Top poker pro David Williams let us spend 6 weeks with him during the WSOP: “The no-limit play is the worst I’ve ever seen. The players seem worse than they did last year”

PokerPlayer spent six weeks at the WSOP with 2004 main event runner-up and 2006 bracelet winner David Williams

Week 1

It’s day two of the WSOP and David is relaxing playing $500-a-point Chinese poker with Michael Mizrachi and Nenad Medic at his apartment in Las Vegas. Despite going out early in the first event, he’s still clearly buzzing about the poker marathon ahead.

How do you feel?
David Williams:I’m pretty excited about the rest of the World Series. The atmosphere, the lighting and the space between the tables is better. The levels seem smoother, the starting chips are better and overall the place has a better vibe. It seems that things are going good this year for the World Series. There’s so many events to make noise in, and I’m still hungry for a big no-limit hold’em bracelet. I’ve never really won a big no- limit hold’em tournament. Even the Bellagio’s weekly Sunday. I’ve been second in that twice!

Have you set any specific goals for this year’s WSOP?

DW:I want to win as many bracelets as I can, so I’m going to play as many events as I can. I play everything and hope for the best. If I had skipped events last year, one would definitely have been the $1,500 stud event [which he won], and the other would have been the 2-7 no- limit [where he finished second], because I barely knew how to play. You never know when it’ll be your day. I’m not going to go out. I’m going to eat well, go to bed early. I have a chef, who cooks me something new each day. He brings it to the WSOP if I’m still in, or to my home.

Do you have much downtime?

DW:It depends on when I get knocked out. Today I got knocked out early so I was just going to watch some movies. People wanted me to go out but I’m just taking it easy. Normally, it’s a celebration every day. But I don’t really go to the clubs during the World Series. We’ve got a stripper pole here [points to stripper pole in the corner of his living room] so maybe we’ll get some strippers in. I’m not going to play much poker, if any, outside of the WSOP. I play on Bodog during the day, just to take it easy, get the poker fix without it being too stressful.

Week 2

We’re now deep into the WSOP and things haven’t been running to plan for Williams. He’s still in the $2,500 H.O.R.S.E., but has so far failed to notch up a single cash and has been suffering with flu. He’s taking some downtime in the Poker Royalty Lounge at the Rio and is not happy.

What’s happened since the first week? What’s gone wrong?

DW:It started in the $5,000 rebuy pot- limit Omaha. I was one of the chip leaders and then I had a mental collapse and just gave my money away.

I was on antibiotics and painkillers, but it’s my fault for taking them and I just played really bad. On Tuesday I played the $1,500 Omaha 8 or Better. I lasted about two levels. Then on Wednesday I played the $2,000 no-limit and the $5,000 stud. Two early exits again. Then last night I played the $1,500 stud, and I got busted out right at midnight, right when my birthday came. I thought: ‘Happy fucking birthday David.’

What do you think has put you in the mistake-making mood?

DW: I feel like I’ve lost my patience. But it’s still early, I’ve got time to have a good series if I can turn it around. Maybe it’ll do me some good to skip a day, and just have two days of non-poker, relaxing. At the moment every night’s the same – I’m out of the event at 1am, I go home, pretty tired, then get up the next morning and do it all again. It’ll be good to wake up late, go to the pool, drink and not think about poker. It’s hard though – if I take a day off I’ll turn on my computer and see people winning bracelets, and then I want to come back up here. Then I play and feel like shit again.

What’s the play like at the WSOP this year?

DW: The no-limit play is the worst I’ve ever seen. The players seem worse than they did last year. In the mixed games, people who have no clue how to play the games keep playing them. There are 400 players in every H.O.R.S.E. tournament but there aren’t 400 good H.O.R.S.E. players in the whole world. It’s shocking.

Week 3

It’s been a good week for Williams. He’s still finding that final table elusive, but he’s cashed in the $2,500 H.O.R.S.E. event and won $120,000 at the Bellagio Cup III. To cap it all, he’s just won the first match of the $5,000 heads-up championship in one hand.

How’s the WSOP been going?

DW:It’s been shitty for the first 15 events, and then I cashed in event 16. I came back to play the pot-limit Omaha the next day and got busted in the first level because you just don’t get enough chips. So I decided to go over to the Bellagio. Grinder [Mizrachi] said: ‘Why do you want to go over there and play a $5,000 event? It’s not going to get any players.’ I said: ‘I’ll just go over and pick up the $100,000.’ I went over there and won the tournament – it was weird. I didn’t even have to buy myself in.

You played in the $5,000 Bellagio event on a freeroll?

DW: I’m signing up for the tournament with Roland de Wolfe when he goes: ‘Why don’t we flip a coin and the loser pays the winner’s entry fees?’ I’m like: ‘I don’t want to just fucking flip a coin for $5,000. What’s wrong with you man?’ He’s like: ‘You’re a fucking nit. Look at the roulette board – you take black and I’ll take red. I tell you what, I’ll give you the zero.’ I thought, what kind of gambler am I if I have a 3% edge and I still say no. I’m a real giant pussy. So I was like: ‘OK Roland, I’ll do it.’ Well the number was black, and Roland bought me in.

How did it feel to get a win under your belt?

