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Capture the Flag: ‘Crazy Mike’ Thorpe

Capture the Flag: ‘Crazy Mike’ Thorpe

by Brian Pempus |  Published: Jul 13, 2011


Mike Thorpe“Crazy” Mike Thorpe has been a fixture in the high-stakes mixed games in Las Vegas for quite some time. The poker pro has been grinding along in the big games at Aria with the likes of Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Jen Harman, Barry Greenstein, Shaun Deeb, Jean-Robert Bellande, and Eugene Katchalov, day in and day out with limits as high as $1,000-$2,000. According to Thorpe, he was among the group of players who spearheaded the move to Aria from Bellagio.

Thorpe is known for his crazy antics at the table, keeping an old nickname even when other famous Mikes in poker, such as “Crazy” Mike Caro and Mike “The Mouth” Matusow, are poker house hold names. Despite the success these days, preceded by hundreds of thousands in profits from online limit hold’em, Thorpe has largely flown under the radar in the poker community. Except, of course, from some occasions when he has lived up to his moniker.

Back in 2007, Card Player blogger Shannon Shorr had an encounter with Thorpe during a no-limit hold’em tournament. “If anyone has been around Bellagio the last few days they probably know who I’m talking about,” Shorr wrote. “The egotistical twenty-something never shuts up and has been walking around Bellagio for the last 48 hours trying to challenge people to play him in a limit-hold’em freeze out. I honestly have never been at a table where someone talked as much as this kid.”

Thorpe is infamous for challenging anyone to heads-up limit hold’em — his bread-and-butter poker variant. As “Thorpie” on PokerStars, the Las Vegas resident was, back in his online-grinding prime, one of the most fearsome fixed-limit hold’em players in the world.

Poker pro Terrance Chan has also had a heads-up encounter with Thorpe, describing him in a blog as: “Mike’s ‘Crazy’ moniker is unquestionably well-earned, and he is one of the most unique people I’ve ever played, to say the least. He has an endless string of chatter which I guess might put people on tilt or cause them to make errors.” Fast forward to 2011, and as Thorpe is approaching 30 years of age, his demeanor at the table has calmed down.

Despite the allure of playing for six-figure pots against a group of poker’s elite at the cash game tables these days, Thorpe has found time to compete in this summer’s World Series of Poker – not surprisingly in the events with a fixed-betting structure. Over his card-playing career, Thorpe has cashed numerous times in limit hold’em events at the WSOP, but the deep run has so far eluded him.

Card Player found a few moments to catch up with the mixed-game whiz, to talk about the Aria cash games, his start in poker, as well as the state of limit hold’em.

Brian Pempus: So, what is your poker background?

Mike Thorpe: My claim to fame would be heads-up limit hold’em, where I am considered; well I am delusional in thinking that I am one of the best in the world, but at least my friends think I am in the top 20 in the world in the discipline. I have played millions of hands of heads-up limit hold’em online, and I eventually gravitated to mixed games a year or two ago because online limit hold’em died. The game is pretty much solved, and everyone is really good at it. My edge is very small in the game these days. There really is no [expected value] either way. Thus, I had to learn new games to continue to be a poker player, and that’s exactly what I did.

BP: So, for example, with those epic marathon matches between Patrik Antonius and the German IHateJuice, where each experienced million-dollar swings, it was just money moving around back and forth with really no discernible “better player”?

The Aria Poker Room

MT: Yes. I am actually friends with some of the German players who are considered some of the best in the world. The Germans are really good, and they usually beat most Americans in limit hold’em, but I had to find new games because I wasn’t getting action as well. Even IHateJuice wouldn’t play me at the stakes I wanted to play, which was lower than he typically played at. He wanted to play me super high, but I couldn’t afford the swings at those levels. I wanted to play at $100-$200 or $200-$400 across multiple tables against him, but he wanted to play $1,000-2,000 and $2,000-$4,000. The swings at that level are hundreds of thousands of dollars, and that’s a little bit too much in a session for me. These days at the cash games at Aria, I usually buy in for 50 big bets, or about $30,000, which is much more reasonable.

BP: You mentioned the cash games at Aria. There has definitely been a buzz around these games lately. How have they been in your eyes?

MT: Aria is the only place in Las Vegas where you can play black chip cash games. We have done well in the past few months to actually mold our games to have a unique player base to keep the games going every day. We started playing $200-$400 about six months ago, and we have gravitated up to $300-$600 and $400-$800. We usually have three games or more at those stakes running every day, which will continue throughout the Series.

BP: What is your relationship like with these games? What poker variants do you play?

MT: Well, when I am in the game we play “Mike Says,” and if I am not in the game, then it’s a mix that includes baducey and badacey, Omaha, Texas hold’em, deuce-to-seven, razz, deuce-to-seven triple draw, and all the other great, classic mixed games that are out there. It’s a lot of fun.

“Mike Says” is when I get to pick the game and the limit, and that’s about it. The regulars there give me this because they consider me a fish. I lost a lot of money in the cash games when we first started playing a year ago, but I’ve done a little better since then. They still let me play “Mike Says,” which is nice. But the game goes where the fish are, and everyone convinced me to play here, so the game went to Aria.

Mike Thorpe

BP: How has Black Friday affected the big cash games in town?

MT: The games have picked up a lot since then. When we internet people can’t play online anymore, we have to come to the casino to find action. We are really excited about the future of these types of games at Aria, but even if they just remained steady and stayed the same that would be great.

BP: Final question: How did you get the nickname “Crazy Mike”?

MT: Nine or ten years ago in San Diego I was stationed in the navy. When I was in the service I played poker in local card rooms, and there were three Mikes at the time who were regulars in the games. Everyone just called me “crazy Mike,” because since when I was 18 or 19 years old, I would run around and yell like a hyena and jump on top of the tables, and do all other sorts of crazy things. The name just stuck after that. I am known just by my nickname now, as I don’t think anyone in the big cash games these days even knows my last name, which is kind of funny. I guess I have branded myself well. However, going back to my behavior at the table — there have been lots of incidents here at Aria, but I try to not be malicious in nature, or as annoying and obnoxious as I used to be. I have just gone with some fun needles sometimes against certain players. We have had some fun times in the big mixed games lately.