Michael Gracz

One of the best young players around, Polish-born Gracz had a great 2005
netting $1.5m on the Party Poker cruise and winning his first WSOP bracelet

Early breakthrough
I was making $6,000 a month playing $15-$30 Hold’em, which as a waiter was six months’ work. So I thought, ‘To hell with waiting tables, I’m going to go play poker.’ And that’s how I paid my way through school. When I finished I started working for a financial firm and my friend Chris Bell put me in a $5,000 poker tournament in Atlantic City. I won and picked up $250,000, and of that I got $100,000. After that I played in tournaments in Tunica and at the Commerce casino and then, a few months later, I won $1.5m on the Party Poker Million IV cruise.

Heart of the matter
lost $20,000 and decided that it’s not for me. In tournaments I’ll pay attention to how someone is breathing, the rate of their chest moving in and out. I might have a hand that I’m definitely going to call with, and I’ll sit there for a minute and look at their chest the whole time. I want to pick up on how fast their heart is beating. And then I’ll call. And then when they’ve flipped their cards over I’ll put that heartbeat to whether they were bluffing or not. So the next time, if their heart’s going at the same rate, I know what their hand is. But if it’s doing something different I can put them on the opposite.

What’s your game?
I prefer no-limit but I do like limit tournaments; I mean, it’s different to playing limit live (cash games), but I do better playing no-limit cash games and tournaments, just because you’re able to manipulate the size of the pot, your opponents and how much pressure you can put on them. But limit tournaments have a lot of skill to them, in the sense that you have to be very selective with your hands, or very good at reading people’s hands.

OK computer?
Not looking at people is tough for me, it’s a people game. It’s not a game that is meant to be played over the computer. When you can have cameras on people at the other end of the world and see how they’re reacting, then I’ll probably play more online. I do play online, but not for more than two hours or it becomes monotonous for me. I’ve probably lost $20,000 and decided it’s not for me.

The WSOP experience
I’ll probably play close to every single event in this year’s World Series. The only thing is that last year we were out there so long – we rented a house for the summer – that we kind of wore ourselves out; by the end I was just ready to go home. The Main Event is obviously a crapshoot, but the better players have an edge or we wouldn’t be playing poker for a living. You have to pick the best players in the world as not necessarily a favourite, but the smallest underdog to win it.

Making the jump
I’d suggest going out to Los Angeles, Las Vegas or Atlantic City and playing there for two or three weeks. Then go back home and see how you did. You can’t just decide all of a sudden you’re going to become a professional, you have to try it out a few times and make sure you can really play with those people. Las Vegas is made up of a lot of home town heroes, but a lot go back home because they just show up to Vegas and decide they want to be a pro. You can’t do it as a leap of faith, you have to know you can play against those guys before you can do it.

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