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On the Tournament Trail ... in Budapest

by Rebecca McAdam |  Published: Dec 31, 2008

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William Fry wins EPT Hungarian OpenWith the PokerStars.com European Poker Tour now in full swing, online pros and well-known names are hitting European soil en masse. Some can be seen taking in the sights and sampling local cuisine while attempting the main event of nearly every single leg of the Tour, while others have chosen a selection of their favourite destinations to attend. With every event comes a whole new set of prominent characters, and the first-ever EPT Hungarian Open was no different. Card Player spoke to some of the key players of the event about life on the road, their poker ambitions, strategies, online play, and, of course, how they were getting on in the event itself. No tournament trail could be complete, however, without a word from some final tablists, so Card Player also got the inside scoop from third-place finisher Martin Jacobson and the champion, William Fry.

Day 2: Sorel Mizzi

Sorel MizziCanadian Sorel Mizzi has been to the top of the online ranks numerous times, and now he wants the same from the live world of poker. Since hitting the felt with great intent, the online pro has shown the kind of heart and determination that can make people forget he is only 22 years of age. Before busting out, he spoke to Card Player as the chip leader on day 2 about his prominent presence on the European circuit and the pressures of being a young, successful pro.

Rebecca McAdam: How are you getting on so far?

Sorel Mizzi: I'm getting on OK. I was up to 200,000 in the first level, and it was pretty much like a continuous growth, and then all of a sudden I lost my first major pot when I lost a flip with sevens versus A-Q, and that put a pretty big dent in my stack. Then I got as low as 80,000, and now I'm back at 140,000, so I can't really complain. It's been very rocky and very roller-coastery, but that's usually how it is when I play these tournaments.

RM: What do you think about the field here?

SM: Honestly? It's pretty bad. I mean, every single table I've been on ... like on my starting table for the entire day 1, there weren't really any great players, and not really any threats. There was one guy on my left who was decent, but other than that it's been a very easy tournament to accumulate chips, and maybe I just got really lucky with my table draws, but I feel like I'm in the zone. I'm playing different than I ever have before and I'm just starting to get adjusted to this new structure.

RM: What about Johnny Lodden coming to your table, how was that?

SM: He played a few pots against me, but he knows I'm a good player, I know he's a good player, and for the most part we try to stay out of each other's way. I also have him to my left, which makes it very difficult to open-raise, and he just lost a really big pot with a straight versus a full house, so now he kind of has a stack to go all in after I raise. It's not a great situation for me because I have to lower my raising range, but I just have to adjust to that; and, obviously, it's never going to be good to have a really good, aggressive player to my left, but I think I'm dealing with it really well and I'm adjusting accordingly.

RM: Is he the most impressive player you've come up against so far in this tournament?

SM: I would say so. I've got a lot of respect for him, he's made it deep in so many of these events and he always gets unlucky late. I have a lot of sympathy for that.

RM: You play a huge number of European tournaments; is there a reason behind this?

SM: I have a contract with Betfair and Betfair's primarily European, so they want me to be playing mostly European events, since they don't really get much value out of advertising in the U.S. But I love Europe. I'm actually thinking about moving to Barcelona just because it's so annoying to go from Europe back to Canada, and then back and forth. It's not necessary because I have only a few weeks off every time I do that, anyway, so I might as well move somewhere else, and Barcelona is my favourite city in Europe so far.

RM: Are there any major differences between playing in European tournaments and playing in American tournaments?

SM: The style is definitely a lot different, the attitude of the players ... everything is a lot different. Like in Europe, most of the good European players are great cash-game players but they don't really know what to do in tournament situations, and my theory behind that is all the tournaments online start really, really late in Europe, and they don't get the opportunity to play as many big tournaments with good players, so most good European players are cash-game players. They're really good in deep-stack situations - the good ones, that is which there aren't that many of - but when it comes down to tournament stacks, like five to 30 big blinds, a lot of them struggle a lot. Also here in Europe, people slow-roll more, people don't take bad beats as well, and I think it's a lot softer in Europe, but that might just be because of all the satellites that are on PokerStars. Obviously, it depends on the tournament; the World Series of Poker field is definitely going to be a lot softer than this field, so it's just depending on that.

