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Thomas Pedersen - World Champion

By Gary Clarke

by Gary Clarke |  Published: Dec 01, 2011

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Thomas PedersenThomas Pedersen hit the poker headlines late September when he won the $5,200 main event of the World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) receiving $1,260,018 for outlasting a strong field of 1,627 opponents.

But online poker success is peculiar. Despite Pedersen’s prestigious victory he was no celebrity when part of Team Victor Chandler Poker at the recent European Masters of Poker (EMOP) in Barcelona. A couple of gentle acknowledgements and the odd hand shake — it seemed like the previous night’s side event winner was getting more recognition.

This hardly mattered to the affable Dane. Being made an overnight millionaire appears to restrain any social neediness. Having won such a landmark tournament earlier in the week, he was free to relax and breathe the sweet air of success, for he is now an online poker world champion.

Pedersen’s buoyancy is infectious. Nimble, he seems to float around Barcelona’s Gran Casino without having to lift his feet. At 28-years-old he has, just a few days previous, boosted his bankroll by another cool million. It’s no wonder he’s cheerful.
His final table performance at the WCOOP was awe-inspiring. Using his chip lead to full advantage, Pedersen knocked out six of his eight final-table opponents en route to his online championship bracelet. A poker pro for the last three years, this is his coming-out party as he now enters the upper echelons of his country’s poker talent.

“I played poker for about six years but I began playing for a living about three years ago,” he explained. “Before I started poker I was a sports bettor and it was a natural transition. I was a part-time waiter, about 10 hours a week, but more importantly it was beside where I did my sports betting at that time!’

Reserved, Pedersen’s speech is calm and deliberate as he sits patiently taking in the warm Barcelona afternoon sun. Like a rockstar, being interviewed poses as much of a challenge to him as opening a window. He exhibits the confidence and poise of a man who is clearly at ease with his recent success. He appears like poker glory was something which he was anticipating rather than something which had crept up on him.

Following on from his sports betting endeavours, Pedersen found poker and from it he would find both enjoyment and profit. “At the start it was fun and you could make money on it. This was the start of my poker career,” he says.

Cash Game Beginnings

From there Pedersen searched for a niche within the game as he continued to dabble with his poker pursuits. Weighing up his options between poker tournaments and cash games he would also have to decide if hold’em or Omaha would be the game of choice on which his poker career would be built.

“I am a cash game player and not a tournament player that much. I started playing shorthanded hold’em and converted to pot-limit Omaha [PLO] heads-up and that’s what I’m doing now for cash games.”

A warrior at the tables ever since, it’s no wonder Pedersen chooses Gladiator as his favourite film of all time. His performance at the WCOOP main event has been his biggest battle to date and it was one which did not begin as planned.

“I started playing a satellite and I was pretty unlucky when a maniac called me in a big pot. I then reloaded in the satellite and the same guy called and busted me again.”
Pedersen had also endured a tough WCOOP prior to the main event. Despite playing plenty of events, his results were not encouraging.

“I played some PLO events — the heads-up event and the shorthanded and also some hold’em ones. I played about eight or 10 events at the WCOOP. I cashed in the PLO heads-up event, I think I got 16th, but that was my only cash besides the main event.”

Combining the poor series with having failed to satellite into the main event, Pedersen was pretty unsure about even entering the tournament he would ultimately win.

“I actually hadn’t planned on playing, a friend of mine alerted me to the tournament and three hours into the late registration I signed up and next day I was world champion.”

Thomas PedersenFate Intervenes

Those who believe in destiny will say that Pedersen’s WCOOP main event victory was inevitable but fate had left it late in this instance. With his misfortune in the satellites and his very late decision to register it is a very probable reality that Thomas Pedersen may have never entered the WCOOP main event.

“Ten minutes before the late registration was finished I registered. Three hours and 50 minutes after the tournament had started I bought into the main event of the WCOOP direct for $5,200.’

Confident, Pedersen would have to make up for lost time with the tournament now well in progress. He may have avoided an early level car-crash hand but such a late entry still presents a handicap which left him unworried. Similarly, the sizable online tournament entry fee was not considered an issue.

