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WSOP Q and A -- Leo Wolpert

Wolpert Talks About His Win in the $10,000 Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em World Championship

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Leo WolpertLeo Wolpert emerged from a field of 256 players to win one of the most coveted bracelets of the summer in the $10,000 heads-up no-limit hold’em world championship at the 2009 World Series of Poker. He defeated nine opponents to grab the win, booking hard-fought victories over John Juanda, Michael Mizrachi, and heads-up specialist David “The Dragon” Pham along the way. Wolpert also won a tough final match against John Duthie 2-1 to win $652,682 in prize money.

He now holds $1,246,191 in career winnings, but that much prize money has done nothing to divert Wolpert from his true career path. Wolpert recently completed his first year as a graduate law student at the University of Virginia, and even with the win, he will return for his second year in the fall.

Card Player caught up with Wolpert at the post-final table press conference in the Amazon Room at the Rio.

Card Player: Who was your toughest opponent in the nine matches you won to capture the heads-up bracelet?

Leo Wolpert: John Juanda was super tough; he was just amazingly tough. I ran really good to beat him. I was all in for a flip for my tournament life against him and I managed to hold on. Everyone was tough; you don’t buy into a $10K heads-up event if you’re a clown. People who put up the money were all very good heads-up players.

CP: Was it a goal for you to win this particular bracelet? How does it feel to win it?

LW: I can’t even really describe it; I actually didn’t really expect to win. I always enter a tournament hoping to win, but with a tough field like this, I wasn’t even really thinking about it until today. My goal was just to play whoever I had to in each match and hopefully run good enough against them or see if they had some leaks and maybe try to exploit those. I happened to run really good throughout the tournament, and here I am.

CP: What is your prior experience in heads-up play?

LW: I used to play a lot of heads-up cash online, just an absolute ton of it. I recently had to cash out a lot of money online, so I switched back to six-max, which has a little less variance and fewer swings. I was grinding March and April, just playing a ton of hands of six-max. I hadn’t played no-limit cash heads-up probably since November seriously. I’ll play the heads-up tournament on PokerStars every Sunday, but other than that, I haven’t played that much heads-up recently.

CP: What was going through your mind when John Duthie hit the flush to double up and effectively win the first match against you in the final? You definitely looked a little angry after that. Did it strengthen your resolve to dig in and win the next match to tie things up?

LW: Not really, I was a little bit steamed I’m not going to lie, but that’s going to happen in poker. I just decided I had to grind back and it’s the best two-out-of-three. Just stay calm, because there’s always another match coming up. I wouldn’t say it strengthened my resolve per say, I was already pretty resolute.

CP: How much did the substantial rail section of online players that came out to support you help your game today?

LW: It helped a lot; I would like to thank everyone who came out to support me. All the people that sent me texts, everything like that, I really appreciated that support and it helped keep me going and stay focused. I didn’t want to let all these people down that showed up to hopefully see me ship a bracelet home. I didn’t want to let them down. Fortunately I did it.

CP: The first match lasted 96 hands, and the second one only took nine hands. What was your state of mind after you won the second match so quickly? Was that a major momentum shift?

LW: I didn’t think it really shifted the momentum too much; I think it did give me a blank slate. I just feel like I had a really good strategy against John the entire match. I just wanted to really raise a lot in position and play a lot of pots in position against him, and just hopefully chip away. I didn’t want to play a lot of giant pots, not do anything crazy. I just tried to avoid those super high-variance plays and hopefully just grind him down a little. Fortunately that happened, I also flopped a few hands that he happened to fold to, it could have been over several times if he had just shoved it in when I had bet the flop and had something.

CP: How deep of a profile were you able to develop on John during the hundreds of hands of poker that you played in the final?

LW: I had a pretty good feel for how he was playing. He seemed pretty loose out-of-position; he wasn’t three-betting a whole lot. I felt like I couldn’t really bluff him a whole lot, I felt like I was going to get called pretty light and that really kind of shaped my game plan. I just tried to not play many huge pots without the goods.