RM: People may forget how young you are because you have accomplished so much; do you feel like there's much more ahead for you in the poker world, or do you feel tired of it at all?

SM: I feel like this is just the beginning of my live-poker career. I had been focusing the majority of my time on only online play up until January, and I've already had a lot of success live. I definitely think that this is only the beginning, and people are going to see a lot of great things from me.

RM: How do you cope with the pressure, being so young?

SM: I'm kind of used to it, I'm very relaxed. I guess it's like a curse and a blessing; I just don't really care about money, and I'm very ... careless; it's just part of my personality, and that translates to the poker table, as well. If I think I have the best hand or if I think I can make someone fold, I go with it, so the pressure never really gets to me. I'm always really relaxed and very rarely do I have butterflies in my stomach or anything. I used to, though, and it's taken a while to get over that, but I'm just starting to have the same epiphany that I had online three years ago, live, and it just feels like I'm so much more confident, and this tournament is when I had that epiphany. Things have become a lot more clear to me now.

RM: How do you cope with outside pressures? Do you play through it, or does it put you off your game?

SM: I don't let things affect me; I used to care, but I don't really care anymore. You have to have thick skin in this game.

RM: Where are you heading next?

SM: I think I'll go to Amsterdam, and then Warsaw, and then I'll have some time off.

RM: What's your next goal?

SM: I guess winning a tournament, but that's not really within my control, so my goal is always just to play as best I can, and not care about the result. The less I am affected by the result and the more I care about how well I play, the better my game will become.

Sorel Mizzi finished in 54th place for €7,448.

Day 3: Johnny Lodden

Johnny LoddenNorwegian Johnny Lodden is best known for his online antics but has been making some respectable cashes in the live circuit, also. It is hard not to watch the baby-faced assassin take out his opponents one by one, as he seems to have that magic spark that some of the greats bring to the table. Card Player caught up with him after he made it to his first EPT final table on day 3, and he spoke about playing in Budapest and having fun at the poker table.

Rebecca McAdam: Tell me about your journey to the final table, how did you get there?

Johnny Lodden: Being lucky, I guess; but no, I felt like I played well for three days. On day 1B, it was one of the best days I've played, in tournament poker, at least. Day 2 was a little up and down, and today [day 3] ... I'm surprised by myself, actually, because the first three levels, I was amazed at how many hands I folded. Usually I raise two times a round, but I was just like folding three rounds in a row, and everyone just looked at me funny, like what's going on here, is he trapping us, or what is he doing?

RM: Were you changing your tactics?

JL: Yeah, I tried a new style because usually when I raise, so many times you've got to reraise ... I don't know, people don't like to see flops, I think. Call and see what happens, that's how I like it ... flop plays. That's the thing about poker, that's where the skill comes out; not the reraise, reraise, reraise, position push, that's just boring.

RM: What do you think about the standard of the field here in Budapest?

JL: Should I be honest here? It's probably at least in the top two weakest fields in the EPT I've played in. There was a lot of dead money going into the tournament, and that's one of the reasons why I came down here to play, because if you play in beautiful places like San Remo or Monte Carlo, all the pros come over from the US, but I haven't seen one here, I think. There's Danny Ryan, but none really of the famous big ones. There's a lot of Hungarian, Romanian, Italians, French, so there's big value in the tournament.

RM: So there weren't many who impressed you, then?

JL: No, I've seen a lot of really, really weird plays down here, and I'm glad for it. But I think I should have more chips.

RM: How did it compare with the WSOPE?

JL: I would rather go to the final table of the WSOPE 10 times more than the final table here, but of course it's the EPT, and I've no final tables in the EPT. I've bubbled the final like five times, so I've finally reached it.

RM: Why do you think that is?

