Michael Mizrachi chats about his main event final table and being in a poker family

Can Michael Mizrachi add to his $50k Player’s Championship title with a November Nine win? Paul Cheung finds out…

Congratulations on making the Main Event final table! It’s been a long journey from Day 1a. How come you played that day?

I thought the field would be weaker. It was the day after July 4 and I thought people would have been out partying the night before. I knew a lot of pros weren’t going to play that day. Table selection is one of the biggest things in poker. I knew that if I had a great start I would have a great finish.

On Day 3, all three of your brothers were still in, but you had the lowest chip count of them. Did you have mixed emotions?

No, we all root for each other. It was a confidence-booster seeing them. I thought we would all do well.

And all of you cashed – did you have pieces of each other?

I had pieces of Danny and Eric. Four brothers cashing will probably never happen again. I was just hoping one of us would get [to the final]. Fortunately I got there, but I wish one of my brothers was with me still. We all did a great job and I’m proud of them.

Tell us about the final day when you were down to 27 players. It looked tough going…

At one point I was the shortest stack. I knew if I just hung in there and played my heart out I could do it. Hasan Habib was kind of helping me out. I saw that he was short all day and just hung in there. Experience is such a big factor in those tournaments. A lot of guys with big stacks blew their chips playing too many pots. Whenever I felt like I had the best of it, I’d get the chips in or make the play. I tried to minimise the bluffs when I got deeper into the tournament because my image makes everyone think I’m bluffing.

Hasan took a big pot off you when he had Kings against your A-8. Did you feel like it was all over?

I had twice as many chips as he had and it kind of crippled me, but I just felt like if I was enjoying it, I could still give it a shot. I was proud of the way I played. I got it all-in a few times, but I had the best hand and it always held, which is important. I just never looked back and never gave up.

What was the atmosphere like leading up to the November Nine bubble?

It was more like nine winners and one loser, because making the November Nine is such a big deal. There’s so much more equity and value in making the November Nine. It’s not even about the media coverage – I’ve already got that – but you can make a lot more money. I was just playing a super-tight game when we were ten-handed and pretty much doubled-up when I got to that final table. I didn’t play a hand for three successive orbits, but I picked up a few pots here and there to maintain my stack.

You had some great support, too…

My friends, fans and family are always very supportive of me, and I think that benefits my game and keeps me going. If you have a large crowd cheering for you, you want to do well and play your heart out for them. It was almost like they were with me, part of me, and I just want to make everybody proud and happy. I assume I’m going to have a big crowd going into November so it might be home advantage for me. I still can’t believe I made it. Who knows when you’re going to get the next chance? It’s been a great year and when I run hot, I really run hot.

It’s inevitable that as the big-name pro on the table, people are going to be expecting a lot of things from you. Are you feeling the pressure already?

I play with no pressure at all. Whatever happens, happens. I just don’t want to finish in seventh spot where Chino Rheem and Phil Ivey finished in the last two years. I think if I overcome that spot I’m going to do really well. My prediction is I’m going to finish third place, fifth place or seventh place. Hopefully it’s the ‘one’ spot, even though I’m not the favourite to get there because of the size of my stack. But anything can happen because the blinds are already high. It took two levels to go from ten to nine and I didn’t think it would take that long. I still think I can manoeuvre my stack and find a way. I’ve been in worse scenarios. I’m going to have to get lucky and make the right reads.

Do you think it would be a waste of energy to strategise too much?

There’s not too much I’m going to do between now and then. I may watch myself on TV to see what I did right or wrong. I might see if there are some plays that I can do different – maybe if I made a play that looked like a bluff, I’ll make the same play where I have a hand. I don’t think I’ll get much info on other players, they’ll get a lot more on me. Thank god that when ESPN aired the $50k Player’s Championship, it didn’t show much!

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