From talented amateur to WPT and EPT Champion in 18 months is some hot streak for Roland de Wolfe
Of all the regulars on the European circuit European circuit, no one has had a better 18 months in tournament poker than ex-InsideEdge writer Roland de Wolfe. As well as recently bagging the coveted crown of UK Player of the Year from the magazine he once worked for, the 27-year old Londoner won the Paris WPT event in July 2005, came third in the WPT Championship in April 2006 before topping off the year with a thumping victory at the EPT Irish Masters in October. This surge of results has seen him leap to 73rd position on the alltime money list above more established names like Antonio Esfandiari and Ram Vaswani – not bad for a guy that only turned professional two years ago.
But what is it that has sparked this remarkable series of results? Undoubtedly, De Wolfe’s two defining characteristics are an ultra aggressive ‘chip-gathering’ approach to the game and a ‘risk-everything’ gambling mentality. Of course, like many other big name players, his table strategy can have two varying results: huge chip stacks built or early tournament exits. But rather than the unpredictable aggression of someone like Gus Hansen, De Wolfe’s approach relies heavily on his background experience in cash games. He understands first and foremost that position is paramount and that this is the best tool an aggressive player can use to his advantage when looking to heap pressure on his opponents at the table.
In a tournament, survival is often the priority for many players. However, De Wolfe plays with a style that frequently takes him to a dominating position late in an event. This was displayed in both his victorious WPT and EPT showdowns. He entered the Paris final table a close second in chips behind Michael Zadjenberg, while in Dublin, a significant chip lead allowed him to go all the way with won and lost all-ins aplenty.
Happy in defeat
The recent 888.com UK Open was also an interesting showcase for his talents, with a structure allowing for a bit of play early on before an aggressive all-in fest in the latter stages. In the six-seater winner takes all heat, De Wolfe steamrollered his way to victory, playing a variety of hands and using position effectively both with and without cards. Moving into the semifi nal, the benefits of his aggressive style soon bore fruits when Jonathan ‘Skalie’ Kalmar got stubborn in a blind-on-blind confrontation and called him down with second pair, only to be shown a flopped straight with 9-7 on a 10-8-6 flop.
De Wolfe then found himself with half of the chips after winning a large all-in against Tony Bloom with A-K versus 8-8, and at this point he began raising almost every hand in order to pick up the blinds. He knew the remaining players were initially focusing more on the second-place spot than taking a big stack to the final, and so set out to use his own stack to torture them.
In the final he had a slightly above-average stack of 350,000 and the difference between playing aggressively in this situation was apparent from two key hands. In the first, he flopped top pair on a board of Q-8-5-5-2 and called down Dave Clayton’s bets, only to see quad fives. Then, he went all-in with an A-Q after a raise and a re-raise in the latter stages only to see an A-K and another A-Q – which ultimately sent him home in fourth place with $32,500. But the end result was of little importance here. What this snapshot of play demonstrated was De Wolfe’s adherence to the style of poker that has taken over the scene in recent years. By playing this way, he had given himself another chance at the big money rather than simply attempting to creep up the leader board. Gracious in defeat, he was all smiles in acknowledgement of the Amir Vahedi maxim that ‘to live, you must be willing to die’.
It’s probably true that, as Jesse May says, De Wolfe can claim to be ‘the luckiest man in Europe’. But he’s also maximised his good fortune by gathering chips and building up big stacks. And, while he has openly admitted to the run of good fortune that has shadowed his tournament success, it’s difficult to argue with the level of consistency he has shown.
As Tom McEvoy would put it, De Wolfe is giving himself a ‘chance to get lucky’. His sponsorship deal with Full Tilt Poker will offer him more opportunities to do this, and he’s now a permanent feature among the faces on the global poker circuit.
This guaranteed presence at every major event – allied to an aggressive gambling approach – will undoubtedly serve him well. However, with such a high level of success comes added pressure, and his toughest days could well be in front of him.
It remains to be seen if this will inspire De Wolfe to greater heights or whether a comfort zone will now develop. Certainly, it will be hard for him to continue emulating the recent success he has had and other players will now be wiser to his game. But, he will undoubtedly be great fun to watch and a nightmare to play against for sometime to come.
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