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Tony Cousineau On Quest For Win After 56 Cashes At World Series Of Poker: 'I'll Sleep When I Die'

Poker Pro Still Surviving On The Felt After Decade-Long Winless Streak


Many in the poker community consider Tony Cousineau to be the tightest regular on the tournament circuit. Such a reputation is fine by Cousineau.

The Florida native has been grinding out an existence on the felt for more than a decade, and during the stretch has amassed 56 cashes at the summer World Series of Poker, which puts him 15th on the all-time list. However, unlike everyone else with more than 40 cashes except one other player, Cousineau doesn’t have a gold bracelet.

Of course he wants to win, but Cousineau still loves what he’s doing. That’s even in the face of the fact that he hasn’t won a major tournament anywhere since 2003.

Cousineau took some time out of his break during WSOP action on Monday to chat about his poker career and what it would mean to him to finally find a win.

Brian Pempus: So, how are you feeling so far this summer?

Tony Cousineau: OK so far. At about half way through I am about dead even in terms of buy-ins. With that I can’t complain. I have three cashes. I see Dan Kelly has seven cashes, which is amazing. So far so good; a long ways to go, but I’m already exhausted. I’ll sleep when I die.

BP: As everyone knows, you cash a lot but have never won a bracelet. Does this bother you?

TC: You know, not really. I kind of laugh about it. I sort of wear it as a badge of honor. Everyone always says, ‘You have the most cashes without a bracelet,’ and I’m like, ‘Is that a jab in the side or a compliment?’ I can never really tell. I had the final table earlier this Series and actually had a shot. I wish I would have finished better, but one of these times I think we’ll get there.

BP: Do you think how tight you play is exaggerated?

TC: Yeah, it works to my advantage with people who know me. I can get away with quite a few things. Against people who don’t know me it’s a waste of time. When I have been able to use it to my benefit I like the persona. Let’s keep it that way (laughing).

BP: Are you especially conscious of the money jumps in tournaments?

TC: The money jumps don’t really affect me, but I hate bubbling. So if I am in the money it’s smooth sailing. But I really detest going out close to the bubble. Yeah, I do my best to not let that happen. For some reason it weighs on me.

BP: That’s probably one of the reasons why you have so many min-cashes? Because while others play aggressive near the bubble in order to build a stack you try to sneak in?

TC: That makes perfect sense.

BP: How have you changed as a poker player over the years?

TC: I’ve gotten older and greyer (laughing). That’s pretty much all I can say. No…you actually learn a lot of things. The game has evolved. It’s crazy different than it was back in 2000 when I first started playing in the World Series. You just try to pick up on what some of the successful players are doing and add it to your game. However, it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, so you kind of try to incorporate things without totaling changing your game.

BP: Do you think it’s fair to say you have better bankroll management than some in poker? Sometimes we hear about crazy swings, but it seems with you that’s never an issue.

TC: I think I live life pretty close to how I play poker. I live more on the conservative side. When I have done well in poker, I’ve tried to invest and buy properties, and do things that will keep me in the game long-term. You know, anybody can have a bad run. If you don’t have a bankroll you can’t play. It’s tough to get backing these days. I tend to try to keep myself in the game, and it has been ten years now going strong. Other than being tired, I think I am doing alright.

BP: Where do you think you developed this conservative style? Something with your upbringing or the people you have surrounded yourself with?

TC: Wow, I don’t really know how to answer that. It’s amazing to me how so many players can be different. I play with Vanessa Selbst and I’m like ‘My god’ at the massive aggression. You know, it’s almost like it’s in your DNA or not in your DNA.

BP: Can you talk about you life off the felt?

TC: I don’t have any leaks as far as going into the casinos and blowing money in the pits like some others do, making massive sports bets and going broke. I like to travel and keep a low profile. However, I’ve tapered off poker quite a bit these days. I don’t go to every event anymore.

BP: Do you see yourself staying in poker for the next decade, or two, or the rest of your life?

TC: For the immediate future, I’d say ‘yeah,’ I have no giant plans to go into a different line of work. But you never know what life is going to do. Things change.

BP: Have poker and your investments sort of become self-sustaining now, to the point where you don’t need financial backing to keep playing poker?

TC: Yes, I actually have never had a backer before, and I hope I never do down the road. I have made enough investments to where I have a good residual income that I can lean back on when times are running bad in poker. That’s a good thing.

BP: What did you do for money prior to this poker run?

TC: Once I graduated from college, I went back to work for my family in Florida. They own a billiard distributor business. It was like running a nightclub for four or five years. It was like babysitting a bunch of wild teenage kids. I made really good money, but it was wearing me down. The late nights and being around people who were partying and drinking and smoking, none of which I do. I eventually had to get out of that, and I branched off into poker.

BP: A lot of people would say poker is stressful too, but not for you?

TC: No. Other than the grey hair, I love it. I’ve always been a competitive person; played sports. For me this is great. Even when I am running bad, I wake up and say, ‘Wow, I’m playing at the World Series of Poker; this is awesome, and be grateful no matter how many royal flushes you run into.’ By the way, I ran into two royal flushes the first week at this World Series. I guarantee I am the only idiot that had that happen to him.

BP: Yeah, if you walk around the Rio a lot of times the players look miserable, but you always seem to be enjoying yourself, or at least relaxed and content.

TC: Oh, 100 percent. I don’t have the stresses that a lot of these players have. I don’t envy them for that. I have actually put some friends into these tournament to try to help them out and because I believe in their skill, but you can have all the skill in the world, but if lady luck isn’t going to shine on you…it’s just the way it goes. They were good investments…I like to try to keep it light at the table and joke around with people. If you are going to be here for 12 to 14 hours, you can’t be too serious all the time.

BP: So what happens when you win a bracelet? What kind of celebrating ensues?

TC: Wow! Disney World and all that…well maybe not Disney World because I grew up an hour from it. I don’t know. It would be a relief, I guess you could say. I’d pass the torch to my friend Tom McCormick who is next in line for a ton of cashes and no bracelets. So, I’d like to get rid of that record that I have, but we’ll see what happens. If not this year, we’ll go for it next year.