Dominik Nitsche interview: “It’s funny to me how I’ve been around for so long, yet I’m much younger than most players”

Dominik Nitsche has had somewhat of a head start on the competition. Like most of poker’s young guns, Nitsche started out on the online tables – he just didn’t stay there. By the age of 21 he had already collected a WSOP bracelet and a WPT title –  two thirds of live poker’s triple crown.  

Since then the German has also finished third in the 2013 WSOPE main event, at one of the toughest final tables ever assembled. sent Nick Pryce to find out what 2014 holds for Nitsche, whether he can add an elusive EPT title to his poker CV and just what the secret is to all this Deutsche success…

PokerPlayer: So how’s it going, what have you been up to recently?
Dominik Nitsche: Life’s been good! I’ve spent a lot of time in Edinburgh recently and haven’t been playing too much poker. When I have played though I’ve been very successful, final tabling the GUKPT in Edinburgh and the Sunday 500. I also had a deep run in EPT San Remo and came very close to cashing in the High Roller!

Your confidence must be high then?
All in all I am feeling great and my results in April have been amazing! I’m really excited about the EPT Grand Final [Nitsche busted before the money] and then of course Las Vegas.

How do you think you’ll do in those events?
The EPT Grand Final is always one of the toughest tournaments you can play. I will be playing against some of the best players in the world and while it definitely won’t be easy I doubt it will be the toughest game I have ever played in. There are usually quite a few rich amateurs and satellite qualifiers in the mix that make the game a bit more interesting to play in for professionals such as myself.

An EPT is the one title missing from your CV now…do you feel confident about completing the ‘triple crown’ sometime soon?
That is true! My EPT results haven’t been the best to say the least and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t very disappointed about it. I’ve been playing the EPT circuit for years and I really want to make a big final, but as we all know it isn’t that easy.

In poker tournaments a lot of things simply come down to luck and I’ve been playing for long enough to know that you just have to be realistic and wait. It’s going to happen at some point soon! I’ve been playing a lot better recently and made quite a few adjustments to my poker game. For example, my deep stack game has improved a lot and as a result I’ve been building bigger stacks much more consistently during the early levels.

You had an outstanding start to your live poker career, winning LAPT Mar del Plata. Was that your first live tournament? Did you expect to do that well?
It wasn’t my first live tournament at all. I’d already played quite a few major tournaments before that, like the Aussie Millions and EPT Dortmund. I remember going there thinking, “well, I’m already up on the trip since I won six satellites, let’s see what I can turn this into.” The tournament started out really well and I was one of the chip leaders right from the beginning.

At the time I already felt like one of the best payers in the field, so with a big stack on my side what could go wrong? I was definitely expecting to make the final. In hindsight I obviously got super lucky but that’s poker tournaments for you. You just have to play your best and then sometimes it works out nicely for you.

Plenty of success followed that. You have a bracelet in a $1k WSOP event, in the first year that you were able to play in the US! How did you manage to beat 4,600 people to it?
I got lucky, very lucky in fact! These tournaments are filled with a lot of weak players so obviously my strategy coming in was to try and make a lot of big hands early then overbet pots and get paid. Later on my strategy would change completely and I minraised and three-bet small an absurd amount to get pots heads-up and take them down with a small continuation bet.

Basically I was looking to attack people that were scared to bust. Once we were down to the final table I got a couple of coolers in my favour and I was lucky enough to take it down.

Is that the proudest moment of your career so far? Do you think the WSOP is the pinnacle and what you look forward to the most?
On one hand I try not to be too proud of certain results as it helps me stay humble and focus on improving every day. As I’ve said before, poker tournaments come down to a lot of luck, so I don’t want to be proud of the day I got the luckiest. So no I wouldn’t call it my proudest moment but it certainly was the happiest! Having all my friends there with me when I won is something I will never forget and it makes me truly happy every time I think of it. I would say I’m much prouder of having played poker for a living for almost six years now and I’m still looking forward to studying and playing almost every day.

And yes I do look forward to the World Series every year. Just the thought of being able to play big tournaments every day for six weeks gets me all excited and ready to go. 

You must be one of the youngest holders of both a WSOP and WPT title, having won them both at 21 years of age.
Correct yes. Well, I did start pretty early! It’s funny to me how I’ve been around for so long, yet I’m much younger than most players.

Do you feel quite experienced when you make final tables like the WSOPE? And was that the toughest final table you’ve ever made?
Absolutely, the WSOPE was ridiculously tough. There were maybe only two or three weak players left when we were down to 20, so I knew I had to get very lucky to even have a chance at making the final table.

The final table was as tough as expected, with no player giving their chips away. Still, I felt confident that I had a slight edge over my opponents, having played a lot of mid/high stakes online cash during the couple of months leading up to it. Unfortunately for me I ended up with a horrible seat draw and my strategy was mostly based on survival rather than aggressively chipping up.

You must do a lot of travelling to these tournaments around the world. Do you enjoy the lifestyle?
I really do enjoy all the travelling but to me most of it is part of my job. Sometimes I go to places I really want to see just for fun but 90% of the trips I take are for poker and for poker only. Obviously I still try and have some fun on the side but I don’t want to be spending more money than I’m expecting to earn at a poker tournament. 

It must get quite expensive so do you sell a lot of action to cover your expenses?
I only sell action to High Roller events and I do that because I feel like the whole idea of taking shots is silly. I’m much more comfortable treating every tournament like they are the same.

You’re pretty successful online too (over $3m in cashes); do you prefer staying at home and grinding online or travelling around the world and playing live?I prefer playing live and it’s not even close. Online poker is just very convenient and I haven’t missed an online Sunday in quite a long time. Still if I had to pick one, live poker is the clear winner. I just like playing for high stakes and online the highest outside of a major series is a $1k tournament. It doesn’t really have the same feel to it.

You now live in Edinburgh. What made you move from Germany to the UK, and Edinburgh in particular?
Taxes! I’ve lived in the UK for four years now I think and the main reason why I moved was to avoid paying taxes in Germany. So it was mostly just a matter of giving up 50% of my winnings or moving somewhere else. It really was a no-brainer at the time. 

I fell in love with Edinburgh one summer when I went to the Fringe with a couple of close friends. The city is amazing and I’m currently considering buying a flat here – as long as the WSOP doesn’t go too badly!

We know you’re good pals with a lot of poker players from the UK, how did you initially become friends with them?
I think it all started out when I met John Eames, Jake Cody and Matt Perrins at the hotel bar at the Irish Open one year. We then went to Venice and that’s where I met Jon Spinks, who is now one of my closest friends.

I then went to a bunch of tournaments and met a lot of new people. The whole poker community is very open and friendly and that’s also what I like about travelling the live circuit. Poker can get a bit lonely at times if all you do is sit in front of computer. It’s much more fun if you have some people to do it with.

Including yourself, Germany has a lot of super talented players at the moment. Are you able to bounce ideas off those guys at the very top of the game like Phil Gruissem? Just how good are they?
I’m actually not very close with most of the Germans but Phil [Gruissem] and I sometimes talk. He’s invested in me quite a lot in the past and he’s always the first person to take my action whenever I sell any. If I go deep he’s one of the first people I hit up for reads on players! 

They are all obviously amazing players with a very strong understanding of the game. They don’t have a single weak area in their games and to top it all off they all share information. They know exactly which leaks their opponents have and know how to exploit them. 

One last thing, will you be cheering on England at the World Cup?
Absolutely not. Germany all the way!

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