UK poker god Andrew Feldman talks about the game he loves and the changes he’d make to TV poker

The controversial high stakes pro on playing High Stakes Poker and the state of the UK game

Andrew Feldman has quickly established himself as one of the UK’s most successful cash game players. The 21-year-old’s name has constantly been in the news in 2009, from signing a deal as a Full Tilt red pro to a long-standing feud with fellow online sensation Luke ‘Full_Flush’ Schwartz.

Feldman has also been a regular fixture on the UK televised poker scene, appearing on Late Night Poker, Poker Million and, most recently, the Full Tilt Million Dollar Cash Game. Playing against the world’s best players such as Tom Dwan, Phil Ivey and Patrik Antonius the Londoner bagged a solid profit and was subsequently asked to appear on the biggest show of them all – High Stakes Poker.

I met up with Feldman mere days before he was due to fly out to Las Vegas and play on the show. We chatted about all manner of subjects – from the state of UK poker to getting accused of slowrolling to how you should play against Tom Dwan. Keep reading for the explosive interview…

How do you feel to have been asked to appear on High Stakes Poker?

It’s my favourite show. For me it’s the best show out there, a cash game is what poker is all about. In a tournament you don’t always see the best players get to the end as there is a lot of short term luck. But in cash games skill will prevail and I’m looking forward to pitting myself against the best.

What was your experience like playing in the Full Tilt Poker Million Dollar Cash Game?

I was the third biggest winner on that show. We were playing $300/$600 with an ante. I imagine a lot of the players will be the same in that and High Stakes Poker.

Are there any players you haven’t had the chance to play that you are particularly looking forward to?

Antonio Esfandiari. He’s a funny player, he has a lot of moves up his sleeve and is very creative. I admire him. He can go a bit too over the top but that style certainly works for him. I’ve played with pretty much everyone there to be honest apart from him and Doyle Brunson.

How do you approach playing new Team Full Tilt member Tom ‘durrrr’ Dwan on these shows?

With Tom being of the internet generation I feel like he really wants to show off to all the other internet players by making some really big plays and bluffs – and he has the bankroll to do it. He plays totally fearless.

There’re a couple of hands in the FTP cash game against Dwan that are going to make me look weak on TV. I had about $300,000 in front of me and I raised on the button with 8-8 to $6,000 after a straddle. The blinds were $500/$1000 at this point. There were only five of us left at this point – durrrr, Ivey, Antonius, this French guy Cyril and me. I raised on the button and durrrr reraised to $22,000. I felt as if he was trying to push me around because he knew I was in nice profit and wouldn’t want to jeopardise that but I didn’t want to get too involved in a hand that was difficult to play after the flop so I folded.

The very next hand I got 9-9, raised to $7,000 and again he re-pops it to $22,000. I thought I’d look so weak for folding this but I just released it. I found out he had A-K that time which could have got very interesting.

I feel with him he really wants to impress the poker world so he will apply a hell of a lot of pressure. I’m not like that so much, I’m more of a conservative player. I like to wait for my spots.

Do you feel that your style of poker is the way the game should be played – solely to make money?

I guess but if he thinks it’s going to be a +EV play to do that and it’s going to make him money then in the long run that may be the way forward. I’ve got respect for that. If I can’t call reraises with hands like that then maybe I should just pull out and say this game’s too big. I think he is just seeing spots and that’s what poker is about – finding weak spots and capitalising on them.

Are you adequately bankrolled to play these huge cash games?

Losing a buy in of $250,000 or so is obviously going to hurt but I can afford to lose it. It isn’t going to make me go broke. A lot of the reason I play these shows is to have the experience of playing it and also the added value of getting my name out there. It’s going to be very good for my profile with Full Tilt.

I’ve played high roller tournaments before and done very well in those. Although I’ve only cashed in one I have gone deep in many. I feel very confident and I’m not expecting to lose. There is so much added value for me to get my name out there and show that I can compete against the best.

