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Card Player Profile: Cory Carroll

Talks About His Recent Final Table at the WPT Championship and Why He May Not Play the WSOP Main Event


Cory Carroll at the 2008 WPT ChampionshipCory Carroll has had only nine major tournament cashes in his live career, but they add up to more than $1.8 million in winnings. The Canadian pro captured his first and only title last May at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas when he took down the $5,000 buy-in World Series of Poker Circuit event. He defeated a skilled final table that included 2007 Card Player Player of the Year David Pham to claim the half a million dollar first-place prize.

A few months later, Carroll scored again when he managed to finish 91st out of 6,358 entrants in the 2007 WSOP main event. Last season, Carroll made appearances at two World Poker Tour final tables. His most recent cash came during the $25,000 buy-in Five-Star World Poker Classic WPT Championship last month, when he came in fourth place. That final-table finish, which earned Carroll $593,645, was the biggest payday of his career thus far. We caught up with him to discuss his recent final table, tournament strategies, and the reason he might not be making another run at the WSOP main event.

Lizzy Harrison: What skills do you use to chip up early on in tournaments?

Cory Carroll: In the first few levels of a tournament, my game is actually a bit different than it is in the later stages. I don’t play quite as loose because the blinds are small and people are more inclined to play pots with me. When the blinds are small in relation to the stack sizes, it can be really difficult to put people to decisions. That is my style, so it can make it hard for me to pick up chips early on. I do play more hands than most people would at the beginning of a tournament, but I play them more passively than I would play them later on. As the tournament continues, I get more aggressive.

LH: At what point do you begin to change gears?

CC: Usually when the antes kick in. Antes make a big difference. It is easier to chip up at that point, because when you steal the blinds, you don’t only get the blinds, you also get the antes. Once they kick in, I become much more aggressive, and I start to steal and re-steal. I have found that live-tournament players just do not seem to take that into consideration. They don’t concern themselves with raising to take the antes, and by sticking to their tight style, they get bled away.

LH: What style of play do you employ when you have a healthy stack in the later stages of a tournament?

CC: At that point, you want the other players to be scared for their tournament lives. Once I get a big stack and I am deep in a tournament, I usually do not bust. I pick up so many antes and blinds that when I do lose a big pot I still have chips. That is the main thing.

LH: How do you take advantage of the players who are terrified that they will be knocked out?

CC: I force them to make decisions for their tournament lives. The one thing that makes a person a great tournament player is not being afraid to bust. I am never afraid to lose all of my chips, because I know that there is always another tournament.

LH: How do you adjust your play when there is another aggressive player with a big stack at your table?

CC: There are changes that must be made when there is another aggressive player with lots of chips. If there is a player like that at your table, though, they will probably try to stay out of your way once they see that you are also being active. The situation is basically that you will both raise a lot of pots, and, if he opens a pot, you will not get involved too often. That is, unless you have a good hand. That is the same way that most aggressive players would handle the situation you brought up, but there are some exceptions. There are the players who use position a lot, and, regardless of if you open a pot or not, they will still play a lot of hands with you. For me, that is the toughest type of player to play against.

LH: Let’s talk about the WPT Championship final table. Can you give a synopsis?

CC: It basically happened the way that I said it would happen. I said that Gus [Hansen] and I would get involved in a big pot at some point. I did not know when it would be, though. I also said that there were only three of us [at the final table] who had a chance to win, me, David [Chiu], and Gus. I think that if Gus had not hit that diamond on the river [to eliminate Carroll] it would have been David and me heads up. Going in, I knew that all of the players at the final table were at least OK at poker and had a solid base. I also knew that Gus and I were going to play a lot of pots and everyone else was just going to try to move up in the money. That is the way it played out. Not to take anything away from the other three players, but I think that they all need to make some changes to their game in order to succeed at final tables.

LH: What errors did you spot in during final-table play?

