Jake Cody on how hyper-aggressive poker blasted him to victory at the 2010 EPT Deauville main event…
Jake Cody was an inconspicuous online grinder with precious little live success when he rocked up with his poker buddies to the chic French seaside resort of Deauville. But despite this being his EPT debut, the laid-back 21-year-old from Rochdale certainly wasn’t overawed by the surroundings or intimidated by the 768-strong field chasing a whopping first prize of €857k.
Sporting a red hoodie and a mop of dyed jet-black hair partly covering his stony-faced expression, Cody took the tournament by the scruff of the neck and dished out a hard lesson in fearless poker to our continental cousins. His swashbuckling display, peppered with bold triple-barrel bluffs and five-bet shoves with air turned heads. And while he often flirted with elimination, the gung-ho strategy tricked opponents into assuming he was almost always bluffing. Indeed, most were ‘too scared’ to tangle with him without a solid hand.
With scant regard for the prize ladder, Cody turned up the heat on the final table before clashing heads-up with Teodor Caraba, an accomplished online pro from Romania. Cody soon twisted his foe into knots with more aggressive poker and ballsy bluffs, and after two hours of jousting he was crowned the champion, much to the delight of his rambunctious mates perched on the rail.
The victory kick-started a crazy run that would see him become the youngest player ever to capture poker’s prestigious Triple Crown (EPT, WPT and WSOP titles). This is how Cody announced his arrival as one of the most fearless tournament pros on the circuit…
Cheap as chips
Up until Deauville, I had never played in an EPT before and I hadn’t had any live success either. I was frustrated because I felt live poker was easier than online poker and I was well adapted to beat live games, but for the first 18 months I couldn’t win and was really annoyed. My friends Tom Macdonald, Matt Perrins and Nicky Evans said they were all going to Deauville, which was way out of my bankroll. However, I thought I could just take this one shot and then grind online for six months if it didn’t work out. Then, perhaps I would take another shot at a tournament after that.
I thought Deauville would be a big field, and quite soft, so I decided I would just go for it. However, the day before the main event I saw a €200 rebuy satellite so I thought I might as well play it and try and win a seat, which I did. It’s always nice to win your seat in a satellite, but I was planning to buy into the tournament either way. It was my first ever EPT and I definitely didn’t take it lightly because it was a big deal for me, regardless of having won a seat.
Quick off the mark
Like all EPT events, you can be lucky with your table draw. There are recreational players and businessmen, as well as sharks, because it’s a big tournament. Then there are players who are better than the recreational players but not as good as the pros. It’s a complete mixture. I finished the first day with 120,000 chips from a 30,000 starting stack – well above average and in the top 10 in chips – and I remained in the top 10 or 20 throughout the tournament. I was trying to play my best poker and remember this was just another tournament, but I was eager to prove myself. It was important not to let the occasion get to me, which it didn’t. I tried to remember if I did bust, it was just one of those things and I could learn from the experience.
I made a big point when there were 24 players left to take one last glance at the prize money. I realised the jumps from 24th place to about seventh place were quite small, so I decided to play crazy and aggressive poker to give myself a chance for a big shot at first place. It’s best not to look at the money unless it’s on the bubble. I don’t want to be all-in on the river with a bluff and think this could cost me thousands of dollars – that would probably make me quite nervous.
Eyes on the top prize
To reach the final table was already a huge achievement for me. This was an EPT, which I used to watch on TV, so even if I busted out in seventh place it wouldn’t have been a big loss. But I’m so competitive – if I finished second I would have been pretty devastated about it, even though I would have won about half a million euros. I didn’t look at the prize board at all on the final table because it was massive, lifechanging money at the time. I didn’t want to think about it too much, but just play my game and try to be fearless. I’ve always been quite a fearless player, and to be successful you have to have that little bit of sickness inside you.
However, I suffered a brutal loss with T-T versus A-K, which was for more than half the chips in play. I remember not being able to watch – I went over to Matt and Tom and just watched their reactions. It was obvious when the King hit the turn, which was a devastating moment. I managed to double up a few hands later by getting lucky with A-7 versus J-J, and then won a crazy hand with Craig Bergeron after the flop was six-bet. That got me right back in it.
I felt chip leader Teodor Caraba’s strategy at the final table was quite good. I had the momentum and was going all out to win the tournament so it was probably best for him to stay out of my way because he had so many chips. He probably thought he would get to heads-up at the final table and, at the time, he was a $25/$50 heads-up cash player. I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy win. We were both quite deep, so the heads-up play went on for over two hours.