Is the exposure value of getting your name out to a worldwide audience worth far more than any value there may be in the field? It seems as though it will be a very tough game this year.

To be honest it’s very hard to get into any high stakes cash game with weak players. Those games are private. If there are weak players at the table they won’t want pros there. It’s so hard to find a regular soft high stakes cash game.

I think there are a few weak spots in High Stakes Poker this year – Alan Meltzer is back and Sammy Farha likes to gamble if he gets behind. I don’t think it’s particularly the strongest of lineups and I feel as if I have just as much shot at coming out with a profit. But as you say the value of just getting my name out there is probably more key than having a win.

Do you think other players play worse and tighter because of the higher stakes? Or do you see the opposite – that because players are on TV they open up their games even more than they would do normally?

I think you’re referring to if players are playing with scared money or not. A lot of the time it isn’t all the players’ own money, many of them are put into these shows by their sponsors. I think the right way to approach it is not to worry about the stakes. You have to go in there and each hand you play you must see as an investment. You can’t think that losing this money is really going to hurt me.

I don’t think too many players have gone in there with scared money but there have been some weird plays in the past. Phil Laak played a few weird hands in last season’s show and Peter Eastgate folded trip fours against Tom Dwan – perhaps making the $100,000 call there on the turn was too big for him. But generally I think most of the players there are pretty fearless and that’s the right way to approach it.

Do you see it as a big honour being the first UK player asked to appear on the show?

I guess but to be honest, apart from the Devilfish and maybe Neil Channing I don’t know what other UK players would play a game this big.

Maybe Richard ‘Chufty’ Ashby?

He wouldn’t play Hold’em, he’s an Omaha player. There’s no way he would ever play this. If it was Omaha I’m sure he’d be the first out there.

I can’t really see any British players at Hold’em who are well known that could play a cash game that big. Maybe Luke ‘Full_Flush’ Schwartz obviously but I don’t think they (GSN, the American TV network that shows High Stakes Poker) want anybody as potentially volatile as that.

I don’t really know if it’s so much of an honour because there’s just such a lack of competition. High Stakes Poker obviously want to attract players from different countries because it’s a worldwide show. I will try and do my best and hopefully it’ll be good for British poker. You may get more Brits watching it because of that so there is that pressure out there.

2009 seems to have been a bit of a British revival with yourself, FullFlush and Chufty killing the cash games online while James Akenhead and Praz Bansi have had great years on the tournament circuit. But why do you think we lag behind other countries as far as getting a core of nosebleed cash players or consistent tournament winners goes?

A big factor why we aren’t having the big names you get in other countries is because the poker coverage in this country is ridiculous. Putting Late Night Poker on at 12:30am on a weeknight – who is going to be watching that? Then there’s the Cash Den, a cash game that players can learn from, on at about 1am on Channel Five. It’s ridiculous.

In America you have High Stakes Poker being broadcast on a top network channel at 9pm. Also, ESPN are covering the WSOP and viewing it as a big sport. In the UK the best we have is the Poker Million which is shown on Sky Sports 2 at 10pm. That’s good but it is only once a year. If this country wants to get better players it has to be showing poker at times that people can watch it. If this country doesn’t want to acknowledge poker as a sport then you will only occasionally find breakthrough players like myself every now and again that are successful.

It requires a hell of a lot of dedication and it’s much tougher than it was when I started out four years ago. There’s a huge volume of players playing now and it’s very hard to get action against soft players. That’s how I built up my bankroll, by playing the weaker players. There’s no way I was playing the top players and I don’t really intend to. But now it’s extremely tough to get action. I think if this country finally acknowledges poker as a sport then you’ll see a lot of players break through but until that happens I think we are a hell of a long way off catching many other countries.

Have you always been a fan of televised poker and was it something you really wanted to get into in 2009?

