Exclusive Liv Boeree interview: UKIPT success and bouncing back from a terrible 2013

This time last week Liv Boeree was sitting at a poker table in Edinburgh battling to become the latest UKIPT champion. After four days of gruelling action, the Team PokerStars Pro emerged with a fabulous second place finish for £59,180. Not only did it eclipse her entire 2013 earnings but it was also the closest Boeree had come to winning a major live tournament since her success at EPT San Remo in 2010.

Before jetting off to Australia for the Aussie Millions, Liv Boeree spoke to PokerPlayer about her fantastic start to 2014, hanging out with the Super High-Roller Germans and why she dreaded playing the game just last year…

PokerPlayer: Hey Liv, congratulations on the result at UKIPT Edinburgh! Are you happy with how it turned out? Or a bit gutted at the heads-up?
Liv Boeree: Thank you! Happy but it’s disappointing to come second. At the same time it’s still a nice score and a good start to the year. I played my arse off but I think I made a couple mistakes heads-up that I’m going over.

Annoyingly I got him down to 20 big blinds and he re-jammed A-4 against my Kings and he made a wheel. Then we were pretty much even and I couldn’t really win a hand after that. I could lament on that but whatever, it wasn’t to be. Otherwise it’s just been such a great start to the year, I’ve played two tournaments in 2014 and gone deep in both so I’m just so excited to play next.

Let’s talk about that heads-up quickly. You started off with a slight chiplead and extended it nicely. Then that Kings vs. A-4 hand happened. Was that quite demoralising at the time? Or did you still have the confidence that you’d go on and win?
No it wasn’t at all demoralising, I just smiled when he hit the Three. I was still very very confident and very sure I was going to win. I had a very difficult hand when I defended my big blind and flopped two-pair. He checked back the J-9-4 flop and called my lead on the T turn. The river was an Ace, I lead big and he called with A-T. That really took a huge chunk out of my stack and then I got 18 big blinds in with 5c-3c on 6-5-4 and he had 6-5. He held and that was that.

What was Dean Hutchison like as an opponent?
The thing I was impressed with was that he adapted heads-up very quickly. I don’t want to sound cocky but he was definitely outclassed early on in the heads-up match. I was winning the vast majority of hands, I was getting him to fold when I wanted to and I felt like I was dancing in circles around him.

But after he doubled, we had a break and I think he went and chatted to his friends. He really adapted his style of play and he became really tricky after that. However I think he was probably playing too many hands – he never folded pre – he played every single hand. At the same time though it was impossible to put him on any kind of range because he never slowed down. Unfortunately I wasn’t hitting anything so it was probably a good strategy for him. If I made a pair I was going to go with it and obviously in the end my pair wasn’t any good! He really did counter it well by playing high variance, making bigger raises and three-betting a bunch more. He made my life very difficult from that point on.

Did he seem comfortable on that sort of stage? Because looking at his results he’s never really been on a big final table before.
I mean he was definitely nervous you could tell that, but he did the best he could. He kept it together, there were times he was very frustrated or excited/nervous but at the same time it was his first live major final table so that was normal. It would be very strange if he wasn’t. I’d say he kept it together very well, he’s a nice lad and had a great rail of friends cheering him on.

How about yourself? Did you put a lot of pressure on yourself and were you a bit nervous because it was your first major final table in a while?
Surprisingly I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be. I was actually fairly sure the whole time. I was just so excited, I really was. I think had it been more televised and had a live stream it would have added to the nerves because I would have been thinking about all these people are watching, and I didn’t want to screw up.

As it was it was just live reporting and there wasn’t a huge crowd of people watching. Also I felt very confident in my ability. In comparison to the rest of the players I felt like I was the most experienced by quite a long way at the table. I felt like I could just own it if I wanted to, which was a nice feeling to have.

I guess those nerves probably went away because you knocked about four players out in the first 30 minutes!
Yeah, I ran really good and a lot of the other opponents were pretty short stacked. They shoved into me at the right times and my hands held up so I got off to a great start. 

Obviously there is a significant money difference between first and second but in a way were you more disappointed not to win because it would have been a second major title? Especially with your level of fame and sponsorship that’s perhaps more important to a player like yourself…
Oh absolutely, not even close. The title is worth a bunch but at the same time anyone in the poker world who has any inkling of how it works knows that to be honest first and second like… I got the guy in basically dead and he spiked to get lucky, in my head I won it anyway (laughs).

Ah so you win the moral victory…
Exactly, that’s the way I look at it. And if anyone is going to hold that against me then that’s fine. The top three in tournaments I think deserve very similar accolades. To get that far and play that well… so much can happen short-handed and cold decks occur so easily.

