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Phillips: Tournament Players Need A 'Lack Of Fear'

Poker Pro Talks About Bracelet Win At 2012 WSOP

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Carter Phillips

Carter Phillips took down an impressive total of $751,468 in 2012, with a steady diet of WSOP and WSOP Circuit events. After six years in poker, he says he may not have the drive to play full-time poker, but it certainly isn’t because of lack of results. Phillips boasts over $3.6 million in career winnings, 109 total cashes, and nine titles.

Phillips took the time to talk with Card Player about his victory at the 2012 WSOP, how to take advantage of opponents playing afraid, and why, to him, playing poker is “like riding a bike.”

Logan Hronis: Tell us about your poker roots. How did you come to know the game, what drew you toward such a career, and so on?

Carter Phillips: I first got my start in poker during the Moneymaker boom. My parents saw poker, due to its rise in popularity, and bought my brother and I our first poker set. I’m a very competitive person, and because poker is such a competitive and strategic game I fell in love with it immediately. It became a fun hobby, and I started to get a better feel for the game. Once I started playing more often and looking into the game, I realized that there was a ton of money to be made, and that there were many professionals making a killing. After learning about all the people doing it for a living, I became obsessed with the idea that I could play a game for a living and compete for so much money, so I started working towards my goal of playing full-time.

LH: What is the North Carolina poker scene like? Have you seen it grow in popularity over the course of your career, and do you think it will change much in the future?

CP: In North Carolina there isn’t really much of a poker scene. Poker and gambling are illegal in North Carolina, so the only games that run are small home games and underground games. I don’t really think there’s been an influx in the amount of games over my career, but I’ve learned of more games, and play in some of them occasionally.

LH: Talk about your big win at the $1,500 buy-in at the WSOP. With such a large and impressive field, as well as a good amount of prize money on the line, how do you keep a steady mentality throughout such a tournament?

CP: My win this summer in Event 31 at the WSOP was an amazing experience. In my opinion, experience is a poker player’s greatest asset. I’ve been playing now for six years and have had other success. That really helped me in this tournament. It was pretty easy to keep a good mentality and nothing really ever ran through my head except trying to make the best decision on each hand. I love pressure situations and feel very comfortable in them.

LH: There are tons of poker tournaments around the country in a given month. How do you decide which tournaments you will play and which you will pass on?

CP: I actually don’t have a strategy for choosing which tournaments to go to and I haven’t played much outside of the WSOP in the past two years. Poker is a great job for me and I love it, but it’s not something I have the passion to do on a full-time basis anymore. I basically just travel to a tournament or two when I’m missing the game and have the itch to play. Nowadays, if I do this, I just choose a tournament as close to my home base in Charlotte as I can.

LH: What is the most important skill a pro poker player must have, in your opinion?

CP: I believe there are different answers to this question, based on what type of game you play. Being a tournament player, I’d say that the biggest attribute a tournament player could have is lack of fear. All the money is in the top few spots in a poker tournament, so you need to play for the win at all times and not be afraid to put your tournament on the line making a move or play you believe to be correct. Everyone else is playing afraid, trying to preserve their tournament life, so the best way to take advantage of this is to be fearless.

LH: Being an online player also, what is your opinion about the online poker situation, both past and future, and how has it affected you?

CP: I had my start in online poker, so it was awful to see it go. The biggest thing I miss is the convenience of being able to work anywhere I wanted to, and now I must travel for live or online. I miss it, and I hope it comes back, in the future. I just took a trip to Mexico a few weeks ago to play FTOPS and really enjoyed it, so hopefully online poker is back in the United States soon.

LH: Where do you feel like your game is at right now, if you were to compare it to the rest of your career? Is that something you even think about, or do you just try to concentrate on making as many correct decisions as possible.

CP: I think my game is sharp because I have been playing so long that it has become almost second nature. I don’t play regularly anymore, so I’m sure I’m not nearly as sharp as I used to be when I played full time, but I think that playing good poker is kind of like riding a bike. Normally, it just takes a day or two to get back into the swing of things, when I start playing after long breaks.

LH: Do you play cash games at all? If so, do they play a role in your bankroll management or financial strategy, or are they mostly for fun?

CP: I play cash games sometimes, but I admit I’m not that great at them. I’m a break-even cash player, and in the past I just play when it’s the only available poker. I learned the game playing tournaments, so that’s what I am best at. In cash games, that same aggression factor that helps me win tournaments hurts me, and it’s hard to adjust from one form to the other.

LH: Do you have any interests outside of poker that you want to share? Is there anything in danger of taking away some of your interest in poker in the future?

CP: Most of my interests lie outside of poker. I love working out and being healthy, so fitness and healthy eating is a focus of mine. I am also currently studying different forms of investing and would like to hopefully one day become a great investor.