Chris Moorman is an online tournament legend and is arguably the top online tourney player in the world. We speak to him about mastering tournaments, improving his live game and the secrets of his success…
‘He reminds me a lot of me, except for the British accent. He’s a poker natural, a legend in the making.’ High praise indeed for Chris Moorman from none other than Doyle Brunson. While Chris may not yet have a live poker record to compare with Texas Dolly, it’s likely he may have played more hands and had tournament victories than Brunson in his short career, thanks to his ability to play a huge number of online tournaments. And it’s Moorman’s ability on the virtual felt that has catapulted him to the upper echelons of the poker world.
With career winnings of over $1.6 million in the online world, save from winning a Sunday Major there’s not a lot Chris hasn’t won or done. He has topped the pocketfives.com online poker rankings and is currently in the top three. He holds the record for the most triple crowns (8) – that is winning three tournaments on three different sites with prize pools over $10,000 within seven days.
In August, he bagged his biggest win to date when he chopped the FTOPS (Full Tilt Online Poker Series) $300 rebuy event for $204,000. We sat down with him to discuss why he crushes online poker, his plans to play more live and what strategies simply don’t work anymore.
You’re always near the top of the pocket fives rankings – what’s your secret?
Last year I was running like God. Every day I played, I’d win something, even if it was something small. It was weird because when I play, I’m not playing for the money, I’m just playing to win. This year, I’ve had some periods where I’ve had a bad couple of weeks but then had a massive result. I seem to be doing better in the bigger tournaments but maybe neglecting the smaller ones a bit more.
You had a massive result in a recent FTOPS. Tell us about that?
It was the second week of the FTOPS, the first week had been a total wipeout. This day had been going pretty bad but I decided to play the $300 rebuy even though it was a late night tournament and I was pretty tired. For a tournament like that, you know if you go deep, it’s going to finish at midday so I wasn’t really feeling it. I was getting some energy drinks in and had busted out of all my other tournaments.
I made a bad play, I got it in with a flush draw and an overcard but it was for a massive pot and I knew that the guy would never fold his hand. He had top-pair top-kicker but I managed to get lucky and won the hand. I looked at the lobby and I was in the top ten but there were still 600 left. From then on, I was playing really well, putting everyone under pressure but not pushing too hard. I changed gears really well and it was going smoothly – tournaments don’t usually go like that. You’re usually up and down.
But heads-up wasn’t so smooth?
No, I got owned! He [Mark ‘xqsays’ Radoja] plays a weird style. He was never folding pre-flop, taking weird lines, never folded the flop and I was double barrelling the wrong spots. He really threw me off my game by playing so differently to what I’m normally used to. He’s mainly a cash game player but on PokerStars he won the $500 rebuy WCOOP so he’s really good. He goes under the radar a bit. I know people who know him and they say good things about him.
How do you balance the sheer volume of tournaments you play with normal life?
I try to get people to tell me in advance what they’re doing next week. Obviously I don’t want to start a tournament and for them to ring me up and go, ‘Are you coming out tonight?’ I always take Thursday and Friday nights off because they’re the least busy online and on Friday nights all my 9-5 mates go out.
How do you pick which tournaments you’re going to play?
I’ve got a set schedule. If it’s going badly, I’ll register for a few more. If it’s going well, I’ll take a few off – I want to concentrate on the ones where I’m going deep.
Are there almost too many tournaments online?
Probably. You have to have some sort of self control to see a big tournament and not play. You have to be able to miss it and not have it mean everything to you. I don’t play on Fridays but they’ve put a $500 freezeout on Full Tilt. If you start saying, ‘Oh, I’m gonna start playing on Fridays now’, you’re gonna ruin your life.
The bigger sites have started to hold big festivals that mimic the live events. Is that the busiest time for you?
Yeah, I went to New Zealand and there were 10 other guys who were out there who don’t play poker but I thought it would be good to play the WCOOP there. With the time difference it’s a 5am start so you can play all day, whereas in the UK, you’d be playing all night – over a few weeks it’s too much.
I wanted to go snowboarding but didn’t get to because I was playing! Thing is, with that you can brick out for two weeks but run good in the Main Event and make a million. It’s not over till it’s over. So you just keep playing which is dangerous because you don’t take a day off.
Those $10k tournaments are a product of the modern online tournament scene. Is it a good thing that they’re so prevalent?
It’s kind of ridiculous because a lot of people are going to be going broke, especially as the standard is higher overall. People don’t like to step down. It’s also tough for backers because it’s hard to say no when people can win big.
Are the high buy-in events a good thing for you?
