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Tournament Trail Q & A: Michael 'SirWatts' Watson

Watson Talks About the Final-Table Crowd and the Win that Capped Off His Summer


Michael Watson wins Bellagio Cup IV main eventMichael Watson did not have a lot of success at the 2008 World Series of Poker, cashing just twice for less than $14,000. He was not discouraged by this slow start and focused up when the World Poker Tour Bellagio Cup IV began, where he ended up walking away with $1,673,770. Watson deafeated a final table stacked with world-class players, including Gabe Thaler, John Phan, Ralph Perry, Luke Staudenmaier, and his heads-up opponent, David Benyamine. This huge win builds on the former success Watson had on the tournament trail in March, when he placed in 10th at the WPT L.A. Poker Classic, as well as the large amount of success he has had playing poker online. Card Player caught up with Watson right after the final table had concluded at Bellagio last week.

Tell us about the final table and what you thought were the crucial moments that contributed to your big win to end the summer?

Michael Watson:
Obviously I’m feeling great. This has been a big goal of mine for a long time, and it's great to finally achieve it. At the final table, I basically picked up a lot of hands in cooler situations, and most of the time I came out on top. The one big pot against Luke was a little unfortunate, but I battled back from it and got lucky at the right times.

Q: Was David Benyamine the person at the table you wanted to play heads up, or would you have chosen someone else, given the chance?

MW: He’s very tough; he’s not a guy I wanted to play heads up. No one at the final table would have been soft. I wouldn’t have felt like I had a decent chance against anyone, especially David, who was a very tough opponent. Luke would have been extremely tough, as well. I mean, it didn’t matter, it was a pick-your-poison type situation.

You came into the final table with the chip lead, although Benyamine was close to the top, as well. What was your plan with that lead?

Everyone at the table was pretty tough. I didn’t think they were going to sit there and let me run them over or be too worried about the money. I was really just trying to play solid poker all day. There wasn’t too much else I could do against those guys.

You played a lot at the World Series. Do you think that helped you in this tournament, playing so much this summer? Is it a good thing that it was right after [the Series] or a bad thing?

I did the same thing last summer: I played this tournament, I was completely burnt out, and I tilted off my stack on day 1. But this year, I guess I have a lot more experience playing live poker, and I felt good. I came into this tournament having another unsuccessful World Series, but I still had my head up, and I was still feeling confident and was ready to go.

Q: Considering that you didn’t have the results you wanted at the Series, this has to be cherry on top of your summer? Does this give you confidence for the rest of the live tournaments you plan to play this year?

Yeah, absolutely. I really had high expectations for this summer, and it didn’t look like it was going to turn out so well again. So, I was really glad I was able to pull it out in the end and have a huge summer.

Were you really focused on this event at the end of the summer when the others didn’t pan out like you had hoped?

It certainly helped. I’m trying to be focused for every tournament I play in, but in a big tournament like this with a $15,000 buy-in and all of those starting chips that we got, I was definitely a little bit more ready for this than a $1,500 event at the Rio.

Q: You had a huge cheering section here tonight. Does it help to have so many people yelling for you and cheering you on, or do you find it distracting?

It’s great. I love having those guys cheering for me. Every time I win a pot, they get to yell. I have to sit here and keep my composure and stay focused on the game, but they get to do all of the crazy stuff and the yelling for me.

Have you ever crossed paths with Benyamine in high-stakes poker games online?

MW: Yeah, we’ve played a little bit online in some big games on Full Tilt. He pretty much got the best of me in most of those encounters.