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Poker Tournament Trail -- Mike Leah

Leah Talks About Making the Decision to Play Poker Professionally Full Time


Mike LeahMike Leah is currently in ninth place in the 2009 Card Player Player of the Year race with 3,497 points. At this late point in the race, he would need a major victory to make a serious run at the title, but his year has been impressive, especially when you consider that this is the first year that Leah has played professionally full time. Leah has cashed in 23 live tournaments and eight online tournaments this year. He has made nine final tables and won four tournaments since January.

Card Player caught up with Leah in Las Vegas recently, and he talked about his first full year of playing poker professionally.

Ryan Lucchesi: You used to work and play poker at the same time. What were some of the difficulties you ran into trying to balance the two?

Mike Leah: When you play in a poker tournament and win $50,000 and then you try to focus on your normal job, where you don’t see any immediate return, it’s hard to focus on work. I was flying back and forth. I would go to Vegas from Friday to Sunday and then try to get back in time for work on Monday. I just wasn’t sleeping at all. I just got to the point where I had to chose one of the other. This year my mind is only on poker. The stress of balancing both is gone.

RL: How much did the decision to play full time change your success rate?

ML: This is my first year of playing full time. My goal this year was to win Player of the Year. To be in the mix is cool; it will be fun coming down the stretch. It gives you something to play for when the money isn’t as big in smaller tournaments. It gives you an extra reason to play your best and try to make the final table.

RL: You have been playing in the lower buy-in tournaments as a part of your POY campaign. What changes do you have to make against players at that skill level?

ML: The lower tournaments make it harder to play your best, because the quality of play isn’t that good. It’s easy for you to try and get away with too much. You adjust to the players at your table, whether it’s a different table in the same tournament or a different tournament altogether.

RL: A lot of the top players in the POY race are still quite active as the year draws to a close. Where are you hoping to gain some points on your competitors?

ML: Basically, I knew a few months ago that I would have to win a big event to have a chance to win it [POY]. I had a good chance at Festa al Lago; I had a lot of chips heading into day 3, but it didn’t happen. My goal right now is to play my best and build my bankroll for the PCA. I looked at that schedule, and it looks pretty ridiculous with all of the events. The L.A. Poker Classic is something to look forward to, as well. I like the way I’m playing right now, I’m having a lot of fun. It’s been good to play a lot. I want to win Player of the Year, but even finishing in the top 10 will be a nice accomplishment.



3 better than you
over 13 years ago

What? no talk about that awesome hairstyle? Rigged.