I’ve done okay in some of them but my philosophy has just been to cover my buy-ins with smaller tournaments. I still play in $30 rebuys. I think it’s dangerous if you just play the big ones. If you do well in the low stuff, you’re freerolling in the big ones. And as long as you don’t play bad, you’ll win one of the big ones eventually. I still think there’s an edge but the variance is just really huge when you go deep.
You did pretty well in that SCOOP (Spring Championship of Online Poker) $10k main event.
That was a pretty fun tournament. Every table I looked at, I started thinking I might be the fish, which was a weird feeling. I finished 8th for $113,000. It took me a while to get over my bust out hand because I got it all-in with a flush draw on the turn against Ace-high. I tried to bet an amount that said I was never folding but he obviously misread it as a bluff and shoved over with Ace-high and a gutshot. I had to call.
It was my biggest cash at the time so I was obviously over the moon about winning over $100k in a tournament. Then I looked at first place which was $950k. Also for that tournament, I thought it was quite a soft final table. When there were 15 left, the three guys I rated the most went out before the final table. I was fancying myself to get top three, but I couldn’t get over the line.
Do you only play deep-stacked events?
No, I still play the turbos even though I hate them. If it’s a big prizepool then I’ll play it, even if I don’t know the game. In the WCOOP, I was doing some stupid stuff like playing no-limit single and triple draw 2-7. I was like ‘what am I doing in this?’ It was sending me on tilt. I’ve played a bit of H.O.R.S.E. cash. I reckon I’ve got an edge in a $200 buy-in but obviously not in a $10k H.O.R.S.E. I might play in one of those events in the World Series next year.
I’m trying to adapt and play all the games because I don’t want to be a one trick pony. I’m getting quite good in Omaha, I went deep in SCOOP, finishing 9th in a $2,000 event. I like Omaha it always keeps you thinking. In Omaha, I get in so many spots where I don’t know what to do, but in hold’em you don’t get those spots so often. It’s a lot of the same thing.
You started off as a cash game player so why did you make the switch to tournaments?
I made the switch because I was playing $5/$10 and $10/$20 no-limit hold’em and even if I had a good day and played well I could still lose a lot of money because the standard was so good. You could play really well and get a bit unlucky and lose a lot. My mentality wasn’t good. I had to stay up and win that money back which wasn’t healthy. I always had the drive to be one of the best at what I was doing and I knew that if I wanted to play high-stakes cash I was going to have to go up and up the stakes and the swings would be crazy and I didn’t think I could handle it mentally so I decided to switch to tournaments.
I like the fact that with tournaments, relatively in terms of your whole bankroll, if you have a bad day or a bad week, it’s not the end of the world. And then if you have one really good tournament you’ve won it all back and more. I get how cash is more convenient and you can just put a few hours in, but mentally tournaments work better for me. I had some downswings, over a two month period during the WSOP I was probably down about $90-$95k. I came back from the WSOP and started grinding it back and had the FTOPS result and I got my confidence back. Even though I’d had all of the success before, everyday I was thinking, ‘what am I doing wrong? That was definitely the worst period I’ve had by a long way, it was a shock to the system at the time.
Your live record is very different to your online record?
I don’t need to play live, but I want to prove to myself that I can do it, I need to get that first big score. I feel like if I get into that winning habit I can do well and even have a similar amount of success as I do online. I feel like the first 15 or so live tournaments I played, I didn’t play very well. I was just making up the numbers. I didn’t feel like I was there to win. But lately when I’ve been playing live I’ve felt more positive about it. Seeing close friends have success motivates me.
Is it easier to concentrate online because you’re playing so many tables?
Yeah and if you miss a hand you can click on the hand history and replay it. When I’m playing live if I’ve folded I’ll often switch off, or look around the room and start thinking about other stuff. I need to concentrate on every hand and think ‘what’s this guy got or what’s that guy got.’ Sometimes, I find myself playing and then after a hand I’ll find myself asking the guy next to me what happened. I’m always focused when I’m playing hands but I switch off too often when I’m not, which is something I need to address.
What’s your motivation like compared to when you started?
Still good. My friends are a bit lazier than I am and always abuse me for playing too much. I like playing even if it’s not a big tournament. I get a lot of satisfaction if I win – that feeling hasn’t gone. If I’m at home not doing anything, I’d rather play poker than watch TV. At least if I’m playing poker I feel I’ve got a purpose. If I’m ill I’d rather play ill than just lie in bed ill.
Will this deal with Doyles’ Room change what you do day-to-day?
Not really, I’m going to play more cash games on the site and try to travel to a few more live events. It feels like I’ve got an extra purpose now. I want to do well not just for myself but for the site as well. When I’m playing for myself it does get to the point where you’re like, ‘Oh I’ve won this before’ but obviously you don’t lose your motivation. But if I’m doing something new, have a new project, then it should get me motivated.
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