JL: I don't know, I put myself in decisions where when I get a little short and I raise, somebody reraises, and normally it's 50-50 with A-K and a pocket pair, and I push. I'm not good at coin-flip stuff. Every time that I went out on the bubble, it was A-K against a pair, or a pair against A-K, in every single one, so I tried to avoid that this time, and I made it.

RM: Were there any big hands that stand out or coin flips you won to get you to the final table?

JL: No, I was all in once preflop on day 3 with A-Q against A-J, and I won that one, and I was almost all in, I think, in a coin flip once when we were down to 19 players, so we were playing six-handed. I raised with pocket tens, a guy reraised me, and the average was 280,000. I think I had 280,000. I make it 25, and he makes it 100. I probably had the best hand, but I put him on A-K/A-Q and I don't want to gamble. If I lose, I'm almost out, and I had a good position and a good table, so I knew I would have a better chance than that.

RM: Coming to places like this, do you spend time sightseeing, or is it all poker?

JL: I usually do, but this time I came in the night before, so I went to sleep and woke up and played. Usually I play day 1A, so I can go out on day 1B to see the city and take a guided tour, but this time I played day 1B, so I didn't have much time off, but maybe afterward.

RM: Do you have a strategy going into the final table?

JL: I'll have to see my position because there are three real sickos on the table, except for me, so there are probably four. But with the other three, I need to have position on them to play my game, and they have big stacks as well. It's different ... on day 3 when we were nine-handed, it was like everyone was having fun except two guys sitting there - fold, fold, fold. We were laughing, drinking, and having fun. It didn't look like an EPT final table. Usually, everyone's quiet, just folding ... it was just high-fiving and having fun.

RM: Did you find that worked better for you?

JL: Yeah. I felt like it was me who brought it to the table. If I wasn't there, I think it would just be a regular table. I don't like to sit there quiet. The game is so boring, everyone is just sitting and waiting for hands, not talking, and just pushing chips around. That's boring.

RM: That's such an important side to the game, isn't it, the social element?

JL: Yeah. It's fun. I like it when everyone's talking and having fun, and cheering.

RM: Do you think that European fields are softer than American fields?

JL: It depends on the tournament; at World Series side events, it's probably the same as here, but if you play bigger events like Monte Carlo and the World Series of Poker Europe, the field is tougher; it's all pros, almost, but down here, it was not that good.

RM: Where to next, and what do you want to achieve?

JL: To win in Amsterdam.

Johnny Lodden finished in eighth place for €74,480

Day 4 - Final Table: Martin Jacobson

Martin JacobsonSwedish online player Martin Jacobson made some impressive moves as he tortured his way to the final table. No one expected it from his clean-cut, cool-as-a-cucumber exterior, but this young man meant business and was determined to make his first proper impact on the live-tournament stage. He spoke to Card Player after the event about his tournament history, luck, strategy, and future plans.

Rebecca McAdam: Can you tell me about your tournament history?

Martin Jacobson: This is my third live tournament and I finished in third place. I've been playing online only the last three years and my biggest tournament win is when I came second in the Sunday Million three months ago.

RM: You've mainly been playing online, so what do you find are the major differences between online and live play?

MJ: When you're sitting in front of the computer, you don't have to think about your emotions or anything. You can play a lot of tables. That's one thing that I think is better with live play, you can stay focused, and that comes automatically, especially in a big tournament like this. It's easier to go on tilt when you're playing online.

RM: Which do you prefer?

MJ: I like them both. There are some things I like better playing live, and there are some things I like better playing online.

RM: Have you ever played in an EPT before?

MJ: Yeah, I played in London.

RM: How did you get on there?

MJ: Not so good, I went out after about seven hours on the first day.

RM: Did you qualify online for both of those EPTs?

MJ: Yeah, I did. The one in London, I qualified by Steps, but for this one, I was out pretty late and it wasn't running anymore. There was only one last-chance satellite left. It was beginning a couple of hours later, so I registered for $800, and I finished first, and there was only one package. So, that was pretty good. I really wanted to go because I heard that Budapest was going to be fun.

