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Capture the Flag: Sam Trickett

Capture the Flag: Sam Trickett

by Brian Pempus |  Published: Jun 07, 2011


Sam TrickettThe United Kingdom’s Sam Trickett the Flag: Sam Trickett is one of the hottest tournament players on the planet right now, winning more than $3 million in January alone. Thanks to the incredible start to 2011, the poker pro has amassed $4.6 million in career tournament earnings, and he’s just 24 years of age.

Trickett started off this year by winning the $100,000 buy-in event for $1.5 million at the Aussie Millions. That tournament, which drew 38 of the world’s best players, was by far Trickett’s largest career score. However, he would have to wait only a week before winning another $1.5 million.

With the major bankroll boost, he decided to enter the $250,000 super high-roller event, after having some concerns at first about the strength of the field. With 20 players ponying up the massive buy-in, Trickett waded through the field — which included some Chinese businessmen with whom Trickett was familiar from his time in the high-stakes Macau games in the past — before eventually finishing second to Erik Seidel. The performance netted Trickett more than $1.4 million.

After his victory in the $100,000 event, Trickett talked with Card Player about his friend James Bord (winner of the 2010 World Series of Poker Europe main event), mentioning that Bord had “been a big part” of his life. When Trickett “kind of went broke in 2009, being immature and irresponsible” with his money, Bord served as a “big brother” for the young poker pro, helping him to get back on his feet. It was Bord who had a large piece of Trickett in the Macau cash games.

In the midst of the rush of tournament success — which also included a second-place finish in an event at last summer’s WSOP, a final table at the 2010 European Poker Tour Vilamoura, and a win in the 2010 World Poker Open VI in September — Trickett found time to sit down with the likes of Tom Dwan and Phil Ivey in the high-stakes cash games in Macau. The games, which revolved around a number of the aforementioned wealthy Chinese businessmen, were very lucrative for Trickett.

With millions in tournament earnings over the past year, along with hundreds of thousands in Macau profits, Trickett has come a long way since learning the game at a bar in 2005. His start in poker was not an explosion onto the scene, or even a flash; instead, he played in a low-stakes game that his friend ran once a month. “He ran a poker tournament, and knew I liked gambling, so he told me to come down and learn how to play. So, I did.” The rest, as they say, is history.

Card Player caught up with the Titan Poker pro and former semiprofessional football player to talk about his start in poker, the massive $250,000 buy-in event, as well as the infamous Macau games that allegedly featured million-dollar pots.

Brian Pempus: Please talk about your career as a football player. Was it hard to give up the sport?

Sam Trickett: I love football and miss it very much. Ever since I was young, I wanted to be a professional, and I thought about it every day. I started playing for Retford United Football Club when I was 10 years old, and played with them for a few years. I played well for Retford, so I got picked to play for my county, and also got picked for the team to represent the league. I played for Sheffield United and also the Retford United first team when I was 16. Nottingham Forest then scouted me, and I went and played for them, but it didn’t work out too well. Being told I would never play again after my knee injury was the most devastating news I have ever received. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was lucky to have an amazing family and girlfriend to help me stay positive and support me through it all.

BP: This has arguably been your breakout year on the tournament circuit. What has contributed to your rush of recent success?

ST: I think I started looking at the game in a different way after watching Phil [“OMGClayAIken”] Galfond’s videos. I watched and listened to him break down the game and talk about ranges. I then played thousands of hands online at the medium stakes, and started crushing and playing well on a consistent basis.

BP: What cash-game stakes do you typically play? Where do you play?

ST: I have never taken online poker very seriously, and when I play, it’s only because I am bored and have nothing better to do. If I do play online, it’s normally $25-$50 pot-limit Omaha on Titan Poker, because the games are really good, and even better on the weekends. When I play live, it’s normally at the Palm Beach Casino in London, and I will play the biggest game possible.

BP: Can you talk about the $250,000 event at the Aussie Millions? How do the big buy-in tournaments compare with high-stakes cash games?

ST: I remember being at the final table of the $250,000 event, and I was actually embarrassed at one point, because of how good I was running. I got heads up with a 4-1 chip lead and managed to blow it in 45 minutes. I have never felt so tilted and angry with myself, because I played bad and made some sloppy mistakes. Playing in the big cash games is different than tournaments, because in a cash game, you can be more patient and wait for some good hands and decent situations, but in a tournament, you have to apply a lot more pressure because the blinds are always increasing.

BP: In the big Macau cash games, what stakes were being played? Did you come out a winner? How do the Chinese businessmen play? Are they fish?

ST: The stakes were 5,000-10,000 Hong Kong dollars [1 HKD = $.1288], and I won and lost some sick pots that I will remember for the rest of my life. I did really well and came out with a decent profit. I don’t really want to say any more than that. People think the game is full of fish, but it is actually pretty tough, and it has some strong players in it. [The Chinese businessmen] love the game, though, and they enjoy playing big pots.

BP: Will you have 100 percent of yourself when you go back to Macau? What do you think is the future of the big cash games there?

ST: The last time I went, I got staked, and it went really well. So, I’m happy to stick with the same deal for now. I think there will be more and more pros going to play in the side games, and it’s only a matter of time before the games are really tough.

BP: How are the live cash games in the United Kingdom? Can you describe how they differ from high-stakes games in Asia and the United States?

ST: At the moment, cash games in the UK are pretty tough, and have not been that good. The games in Asia always seem to play bigger than they do in the United Kingdom and the United States, mainly because the players love to see a flop and gamble a bit more preflop.

BP: How is your bankroll management? What advice would you give to beginning players who are struggling with this aspect of poker?

ST: It used to be terrible. I have lost a lot from being irresponsible with money, so my bankroll management is generally not too bad these days. A lot of players take shots at higher games when they are losing, which is not a good idea. I think taking shots at higher games is good as long as it’s when you’re fresh and feel that you’re playing well.

BP: What advice would you give to beginning players who make a large tournament score and want to jump into the cash games afterward? How does cash-game play help prepare you for tournament poker?

ST: Cash games are a lot different than tournaments, so I wouldn’t jump straight into high-stakes games. In a cash game, you don’t have to win every pot or apply constant pressure, because the blinds are always the same. So, you can afford to be more patient. I think that playing lots of hands of cash-game poker helps you realize when your hand is good and enables you to value-bet lighter. Lots of people pot-control in tournaments and check rivers when they should be betting for value.

BP: What hobbies or interests do you have outside of poker? What are your plans for the future?

ST: I love football and spending time with my friends and girlfriend. I want to carry on playing as high as possible, and hopefully grab a bracelet this year at the World Series of Poker. ♠