Paul Cheung asks Michael ‘The Grinder’ Mizrachi what winning the $50k Player’s Championship meant to him
Congratulations on your victory! How are you feeling now?
The fact that it was my first bracelet, that my name is on the Chip Reese trophy, that it was an 8-game mix [tournament], and that my brother and I finished first and fifth, means that it’s a poker player’s dream.
Did you think you had much of an edge considering the quality of the field?
I’ve played 8-game every day for years and do really well in it; Rob [Mizrachi] does too. I thought I had a little edge, and on the final table, when it was no-limit Hold’em, I felt like I had a bigger edge.
Were there a few games where you were making most of your money?
I made a lot of my money in Deuce-to-Seven and Razz. I ran really good in those games. In no-limit Hold’em I played pretty tight and didn’t make much money there. In pot-limit Omaha I had a hand on Day 4 against Lyle Berman where I had Aces and he had sixes and [the flop] came A-J-6. He check-raised me and said, ‘Grinder, there’s no way you could have two Aces.’ We got all the money in and he made quad sixes on the turn, but I made quad Aces [on the river]. After that I loved my chances.
Tell us about a pivotal hand with your brother when play was five-handed…
We were both pretty short – I made it 200k from the button and he went all-in for 650k. I had Q-J and he had A-T. The flop came 2-3-8 and I think my mother said ‘Queen’ or ‘Jack’ because she thought it was Rob with the Q-J and I had him covered. The Jack came on the turn and the next day my mother asked Rob for a bonus; he said, ‘No, you rooted for the Jack!’ So I had to give her a bonus.
How did it feel to knock your brother out?
It felt a little weird. I didn’t know what to do. I’d never been in that situation before. I didn’t really want to call but I had to. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to win the hand or not though. If he won I was just hoping he’d put my chips to good use and vice versa. If I’d finished fourth he’d have been upset, but because I won it made up for everything.
Even after you won that pot, you were still well down on the chip leaders but you took the bull by the horns three-handed…
I fought real hard over every hand. I thought I played excellent when it was three-handed and slacked a bit when we got to heads-up. I played a few hands out of position but I also wasn’t getting cards. At the break J.C. Tran, Mike Matusow and Chino Rheem were all telling me to slow down a bit. I went to the back with Mike and we started doing jumping jacks and running on the spot to got the blood flowing! First hand back I had A-7 against A-J and rivered a flush. After that double-up I made a lot of raises on the button or limped in, because I knew [Vladimir Schmelev] was going to raise a lot out of position.
What did you do after the tournament?
My favourite number is 44 and when I went back to the car, it was 4.44, which was pretty strange. I did all the media stuff, went back to my room, slept for a few hours and got up to play the $1,500 pot-limit Hold’em. I lasted seven hours but was falling asleep throughout. I’m still tired from my win!
Do you think it’s the toughest tournament you’ve ever played?
Definitely. You’re using your brain constantly to watch cards in the Stud rounds. In Razz you’ve got to see which cards are live. You have to be focused all the way through the tournament. No tournament has ever taken as much out of me.
There’s been a lot in the media recently about your financial issues – foreclosing on your properties, getting chased by the IRS. Can you clear that up for us?
To tell you the truth I didn’t even know I had a lien on me. My case was supposedly closed and then they told me I had back-taxes. I think the whole thing came up because poker’s coming to the fore and I’m the biggest prospector in South Florida. I foreclosed on two properties because everyone told me there was no point paying for something when it wasn’t worth anything, especially when my tenants weren’t paying on time. But I was never doing bad.
So you weren’t close to bankruptcy?
Not at all. My friends were calling me up and going, ‘Are you okay, are you okay?’ They wanted to help and I said, ‘Guys, it’s fine!’
Is it true that Patrik Antonius had a piece of you in the $50k?
Yeah, but I bought myself in as well. I made a lot of big swaps so I ended up getting about $700k. I swapped almost 15% so I would have made $850k without them.
Has the $50k Championship seen you rediscover your old form?
No, I don’t think so. I just haven’t played as many tournaments as I used to play because of family. This was only my third tournament of the year.
How does this compare to your World Poker Tour wins?
A lot of people would say it’s one of the most prestigious events ever, but I just look at it like another win. Maybe I still haven’t felt it yet or something. I’m just proud that I have my name engraved on the Chip Reese trophy. Chip was one of the greatest players who ever lived.
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