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Poker Tournament Trail -- Eric Baldwin

Baldwin Talks About the 2009 POY Race and Making Four Final Tables in One Week

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Eric BaldwinEric Baldwin is the current Card Player Player of the Year leader with a month and a half remaining in 2009. He holds a total of 6,058 points, but he has a group of players close on his heels. Both Cornel Cimpan and Yevgeniy Timoshenko hold more than 5,463 points, and either could catch Baldwin with a significant cash. Vitaly Lunkin and Soheil Shamseddin are also in the hunt and either could surpass Baldwin with a major win.

Baldwin is playing many events down the stretch to hold off these competitors, and if the success he had in October and November is any indication of how he is playing these days, chances are good that he’ll be able to hold off all challengers. Baldwin made four final tables in the course of one week at the Caesars Palace Classic in October, and he added another final-table appearance in early November at the World Poker Finals. Baldwin has now made 15 live-tournament final tables in 2009, more than any other poker player.

Card Player caught up with Baldwin at Caesars Palace.

Ryan Lucchesi: How well were you playing to make four tables in one week?

Eric Baldwin: I was playing well, running well, and there were some soft fields over here. It was fun because you started out with 20-minute levels, but with double stacks. So you start out deep with a bunch of bad players, so you see a ton of flops. I was able to chip up early. As the blinds went up later, it turned into an online tournament, so it was pretty much all preflop poker. I have a lot of experience with that, and I was fortunate enough to have some good cards in some good spots and final-table a couple of [events].

RL: How high is your confidence heading into the final stretch of the year with the POY lead?

EB: I’m trying not to think too much about the results. I’m just coming in every day trying to play my best, and let the chips fall where they may. Making four final tables in a week is pretty cool, even though they were low buy-ins, but things aren’t done yet; we have to keep going.

RL: You were seated right next to reigning Card Player Player of the Year John Phan during the Caesars Palace Classic no-limit hold’em championship. Did he give you any advice on what it takes to close out a POY title run?

EB: You kind of have to stay in line with him on your left, he’s so creative. He just said congrats so far and good luck. I talked to him about how he’s playing a lighter schedule this year because of what a grind it was last year. We had some stuff we both could relate to.

RL: Is it hard for you not to keep tabs on your main POY competitors during the last stretch of the year?

EB: My main focus is on what I can control, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t notice when any of those guys go out of these big tournaments. There are so many amazing players that a couple big scores could put them in front of me. I’m definitely trying to fade that.

RL: You made the final table of the Aruba Poker Classic earlier this fall with fellow POY contender Brock Parker. Did his presence at that final table affect you, or were you just focused on the poker?

EB: Aruba is probably my favorite poker trip of the year; the island is just amazing. Every other year, I haven’t made it out of day 1 and did not care. I would bust out on day 1 and then go out to the beach to have a great time. This year, I decided it would be a better idea to run a little deeper in the tournament. You mentioned Brock Parker; I actually won a coin flip against him early at the final table. If I lost that I would have ended up getting very few points in that event, and he might have gone on to win it, and it could have been a totally different picture. I was really fortunate to win a coin flip against him. I was a little disappointed with a hand I played when we were four-handed, and then I ended up getting sucked out on to go out. Still, it was a successful trip, and I’m happy to be back on top at the moment.

RL: You keep mentioning that you need to focus on what you can control. Has the ability to focus on making the right decision in each hand in each tournament, regardless of what else is going on in the race, been a guiding principle for you?

EB: I think that helps me a tremendous amount. I’ll admit I’m not as talented as a lot of these guys. There are a lot of smarter guys and quicker guys that on any given day are much better than I am. I think my ability to stay fresh has helped. I enjoy what I do. People keep asking me if I’m getting burnt out from playing in all of these tournaments. I’m not getting burnt out; I mean, I come and sit at a table with nine interesting characters and play a game. I enjoy it, even the small buy-ins. I think that aspect helps me a ton, too.