Sam Trickett is the UK’s bona fide poker superstar, hanging in the biggest games and now targeting bracelets in Vegas. He took time out from his busy schedule to talk to PokerPlayer after he became the new ambassador for Everest Poker
In 2010 rumours started swirling around the internet that secretive, nosebleed stakes cash games were taking place on the other side of the world. Only this time it wasn’t Las Vegas that played host, but the mystical new world of Macau, China. They were the biggest games ever seen since billionaire businessman Andy Beal strolled into Vegas in 2004 and attempted to bankrupt the poker world.
Details were scarce at first but then we heard about Tom Dwan swinging $4 million in a day, Chinese businessmen queuing up to lose their fortune and a $13.8m pot getting shipped when a gutshot straight got there on the river. For any pro with a booming bankroll – or friends in the right places – this was the game to be in. Dwan, John Juanda, Phil Ivey and Johnny Chan were all there from the start. Legends of the game, nobody batted an eyelid. But there was one other mainstay on the scene that definitely raised eyebrows – Sam Trickett.
Back in 2010, the Englishman wasn’t the super high roller, Big One for One Drop-conquering superstar that we know now. Sure, he’d won a GUKPT and finished second in a WSOP event but surely that didn’t qualify him to play with the big boys, where every pot was the equivalent of winning or losing a new car. So how did he get in the game? Financially, he was helped out by his friends at Matchbook, including 2010 WSOPE champion James Bord, but in Macau it’s not just money that talks, but politics too. Trickett explains, ‘I’ve always got on well with people and I’m fairly good at networking. When I first went out there I built up a lot of friends and did it all on my own back. I knew what I was trying to do – I was trying to get in the game. So I made friends with the right people, they liked me and took me on a few nights out. Eventually they asked me to come and play and it has worked out well for me.’
Four years later and apparently, it’s worked out too well, because Trickett, ‘won too much money and [I] was recently told that they don’t want to play with me now. I get the feeling that I’m not welcome.’
One place where Sam Trickett is welcome is in the London HQ of Everest Poker, where I meet with him fresh off an all-night session of £5/£10/£25 PLO with Rob Yong, Devilfish, Ludovic Geilich – ‘he’s mental’ – and co. Despite little sleep, Trickett looks fresh-faced and, as he slips on a tailored suit for our photoshoot, as debonair as ever.
The Everest Poker sponsorship deal is a new horizon for Trickett, who has traditionally shunned the limelight.
It seems the timing, with his spell in Macau winding down, is now right. Trickett concurs, ‘Over the last few years I have been really busy playing, especially in Macau. In these big cash games you can win or lose a lot of money in a day and I just thought there was more value for me to use my time playing in those games. Now I have the time to really get involved [with Everest Poker].’
On signing a major sponsorship deal many poker players instantly lose any of the personality they once had, afraid that one stray word will get them in trouble with their new ‘employers’. Thankfully, Trickett is not one of these guys. Whatever the topic he’s interesting, engaged and brutally honest.
Like when we talk about Tom Dwan who, Trickett has, ‘always had a funny relationship with. He’s a very temperamental guy depending on how he is doing, and there’s a little bit of a rivalry there [but] we respect each other.’ Trickett starts to laugh when thinking about how Dwan plays in the big games – ‘the business guys love playing with him! He gives so much action.’ It doesn’t sound like Dwan’s typical full throttle style is necessarily healthy though, as every time Trickett sees him, ‘he looks like he’s never slept. His body clock is mashed because he’s so stressed about these big games. I don’t know how he handles such a high variance style. He’s at it way too much, endlessly doing big bluffs and people just don’t fold to him now!’
Still relatively new to the elite of the poker world, I’m interested to find out if Trickett can believe the situation he’s found himself in. The catalyst is when we start talking about Phil Ivey, who Trickett, ‘remembers watching on High Stakes Poker and looking at his hands on YouTube. I still pinch myself sometimes when I’m out to dinner or playing golf with him.’ Before we move on, Trickett has one thing to clear up about Ivey too. ‘I read that Dan Bilzerian said he’s broke – I can assure you he’s not. The $4m he won at the Aussie Millions was not even his biggest win that week! It’s fair to say that Ivey is doing just fine.’
Shut up and deal
When speaking with many top pros like Dwan, Isaac Haxton or Daniel Negreanu they can’t help but harp on about poker strategy, what they would have done in this spot and why. I’ve been speaking to Sam Trickett for an hour and he’s pointedly avoided that side of the game completely. I ask him to go over a big hand from a recent Macau session and he quickly changes the subject to more friendly ground. He loves poker no doubt, but getting an insight into his poker mind is tougher than breaching the USS Enterprise.
It’s not because Trickett is rude or shy, it’s all part of a calculated plan. ‘I think it’s very unprofessional. When I first started playing I would talk about poker to every man and his dog. I’d talk on TV about poker and it was almost like I was showing off by telling people my knowledge. I’ve now realised that was very dumb.’ The humble Trickett in front of me is the same one you’d encounter at the poker table: ‘Some of the best players in the world will sit there and openly talk about what they would have done with this hand or that hand and I’m just sat there taking it all in. If they ask me what I would have done, I just say I don’t know – of course I do know exactly what I would have done.’ If it’s a competitive disadvantage why are so many players so eager to reveal their thought process? ‘It’s just ego. I think they want you to know that they know what they are doing. It’s their way of showing off.’
