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Poker News | World Series of Poker | WSOP2009 | Poker Personalities

Greg Raymer Discusses WSOP Event 2 Third Place Finish

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The event was a highly anticipated one at the 2009 World Series of Poker, and the tournament was full of familiar faces and respected pros. Greg Raymer was among them and maneuvered his way through the field to the final table, where he ultimately finished in third place for nearly $775,000 in prize money.

To commemorate the 40th Annual WSOP, organizers introduced a $40,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em tournament to kick off the 2009 Series, and it generated quite the buzz with media and fans alike. All of those who made the final table out of the 201-player field were looked upon as rightfully earning their seats, as the field consisted of players like Ted Forrest, Justin Bonomo, Noah Schwartz, and Alec Torelli. Raymer survived all but online pro Isaac Haxton and Russian star Vitaly Lunkin but ultimately exited in third place, which was worth $774,927 and many kudos from the poker community for a stellar finish. But the WSOP gold bracelet only went to first, and despite having missed that award and honor by two spots, he has a reasonable and rational view of the experience and his poker career as a whole.

Raymer sat down with PokerWorks to share some of his thoughts after a few days passed from the end of Event 2.

PokerWorks:  Let’s start by talking about the $40K NLHE event. Coming into this World Series and that event, how prepared were you?

Raymer: 
I try to always be prepared when I play a tournament. The only difficulty I really have is that a lot of the events I play nowadays are overseas. PokerStars has tours all over the world, so that means I’m usually flying in the day before the tour and changing time zones by 5 or 16 zones, so it can be tough to be fully rested. And if you’re not fully rested, you’re probably not going to play your best game because you can’t focus for 10 or 12 hours. That’s probably a bit of a hindrance. But with the exception of things beyond my control, I always try to be fully prepared. I’m not a partier, I don’t drink or do drugs, and I don’t stay up at the club all night long, so for the most part, I’m going to be prepared for any tournament.

For the $40K, I didn’t do anything special for it. I did the same things I always try to do - get a full night’s sleep, maintain a level of concentration while I’m in the event, and try to play each hand as perfectly as I possibly can. I try to make perfect decisions, which I’m not going to do always, but I try. After that, you can’t worry about it too much, just have fun and make the decisions.

PokerWorks:  Was there a point in the tournament that you felt exceptionally confident or positive?

Raymer:  I’m a mathematical person, and I’ve had that question asked a lot about my main event as to when I knew I was going to win. I knew I was going to win when all the chips were in the middle and David turned over the worst hand. But when we started heads-up play, I had about 70 percent of the chips, and I felt I was more than a little bit better than him at no-limit hold’em and heads-up in particular. I knew I had a lot more experience than him, so I really thought I had about an 80 percent chance of winning from that point forward.

The same answer goes for the $40K. When we were three-handed and I had a third of the chips, mathematically I had about a one-third chance of winning the title. I really didn’t give myself any significant advantage over those two players, though. Everyone in that tournament was so good. It’s really hard to say that one person is a lot better, because even if you are better than someone else, you’re probably not a LOT better. And there was no one in that tournament who was lacking experience. My two opponents in the final of the $40K…even though Isaac [Haxton] is young, he’s played thousands of online tournaments and has done well in several live events, and Vitaly [Lunkin] is not a kid, just won the first tournament in the new PokerStars Russian Poker Tour, and obviously knew what he was doing. I’d never played with him before but was very impressed. Even if I tried to argue that I was the best player three-handed, I couldn’t argue that I was the best by far. Any extra I had was pretty tiny.

PokerWorks:  How important was it to you to win that one?

Raymer:
  Oh, it was important! And not just because it would’ve been another million dollars more than I got paid. But any bracelet you win is of huge importance. A friend of mine who also represents PokerStars, Jason Mercier, just won a bracelet, and I think his first prize was $200,000 or something like that. An interesting question if he and I were doing an interview together would be, given the choice, would either one of you have switched with the other? Would he give up his bracelet in order to get an extra half million by finishing third in my event? Or would I give up half a million to win his event and come in first instead of third and get the bracelet to go with it? That’s not a question I could answer easily. He might be a little jealous of the extra money I won, and I’m definitely jealous of the bracelet that he won. But I’m not willing to make any sacrifices to get it. It’s worth a lot to me.

PokerWorks:  Do you feel that you put a lot of pressure on yourself to win another bracelet, or do you feel any pressure from the poker community to do so?

Raymer: 
Not really pressure, per se, but I’ve had no great results for awhile. I really don’t play as big of a schedule as some players. Some of my peers are out there playing 200 live tournaments a year, but I don’t have time to play all of those preliminary and main events. It takes a lot of extra time to play a poker tournament in Uruguay or Monte Carlo or New Zealand as opposed to just going to Biloxi or Las Vegas or Los Angeles. I can’t get that volume in for live tournaments, and therefore, my chances of repeating and winning a big title are much, much lower than theirs, no matter what the relative skill levels are.

There’s not a great pressure on me to win a bracelet, at least I don’t feel it, but I do feel that it’s been long enough. As far as the World Series goes, I play almost as many events as anyone, so if a great player is supposed to win a bracelet once every five years, well then, I better get going here because I’m about to fall behind. But winning one every five years is even asking a lot. I get into about two dozen WSOP events each year. Take this tournament I’m in right now - the $10,000 Mixed Game. A lot of people won’t enter because they don’t know how to play all eight games, and we still have almost 200 people, largely the best poker players out there. So even if all of the poker tournaments were like this, how am I supposed to win one time out of 120 when there’s this many tough opponents? And in other events like the Stimulus Special, you have to beat out 6,000 people to win a bracelet.

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