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Will Failla: Tournament Poker 'Curse' Has Been Lifted

Veteran Card Player Battling Back After Long Period Of Poor Cards

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With more than $5.2 million in lifetime tournament earnings, Will “The Thrill” Failla is among the best in the game without a WSOP win. Unfortunately, he’s had few opportunities over the past two summers thanks to a poor run of cards.

Failla had just one cash last year, a 2,217th in the Colossus for under $1,100. This summer, the WPT champion had just one cash thru the first 60 events, but it was a fifth-place finish in the $1,500 no-limit hold’em bounty.

To date, he has 35 lifetime cashes and $669,651 in earnings at the WSOP. Four of those cashes were final tables.

Failla said that he was able to deal with last year’s downswing during the summer because of the support from friends and family, especially his wife. They helped motivate him to keep playing and try to get on the right side of variance.

Card Player caught up with Failla during a break in Wednesday’s $5,000 no-limit hold’em to ask him about how he was able to turn things around.

Brian Pempus: I know you ran really poorly last summer. Did it feel like the run-bad would never end?

Will Failla: Yeah, it did, but I feel like the curse has been lifted. It feels really good. I have a baby coming in two weeks, so we have a lot of luck on our side right now. I’m just taking it as it comes.

BP: Did the final table the other day end the curse?

WF: You know what’s funny? I get these feelings of relief sometimes, and it doesn’t come often. I was in a sit-and-go about a week ago, and I got it all in with A-4, heads-up for the thing, and the guy called me with KHeart Suit7Heart Suit. The flop fell JHeart Suit4Heart Suit3Heart Suit. I am drawing dead practically. I got up and started walking away. Then the turn was an ace and the river an ace. I said, “Holy shit, the curse was just lifted.” I honestly felt it. It just came to me like a premonition, and since then I’ve been running really well.

BP: It only took one hand for it to feel like things were turning around?

WF: Yeah, it really happened. It sucked that at the final table I was the chip leader five-handed and got aces cracked. But that’s poker. [Kristen Bicknell] called a huge raise preflop. I didn’t think she was going to. She made it 125,000; I made it 375,000, and she only had 2.7 million to start the hand. I had 3 million. She called with 8Spade Suit7Spade Suit, and the flop was J-10-9, two hearts. I have two red aces. The turn was the KHeart Suit, and it went check-check on the river. Besides that, I can’t complain. I am blessed and happy, and hopefully the run-good stays.

BP: Now with live tournaments, the sample size isn’t that large, so it’s easy to go on a long drought in terms of time. Can you talk about the nature of the tournament game?

WF: You see, that’s one thing so crazy about tournament poker. You can go ice cold for two years. I know some guys who went 2.5 years without winning anything, despite grinding their asses off. Then boom, you win a tournament, and you forget all about it. You knew it was there, but you forgot all about it thanks to one tournament. When people work really hard at this game I feel like they should be rewarded. It’s not perfect, but if that could happen [to me] that would be pretty perfect.

Failla in 2009BP: How were you able to deal with last summer mentally? You posted on Twitter how many times you had aces cracked last year. How did you prevent it from affecting your play?

WF: It’s funny you ask that, because I have a really good support system back home. I got married two years ago, and my wife is really supportive. She’s always positive. She’s all about poker. She’s not like the typical wife that hates it. She signed up for it; she knew what she was getting involved in. She’s my biggest fan and favorite stalker. She really pulled me thru it. I really needed her help believe it or not. I was miserable. I wanted to kill. I had aces cracked 21 times last summer. People didn’t believe me, but I was blogging about it every time it happened (laughs).

BP: Some poker players live somewhat solitary lives due to being on the road traveling a lot. They might not have a great support system around when they need it. Do you think it’s hard for some people to handle the downswings as a result?

WF: I don’t think difficult is the right word. I think “next to impossible” is the right way to put it. You really need a good support system and a good bankroll. The management of the bankroll is so, so important. I am just really lucky with the people I have around me. I don’t think I could do it without them. Last year they said, “this is what you do, stay with it.” They were right.

BP: You are definitely one of the best players without a bracelet. What would getting one mean for you?

WF: Oh man, I do this jog every day outside with a plastic jacket on. It’s usually 100 or 115 degrees outside. I run right thru it, about three or four miles a day. And every day during that jog I say to myself, “This could be the bracelet event. This could be the bracelet event.” I hope and try, and hope and pray, and hope and try, and listen, I know one thing: It’s going to happen. I just don’t know when. Hopefully it’s going to be soon. I keep grinding and churning, and I’m in it. A lot of guys can’t say that because they aren’t in [poker] anymore because whatever happened. I’m still fighting.

For more coverage from the summer series, visit the 2016 WSOP landing page complete with a full schedule, news, player interviews and event recaps.