RM: What did you think of the players at the event?

MJ: I think it was much easier competition than it was in London, because of the World Series running and all. So, all the pros were in town. I didn't see so many recognisable pros here. I think poker is pretty new in Hungary, so it was much easier here than in London.

RM: Were there any major hands that changed the course of your game?

MJ: Yeah. The first day, I was all in with nines against aces. A guy pushes from out of position, and I'm pretty short-stacked, but he was really short. So, I reraised him and pushed in with 8,000, he had about 4,000, and then the guy on the button insta-moves all in, too, so I knew it wasn't about position. Of course, he had aces, and the other guy, the first opening raiser, had K-Q, and then the flop comes 9-9-4. That was a really good moment. I had some flush draws with some really big pots the second day, which I hit, so that was really important, too. And today, I held 10-7 suited, and I flopped a flush draw. I knew Johnny [Lodden] had an overpair, and I wasn't really sure what the Hungarian player had. I felt he was weak, so I moved over the top, but he called because he had called Johnny's raise. But he called with A-K of diamonds, which is actually the worst hand he can have, for me, so I was looking really bad. The turn was a good card, a 7, so I made a pair, and then a 9 came on the river. I survived and won a huge pot.

RM: Do you think that luck was a major factor in this event for you?

MJ: Yeah. I can't disagree with that. I made top three.

RM: What's your style of play?

MJ: I'm trying to change my style on each table. I think you have to do that, especially in tournaments like this.

RM: What would you like to do next?

MJ: I've a friend going to Amsterdam, and I heard a ton of people saying it's going to be great, but I don't know, it's pretty soon. I might go there. I don't know about Poland, but Prague, I think that's going to be good, too. And the PCA and the World Series, as well.

Martin Jacobson finished in third place for €197,904

Day 4: William Fry - EPT Hungarian Open Champion (€595,839)

William FryWilliam Fry grinded it out professionally for years, although it must be noted, primarily in the online world. Cashing here and there in live tournaments, it took the first-ever EPT to be held in Hungary before the red-haired Brit would make it to the final table of a major event. His happy-go-lucky demeanour was shattered, as the field got smaller, by some shockingly courageous moves, and uncanny reads. As he sipped a celebratory glass of red wine, he spoke to Card Player about impressive opponents, taking Phil Hellmuth to the cleaners, and getting to where he is today.

Rebecca McAdam: What did you expect from your first EPT, were you nervous?

William Fry: Not really. I was just going to take each hand as it came, and I was quite glad to see that there was not the best standard early on. I heard the people around saying that this was one of the weaker fields of the EPTs, so that was good, and it all went well.

RM: Were there any make-or-break hands with which you probably should have gone out but a bit of luck got you by?

WF: None that would have knocked me out, really, except for the final table. I had queens versus jacks early on, but that's not make or break because I'm ahead. I had one river card that was really, really nice to me when I was bluffing. He checked the flop, I checked the flop, and then he checked the turn, and I bet the turn, and I had nothing. And I hit this miracle card to make a straight - I needed a 10, basically; otherwise, I was crushed. Then he moved all in and I had the nuts. So, that one card was so pretty. I was loving it. But apart from that, no, I pretty much just grinded my way there. Sounds a bit weird, but I didn't even run amazingly well; I just always had chips. I was pretty consistent. I was pretty happy with the way I was playing.

RM: Did anyone impress you?

WF: Yeah, Johnny Lodden. His attitude ... he's Norwegian, so they're probably used to the cold. He's like an ice guy. And he'll tell a quick joke and be really funny, as well, and you'll be like, "That's really funny," and then he'll go ice again. When he's raising you, you kind of think, "Hmm, interesting." Kara Scott played quite well. An English guy, Sebastian Saffari, was looking good when he was on my table. I didn't play with him for long enough to tell how good he was. Annette Obrestad - she was playing very well. She got sucked out on. I took some chips off her, which is always nice because she's very good.

