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Poker Stories Podcast With Kenny Hallaert

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Aug 12, 2020

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Poker Stories is a long-form audio podcast series that features casual interviews with some of the game’s best players and personalities. Each episode highlights a well-known member of the poker world and dives deep into their favorite tales both on and off the felt.

To listen, visit www.cardplayer.com/poker-podcasts or download it directly to your device from any number of mobile apps, such as Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, or Spotify. Catch up on past episodes featuring notables such as Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Justin Bonomo, Nick Schulman, Barry Greenstein, Michael Mizrachi, Bryn Kenney, Mike Sexton, Brian Rast, Chris Moneymaker, Maria Ho, Joe Cada, Freddy Deeb, and many more.

Age: 38
From: Hansbeke, Belgium
Live Tournament Earnings: $4.1 Million
Online Tournament Earnings: $6.5 Million

Top Live Tournament Scores

July 2016 WSOP $10,000 Main Event 6th Place $1,464,258
Nov. 2017 WSOP Europe High Roller For One Drop 10th Place $345,303
June 2017 WSOP $5,000 Six-Max 3rd Place $238,855
Jan. 2011 EPT Deauville Main Event 6th Place $210,962
June 2015 WSOP Colossus 5th Place $182,348

Kenny Hallaert is one of Belgium’s top poker pros, having won more than $4.2 million in live tournaments, along with another $6.5 million online playing under the name ‘SpaceyFCB.’ The 38-year-old recently won his third SCOOP title online, and has four World Series of Poker final table appearances on his resume, along with four deep runs in the main event. In 2016, he finished sixth for nearly $1.5 million.

Hallaert is currently no. 3 on Belgium’s all-time money list, but despite his success, he never gave up his day job. He started his poker journey while working as an electrician, and then later took a marketing job at a local casino. He was tasked with bringing players to the property, and as a result helped to popularize live tournaments in Belgium. Eventually Hallaert took over duties as Tournament Director, and he has since worked EPT events for PokerStars, as well as tournaments for Unibet.

Highlights from this interview include working as an electrician, playing card games at the bar with mom, Dutch poker, how a football accident made him a better player, bringing tournaments to Belgium, his unusual path to tournament director, why he never gave up his day job, the mental game, Ivey the end boss, a brutal but important bad beat, burning a house down in Monte Carlo, the silver lining of a sixth-place finish, a lottery ticket in the WSOP, finishing the job he signed up for, bathroom stall gaps, double-cooked fries, factory work, the unbeatable Niklas Astedt, three-betting with industrial techno, and getting away with graffiti.

The Transcript Highlights

On The Brutal Bad Beat He Suffered In Monte Carlo

Julio Rodriguez: I want to talk about your success at the World Series of Poker, but first, I want to bring up something that I saw in person. I was in Monte Carlo in 2010… one of the worst trips I ever took in my life, they lost my luggage, and I ended up wearing an ‘I Love Monte Carlo’ t-shirt for a couple days… but, I believe you had a worse trip.

Kenny Hallaert: Yeah. I mean, talk about [bad] trips.

JR: I was covering this hand. It was the [EPT Grand Final] main event, and it was deep. I want to say it was the second-to-last day of the tournament. Even though it was at an outer table, the two chip leaders in the tournament were there….

KH: I can tell you that there were exactly 37 players left. (laughing) I do remember for sure.

Monte Carlo and me have a love/hate relationship. Back in 2009, I was playing in my first EPT there, I had managed to qualify online. The biggest buy-in I had played up to that point was €1k, but this was €10k with the big boys. I had a good day 1, and on day 2 I drew the same table as Daniel Negreanu, which was kind of a poker dream come true. We were a couple hours into the day and I managed to bust him. I have to say he was an 80-percent favorite, but I hit my two-outer or whatever it was. I win some other pots, and before I realize it, I was chip leader.

I had my eye on the €20k min-cash, which was huge for me at the time, especially as a satellite winner. But somewhere on day 3, I got aces in pre against pocket fours, he happens to hit his four. I was left with 20 big blinds, three away from the money. Two hands later, I get in jacks vs. kings, [eliminated on the bubble].

JR: Well, at least you can say you made the money the next year.

KH: (laughing) Well, and it helped that I also won a side event that year, so that [explains the love/hate relationship] with Monte Carlo. I was disappointed, but it was still a good trip overall. Over the next year, I played some more EPTs, and qualified a few times, buying in for a couple, but never got the main event cash. That changed in 2010 back at Monte Carlo.

I was happy to get the monkey off my back, and things went well once we got into the money. I managed to knock out a couple people and build my stack. There were 848 entries, unique entries at the time, and €1.7 million ($2.2 million USD) up top. We were down to the final 37 players, and I was sitting there second in chips.

JR: I remember your table had all the chips.

KH: The chip leader (Matt Perrins) was also at the table. All of a sudden, I’m getting dealt aces. I remember the hand quite well. I opened from early position, middle position three-bet, and the chip leader in the cutoff four-bets. It gets folded around to me, and I decided to five-bet. The player [in the middle folded, and Perrins moved all-in].

He had kings, I had aces, and [even better], the guy who had folded in between us had A-K. So there was a king out, and we played this massive, five-times average pot. And the turn was a king. Of course, I was really gutted to get one-outed for a pot worth….

JR: I remember thinking that this guy could now go to the bathroom for two days and still make the final table.

KH: The pot was worth roughly… I calculated it afterwards, which I should not have done… €400k. So, basically, it’s part of a nice house that just burns up right in front of you.

The eventual winner of the tournament, Nicholas Chouity, was the only other guy to have more chips in that whole tournament than the size of that pot. That’s how insanely big that pot was, with 37 left.

JR: I remember writing that hand up.

KH: I was quite upset. I jumped out of my chair, threw my sunglasses to the other side of the room. Literally. Stormed outside.

But, looking back at my whole career. That was probably a very important pot where I learned a lot and gained a lot of experience. Everything was much easier after that pot. Afterwards, it was much easier to take a bad beat. It was a pot that gave me a lot of mental strength. I knew it couldn’t get worse than that. I mean, I can’t blame the guy for getting it in with kings. There’s a factor of luck involved in poker, and it wasn’t on my side [in that instance.]

That pot was very important for me, moving forward in my career. Especially once I realized that the guy who won it, only finished tenth in the tournament. I think he was a little bit unfortunate as well. It was a good lesson that even if I had won the pot, there was no guarantee that I was going to win the tournament, or even make the top five for that €400k. You could even bubble the final table. ♠

You can check out the entirety of the interview in the audio player at the top of the page or download it directly to your device to play on the go from Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app.

Catch up on past episodes featuring notables such as Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Jennifer Harman, Bryn Kenney, Justin Bonomo, Antonio Esfandiari, Nick Schulman, Barry Greenstein, Michael Mizrachi, Mike Sexton, Jamie Gold, Chris Moneymaker, Maria Ho, and many more. If you like what you hear, be sure to subscribe to get the latest episodes automatically when they are released.