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Poker Player PROfile: Paul Volpe

Volpe Discusses Successful Year, Turning Away Beggars and His New Love For High-Stakes Mixed Games

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Philadelphia native Paul Volpe had an incredible year on the tournament circuit in 2013, racking up 21 cashes, nine final tables and two wins for over $1.5 million in earnings.

His performance was enough to finish second in the Card Player Player of the Year race. This year, he’s already continued his hot streak by taking second in a $2,000 Open Face Chinese tournament at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and first in a $5,000 no-limit hold’em tournament at the L.A. Poker Classic for $127,490.

Card Player caught up with Volpe to discuss his 2013 performance, his new found love of mixed games and avoiding people who ask for handouts in the poker room.

Julio Rodriguez: Congratulations on your recent win. It’s always nice to start the year off with a big score.

Paul Volpe: Thanks. It seems like every time I go to Los Angeles I do pretty well. I have to start going more often.

JR: Last year was your best on the tournament circuit and you finished runner-up to Daniel Negreanu in the Card Player Player of the Year race. Was that a title you were gunning for before Negreanu pulled away late in the year?

PV: I wasn’t really gunning for it, to be honest. I traveled more last year than ever before, but I still didn’t quite have the schedule I needed to compete for Player of the Year. I just can’t be on the road for months at a time. I have to be home for at least a few weeks every once in a while to kind of reset and regroup. I love traveling and seeing new places, but it can get old pretty quick. I’m a picky eater, so some trips are a little harder than others. I like the familiarity of being home and knowing I can eat exactly what I want and sleep in my own bed.

JR: It may not have been enough to win POY, but you still recorded cashes in places like Prague, London, Atlantic City, Fort Lauderdale, Berlin, Monaco, Las Vegas, San Jose, Los Angeles and the Bahamas. Obviously some trips are more financially rewarding than others, but what was your favorite stop on the circuit?

PV: I’d say my favorite trip was to the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo. I know that some players hate it because the prices are outrageous. For instance, the hotel was charges something ridiculous like €14 for bottles of Coke. But I had a great time because I rented a moped for the week and wasn’t confined to the tournament area and hotel. I went out every day, sometimes even alone, and was able to explore the city and find new spots and try different food. It was great.

Paul Volpe at the WSOPJR: You won over $1.5 million on the tournament circuit last year. Last July when you were featured on the cover of Card Player Magazine, you said you were going to be very careful to avoid anyone who approached you with a get-rich-quick scheme.

PV: I managed to listen to my own advice, thankfully. I kind of fell for something a few years back, one of those shady business propositions, but this time around I managed to avoid any bad decisions. That’s not to say that I’m not asked for handouts or stakes all the time. Those guys know who is running good and who is the next sucker. I get messages on Facebook all the time asking for staking or a loan or just cash because of some sob story. A lot of people who are down on their luck that I haven’t talked to in years have come out of the woodwork for cash.

JR: You’ve now played in some of the highest buy-in tournaments in the world. Do you have trouble staying motivated in smaller buy-in events?

PV: Sometimes I’ll play in a $1,000 event and, this is awful to say, but I have a hard time focusing. I’m much more willing to just be all in and gamble compared to a $10,000 event where I’m playing my best from start to finish. I guess that’s normal when you go up in stakes, but it’s something I’ve got to work on. I play better when the buy-in stings a little, whether it’s a $10,000 or $25,000 or whatever.

JR: What about in the late stages of a tournament? When the big money is up for grabs, are you more willing to gamble because you’ve already been there and done that, or does your experience in that situation give you an edge?

PV: If anything, I’ve become hyper alert of players who aren’t willing to gamble when it counts. They’ll three bet you, but they aren’t willing to put it all in without a hand. You have to know the player you are up against and then take advantage. When the stakes get high, it actually becomes easier to apply that kind of pressure. I’ve already been there before, so I can pull the trigger and not second guess myself.

JR: Do you see yourself traveling this year as much as you did in 2013?

PV: I’ve actually been playing bigger mixed games, mainly at Borgata and at Commerce when I’m in L.A. I still love no-limit hold’em tournaments, but I will not play no-limit cash games. The games I play vary from $150-300 to $300-$600. So this year I’ll probably travel less and play in those games more.

JR: What would you say are your best and worst games among the usual mix?

PV: My best game is probably triple draw, but I’m still learning badeucy and badacey, which are some of the newer games on the east coast. There’s a lot of similarities between those games and triple draw, but there are still some situations where I’m not completely sure which card to pitch. Also, it’s not really a game where I can ask a friend for advice, because the guys in the game are really trying their hardest to keep their strategies secret. There’s no sharing of information because they are trying to keep the games soft.