Part 2 of our exclusive look at the life of ‘Mr Poker’ himself, Michael Mizrachi: “It’s hard to be disciplined once you’re gambling”

Read  the second part of our in-depth chat with The Grinder

The Mizrachi of 2013 seems a wiser, more considered affair. It’s fair to say he learned the hard way about how to handle his new-found riches. ‘A poker players’ lifestyle is one where they like to party and have the first class tickets, the best hotels, the best food, the best restaurants. Sometimes it’s hard to save money while living that lifestyle,’ he says.
Along with adapting to the high life some of the young Mizrachi’s business decisions left a lot to be desired. But with experience comes maturity and these days he seems to have a clearer business head on his shoulders. ‘As you grow older you realise that money management is very important,’ he says. 
One of Mizrachi’s current business pursuits is the Mizrachi Dealer Academy in Hollywood Florida, set up with his brother Robert. Mizrachi also owns several gold stores, buying and selling gold, is working with The Breeder’s Cup to promote links between poker and horse racing and is one of the ambassador’s of next year’s International Stadiums Poker Tour at Wembley Stadium.
‘It all comes back to maturity and your view on life. As you grow older you understand what are the important things in life and to always make the right decisions. When you’re young you do crazy things – you just want to have fun, but as you grow older you realise what’s more important. I’m at that age where I’m starting to realise.’ he says. ‘I’ve seen it all – I’ve seen the ups and downs of it, you’ve just got to be careful and be smart and pick the right spots,’ he adds.

Degeneracy in the blood

Mizrachi has a reputation as one of poker’s biggest degenerate gamblers. The placid pro has thus far presented a demeanour that is so laid-back as to be practically horizontal, but as we discuss other types of gambling he noticeably springs to life. The more mature Mizrachi may be trying to keep a lid on his betting instinct but as he talks animatedly about his relationship with gambling it’s clear degeneracy can easily bubble to the surface.
‘Oh, I’ve done it all,’ he laughs. ‘It’s in my blood and I like to gamble but I used to gamble a lot more than I do now.’ What does he thinks drives poker players into the pit? ‘It’s the fast action. Poker players can maybe lose $10,000 in a poker game and they want to get it back fast, and they feel the easiest way to do so is to play blackjack or baccarat. Sometimes that goes into my state of mind and it’s stupidity,’ he says.
‘Its hard to be disciplined once you’re gambling. There’s a point where you’re enjoying yourself and a point where you’re not having a good time. If you know how to enjoy it and play small that’s okay, but when you go over your head and your limit you have to read the little magazine that says, for Gamblers Anonymous make the phone call – you don’t want to get to that point. I mean, I never really made that phone call,’ he says. ‘But you have to be a gambler to be a great poker player – we are degens.’

Future proof

Mizrachi is an unflappable presence – confident in his own abilities and taking his achievements with a shrug and a ‘what’s next?’ attitude, but I suspect that having his name twice etched on the Chip Reese Memorial Trophy and proving he has one of the best all-round games in the world means more to him than he lets on. Does he pay attention to what others say about him?
‘To tell you the truth I couldn’t care what anybody else thinks. I know the game almost better than anybody. It doesn’t matter what you do, you’re going to have a lot of haters and a lot of people that love you,’ he says. ‘You’ve got to take the good with the good and the bad with the bad, not let anything bother you and keep your mind focused and get the job done.’
‘I work hard. I play a lot of mixed games, a lot of stud games. A lot of the current players are great and a lot of us don’t have to prove ourselves – we know how good we are’. Despite this, Mizrachi still has his eye on one accolade that has so far eluded him – WSOP Player of the Year. ‘It’s something you want to win but it’s difficult for me because I don’t play as many tournaments as the other guys. I always get near: top 5, top 10. That’s the only time I’m unfortunate,’ he says.

Chinese Democracy

Mizrachi is a mixed-game specialist, with two Poker Player Championships under his belt, but one new game has got his full attention at the moment. It’s a game that appeals to both the poker and degenerate sides of The Grinder. Open Face Chinese [see box out] which was going down a storm at the WSOPE. ‘That’s all everyone was doing [in Cannes] when they were out of a tournament they were playing all night and then going straight to another tournament – it was crazy. I was playing all night: open face, close face, deuce-to-seven in the middle. As poker players you always want to be in the action. It’s a gambler’s lifestyle.’
The Grinder thinks there will be an Open Face Chinese explosion over the next few months and predicts we’ll soon be seeing it at the World Series. ‘It’s probably the most popular game right now. There’s a lot of skill – it’s more like stud – you’ve got to know which cards are live. It’s a great game. I think its going to come to the World Series – maybe 2014 – it’s going to be very popular, I promise.’
Don’t be surprised if it’s The Grinder who ends up wearing the Open Face Chinese WSOP bracelet come 2014. The man from Miami is a complex personality juggling many different responsibilities and personas, who has proved himself countless times to be a master of all tournament poker can throw at him. As committed to his family as he is to life on the road. The serious businessman with a barely hidden streak of degeneracy. The unpredictable tourney pro who’s consistently threatening the Player of the Year polls. The Grinder is a true all-rounder – the complete poker pro – and poker is happy to have him. 

If you like in-depth interviews like this then you will love PokerPlayer magazine HERE 

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