I think Teodor felt he had to do something to combat my aggression and I can’t fault him for it. It was unlucky for him that I found a huge hand heads-up [Caraba shoved with 6c-5c and Cody called with 8-8]. This gave me a commanding lead and momentum going into the final stages. I also showed him a couple of bluffs because I was trying to tilt him. It’s actually quite rare of me to do this – I think the occasion went to my head a little bit. I became a little bit overexcited heads-up.
Left in a daze
Even with Teodor all-in with one card to come, it never felt real. After I beat him all I can remember is the confetti coming down, doing an interview afterwards and holding the trophy while thinking it was really heavy. I remember calling my mum straight afterwards, which was an emotional conversation. From my upbringing I never thought that it was achievable to have that kind of money.
It still sometimes feels like it was something that I dreamt. It took months for the win to sink in because it was a life-changing amount of money. Me, Matt and Tom have been playing together for a long time so it was great for one of us to have success. However, Nicky Evans got food poisoning on the day of the final table so he was stuck in his room all day, but I had Matt and Tom on the rail supporting me. A win gives you confidence and this breeds more confidence, but even to this day it’s crazy looking back at my results and seeing how far I’ve come. If I’d finished 12th in this tournament things could have panned out very differently.
The hands that won the tournament
1. Jake Cody 10s-4c vs Hugo Lemaire Ks-Kh
Lemaire raises and Cody reraises to 193,000 from the small blind. Lemaire bumps the pot up to 410,000. Cody goes into the tank before announcing that he is all-in. Lemaire quickly calls and Cody realises he’s made a terrible read on his opponent. However, a flop of 6d-5s-3d gives Cody an open-ended straight draw. The turn is the Ad and the 7c lands on the river, eliminating a disgusted Lemaire in 18th place.
‘Hugo is a really aggressive player and someone who I viewed as a threat at the table. My mindset at this point of the tournament was to go all-out for the win and have no fear, although I probably took it to the extreme with this hand. My three-bet from the small blind looked strong, but, in hindsight, my shove was a little bit ridiculous. He was breathing really heavily and I read that as weakness, but he was obviously excited that he had a big hand. You learn from experience and this was quite a big misstep. I felt a bit embarrassed when I hit the straight, but afterwards everyone was too scared to mess with me unless they had a big hand. That pot gave me so much momentum going onto the final table.’
2. Jake Cody 9c-4h vs Craig Bergeron 9s-6s
Bergeron limps on the button with 9s-6s for 120,000, the small blind folds and Cody checks from the big blind with 9c-4h. The flop is 4d-Kh-9d. Cody checks, Bergeron bets 120,000 and Cody check-raises to 330,000. Bergeron re-raises to 660,000. Cody ponders his options before raising to 990,000. Bergeron shoves all-in for 4.1m and Cody snap-calls. The board runs out 10c-3d and Cody scoops a pot of 6.9m.
‘This hand shows the advantage of having my image. He wouldn’t have played the hand like he did against any other opponent at the final table. Because he thought I was so aggressive, it may have forced him to play more passively preflop. I think he was trying to induce me to three-bet or even five-bet the flop, but he had decent showdown value so he should have just bet and then called me down. I guess he didn’t want to give a free card to a hand like J-10.’
3. Jake Cody 7d-4d vs Teodor Caraba Kh-10h
Cody raises on the button to 560,000 and Caraba calls. His opponent checks the 10c-5s-Jc flop and Cody makes a 580,000 c-bet. The Romanian elects to call and the dealer peels off the 6s on the turn. Caraba checkcalls a 1.3m bet and checks the 9h on the river. Cody fires a bet of 2.4m and Caraba insta-folds. Cody adds insult to injury by exposing the audacious bluff.
‘My read on him was that he was likely to play a draw more passively against me, expecting me to bluff when the draw hits. I thought he would play a strong top pair or two pairs quicker and want to get the money in the middle. When the turn gave me an open-ended straight draw, I bet again to try and get him off a weak 10, a 5 or even Ace-high. The river was a 9 and meant 7-8 or K-Q had got there. I bet just over half the pot to try and look strong, although I also felt that unless he hit two pair on the river it’s hard for him to call. Luckily, he folded.’