RM: Is there anyone you would have liked to play against, like any of the big pros?

WF: Yeah, loads! Phil Ivey, Greg Raymer, Chris Ferguson, Phil Hellmuth ...

RM: Is there anyone you think you could take?

WF: I'd take Hellmuth to the cleaners. He's a good player, but I think I could get under his skin as much as he gets under everyone else's. That's part of his game. I'd like to play with Patrik Antonius ... Doyle Brunson, just to say I've played with him. I could go on for ages.

RM: Did you have a strategy in this event?

WF: I had a strategy most days. Day 4's strategy was to keep it tight early on and wait for a few people to go out with their short stacks. The short stacks didn't go out, but a couple people went out, like Johnny Lodden. I was going to wait until it got down to about six-handed and then I'd have a bit more money. Once I got to about sixth or fifth, for about €100,000, I was happy with that, so I just thought, go for it, start getting aggressive, start raising with pretty much any two cards, maybe three-betting people. Although, I didn't do that too much. But early on, it was definitely just to stay tight, and wait for some other guys to make some moves. It was a crazy-action final table. I think it was a good final table for me, as there was some wild stuff going on.

RM: Because you're primarily an online player, what are the major differences for you between live and online?

WF: I'll give you an example because there's not that many. OK, you can see players and you've got tells. The standard when you play live is worse. Online, it is very strong. I had a situation the other day that was really great playing live, because I can be a bit of an observant sneaky guy. I went to make a raise with some rubbish hand to steal some blinds early on, and the gentleman in the small blind was leaning quite far forward. I've kind of read some books and some articles in magazines that have said if a player leans forward, he's quite interested in what's going on, and if he's back, he's not interested. He was right forward and then he looked at his hand about three times. Come on! Why do you look at your hand three times? You want to make sure you've still got the A-K or whatever, so I was going to raise and then I thought ... no, I won't raise, I'll see what happens. I folded, and the guy next to me raised, and he said, "All in." I was just like, "I'm in the zone!"

RM: So, all of these things you maybe haven't experienced as much online as live ...

WF: I've still played some live events, just some smaller ones and festivals. I've been to the Masters in Holland twice, that's really good fun. I played in one tournament out there, I think it was a €500 buy-in. Recently I went to Austria for the Masters in Vienna. It's a wicked place. I played in three events, the early ones, the €100 rebuy, the €500, and the €400, so I've played some live tournaments.

RM: How did you do in them?

WF: I did all right. I came 13th in one of them, which was the bubble, and I had a 50/50 with a guy to go one of the chip leaders, so I was a bit annoyed, I thought I could have won that one.

RM: Have you upped your game since?

WF: No, not at all. I've been a pretty strong poker player, I think, for the last ... about a year and a half. You just keep getting better in this game because you keep learning, and as long as you have the right mindset, as long as you're always ready to learn more, there's always more information to learn out there. There's always stuff to improve in this game, because it's got so many facets, and so many different aspects to it. You might be great at reading players, but maybe your maths is a bit of a problem. Or you've got all that probability, and you know all the maths, and you know how to read players, but your mentality ... like, if you lose a hand, you get angry. You've got all these things. You've just got to get good at everything. That would be nice. So, I've got some stuff to work on.

RM: Why did you do a deal? What was the decision behind that?

WF: I think the money was just too important to me at this stage of my life. I mean, I've got a mortgage to pay and I want a bit of extra money, and I think with that money, I can do some good for myself. So, I thought, yeah, let's do a deal. I was happy with the deal, as it was a lot of money. The other gentleman was happy, and the guy who came in third, Martin Jacobson, wasn't too happy with his deal, but we gave him about €3,000 extra, and suddenly he was very happy.

RM: Are you going to go to another EPT after this?

WF: Yeah, I think I will. I've got the buy-in now, I don't have to use my Action Points to get in. I think I will still play the satellites. I don't know. It's a crazy day for me.