You came into this tournament with a bit of momentum from the PCA main event – 50th position out of 1100. Was that a massive boost for you to have such a good tournament there?
Yeah, I was almost more disappointed to bust the PCA just because I had hung on for ages, doubled up to just under average and then played a huge flip for average chips with 50 left. Queens against A-K to bust. That one was really tough.

It was a huge confidence boost though. I had some really tough tables on Day 3 and 4 and I was patient, kept calm and held my own. I got short a couple of times and often I find myself getting very demoralised but the difference this time was I was very ‘oh well’ and, ‘what will be will be’.

I just wanted to do my best, find a spot to double up and if I did then great, if I didn’t then no problem, I did my best.

Is the PCA main event as tough a tournament as it used to be?
Erm, in the late stages yes, because it’s such a good structure you’ll see a lot of pro’s in the final 50 or so. I have to say the first couple of days my tables were incredible so I can’t speak for that but it is a tough tournament. There’s so many pro’s that will never miss it but at the same time you do get a lot of tourists coming in for it so it can be a bit of a mix.

You did a really interesting interview during the PCA where you were talking about how bad 2013 had been for you. What were the problems in 2013, what went wrong and how bad did it get for you?
I had a bunch of personal stuff going on in 2013 which I think affected me more than I gave it credit for. That’s my own fault for letting it affect me as much as it did. I couldn’t control what was happening but I could control how I reacted to it, so I have to take responsibility for that part.

It was a combination of that and the fact I just ran like sh*t! I had a very negative mindset about poker, to the point I was almost dreading playing. I started to focus on only the negative comments about me and I’d only see that. People are always going to say really great things and really mean things about you. But whether they are justified or not, those comments are always going to be out there.

Do you think that’s magnified because of who you are?
Yeah I mean, anyone in the spotlight in any industry is going to get more attention than others, that goes without saying. Women in poker in general get a very disproportionate amount of criticism. A lot of famous people in poker – male or female – get criticism, but women tend to get more than they deserve. That’s a shame, but it is what it is and it’s something you’ve got to take it on the chin because there’s all sorts of benefits that come from being a woman in poker too.

I just think I got myself into such a self-deprecating mindset that I was only noting the negative comments. The positive comments – which are still there and I have many wonderful supporters – were being ignored. I’d just got myself into such a negative mindset that I wouldn’t notice them. It got to the point where I had real moments of feeling utterly worthless. It really took some fantastic conversations with some really close friends to snap me out of it. They were like: “stop being ridiculous, take a look at yourself.”

It just took a bit of that and some personal reflection to realise actually, I am good! I thought F the haters and so on and so forth, looked at some hand histories and stats and realised variance just hadn’t been on my side in 2013.

As well as your competitive mindset being damaged, was it troubling financially as well?
Yeah of course, the added pressure from having not won a significant amount for a while means you start to feel it for sure. It got to the point where I was wondering whether to play this tournament and that tournament. There were definitely times where I thought about it but fortunately I sorted it out and it wasn’t so much the issue. It was definitely more my mindset going in.

What’s changed in your mindset for 2014?
It’s so dumb that it’s a portion of time that’s labelled with a different number but it’s worked for me, it really has. It’s also a combination of some really fantastic, very frank discussions with people that have always been my biggest supporters. Like my Dad for example and my step mum. We had such a nice time. I’ve always been quite a ‘cards to my chest’ type person in regards to some of my issues and my Dad was like: “let’s find out what’s going in your head.” It was so great and refreshing and I felt like I had so many great people on my team suddenly.

Added to that a lot of my poker friends came back from being away, like the German guys. They’ve always been such great friends of mine.

How important is it having friends who are as amazing at poker as the German high-rollers?
Amazing, they are the best and much much better than me. They are close friends and such a great group of people so being able to discuss hands and listen to the way they talk about poker is fantastic. Just to be able to listen to what they are thinking about poker is amazing and if I can take just a small part of the way they approach a hand and incorporate it into my game then it’s going to increase my game play so much.

What have you got planned in the next few months?
I’m off to Australia on Sunday for the Aussie Millions. It’s my first time there in five years and I’m really excited about it. I don’t have a flight back until the end of February so I’m going to go to Northern Australia and Thailand afterwards and turn it into a bit of an adventure.

Has the UKIPT score made you more willing just to have a bit of a holiday?
Weirdly had I got the score or not it I was going to do this. It really didn’t affect it in any way but it’s made me more excited to get back and play the UKIPT in Dublin at the end of February.

But what I have realised is I was putting way too much expectation on myself and I was my harshest critic. Obviously I live a fantastic lifestyle but I rarely took time to truly be at peace with taking some time off. I’d always feel like I had to do this and I’d feel guilty if I wasn’t playing. So it was like a lose/lose situation and now it’s like a win/win! If I take time off I’m doing good stuff for myself and if I’m playing I know that I’m playing f*cking great!

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