English Poker Open winner David La Ronde talks to us about his win: “This win is an endorsement that I’m improving as a player”

PokerPlayer grabs an exclusive interview with English Poker Open 2009 winner David La Ronde

Nottingham’s Dusk Till Dawn poker club last week played host to the newest major tournament on the UK scene, RakeTheRake.com’s English Poker Open 2009. 213 players stumped up the $5,000 buy-in, including superstars Annette Obrestad, Doyle Brunson and Phil Hellmuth yet it was English amateur David La Ronde who picked up the title and the £208,367 prize.

PokerPlayer caught up with an excited La Ronde afterwards to discuss his poker career, the EPO and his plans for the future.

Congratulations David. Are you a professional poker player?

No, I’m an accountant in a business practise. I started playing in late 2007 at my local Riley’s club. I really liked the game, got hooked in and started reading and getting as much knowledge as I could. I played online quite a bit, but just tournaments. I don’t really play cash games, I see that more as gambling whereas tournaments are more about strategy.

I then stepped up and played a £500 live event which I final tabled in early 2008 and I thought I could be good at this game then. But like everything theres always a steep learning curve. And then in August last year I came 2nd in one of the GUKPTs.

How did that result come about?

I qualified online and then lost heads-up to Sam Trickett. I came away really disappointed after the heads-up. I was a bit naïve and inexperienced. After that I went over to the WSOP Event #1, cashed in that and did OK. I played a few events in Vegas, got deep in some and then a crisis of confidence took over me because I wanted to win something.

I started playing a lot of the GUKPT events but I hadn’t really found my rhythm. I played a few tournaments online and started to do well in those, I was 20th in the $2.5m GTD on PokerStars, won a few $50k GTDs and I feel that in the last 6 months I’ve really found my rhythm. This was the first major event I have played since then and I felt really smooth all the way through.

This win is an endorsement that I’m improving as a player and hopefully in a few years I’ll be a really good player.

How have you improved your game so quickly in just 2 ½ years? You’re not exactly a young online kid…

First you have to read a lot and then you take things that work for you and share your thoughts with other players. But more than anything you have to play with other good players. I remember a while ago I played in a GUKPT event with Richard ‘Chufty’ Ashby and it was humiliating. I went out in the first hour with Q-Q against his A-A. He five-bet shoved me and I donkey called him and felt terrible. You have to learn the hard way. When you have a good solid result you get a bit more respect as it raises your profile.

Did that help you out during the English Poker Open?

I’ve played some of the best poker of my life these last three days. On the final table I played a solid game all the way through. I never really felt in danger.

How did you get into this tournament?

I went on Full Tilt and I was having a good run, I won a $40k GTD a week ago. I then played a $14 satellite on FTP and got all the way to heads-up for a seat before just missing out which was very disappointing. I then bought a seat at a discount from RakeTheRake.com and here I am.

I had a really tough table on Day One with Joe Beevers on my table and a really aggressive guy who had just won an FTOPS event. I won a big hand against him making a really tough call after I figured that he was just trying to bully me out of a pot.

Once you got to heads-up with Michael Tureniec, were you confident against him?

Yeah, I decided that the best way to play him would be not to get involved in too many pots with him. That’s where he has the advantage, he can out bet you and outplay me on the flop. He’s far more experienced than me and I wasn’t going to play that game.

I looked down at A-7 and what he did made me play the hand the way I did. He raised to 58k on my BB and I remembered a few hands we had played before where I’d reraised to 150k. I thought I’d do the same thing and he will read that as weak. If he’s weak he will shove. I had it in my mind and it worked perfectly. He didn’t even tank it, he just shoved. I just thought he could have absolutely anything in that spot so I called and he showed K-10.

How do you have the discipline to still play such low buy-in satellites online?

I still play really low buy-in tournaments online because I’m not a professional and I still value money. When I win something I don’t put it into cash games. We all go to tournaments and see stars buying into events but most normal people cannot do that. I stick to my discipline.

Will this money change your life?

No, no. We’ll have a few holidays. I’m playing in the WSOPE and then getting back to the grind. For me, it’s a hobby and something I love doing.

Is there any ambition there to turn pro?

If you look at all the pros they usually have 2 or 3 big wins and then turn pro. If you look at the younger players who say ‘I’m a pro’ it really means they are playing cash games online. They may well be good but there are still big upswings and downswings as there still might only be a 20% margin between good and great players. I don’t see that ever being me. I enjoy playing tournament poker and I want to be the best I can. I enjoy and want to sit with the world’s best players and try to outplay them.

To me, it’s a hobby. While I can dedicate certain amounts of time to tournaments I won’t be travelling the world to play. I still always satellite into events online. All of the GUKPTs I’ve played in have always been satellites. It’s the same with all the FTOPS events that I’ve played. Satellites are a way of getting into the big game for players who don’t have huge bankrolls. Even for people who earn good money, paying £3,000 for a buy-in is a lot of money.

How important is this victory for you?

For all poker players when you get second is one thing but actually winning the tournament shows how much time and effort I have put into my game to improve and be as professional as possible. And it also sends out a message to all poker players that they can do it if they take the time to learn the game properly. Anyone can do it, that’s the beauty of poker.

It’s not like football where you are born with a talent. If you play poker you can play with the best players in the world. To me, poker is a working man’s game. You can get into it no matter who you are or how much money you’ve got. My win today just proves a point that everyone can do that.

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