimidated by the size of the fields, but now I feel very controlled and step through a tournament in workman like fashion.
CC: What do you see as the shortcomings for most players new to live tournaments?
David: I think the biggest shortcomings come from post-flop play. Most of the new players have learned in the small stack tourneys and online when post-flop play is not as important. I think they tend to overvalue a lot of hands like top pair or an overpair and get heavily invested when they are most likely way ahead or way behind then they blame a cold deck. I tend to tread lightly with the hands that you are either way ahead or way behind. Players always talk about protecting their hand, but more importantly they need to protect their stack. If you get drawn on then just try to minimize your loss.; you also tend to induce bluffs this way too.
CC: Have you had any tough times during the last three years? How did you deal with these times?
David: From the final table at Festa El Lago up until the WPT Championship (October 2006-April 2007), I had only one small cash and played in multiple tourneys. I tried to look back at what was going on, and I think I had lost a little of my aggressiveness. Hopefully after making a deep run into the WPT Championship (23rd, $92,820), I have solved this problem. As for money issues that always haunt players, I have always been a cash player, so when I struggle in tourneys, I just go back and work hard at the live games to make sure I stay in business. I have also experienced quite a bit of major disappointment in Main Events, and it has been tough. Each time I try to tell myself that it is all leading towards something big and that this experience will help me get there. I definitely know I will appreciate it a little more than most.
CC: What percentage of you play is tournament vs cash games?
David: I would say I play about 70% cash vs 30% tournaments. I live in Houston, so I have to travel to do anything. I used to go to Commerce about every other week to play cash, but now I try to get there in between tournaments and play some cash games on the road. You just can't beat the Commerce live games; I actually can't stand playing anywhere else, but when in Vegas or AC you just have to play at the other venues.
CC: Do you play online tournaments?
David: I very rarely play online tournaments. Occasionally I do, but when I am home in Houston, I am spending it with my lovely wife and beautiful 4 year-old girl, so taking 6-8 hours out of my day to play tournaments is not something high on my list. When I play it's usually PokerStars or FullTilt, but nothing compares to Party in the day.
CC: Has the gap between the characteristics of online and live tournaments narrowed, or do you feel they are still fairly different?
David: I mostly play the big buy-in tournaments, and I don't think they are alike at all. In the smaller tournaments there are some similarities, but in the big ones, it's a lot of post-flop play. That aspect is lacking in most of the online events. I also get a lot of reads off of people that I don't get online. Over the last year, I have made so many key decisions based on the feelings the player is giving me, and I can't get that online. I made several big decisions in the WPT Championship that I would have never made on line.
CC: What are your plans heading into the World Series?
David: Last year I rented a house with a friend of mine (James Gorham pictured right, who won the last 1500 NL event for $756k before the Main Event last year) and we are doing that again. I plan on playing about twenty events give or take a few. I have family obligations and will miss the first few events, but I will be there on June 3rd and will be there most of the Series. I plan on playing most of the $5k events and all the limit hold-em events. As for other events, it will all depend on how long I last and how I am feeling at the time.
I have very high expectations heading into this year's Series after the WPT Championship. I had a great run there, starting off playing at a super tough table with Gus Hansen on my left and Doyle, Eric Lindgren, Lee Watkinson, and Toto all at my starting table and I controlled that table and built a big stack. I had a big stack for a majority of the event, and went out on a really bad beat by Carlos. We got involved in a pot that had 1.6 million in the center most post flop and I had 10 kill cards after the flop and when I didn't kill him he had 5 outs to win. As fortune would have it, he hit and went on to win, and I finished 23rd. I played with so many great players in this event with different styles. I think that week of poker at the WPT Championships has definitely put my in a good spot heading to the World Series where the diversity of players styles is higher than any other tournament.
CC: Finally, what are your objectives for the rest of this year?
David: It's tough to develop a plan for the rest of the year before the Series because things can change based on a very successful or very disappointing month and a half. As for now, my plans are to play the main events at the Bike, Borgata, USPC, and Bellagio (I have some unfinished business at the most of these venues :)) with trips to the Commerce in between for live play.