Exclusive Chris Wood interview: “I love the buzz and atmosphere of playing face to face”

Sam Shan catches up with UK cash game pro Chris Wood to talk about running good in Ireland, gambling stories and living it up in Las Vegas

North East based cash game pro Chris Wood has been on a great run of form, recently finishing third at UKIPT Dublin for €38,400, just one of many great results across the Irish Sea. We find out how Wood does it and his plans for this summer’s WSOP in Las Vegas…  

PokerPlayer: You’ve had a lot of success in Irish tournaments – winning 106,000 for second place in the 2008 Irish Masters, and most recently you finished third at UKIPT Dublin. How does it feel to have another deep run in a major tournament?

Chris Wood: It feels good finally to get the monkey off my back and put a decent run together in one of the [UKIPT] main events. I’ve played quite a lot of UKIPTs over the last couple seasons and in a lot of them I seem to make Day 2 with a healthy stack, but then it all seems to go wrong for me. It is self-inflicted I think mainly, maybe I should just start going back to the hotel after Day 1 and relax, instead of hanging around cash games or nightclubs until 5AM!

Looking at the final table, short-handed you were up against the very talented Max Silver and the eventual winner Kevin Killeen, who has a very impressive online resume. What was it like playing with those guys?

Both of them are extremely talented, but there were some other great players at the final table too. I had played a lot with Rob Sturman in local cash games a few years back, Joeri Zandvliet is a really nice guy and a fantastic poker player as well – he’s always tough to play against and this time was no different.
My final table seat wasn’t the best spot in the world – I had Kevin [Killeen] directly to my right and Max [Silver] directly to my left who was also chipped up. I had played quite a lot on Day 3 with both of these players. In fact I think we were all seated in a row like this from around 40 players out and each time a table broke we landed near each other again. This gave me a good idea of how to deal with hands in certain spots against both of them.

You are primarily a cash game specialist, will your recent success make you rethink that at all and is there any chance you will be playing more tournaments?

I love playing tournaments at festivals, I am from North East of England, and tournament poker has totally took a back seat here over the last few years. There is not a great deal happening at all, so the only time I get to play a decent comp is at these events. I think cash games will always be my bread and butter though.

Is the cash from UKIPT Dublin going back into your bankroll for the upcoming WSOP?

I recently went to Vegas with a great group of friends who are really talented players; Luke Spalding, Chris Howden, Adam Picken, Stevie Heron and Marty Henderson. We went out there to play some Venetian Deepstack events, grind cash, get pis*ed and have fun. We had a quality time. I’m hoping to get out during the WSOP this summer for sure but need to work it around a couple of stag parties I have booked in June so I’m not sure when yet. As for the money, I’ve used that to pay for my wedding next year which I’ve just booked. I already have a comfortable bankroll, so it seemed sensible to just book the wedding with the winnings.

Congratulations on the recent engagement! How do you balance playing poker professionally with being a good boyfriend/future husband?

Well I should be an expert at answering this, it’s all I get asked. I think it involves being very generous with money…only joking! I’ve been with Zoe for around ten years now, thankfully I was with her before I started playing poker as I don’t think she would have stuck around long enough to meet the real me otherwise, living the 100 mile per hour life I do. She’s very supportive with it all and I just try and do everything I can for her outside of poker and make sure she is 100% happy and comfortable with me going anywhere before I book up to play.
I think she appreciates that, and she always has first refusal of coming to some of the more glamorous destinations. Last year we went to Marbella for UKIPT and she really enjoyed it, she also came to Vegas a couple of years back and she’s coming to Monte Carlo with us for the EPT. She doesn’t show much interest in coming to stops on the tours in places like Stoke or Birmingham though… I can’t think why! 

How much better are the games that run alongside the tournament series, like EPT and UKIPT, as opposed to the regular games?

The games at these events are just incomparable to the local stuff, at the EPT especially. Last year me and Chris Howden went out to Barcelona for around ten days and I’ve never seen anything like it in terms of action and atmosphere. The side events were putting prizepools together that were bigger than the size of some main events I’ve played. I think one of the €2k side events I played in had over €1 million euros in prize money and the €5k main event had €1 million euros up top for first! There was an outstanding buzz in the room all week and that atmosphere can only be matched with the WSOP Main Event.

You don’t play online poker too much. As a social and outgoing guy at the table, is that the main reason or are the games just that much better live than online?

Yes I feel as a person I’m very outgoing and chirpy, always trying to raise a laugh with the crowd, and you will probably struggle to find me at any event without a beer in my hand. I actually started out playing online mainly because I was working and living in Norway at the time and casinos are banned over there. I started playing on Titan Poker and also Full Tilt, mainly playing $1-$2 NLHE and PLO cash games.
Then I was invited to join a friend in a private game over in Norway at an underground casino – I’d only previously played in a casino a handful of times but I just loved the buzz of playing face to face and the atmosphere. To this day I still feel that way about the live game. I feel my concentration levels are a lot stronger live as oppose to online so it’s a no brainer for me to choose live over online.

Picture courtesy of PokerStarsBlog.com.

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