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Full Tilt's Craig Marquis -- WSOP Main Event Interview

Craig Marquis Discusses The Other WSOP Main Event Final Tables and What Bracelet Means


Texan Craig Marquis is no stranger to dealing with large sums of money. After all, the likeable and confident 23-year old has already played at the highest limits online for thousands and thousands of dollars in online cash games. What makes his ascent to the top of the poker world amazing though is that Marquis has only been playing the game for less than two years. After making good friends with online cash game icons Tom 'durrr' Dwan and David 'Raptor' Benefield, Marquis managed to carve a niche for himself in heads-up cash games, quickly rising through the ranks to where he stands aloft today.

His credentials as a great cash game player are unquestioned but before this summer's WSOP Marquis had no tournament success and very little experience. In getting to the final table of the WSOP Main Event though, Marquis showed that he has quite the talent for this side of the game too. He currently lies eighth in chips but was remarkably confident about the situation when CardPlayer caught up with him, reasoning that he had more than enough big blinds to play with. Below he talks us through his tournament up to this point and his style of poker that he believes can take him all the way to the title and the $9,000,000 that accompanies that honour. No doubt the whole of his devoted online community will be spurring him on when play resumes on November 9th.

Craig MarquisCardPlayer: Can you tell us about your background in poker and how you rose up through the online ranks?

Craig Marquis: It's a pretty funny story actually how I got into poker. I went to a New Year's party with one of my friends and it ended up being at Tom 'durrrr' Dwan and David 'Raptor' Benefield's house. I looked around and it was a real nice house with nice cars. And I didn't know who these guys were at all at the time. So I was looking around and wondering how these guys, who were younger than me, had all this money. And then I heard that they played poker online and I said to myself, 'Hey, these guys aren't any smarter than I am! I can do that too!'. This was in January 2007.

The next day I put $100 on Full Tilt Poker and played a million $5 sitngos. I grinded it out and won $1000 that first month. Then I moved onto cash games as I became better friends with Tom and David. We used to hang out a lot and they helped me grow as a poker player. I just played a bunch and grinded my way up the limits from there.

CP: Everybody knows about Brian Townsend's rise up the online world, but your story seems to match that. From learning the game to playing high-stakes cash online to being on the final table of the WSOP Main Event in 18 months.

CM: I don't usually play tournaments but the WSOP is something different.

CP: What is your usual game online?

CM: I've played all the way up to $200/$400 and I still occasionally  play the $200/$400 Pot-Limit Omaha game that runs. But even now I play all the way from $2/$4 up to $200/$400.

CP: With the WSOP ME being such a deep structure, did you treat the early stages much like a cash game?

CM: Yeah. I play a lot of heads-up cash games more than anything else and that helps you get a lot better quickly at reading hands than people who don't play a lot of heads-up. It means you're a lot better at taking advantage of situations because you've been there before time and again. In my career I've played over a million hands of poker so even though I haven't been playing for that long I have a lot of experience.

In the Main Event, I was trying to play a lot of small pots in position because people tend to play worse when they are out of position. I didn't want to risk my chips.

CP: Can you talk us through your progression in the Main Event?

CM: Day 1 went OK. I ended up with 45,000 chips. Day 2 I ended with 71,050. Day 3 I ended with 71,000 chips so in that day I lost 50 chips which wasn't so awesome. On Day 4 I started with 142,000 which wasn't very many but towards the end of the day I won a huge pot which was worth over a million chips in a hand I thought there was no way I could win.

I had J-J against a guy I thought was really, really tight and he bet, bet, bet. It was a 5-5-6-7-7 board with three spades and I just called all the way. When I called on the river, I didn't expect to win that hand but he mucked. I had a over one million after that.

Day 5 was good and I had about 1.5 million then but Day 6 was when I really started getting hold of chips and I ended the day second in chips. I was really sick after Day 4, I felt terrible and was out of it. It wasn't the pressure. I don't get nervous really. It was more that I had been in Vegas for two months touching all these chips, going out into the heat, not sleeping well and all that stuff. I just felt terrible. But I won a pot versus Brandon Cantu at the end of the day which gave me a ton of chips and I looked up at the scoreboard to see my name up there. I was just thinking, 'Dude, I'm the chipleader in the main event and there's only forty people left!'

