Mickey Wernick

'The Worm' reckons self-belief and common sense can take you a long way in poker

You can look down at A-J and think it’s a monster. But it’s not

Last year I was nowhere in the European rankings but I still fancied myself for a £1,000 freezeout in London. I drove down the motorway with just the shirt and trousers that I was wearing. I cashed in and it started me off on a roll. I suddenly realised that I could win the European title so I really put my heart and soul into it. I made 15 final table finishes in European ranking events last year. I went on to win the title, €10,000 and then got picked up by Blue Square Poker. You’ve got to believe in yourself.

I used to play in a card school with Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, Bobby Baldwin and Johnny Chan in the 1980s. I was the only guy from the UK over there, although Donnacha O’Dea from Ireland would sometimes play. I was a mad gambler at the time – I’d go broke and pawn my rings. I’ve done everything in gambling but time catches up with you. It’s like my old man used to say, ‘You don’t leave the vices, the vices leave you.’ Do them while you still can, if you know what I mean!

Hand values do change when you’re playing short-handed but don’t let it change how you play. I might raise with 4-6 and if I don’t hit the flop I’ll still bet and then probably again on the turn. If they’re still there and I haven’t hit then I’ll walk away. PLAYING A PRO? Just play good hands against top players. Don’t go in with A-Q against them because they’ll only risk their chips if they’re ahead. If they call you the chances are they’ll be ahead. Pick a better spot. There’s always a better situation to get your money in. Why put yourself down to a coin toss when you can go in a few hands later as a big favourite?

I was playing no-limit Hold’em against this one lad who raised me when I had A-Q. I called and then checked the 10-10-J flop. He made a large bet that I knew he wouldn’t have made if he had a Ten, because I’d been playing with him for a while; he’d probably check-raise. I called and the next card was a Three. So then he made a bigger bet, which told me for sure that he hadn’t got a Ten. And I was sure he hadn’t got a Jack because he’d be happy to check. So I called, on the basis that I was prepared to bluff on the end because I’d put him on a hand that he could lay down – a small pair. The last card came down perfectly – a Jack. He bet and I called straight away. He showed a pair of Sevens and I won it with my Ace kicker.

Can you imagine what it’s like driving down a motorway not knowing if you’ve got enough to buy into a tournament? I’ve got little kids at home. You need to make sure that there’s food in the fridge, money for school and that can be a distraction. I don’t think that pressure makes you play better but it does keep you going. As long as you keep playing well you’ll get there in the end.

I put a lot of tournament success down to common sense. It’s just two little words but people need more of it. You can look down at A-J and think that it’s a monster. But it’s not. You’ve got to have patience if you’re going to do well playing in [live] tournaments.

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