Erick Lindgren on the WSOP, partying and and his love of gambling from an early age: “When I was at school, I’d gamble for Pepsis with a substitute teacher”

Erick Lindgren talks about how a renewed focus helped him become the real star of this year’s WSOP

Erick Lindgren first found fame in 2003, winning his first WPT title followed by a second one five months later. It made him a big star, but his place in the firmament was beginning to slip somewhat heading into 2008. He was becoming more renowned for high-stakes prop bets and playboy partying than world-class poker playing.

But this has proven to be his comeback year, and the man dubbed ‘the best player never to have won a bracelet’ finally laid some demons to rest with victory in the $5k limit/no-limit hold’em event. He followed this with two final tables, including third in the $50k H.O.R.S.E. and the highly contested Player of the Year award. So is this the rebirth of E-Dog?

Is the image portrayed of you as the playboy jock a fair representation?

Erick Lindgren: It is occasionally! Once in a while we go out down the Strip and get to have a lot of fun. We obviously get a good run on the town nowadays and everybody lets us do our own thing, but the rest of the time I’m just here at home.

At the party celebrating your bracelet win, you were like a ringmaster, not getting too involved but facilitating the action. Is that how you like it?

EL: Yeah, I want to make sure everyone’s having a good time. I’m always having a good time so I don’t worry about myself.

You’re known for having a lot of gamble in you – has that always been the case?

EL: I’ve always loved to gamble. When I was at school, I’d gamble for Pepsis with a substitute teacher on whether I could make a half-court shot in five tries and make lines and that kind of stuff.

So you got a job as a blackjack dealer at 18 then started playing poker as a prop?

EL: Yeah, it was actually in a casino that Bill Edler owned. He was scared to hire me because he thought I would go broke, and he was right! The day before I was supposed to start working there, I went broke. I had to borrow $500 and I was living in a Motel 6 in not the greatest part of California.

Did something change in you when you went broke?

EL: Oh no, I kept going broke! Some really good guys – including Todd Keikoan and his brother Matt, who just won a bracelet – took me under their wing at Casino San Pablo. Being in a casino, you wouldn’t expect it, but these guys were awesome and a major reason why I had my success for sure.

Do you crave action?

EL: I do love action, there’s no doubt. I’m not as sick as some people think. Once you get a little older, you realise that you don’t want the swings financially as much and you just want to relax and have fun with your friends.

Would it be fair to say your focus wasn’t really on the WSOP last year, especially with the stupid golf bet?

EL: Yeah, I did the stupid golf bet which was dumb! That cost me a couple of days. I knew going into this year’s WSOP that I had a really good shot, especially with the new and improved structures and schedule. It’s not amateur hour any more.

You’ve really been in the zone this WSOP, keeping the partying to a minimum with a machine- like focus. Was that the idea?

EL: I did that because I had some bracelet bets with Phil Ivey and Barry Greenstein where we got paid per bracelet we won, so I had to clock in every day at noon. My strategy this WSOP was to take a little vengeance out on some people and it worked.

Did you make any strategy adjustments coming into this year’s WSOP?

EL: People think I bluff a lot more than I do which probably helps me. It forced me to play a more patient style. I prefer not to, but you have to do what you have to do to win. Your game has to keep evolving and you have to think about poker. That’s the problem with a lot of people – they stop thinking and stop trying to get better. I put a lot of focus towards getting better this year and the results came.

Although it must have been disappointing to have finished third in the H.O.R.S.E., you must be proud of such a strong finish?

EL: Ever since Chip Reese passed away I’ve been very focused on that tournament, especially when they named it the Chip Reese trophy. He meant so much to the whole community and the way he conducted himself at the table made him a real role model to players like me. It made me want that title twice as much. When I focus on the title and not the money, it tends to make me do even better.

The sparks were flying when it got three-handed…

EL: After dinner, I decided I was going to create a kind of festive atmosphere by ordering Scotty some cocktails and getting him drunk. I didn’t know he’d get angry with people! But in the end, Scotty just held the deck. And when you’re playing limit and you keep getting the cards you’re probably going to win the tournament.

But you still had the bracelet locked up. How sweet was winning the bracelet after getting close so many times?

EL: It was just a great sense of accomplishment to win one finally. I knew I played pretty well at that final table and put myself in a great position to win and eventually it worked out. That’s all you can do at a poker table. You can’t just get there and be like Michael Jordan and take over the game. You can do a lot of good things but you have to have luck on your side too.

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