CP: You must have looked around and been confident considering that the field wasn't full of top, well-known players?

CM: When I finished each day I didn't go in with a feeling such as, 'I'm going to win this tournament'. I was more just thinking it was cool that I managed to get through each day.

CP: What is your general style when you play poker?

CM: I play a lot of pots in position. When I sit down at a table I play very standard ABC poker until I work out how the other players play. When you sit down at a tournament table with people you've never seen before you have no idea what they might do. But after you've been there for an hour or two you get an understanding for how they think, how they play and what they've done so far. From that point you can start adjusting your strategy. I'm all about adjustments.

It all depends on your table how you should play. I was on a table on Day 3 where we were on the money bubble and Gus Hansen was two seats to my left so that my cut-off was his big blind. So I simply couldn't open any pots from the button or cut-off because so much of Gus's game is 3-betting raisers. When the bubble came around me and Gus won literally all the pots because the table became so nitty. You just have to adjust your game to take advantage of the mistakes others make.

CP: The WSOP ME is almost a continual series of bubbles as the money grows larger and onto the final bubble of the final table this year.

CM: I tried to exploit that. I'm not really scared of losing when I play poker, ever. If I got 10th in the Main Event or I get 9th in the Main Event, that's awesome because 7,000 people or whatever started. I don't care if I get busted out and that really gave me an advantage over people who just wanted to make the final table. I tried to exploit that as much as possible. It ended up not working out for me because I don't have as many chips as I'd like but nobody else was pushing the action as much as I was. I mean, I 4-bet Ylon Schwartz on the first hand of the final table bubble with J-5 offsuit!

CP: You've had the three months off now. How have you prepared for November's final table?

CM: I've been chillin', just chillin'. I'm very familiar with the players, I played with them all for a long time except for Dennis Phillips, the chip leader. I don't know where I'm going to be sat on the table yet so I can't formulate a perfect strategy for my stack size against the other players. I have forty-one big blinds left – I bet most live players wouldn't be able to tell you that off the top of their head!

CP: You're mainly a cash game player online but do you have a good degree of online tournaments also?

CM: A little bit. When I first started playing, I won a $24 tournament for about $8,000 which gave me the bankroll boost I needed to move up and play cash games.

CP: Which of the other players at the table have impressed you the most?

CM: The Dane Peter Eastgate and Ivan Demidov, the Russian. Both of those are high stakes cash game players and coming from a cash game background that's really the most impressive thing to me because I know how much playing high stakes cash games takes out of you. Those are the two players I would least like to play heads-up.

I actually just started thinking that what's really bad for heads-up players like me is that there is a break between playing the final table and playing the heads-up, a whole day. That will really affect things. People who play primarily live never have the opportunity to play heads-up. If I get to heads-up with someone, I will want to play it out right there so they won't know what's going on. But with the break they more than 24hrs to prepare.

CP: Just by talking about the heads-up shows your confidence. But how important to you is moving up the money ladder or is your only focus to win it all?

CM: I don't know, I haven't decided yet! I really want to break Phil Hellmuth's record for being the youngest Main Event winner real bad. Just because I've played with him a bunch and he gives you a hard time about everything because simply he's Phil Hellmuth. So it'd be really great in the future to have something to have a little needle back at him. At the moment no matter what you say to him he comes back with “yeah, but I've got eleven WSOP bracelets”. Nobody has anything to say to that!

CP: As an online player, how important is winning a WSOP bracelet to you?

CM: It matters particularly to me. In Vegas, I was living with David Benefield and a guy called Joe Commisso who won the $5,000 6-max event. So he has a bracelet and he always talks crap to me about it. I just said to him that I was saving up all my luck for the Main Event! And the bracelet for this event is so much cooler than all the other bracelets too. It's about everything really – beating Hellmuth's record, the money, getting a bracelet like Joe and also having that huge cool poster on the wall of the Rio!

I'm really big about not letting poker affect my life emotionally. A lot of people will let poker ruin their day and I don't let that happen. Regardless of how I finish I'm going to play the best that I can. It;s just like the hand where I got all-in with A-Q against Q-Q late in the tournament. If you watch it on ESPN you'll see that I'm just sitting there and I don't get really emotional about it. I feel like I can only play as well as I can and if things work out for me, then that's great.

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