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Card Player Profile: Steve Sung

Sung Talks About His Recent Bay 101 Success and His Need to Take Down a Big One


Steve Sung heads up at the Bay 101 Shooting StarSteve Sung has played poker professionally for two years, and he has earned more than $1.4 million from tournament cashes alone. This past summer, he added two World Series of Poker final tables to his résumé; until then, it had consisted mainly of cashes in World Poker Tour events. Sung’s most recent payday came earlier this month when he finished second in the Bay 101 Shooting Star championship, earning $585,000.

Lizzy Harrison: You recently hit the biggest score of your live-tournament career at Bay 101. Looking back, what could you have done differently in order to overcome the huge chip leader, and eventual champion, Brandon Cantu?

Steve Sung: I did what I had planned to do, until we got heads up, because my first goal was to get heads up. Since the blinds went up so slowly, I figured that I would have enough chips, in relation to the blinds, if I could get heads up with him. There was one hand that I thought I misplayed, because I lost a critical pot to Brandon, but I have realized that I was just being results-oriented. He two-outered me on a hand when he had pocket jacks and hit a jack on the river for a set. It shocked me when it happened, but I think that if I was in the situation again I would play the hand the same way. I had an A-9, which means that I had top pair with an open-ended straight draw on the turn. I really don’t think I would have done anything differently in that hand. Brandon just had an insurmountable chip lead, especially after he took out Michael Baker.

LH: What advantages did you have over the other players at the final table?

SS: My position was an advantage, because I was directly to the left of Brandon. That made it easier for me to get chips. If I had had him seated to my right, then it would have been much harder. He would probably have called every raise I made or even reraised me. It was definitely an advantage to have him act before me.

LH: Did your previous WPT final-table experience come into play?

SS: Yes, it definitely helped. I had already played with the lights, cameras, and audience. This time around, I knew all of the players at the final table, though, and that made me feel even more comfortable.

LH: What skills did you utilize to make it as far as you did?

SS: Even though I was short-stacked for most of the tournament, I was able to adjust my speed by comparing my stack size to the blinds. I was never in a panic mode. I am always aware of the blinds and the antes, and, based on that, I know how much I am willing to risk every round, and I choose my spots really well. I think that the problem with most players these days is that they start to panic when they have 10 big blinds or less. They think that they have to double up in order to play, and that makes them play weaker hands. They usually bust out because they are in a hurry.

LH: At what point in the tournament were you confident of making the final table?

SS: I was not confident that I would make the televised final table until we combined the last two tables to one sevenhanded table. During play-down, there were a lot of good players left, and nobody seemed willing to budge. When we were playing shorthanded, I knew I was at risk because I was short-stacked. There was more action, and it made me play more hands. I knew I could easily bust with a hand like top pair because we were playing fourhanded. If I had a hand like that at a full table, I could have easily laid it down.

LH: Almost $1 million dollars of your career tournament earnings have been won in WPT events. Why do you think you have been so successful in those tournaments?

SS: They are the only tournaments I play in other than the WSOP. I would say that I am very used to the WPT structure. When I first started playing, I didn’t get it. I would bust in the first three or four levels and not know what happened. When I realized that there was no need to hurry, because of the 90-minute levels, I began to succeed. I also like to play small pots. That is another problem lots of people have, they like to play big pots throughout the tournament, but small pots are key.

LH: You’ve earned quite a bit of money in the past few years, but have yet to nab a victory; how important is it to you for you to take down an upcoming event?

SS: It is very important to me. You don’t even understand how hungry I am for a win. I have never won a tournament. All of my friends have titles under their belts, and I am honestly sick of seeing trophies all over their houses. I hate to feel envious, but I do. I want to hurry up and win some big events so that I can keep up with them. I don’t want to be known as the guy who always falls short. I want to be known as a winner.

LH: Prior to coming of age and taking on the live tournament circuit, did you play online?

SS: I did play online before I played live tournaments. Online, I mainly grinded it out in the limit hold’em cash-games.

LH: What abilities did you hone online that have proven helpful when you play live?

SS: I learned how to adjust to ultra-aggressive players, because that is how most of the online players play. You don’t see that as much when you are playing live. Live players are much more passive and less likely to pull the trigger.

LH: Do you think you perform at your best live or online, and why?

SS: Definitely live. When I am playing live, I am always aware of what the other players at the table are thinking about my play. I am more creative, and I am able to portray a certain image that I want the other players to see. I think I play sneakier when I play live. Online, you can not really do that. When I play online, I feel like a robot, and I hate that.

LH: When did you officially go pro as a poker player, and what was the reaction from your family?

SS: I went pro in January of 2006, which was about three months before I turned 21. At that time, I left college to play poker. My parents were skeptical, but they trusted me and told me that whatever I did, they would support me. It was really cool, because I expected them to go crazy. Asian parents look at gambling as the worst thing someone could possibly do, and that is what I do.

LH: Have they come around now that they’ve seen your earning potential?

SS: They’re very supportive, because I support them. They better be supportive! It’s still hard, though, because my mom is more worried about stuff like my health and exercising than how much money I earn. I guess I really can’t impress them.

LH: When you have kids, would you want them to play poker professionally, if that is what they wanted?

SS: Absolutely not. People think that playing poker is the easiest job in the world, but I actually think that it might be the most stressful.