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Card Player Profile: Ted Lawson

Lawson Talks About His Recent Success, About Making Deals, and About His First Major Win


Ted LawsonTed Lawson recently broke the $2 million mark in lifetime tournament earnings. Only four years ago, he won the third tournament that he ever played in, the $5,000 buy-in pot-limit Omaha event at the 2004 World Series of Poker, earning $500,000. Since then, Lawson has earned money consistently in tournaments here in the United States and abroad. The East Coast native now spends much of his time on the road, traveling the tournament trail with his wife, Michele. Lawson most recently placed 66th in the Borgata $500,000 Guaranteed Deep Stack Main Event, and, right before that, he won a $2,000 buy-in World Series of Poker Circuit event at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

Lizzy Harrison: Congratulations on your recent win at Caesars. Can you recall some highlights from the final table?

Ted Lawson: I got to the final table with slightly less than an average chip stack, but I played fairly aggressively and was able to get my stack up. Early on, I had a 7 6 in first position, and I limped. The other player in the hand had something like A-Q, and three spades came out on the flop. I moved all in, and he called with a pair and the ace of spades. It bricked out, and that put me close to the chip lead. I wound up becoming the chip leader shortly thereafter. After that, I was patient and I played good hands. I went in with the best of it every time, and I busted most of the guys at the final table. I entered heads-up play with the chip lead, and I got all in with the best hand. He [Jack Schanbacher] rivered me to double up and take the chip lead, but I fought back. We were about even, and it stayed that way, back and forth, for a while. Eventually, I told him we should just chop the money, throw our chips in, and play a hand blind for the whole thing. He agreed to it, because he thought he was the underdog, anyway. We threw all of the chips in, I was dealt 8-8 and he was dealt K-7. Two eights came on the flop to give me quad eights; the skill factor was none at that point [laughing].

LH: It must have been nice to claim first place.

TL: It was fun. I got the ring. Now I am one of about eight guys who have won both a Circuit event and a World Series of Poker event. It is a good thing to have a bracelet and a ring.

LH: Are chops more prevalent than the poker viewing audience realizes?

TL: I do a lot of chopping when I get heads-up. It takes some of the pressure off, and it is a nice thing to do. When you play with someone for a long period of time, you often become friendly with them. When I won my first bracelet, Lee Watkinson and I did not chop it completely, but we did move some money from first place to second place. That is what is normally done; it is not usually just chopped in half, like I did at Caesars. It is more common to move money and still play for something.

LH: What factors go into orchestrating a chop? What should a player consider before agreeing?

TL: The biggest thing for me is whether I like the guy or not. If I do not like him, I will not chop. If I do like the guy, though, I will usually go by how many chips we each have. If we are even, then I would usually want to move some money to second place from first place. I do not normally chop when the chips are uneven, especially when one or the other wants more money. It is more of a friendly kind of thing.

LH: The first time you earned money in a major poker tournament was when you won your WSOP bracelet back in 2004. What prompted you to enter that pot-limit Omaha [PLO] event?

TL: I like PLO a lot, and I won my seat in a satellite; that was the genesis of that tournament for me. It was actually the third tournament I had ever played in, and the way that it worked out was really surreal. It was a really tough tournament, and the final table consisted of Howard Lederer, Daniel Negreanu, Lee Watkinson, Jeffrey Lisandro, and Freddy Deeb. It was probably the toughest table at the World Series that year. Back then, though, I didn’t really know who those guys were.

LH: With so many pros at the final table, who did you expect to cause you the most trouble? Was that how it turned out?

TL: The guy I was most concerned with was Howard Lederer, and my strategy was to try to trap him. I wound up doing that when I had pocket aces. I checked, he committed all of his chips, and I called. That crippled him down to a couple of thousand in chips, which was the plan. Going into the final table, I had played a lot with Danny Negreanu, and I thought that he had a really good game. I did not know who he was, though. Danny self-destructed early at the final table; he caught bad cards and knocked himself out.

LH: What did you learn by playing with so many top pros in one of your first tournaments?

TL: Not much, really. Since I didn’t know who those guys were going into the final table, it didn’t matter. Looking back on it, I can see that it was a great experience. At the time, though, I thought that I was going to win going into the final table, and I said so during my interview with ESPN. Even though they had the experience, I thought that I was at least as intelligent as anyone at the table, and I would make good decisions. I took my time with every play, and that is how I won.

LH: You made an error at that final table that, unfortunately, was broadcast on ESPN ad nauseam. Have you lived that down?

TL: I misread a straight [laughing]. By doing that, I spotted everybody a couple of hundred thousand in chips. I still won [laughing].

LH: What factors went into your decision to travel the tournament circuit?

TL: The year after I won my bracelet, I decided to start playing more, and it has progressed since then. Now I play a lot.

LH: Do you still work in any other field, or are you strictly a professional poker player?

TL: I was the chairman and CEO of a publicly traded company that my wife, Michele, and I formed; that was my real job up until recently. I just resigned, effective June 30, and now I am officially a professional poker player. This will be what I will be doing for the duration. I like traveling around with Michele. Michele, she is a professional video poker player. She has won about $250,000 playing video poker. Recently, she hit for $80,000 at Bellagio and then she hit for another $40,000 at Borgata. The girl is on fire [laughing].

LH: You play tournaments with a wide range of buy-ins; how do you manage to give your complete focus to the smaller events?

TL: They are different fields. The smaller tournaments are a little bit looser than the larger tournaments, so I have to adjust my game accordingly. I would rather play tournaments than cash games, though I like both. I will try to play whatever tournaments are around, no matter what the buy-in. I love to play tournaments.

LH: You’ve enjoyed success in casinos all over the globe. How does traveling affect your play?

TL: Normally what I do is work out really hard the day before I leave, and the day I leave, if I can. That helps me to sleep on the plane. When I get there, I work out really hard again, and then I go to sleep. That seems to acclimate me really well. When I do that, I’m not tired or jet lagged when I wake up.