Perhaps his reluctance to spiel off on advanced poker concepts has stopped Trickett from receiving the critical acclaim his results warrant. If that’s the case, you better believe that the fifth biggest tournament winner in poker history isn’t sweating it one bit – ‘I don’t have anything to prove by going out and telling all these forums exactly
what I think. Doing that would be very short-term and stupid thinking. I’m even reluctant to do TV commentary because I don’t like to give my views on hands and let people use that against me in the future.’ When it comes to his peers, the ones whose opinion really matters, Trickett is in no doubt that, ‘they all rate me as one of the best no-limit hold’em players in the world.’ No amount of forum posts or training videos will ever equal that.
There’s only one thing that makes Trickett lose his cool during our conversation – players that don’t play the game. In Macau, ‘there’s a lot of politics. It’s not that you have to suck up but you must be friendly, kind and interact at the tables, and some players just don’t want to do that.’ He cites Patrik Antonius as one who is ‘quite a shy guy and doesn’t want to get involved’ but his main gripe is with ‘online pros’ who ‘lack class and are very narrow minded.’
Just like online, it seems bumhunting is also a major issue in the live arena. Trickett doesn’t name names but says some prominent players in Macau ‘tell the bad players when they have made mistakes [and] get there at 10am to lock up a seat in the game before the businessmen arrive twelve hours later. Then as soon as the business guy picks up his jacket to leave those same players won’t even post their blinds!’ As he’s laughing it off Trickett says, ‘they could at least let the business guys get out of the building!’
Even if he wasn’t now blacklisted, Trickett doubts he’d be grinding in Macau anyway. ‘The games have got too big, the blinds are now £8,000/£16,000 [converted]. I can’t really play that. I don’t think any poker player can. Tom [Dwan] plays but there’s no way in a million years that he is playing all his own money.’
In another moment of candour from Trickett he reveals that those days of million dollar swings might be behind him for a different reason. The stress
was ‘affecting me. I don’t want to take
big risks anymore. The money I have made will need to last me for the rest of my life so I don’t want to go in there and take big shots.’
A different game
Now that Macau is off the menu, what’s next for Trickett in 2014? Luckily, it just so happens that the $1m buy-in Big One For One Drop is making its highly anticipated return at this summer’s WSOP. Trickett, the $10m 2012 runner-up intends to be there. ‘I can’t wait. It’s the most important tournament of the year for me.’ With all the pageantry and mainstream coverage Trickett equates the original event to a ‘boxing match’ where, ‘when you walk in they’re all shouting your name.’
In any other sport the higher the stakes you play for – whether it be a Superbowl, World Cup final or Olympics – the tougher the competition is. Due to its open nature, poker is a curious exception. According to Trickett the original Big One For One Drop, with it’s $1m entry, was ‘very soft. Half the field were business guys or recreational players.’ Despite being a cash game specialist Trickett feels as though he, and other cash kings like Ivey, have a significant edge over the field due to the deep structure, ‘You’re able to get in there, play a few hands and work out what people have. A lot of tournament pros go wrong in the One Drop and super high rollers because they play quite snug early on as it’s what they are used to doing on the internet. I think it’s important to get in as many pots as you can with the business guys early on. Gamble it up and try to make some chips.’
It’s this type of attitude that gives Trickett the immense confidence that he can emulate – or even surpass – his sterling efforts last time out. ‘I’m extremely confident. [The tournament really suits] players that have a lot of experience playing against both recreational players and pros. I wouldn’t put a player like Ole Schemion [as one of the favourites], as I can’t imagine they have much experience playing against business guys. But then if you take Phil Ivey, who is probably not as good at tournament poker as Schemion, he would have a better edge in the One Drop.’
Moving on up
With the Everest Poker deal behind him, Trickett is now more visible and accessible than ever before. To have someone as marketable, articulate and undoubtedly skilled as him in the spotlight is a major coup for UK poker but, as Trickett explains, it’s a challenge that he needed. ‘I got bored. I wasn’t motivated or driven to play poker anymore. I found myself not travelling to tournaments because there was nothing to play for – tying myself to Everest has motivated me again, and I’m going to put myself out there and try to win some tournaments again.’
A Partouche Poker Tour title, $10m win at the One Drop and many more millions won in the Macau shadows saw Sam Trickett climb the poker mountain once before.
Those days of million dollar swings may be behind him for now but, with a renewed purpose and the backing of Everest Poker it’s very clear that the sky is still the limit for Sam Trickett.
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Trickett says he agreed to the deal because, ‘It’ll make the Vegas grind a lot easier to know I have a lot of players following my progress this year. I’ve promised my mum a bracelet and will be doing my very best to score big for everyone who’ll own a share in me.’ Everest Poker’s Des Duffy goes on to explain, ‘We want to encourage players to get behind Sam’s quest for a first bracelet this summer. With Sam’s consistent record of cashing at high profile tournaments there could be a huge amount of value on the table. I think for players who can’t make it to Las Vegas themselves, having a share in Sam Trickett will be the next best thing.’
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