Money is something which Pedersen is not short of. His day-to-day vehicle is not a Toyota Aygo (the best selling car in Denmark) but instead he drives around the streets of Varde in a Porsche Cayman S. Despite his recent WCOOP main event win, his car will not be upgraded and to be fair it would be difficult to better it. In fact even he is unsure of what exactly he will do with his recent windfall.

“Maybe I will go a bit up in the cash game levels. Maybe I will buy an apartment,” he suggests.

Fresh from his big poker win, any potential purchases are likely to remain in the “maybe” bracket while he ponders where his future lies. Wearing a neat, modern, bowler-styled hat, Pedersen is cool yet thoughtful. He is like the cat that got the cream but doesn’t want to drink it just yet. He’s still drinking in the elation which is likely to have him pumped up for at least another few weeks. Happy, he doesn’t want to think or talk too constructively just yet.

Outside Poker

But what else makes him happy? Well, Pedersen is a keen chef and loves his food. He talks with the passion of Jamie Oliver when the subject of food is brought up and like the popular TV chef Pedersen is not overweight either. Pedersen achieves his life balance by playing sports which is another hobby he enjoys.

“I love to cook and one of my favourite courses is tenderloin pork. It’s an open face sandwich and a delicious Danish meal. I also play a little bit of football.”

Outside of these interests Pedersen also has the benefit of a devoted girlfriend to look after him even when he loses money. In what can be a roller-coaster life, she has sat alongside Pedersen throughout his vocation.

“I’ve been together with my girlfriend for six years now so she is used to me doing poker. Whether it’s winning some money or losing some money, she’s OK with that.”

In the evening times when Pedersen is not playing poker, sports, or cooking, he also likes to watch movies and yes he has seen Rounders and no it’s not one of his favourite films. When deciding on what film to watch on a boring Tuesday night, Pedersen makes his choice based on the actors rather than the storyline.

“Gene Hackman is a good guy but Jack Nicholson is the best!”

Reading is something which the Dane did not refer to directly but he did allude to the fact that he has never read a poker book — a point which he surprisingly appears quite proud of. The thought of reading a poker book strikes him as a step backwards or perhaps an outdated pursuit. Largely self-thought, Pedersen does however acknowledge the teachings of Phil Galfond as a helpful improvement to his game.

“I’ve not read any poker books. One of my biggest inspirations is videos from Phil Galfond. He’s a pretty good player and good at explaining how he plays poker.”

But what does Pedersen attribute to his recent poker success? Perhaps it was expert coaching or hours spent running hand simulations? No, his moment of affinity came on the final day of the WCOOP main event and it came in the most unlikely of circumstances.

I Should Be So Lucky

“The moment I knew I could win the tournament was on the final day when some guys on the Danish poker forum sent me a link to a lucky song and after I played it I got the aces and won a big pot against A-K. This song helped me win the main event and I think it would have to be my favourite song.”

It may seem quite hilarious that Pedersen would credit a song in helping him to his milestone victory but it was lucky for him on more than one occasion!

“The second time I played the song was when one guy raised and I got the pocket sixes and the third guy from the blinds re-raised me and the first guy folded. Then I thought if the lucky song played from the start and I saw the flop then I would get the six. So I did it and I got the six and won a huge pot. It was a good song for me.”

The lucky song in question was I’m Shipping Up To Boston by Dropkick Murphys and one would suspect that many will try playing this song in an effort to bolster their poker success rate. Following Pedersen’s endorsement, this could even become the national anthem of online poker players!

Next up for Pedersen is a more devoted schedule of live poker which began at the Spanish EMOP with Team Victor Chandler Poker. There was no success on this occasion but such is the perils of tournament poker. He wants to be a champion in live poker as well as online and this is his next goal.

Naturally his main target is the World Series of Poker main event — a tournament in which he came 104th this year. Having had mixed success in live poker to date his live tournament winnings currently stands at a modest $100,000, a figure which is greatly dwarfed by his online gains.

As Pedersen embarks on his live poker pilgrimage, you can be sure he will have his iPod with him just in case he needs the help of his lucky song. ♠