GUKT champion Julian Thew explains how he built up his reputation in tournament poker: “You want to keep quiet until you are down to about five-handed”

Distinguished pro Julian Thew became a major name to be added to the GUKPT’s roster of winners

To say that Julian Thew is slightly detached from today’s high-rolling flock of poker players would be an understatement not to be taken out of context.

At 39 years of age, some within the game would be tempted to describe the Nottingham man’s reputation as that of a ‘nearly man’. But there is more to this tale than a guy whose fate was to roam the tournament circuit content to simply pick up pay cheques rather than silverware.

Indeed, since cashing for just over £2,000 in a no-limit hold’em event at the European Poker Championship in 2001, nobody can question Thew’s appetite for success. His approach and dedication have been unrelenting. So why should we be surprised that he’s notched-up the biggest win of his career at the Plymouth GUKPT?

The answer is simple: we shouldn’t be. Thew’s destructive but measured style of play in the eighth leg of the Blue Square sponsored event left no one in doubt as to the level of his talents.

Congratulations Julian, we’d have thought after your success that you would have played the WSOPE main event. How come you weren’t there?

Julian Thew: It didn’t really appeal to me. I play the World Series in America, but I don’t like the way it is run. To me, Harrahs just rake the whole thing. They make so much money out of it and I won’t support the event over here. I couldn’t afford to play it anyway and even after my win in Plymouth, there was no way I was just going to lump £10,000 down to play.

Sounds like you are not in favour of it at all…

JT: There are enough good tournaments in Europe and the UK as it is. We don’t need Harrahs over here; that’s just my opinion. I wouldn’t have played it even if my sponsor had offered to buy me in. That buy-in was ridiculous. It was pitched at a stupid amount. How much money do they [Harrahs] think people have?

Looking at your record, you have had most of your success in Europe

JT: [Laughs] Most? I’ve had hardly any success in the States!

But why is that?

JT: I can’t really put my finger on it. I probably overplay when I’m out there a bit – like a kid in a candy shop. I’ve run badly here and there…I don’t know. Poker can be very fickle at times. You can do everything right and still get stuffed.

Well you’re certainly doing something right over here, most notably following your win in Plymouth

JT: The win was massive for me because I have had a fairly flat year. When you have a sponsor, you need to be aware to get your face out there. For the last few years I have been in the top ten in Europe, but this year I’m nowhere near it.

Does that concern you?

JT: The variance is a lot greater just because of the number of players in the game and the size of the fields. You can go a long time and not go deep in the fields.

You obviously like the GUKPT, since you have played in every one of them

JT: I think the structure is brilliant. I’m obviously going to say I have no complaints following my win, but the whole thing is run very smoothly. The TV coverage has been great as well.

You always looked very confident. Do you think your experience counted for much in the end?

JT: Definitely. I knew certain players on the final table would be stronger than others. Mickey Wernick was there and Scott O’Reilly, players I know well. There were a few online qualifiers as well, and they may have been a bit weaker than others. But you don’t learn this game overnight. The standard of play overall was very good. It was a very satisfying win.

Any strategy changes that had to be made?

JT: Not really. In the first 90 minutes of the final table I didn’t pick up a hand at all; I made the odd blind steal with absolute filth. But that was good because it kept me out of trouble. At the beginning of a tournament you don’t really want A-K or Jacks because unless you really hit the flop square on, they are the type of hands that can knock you out.

So was it a case of keeping quiet and building up the stack

JT: Absolutely. You want to keep quiet until you are down to about five-handed. I kept my head down for the first few levels and then got a couple of presents when people overplayed their hands – much to my benefit. My situation was fairly unique in the sense that I stayed out of people’s way, then, all of a sudden, I was the massive chip leader. People don’t want to mess with you then.

Any game plan before the event?

JT: No. I’ve played so many tournaments that you just have to turn up and play. Saying that, when I made the final table, I thought I had a really good chance to win because it was a bit of a mixed bag.

Was the final table aggressive?

JT: At times yes. Charles ‘Chaz’ Chattha [who finished second] was probably the most aggressive. He would regularly play back at me. We had a good mix of players though, and there were a lot of big hand versus big hand scenarios.

You are one of the more experienced players to have had success at the GUKPT along with Dave Colclough and Praz Bansi. How much confidence can you take from this?

JT: Loads. Like I said I have had a bit of a dry run and this is my biggest win financially. It may not carry the biggest of prizepools, but it is an event that has built up a reputation – so that’s really pleasing for me. As a professional player, the confidence you take from this is massive.

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