Poker Tournament Trail Q and A -- Blair Hinkle
Hinkle Talks about his Recent WSOP Circuit Win and Poker Tournaments in the Midwest
Blair Hinkle recently won the $1,500 main event at the World Series of Poker Circuit stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The Missouri native took home $88,555, a WSOP Circuit gold ring, and a seat in the $1 million WSOP Circuit National Championship thanks to the victory. He has earned $1,483,426 in lifetime winnings and his trophy case continues to grow. Winning is very important to the young poker professional and his aggressive style has allowed him to do so. He now has a WSOP Circuit gold ring to pair with WSOP gold bracelet.
Card Player caught up with Hinkle after the final table in Iowa and he talked about poker strategy, the WSOP Circuit tour’s presence in the Midwest, and having the support of his family.
Ryan Lucchesi: You have been no stranger to wild swings during your career so far and that was no different here at the final table in Iowa. What were your feelings today as you watched your chip stack run laps around your opponents?
Blair Hinkle: I really felt like that if I could get a run of luck going like winning a few flips, which is what finally happened, then I could really build up a huge stack. Every time I would build my stack, 80-90 percent of my hands were without showdown. So I didn’t have to show my hands and I was able to mix in bluffs. When I had it was when I had to show my hand. Getting it to the river and showing I had it, while the rest of the time it was bluffs and my chips kept building. But then you have to play the big all-in pots because you run into those situations. I finally started running well in those and my chips finally started going up and they never came back.
RL: You started this final day playing very aggressively and as a result you gained more chips than anyone during the first level of play. Was that always your plan heading into the final stages of the tournament?
BH: Actually I told my brother Grant, I talked to him right before, and I said, “I think I’m going to take it easy to start off today.” For other people that might be different but it just worked out where I was getting a few hands and then everything started to click. Situations were working out where I could tell what the right move was and I wasn’t even afraid to put in a ton of chips.
I would hold myself back when I’m not playing as well, but when I saw these spots and it was working I was like, “Alright, no more sitting around, you’ve got the table under control, you can make moves.” And it ended up working out very well.
RL: How important is it to just respond to what the table is giving you in any situation, whether it takes you out of your comfort zone, or in this case right into your comfort zone?
BH: I went with my gut feeling. Sometimes you’re on and things are working out great. I was making a lot of small raises on dry boards, those types of things. Sometimes people just come over the top of you and shove in those situations, but today it was all working out perfect.
RL: When do you feel like you had control of things in this tournament?
BH: The swings kept pushing things back. I felt like I was in control the entire day in terms of what I thought other players would do and how they would react to my play. I did make a mistake on my A-9 vs. A-J hand. I told myself, “Alright, I’m going to look at this hand and if it’s a really good hand I’m going to raise-call because I knew he was going to shove.”
When he shoved he stood up and looked like he was trying to intimidate me to make the call. I should have told myself, “A-9 is just not good enough anymore.” I should have changed my plan. That was the one little misstep I feel like. Luckily I won some flips after that and got back on track.
RL: How does the ring win compare to the bracelet? The money is not the same, but how important are the titles to you as you continue to build your poker resume?
BH: The most important thing to me is winning. The money is great, and I do take that into account when I’m playing. When I see a bubble and I’m a shorter stack I do take that into account and try to move up a little bit. I might make some lay downs as opposed to re-shoving on somebody.
The titles mean more because…because when they describe a pro for ESPN they don’t say, “He has three third places at the World Series, they say he has this title or that title.” Unless you’re Hellmuth and you have a million cashes then they start to bring that up. You have to play for so long to get to those numbers. You’re not getting the big scores and the notoriety unless you’re winning.
RL: You have established yourself as one of the best poker players from the Midwest. The WSOP Circuit series reaches out to a lot of Midwestern poker cities. How important is the Circuit for poker in the Midwest in your opinion?
BH: I think it’s going to be huge. I was surprised by the turnout here, 250 players when in February they had 60. I think it is partially because the structure is a lot better and the other part is the fact that they lowered the buy-in.
Which I think is really smart because with the economy being rough people in the Midwest aren’t going to come out and put down $5,000 right now to play in a poker tournament. This is better and I think it’s going to help poker grow in the Midwest if we can keep having big turnouts.
RL: You locked up a seat in the WSOP Circuit National Championship with your win here. Does that change your plans to play in Circuit events this season? Are you going to participate in many of the events hosted in the Midwest?
BH: I feel like I have to play in a couple more. I just heard about the one in Indiana and I will play in the St. Louis one for sure. The one in Southern Indiana is just a six-hour drive, which is reasonable, so I think I’m going to go for it.
RL: I’m sure a lot of your family will show up to support you at the St. Louis event and I see your mother was here to support you today. How much does it mean to have her rooting for you?
BH: I think it means I’m going to win the tournament. When she shows up at the final table it always works out well for me.
RL: So what happens if both you and your brother Grant make the final table in St. Louis? Do you finish first and second?
BH: I think if that happened then one of us gets first and the other gets ninth [laughs].
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