CC: They were too tight! The short stacks at the final table were all really tight players. That is just not a good mix. Even David is a pretty tight player, but he had a big stack, so he was OK. The other players, though, did not have many chips to work with. I also do not think that they had the tricky plays that have to be made sometimes in their arsenals. You need to be tricky sometimes to get your stack built up at a final table. I’ll be shocked when I see the broadcast if I see one of them playing anything but a premium hand. Not that there were that many hands played (laughs). These guys played their game, they played tight, and some of them did move up in the money, which is what they were looking to do.

LH: In retrospect, would you change anything you did at the final table?

CC: No. There has clearly been some discussions about my big hand against Gus, but I know I made the right call. A lot of people would not have made the call because they would have been scared that they would not move up in the money, but, like I said earlier, I am never afraid to bust. If I think that I have the best hand, then I am going to call. It turned out that I was a pretty big favorite to win a monster pot. If I had won that hand, I think that it would have been pretty tough for me to lose the tournament.

LH: Every time you have cashed in a WPT event you have final tabled it. Why is that?

CC: There are a couple of reasons. The first one is that I really have not played that many WPT events. Also, when I do make the money, that means I am in the top 18 or 27. When you make it that deep in a tournament, your chances of getting to the final table are good. The other thing is that when many players get to the money, they play scared because they want to make the final table so badly. You can push them around and force them to make decisions, because they will lay down a lot of hands. I usually just steamroll people as I make my way to the final table.

LH: The WSOP is only a few weeks away. Which events do you plan to play in?

CC: I am unsure right now, but a good estimate is that I will play 6-10 events, if that many. I will probably play the first tournament; I think it is the $10,000 buy-in pot-limit hold’em event. I am also really looking forward to the heads-up event this year. Other than that, I’ll just have to see what happens.

LH: Is there an event that you don’t want to miss?

CC: It would have been the main event, because I made a deep run last year. I really would like to play it again.

LH: Why would you skip it?

CC: I am really disappointed that they made the decision to delay the final table by four months. That is why I don’t know if I will play in it or not. I think that poker is poker, and it is not a circus. I really dislike decisions like this.

LH: Are you strictly a hold’em player, or do you play other games?

CC: I am mainly a hold’em player, but I do have some Omaha background. The hold’em games are my bread and butter, though. I am by no means a world-class player in any other games. I am trying to branch out now; I have been working on my Omaha game, and I plan to start working on my stud game later in the year. I might try to play a smaller stud event at the Series, but you won’t see me in any of the larger buy-in tournaments that aren’t hold’em.

LH: What is the best way for a player with a hold’em background to learn other games?

CC: The first thing you can do to improve your weaker games is to play them. That is why I have been dabbling in Omaha games a little bit more. Omaha is different for me because I have been playing hold’em for so long. It is a difficult transition because, in certain spots, I am just not sure about the math. I plan to do some reading and to get a lot of practice in at the lower limits. Once I feel that I am ready, I will step it up to see how I do against some of the better players.

LH: You are a well-known online player. Was the transition to live play easy for you?

CC: That was a pretty easy transition. I had only played a few live tournaments before last April [2007]. I think that I had played in four and cashed in two; these were smaller events at Bellagio. Last year I decided to come out to Las Vegas and play a few events on tour. So far, all of the live tournaments that I have played in have gone well; I have felt like I have had a really good feel at the tables. I think that my only downfall is that I just do not play enough tournaments to put up some really big results. If I get motivated in the next year, I think that you will see me at a lot more final tables.

LH: Why don’t you play many tournaments?

CC: Unfortunately, for me, I do not have the crazy love for the game that a lot of poker players have. When I started off, I did play a lot of poker — when I was 19 and 20 I put in hundreds and thousands of hours — but it gets old. You need a break sometimes. Like now, I am taking the whole month of May off. Hopefully that will get me motivated for the WSOP. It is difficult for me to get motivated, but when I do, I play really well.



13 years ago

Really nice interview, great player imo.

Good luck buddy :)