I got approached almost two years ago by Eddie Hearn at Matchroom (the TV production company that make almost all UK poker programming) to play in the UK Open and I was fortunate enough to win that which got my name out there. I did a couple of Poker Dens, was very successful in them and that led onto my Full Tilt deal. I was continually winning online on various sites too.
I really enjoy playing on TV. I’ve been running horrendously but I still love to do it though. It does frustrate me that it’s so slow because of the TV stuff – I just want to play poker but obviously I understand all that is necessary. If I can run just OK in a televised tournament I expect to at least get to a final table.

Are there any aspects of TV poker that you wish you could change?

I thought the World Open was really good. You got triple starting chips and the play was a lot quicker. It was in a casino, you arrived, did your interviews and just sat down to play. I hope that is continued now. A lot of the time in these TV tournaments it’s down to whoever gets the cards and wins the flips but in this there is a lot more skill involved and you’ll see the better players get to the final table.

What was the story when you got accused of slowrolling in the semi-final of Late Night Poker holding A-K versus Sam Trickett?

The set-up: With blinds at 300/600 Sam Trickett raised to 900 with Ks-Qc before Feldman reraises to 3,000 with Ad-Kd .The big stacked Trickett then moves all-in. Feldman tanks for a while before calling and putting his tournament life at risk. Fellow players Benjamin Kang, Marc Goodwin and Paul Zimbler then all accuse Feldman of making a ‘total slowroll’. Watch the video here (starts 5mins in).

If anyone knows how bad I run in tournaments they would know that it’s never an easy decision for me to call off all my chips with Ace-high. There were so many factors taken into consideration in that hand. I reraised to 3,000 and still had 7.5k behind so I was nowhere near pot-committed. I was playing relatively tight and Sam knew that. We had a bit of mutual respect and were staying out of each others way which was another reason why I would never expect him to 4-bet all-in light there. I thought he had at least a pocket pair and I was thinking whether I wanted to take a flip when I thought that was not a particularly strong semi-final lineup.

I could have waited for a better spot and outplayed the other players. It was a soft semi final. Sam and Soren Kongsgaard were in my mind the only two decent players, the rest were pretty weak.

Sam Trickett could easily have A-A or K-K when he shoves there. It’s so rarely that Sam is ever going to have K-Q. Quite justifiably I took some time over my decision. That’s what poker is about, taking your time to make the right decision. It really doesn’t help when you’re in a hand to start having other players saying that you are slowrolling and trying to celebrate with Sam when I got knocked out. It’s uncalled for in the game. If you’ll notice Sam was the one player who didn’t say anything because Sam knows it wasn’t a slowroll. I would never do that. I’m not a player who wants to create bad blood. I don’t slowroll, its just not me. I know I didn’t and that’s all that matters really.

Do you have any more ambitions for televised poker?

I have always wanted to play Premier League Poker. Besides that I don’t really know what else there is.

Why do you play tournaments when you’re a cash specialist?

I am very, very hungry to win a big event. I don’t want to be seen as just an online kid. I know I’m just as good as anyone else out there and I know that if I just run semi-good in one of these tournaments I can easily win one. Ever since I won the UK Open I’ve had some horrific luck. Most of the time I go out of tournaments I have the winning hand or are in spots I just can’t get out of. But I know that one of these days I’m going to be the guy who has a set when they have an overpair and I’m going to be the guy who wins the race when I have Tens and they have A-K. I just know its going to happen. For me winning a big, big event will bring a lot of personal satisfaction.

When I spoke to James Akenhead recently he had that very same self-confidence, that everything would come good for him eventually.

Exactly. I know that can happen for me. James is a very, very good player and I’ve got a lot of respect for James. Out in Vegas (for the WSOP Main Event) everything went for him. He won all the flips, won with K-Q vs A-A, everything was going into place and then he went and final tabled both the WSOPE and Poker Million too! Everything is perfect for him but that’s what can happen in poker. I’m running bad in tournaments but I have the bankroll to withstand the hits and I’m confident that a very good result is around the corner.

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