Nick Petrangelo Explodes On The Scene With Nine Six-Figure Scores In 2015
Poker Pro Discusses Huge Year With $3.3 Million In Cashes
Nick Petrangelo had one of the best years on the tournament circuit in recent memory. He won two titles, including his first World Series of Poker gold bracelet, made a total of 11 final tables and cashed for $3,362,396 in 2015. He finished third in the 2015 Card Player Player of the Year race, but the 6,026 points he earned would have been enough to earn him the POY title each of the previous three years, using the same scoring criteria that saw Daniel Colman, Daniel Negreanu and Greg Merson capture the prestigious award.
Card Player caught up with the 28-year-old poker pro from Massachusetts just after his biggest career score, a runner-up showing in the WPT Alpha8 Las Vegas $100,000 super high roller for $1,015,335. In the interview he discussed his best year on the circuit, how a hockey injury set him on the poker career track and much more.
Erik Fast: Congrats on having such a huge 2015. Eight of your biggest scores in live tournaments came in this past year. Has your life as a poker pro changed and how it looks moving forward changed significantly as a result of your run over the past twelve months?
Nick Petrangelo: When I started playing seriously I was playing almost exclusively online, as I was still in college and playing sports. The only live tournaments I went to for a really long stretch were the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and the World Series of Poker, and I wouldn’t go for the whole series either. After I graduated I moved to New York with friends and still mostly just played online. I put in a lot of volume and going to play live at EPTs didn’t seem all that appealing, because at the time every day online was a good day online before 2011. I definitely didn’t work on my live game much back then, so I didn’t adjust well when I did go to live events. I started playing a lot more live after Black Friday, because to play online you had to move outside of the country. So I checked out some European Poker Tour festivals and I liked the schedules, with a lot of tournaments that made it worth traveling. The last couple years I have learned a lot about how to adjust to live play. As a professional this year has been completely different, but not in the sense that I was a losing player who turned it all around. It was more just a transition of my focus being from online to live poker.
EF: Online you can play a much higher volume, whereas live you necessarily play far fewer tournaments. As a result many people move to higher stakes. Is that how you approached it?
NP: It doesn’t make sense from a return-on-investment perspective to fly to Florida to play one single $3,500 event when your hotel and other costs will nearly wipe out what you make on average in the event. So I found I really like going to festivals like the EPT where they have 12 days of events, with high roller tournaments, mid-stakes turbos and plenty of other options, it makes a lot more sense.
EF: Would you chalk up some of your results this past year to ‘success begets success?’ Did getting a few scores early in the year and early at the World Series of Poker help you take some more shots?
NP: I had made a few deep runs in big live events in recent years and learned a lot from the close calls, as a I arguably didn’t play as well as I could have and some things that I thought were correct were definitely not in retrospect. I learned a lot from those, so going into the PCA here last here, being able to take down a $5,000 prelim right away gave me confidence that carried over into the $25,000 high roller there. That sixth place finish there for over $300k was my first big score in a really high buy in event, and doing well in a field like that really helps your confidence.
Basically every trip I’ve gone on this year I’ve had one big score, with the exception of just the EPT Grand Final, I’d had at least one big score. Which is lucky and/or variance to some extent, but that does perpetuate an aura of confidence. When you are going deep that confidence in your game helps with patience in a way, believing in your ability and passing up some marginal spots that you might take if you things have been going poorly, you might force it trying to go for the home run. So in that way, success begets success.
EF: You finished the year off with a deep run in the WPT Alpha Las Vegas, ending as the runner up for the biggest score of your career. You finished the year in third place in the Player of the Year standings after an incredible run that included eight of your biggest tournament scores of your career. Does finishing high in something like the POY standings mean anything to you? Did you travel any more or play more events at all because you were a POY contender?
NP: I definitely didn’t play anything or take any trips I wouldn’t have to try to win POY. To be honest, there are a couple different POY races and I’m not sure how all of the different scoring systems work. I just treated everything normally, but I will say that it was a bit of validation, for my friends and family who don’t really understand poker as a profession, to have them be able to follow it and see that I was ranked third in the Card Player Player of the Year rankings. When I was primarily an online player they pretty much just had to take my word for it, that I was doing well. Now that I have had some bigger live results, it makes my success a little more tangible to them.
EF: How much more traveling did you end up doing this year as a result of just doing well early in the year?
NP: Honestly, I think I would have played all of the same events regardless. Things went well, but if they had gone poorly I would have just had smaller piece of myself. Either way I would have played the same schedule. Playing these fields is definitely how you continue to get better, in my opinion, and skipping them because you are not running well could be a mistake if you are confident in your skill set.
EF: You mentioned earlier that in college you were playing poker a lot but that school and sports tempered it. Can you talk a bit about how you got into the game and how it became your profession?
NP: From a very young age I was a very serious hockey player, being from Massachusetts where the game is huge. Hockey and gold were like my life and I was very serious about both of them. They were my passions. Around the end of high school a lot of my friends picked up poker and I got into the game. I loved the competition and it stuck with me as an interest, but it was on the back burner. I didn’t start playing seriously until my sophomore year of college. I put some money online and started studying the game a bit. I was playing division III hockey and golf at Skidmore College. It was a big time commitment while with my classes as well, but then I got a really bad concussion. In high school I had gotten a few as well, so for safety reasons I was told to stop playing hockey.
I had all of this new free time and needed an outlet for my pent up competitive energy that used to be mainly channeled into hockey. So that summer I would get home from work and just play a ton. Then I met Jonathan Jaffe, who was one of the best online heads-up players at the time. He was friends with a buddy of mine and I asked to be put in touch with him. He taught me how to play, let me watch him play and then after a while he started backing me. Meeting someone who was doing really well, was responsible and really serious taught me more than I ever would have been able to learn on my own. He is still one of my good friends today. So that’s how I got into the game.
EF: If I understand it correctly you’ve basically have been living on the road this year. Is that the plan moving forward?
NP: My family lives in Massachusetts, all of my friends live in either New York or Boston. Since Black Friday I have lived in Montreal at an apartment off and on. I can still go there and play online when I want to, but I only do that during the major online series now because the daily schedule isn’t great. I’ve been saying for a while I’m going to figure out a place to live, but it always seems like it’s not worth it if you’re going to be traveling a lot. I’m still really enjoying traveling currently, and when I think I might skip a series, I always get a fear of missing out for poker tournaments. I still plan on traveling a lot for the next year or two. I might like to rent a place around my friends, but for now I don’t have a set plan.
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