DW:I felt like I finally figured out how to play poker again. I had been playing so badly before the H.O.R.S.E. event, and I was just giving away my money. But the no-limit win was like a switch. I went into the $1,500 no-limit event on Saturday and towards the end of the first day I was a big chip leader. Then right when we were on the bubble I went from 120,000 to 30,000 because people kept calling my all- ins. I ran it back up to 120,000 but by then the blinds were so high, I was down to the point where I had to move in with 8-8. A guy called me with A-Q, hit and I was out. It was so salty, because I was playing my heart out. I went home and was angry all night.

Are you tired of the Rio?

DW:No. It is a different environment to the Bellagio but you just have to get used to it. I played in the Bellagio the other day and it was very quiet; they were nine handed and it was very relaxed at the tables. We were catered to. Nobody asked for pictures. But this is the WSOP. You have to get used to it and get past it.

What do you do when you’re not playing poker?

DW:I bought a telescope yesterday, so I was looking at the moon. I live on a high rise and have a balcony on both sides, so I thought it might be cool to have a telescope. I took Grinder with me to Scope City and we both bought telescopes. Grinder was like: ‘I can see the Stratosphere from my house. I can look at the moon. This is crazy.’

Week 4

Williams’ mood is considerably darker than last time we spoke. He’s been running badly in the last few events, taking bad beats in the heads-up and H.O.R.S.E. events and has just busted out of his second tournament of the day. With only a handful of events until the main event, time is running out for this year’s WSOP.

You had a big stack in the H.O.R.S.E., so what happened?

DW:I thought I played pretty good. I got deep and then John Juanda played about as bad as you can play and hit back-to-back hands and fucked me. Everybody watching was shocked. I was unimpressed by a lot of people who I thought would play better. I mean there were a lot of players such as Juanda who think they’re better than they are.

You had a pretty bad beat against Tony G in the heads-up. Talk us through that?

DW:I picked up A-K and he raised to 1,200. I re-raised and made it 3,700 and he put me all-in. I beat him into the pot and he turned over K-9. He didn’t even hit a 9 – that was the gross part, the flop came 4- 5-6 and when I saw the flop I knew what was going to happen and I started to pack my bag and it came – a 7 then an 8 and he made the 9-high straight and that was all she wrote. I think it was a big mistake on his part to third raise me with K-9. I mean if I call he’s beat and I’m not going to re-raise without a hand.

Was it frustrating to get so deep in the $1,500 pot-limit Omaha and not final table once again?

DW:The blinds were getting so high that I had to make a move. So, even though I had a feeling Erick Lindgren had Aces when he limp re-raised me, I had K-K-9-5 with spades and there was equity in calling. The Aces held up and that was that. But I like the pot-limit Omaha events. I play the game really well, and the $1,500 brings in a lot of the players who don’t really play Omaha. When you can play amateurs at Omaha it is just a joke – you can just cut them up.

What’s next?

DW:There are only seven events left and realistically I can only play in four and it’s tough to make a final table with all these people, but I am hoping it happens, I’m feeling confident. I’m just trying to do the best I can and if it doesn’t work out, there’s always next year.

Week 5

It’s the day before the main event and David is looking more excited than at any stage in the WSOP so far. He’s just notched up his biggest cash so far, winning $40,333 in the $1,000 rebuy event. There is a real sense that the series has been building to this moment, and there is no doubt he’s looking forward to playing in the main event.

How do you feel?

DW:I feel good. I’m quite nervous and anxious, but that excitement is a good thing. I want to relax but I know I just need to get ready to go out there and play. I’ve loaded up the whole of the second season of Prison Break on my iPod. I’m just going to sit back, pay attention, but I have to have something to divert me from playing too many hands.

Do you think you will be a target for amateur players?

DW:I know that there will be some players on my table out to get me. There are two types: there is the aggressive player just looking for that story to take home or the guy who is desperate not to go broke and get run over. I know that I will get action when I have a hand so I don’t want to be making too many moves. Other players will want to bust you out; they will want to take that story back.

Has the main event lost some prestige?

DW:People are talking about the H.O.R.S.E. being the new main event, but the main event is still the biggest and best. It’s so big – if you ran it a million times you’d probably only get three repeat winners. It’d be pretty damn cool to win it, but it’s such a daunting task. I really want to win the main event, for prestige value, no money involved.

Week 6

It’s a disappointing end to the World Series for Williams. He busted out of the main event on the first day, in an abrupt and sudden end to the six-week adventure. But he is in reflective mood when we catch up with him. For a poker pro, it’s just another day at the office.

What are your feelings about the whole World Series?

DW:Overall I have been happy with the way I have played this year. OK, I haven’t had the best results, but I have tried my best and stuck at it just like I did last year. I haven’t gone out to party at all. I have forgotten how it works, going to clubs and shit like that. All my friends who don’t play poker are calling me and asking where I have been.

Are there any regrets?

DW:No. But I learned a lot from playing with Phil Hellmuth. He plays with heart. He doesn’t give away one chip and comes in with the goal of winning every event he plays in. I need to come in with the goal of cherishing every chip and not fuck around and gamble. I need to start playing from the first hand. It sucks. It took me 30 events to get my shit together. But next year I will remember this year and I will come into event one with the same fire and intensity that Phil Hellmuth has.

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