Eleanor Gudger Q&A: ‘It takes a lot of time to realise you can win in a field like this’

Eleanor Gudger on how she won one of the largest tournaments in the history of UK poker and her career best score of £140k

Had the WPT500 event always been on your tournament calendar?  
Definitely, it had a £1m guarantee on it for a £500 buy-in! Dusk Till Dawn were running so many satellites for it to get people in that you knew it would be a huge event. They also had a special promotion where the top 50 finishers would win a seat into the £3,000 WPT main event – I wouldn’t usually play that big so it was a good chance to win a seat.

The WPT500 had seven starting flights! What was your strategy for those?
My plan was to play Thursday’s Day One [the event started on the Sunday before] and if I didn’t make it through I’d take another shot on Friday. I think that the nearer you get to the weekend the more runners you get, and that means you have more players who have won their seats from online satellites [and might be weaker]. In the earlier flights
I think you get a lot more players who are prepared to give it a few barrels, and it’s a more pro-heavy field.

At what stage did it dawn on you that you were very deep and had a shot of winning?
I think it takes a lot of time to realise that you could win in a field like this. Even on Day Two we started with over 500 players. You still have a lot of people to get through. You have to take it table by table. Look at the stack sizes at your current table, see what your stack size is compared to the big blind and look at your strategy as a whole.

Was it a tough field when you got deep?
It was very, very mixed. On Day Two I was sat next to Simon Deadman for a large part of the day, and that kept me focused. But at the same time there were a lot of people outwardly saying how excited they would be to cash or to make the top 50 [and win a £3k WPT seat]. You have the whole spectrum of players deep in a tournament like that – but if you are excited or nervous you definitely shouldn’t say that out loud!

Did the huge money at stake affect your play?
I was fine until the final table and then you start looking at the really huge pay jumps. I managed to get through it
by relying on some mantras I have in my head from playing a lot of final tables before online. That’s given me a pretty strong understanding of ICM and helped me a lot.

Do you think some other players on the final table were very affected by the pressure?
Definitely. Sometimes they would show it by just sitting there very quietly and I took that to be nervousness if they had been more talkative previously. Whereas others would literally be bouncing around and chatting to their mates that this would be the end of their financial problems if they took it down. They were visualising their lives having already won the tournament! It’s important to remember its not a winner-take-all event.

Will you start to play bigger live events now?
I think I’ll stick with the £500/£1,000 level for now. Even though I have just had a huge win, it’s still not a big bankroll. I couldn’t start playing EPTs regularly, for example. You could tear through that pretty quickly and I am looking at poker as a long-term career.

I’ve had a 50-hour-week job in an IT company before. It was good fun but I’ve done that and now I want to take a proper shot at poker.

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