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CPPT VI - Golden Gates Casino

$600 No-Limit Hold'em


Level 16

The final level of the night is upon us. The blinds have increased to 2,500-5,000 with an ante of 500 from.

Q&A With WSOP Main Event Threat William Thorson

Thorson Reflects on 2006 Run and Explains How His Game Has Changed


William ThorsonWilliam Thorson has been into the abyss of the World Series of Poker Main Event before.

The 27-year-old Team PokerStars Pro has a shot at redemption, as he currently sits with one of the biggest stacks in the room with just over 40 players left in the 2010 Main Event.

Thorson, who hails from Sweden, was one of the top stacks with three tables remaining in the world championship in the summer of 2006. However, some missteps cost Thorson the opportunity for poker immortality. He fizzled out in thirteenth place for a payday of $907,128 — his largest tournament score to-date.

The Main Event in 2006 was the largest live poker tournament of all-time. The no-limit hold’em championship this summer is the second largest, and has also been easily navigated by the pot-limit Omaha specialist.

Thorson has been playing professionally since the age of 19. In the short seven years of his career, Thorson has accumulated $2,274,223 in tournament earnings. However, the big win has always eluded him. Thorson finished sixth in the 2008 European Poker Tour San Remo Main Event, ninth in the 2008 EPT Caribbean Adventure Main Event, third at a 2007 WSOP limit-hold’em final table and third in a 2006 EPT Dublin Championship Event. It wasn’t until October of 2009 before he scored his first major tournament victory — an EPT London side event, for $83,546. However, Thorson has momentum after a June win at a PokerStars Baltic Festival for $98,830.

Thorson has the opportunity this year to end the streak of close calls in big buy-in events and rectify a mistake made against eventual champion Jamie Gold, deep in the 2006 Main Event.

Card Player caught up with Thorson, who had just gained the chip lead at the time, on one of the breaks to discuss what has changed about his poker game and if he will do anything differently, four years after his last run at the world championship of poker.

Brian Pempus: You went deep in this event in 2006. Is there anything you learned from that experience that you will try and implement now?

William Thorson: Yeah. I will try and not play bad the last hand. I think I played really well in 2006 though. I learned a lot as a poker player in the four years since then. The last hand that year I made a mistake. I acted too quickly. When I raised with two jacks and Jamie Gold reraised me, I just said all in right away. I never do that anymore. I always take the minute to think about the situation. Back in 2006, if I had had a minute, I would have folded easily. Today I might call with the same kind of hand, but it would be because I decided it’s the right play. Back then, I acted too fast and didn’t think about the situation. I screwed up. Hopefully I don’t screw up again. But you never know, there are still 50 players left.

William ThorsonBP: How has this event changed in the past four years?

WT: I don’t think it has changed that much. The Main Event is just a great tournament with a great structure. I love to play it. In other tournaments sometimes you have to gamble a little bit extra or on day one you don’t want to have a short stack, so you gamble and go home, and there is another tournament. In this kind of tournament, all us good players, we never want to make a mistake because you don’t want to screw up your chances in the Main Event. There are probably more young guys now. But I don’t think it’s changed a lot. For myself, I think I am a few percent better than I was in 2006.

BP: Does 2006 ever cross your mind while you are playing now?

WT: It crosses my mind a lot of times. Whenever I see people that I played with that year or when I see certain situations, I think about what happened in 2006. With around 25 left that year I was third in chips. I tried to get a guy off a hand of the flop and then suddenly I had to call him, for a gamble. I lost that pot of about 9,000,000 when the average stack was about 4,000,000. It crosses my mind plenty of times. The pressure increases the closer it gets. It’s fun though. It’s what all poker players dream of — to be chip leader of the main event with 50 left is the dream for everyone. Everyone wants to be in my situation and I am here. I just hope I can keep going. I feel very strong. We have to see. I try to take one day at a time. On the breaks you really realize how you’re doing because at the table you’re so focused. I am so happy, it’s amazing.

BP: You might have one of the toughest tables right now with Michael Mizrachi, Matt Affleck, Tony Dunst, John Racener and Hasan Habib there. How has the table been for you?

WT: It’s been going really well. I had six million about an hour and a half ago. Now I have twelve. Everything has worked out well. I got control of the table. They have been seeing that if I raise and they reraise, I go all in. They are trying not to do anything stupid against me, which is good. They also see that I defend my big blind. So I think right now it’s the perfect situation at the table.

BP: You have had a lot of close calls in big tournaments over your career, do you think this might finally be the one?

WT: I really hope so. It would be the dream of my life. I know I have a chance. I am playing well. There are still a lot of levels to go and it’s all the way to November.

William ThorsonBP: You have won three live tournaments in the past year. Do you think you have turned the corner on your tournament game or have been doing anything differently lately?

WT: I changed my game a little bit. I always think my game is very good for tournaments. In 2009 I wasn’t happy with the way I busted some tournaments, so I had to search my brain and change some stuff. It seems like it’s working.

BP: I know there have been a lot of important hands up until this point, but which one would you say has been the key to putting you where you’re at right now?

WT: I haven’t played many huge hands. I had one hand where one guy raised to 200,000 and I called. Another guy moved all in for 1,500,000. I had king-queen suited. I calculated the pot and the way he moved in before the flop didn’t make it seem like he had a monster. He was a little bit of an older guy. I knew he had a medium hand. I was hoping it wasn’t ace-queen. I called and he had two nines. I won that one, which was super to win a 3,000,000-chip pot on a coin flip. That hand gave me a lot of confidence as well, because then people saw I can make sick calls.

Check out a CardPlayer TV interview with Thorson before he rose to the top of the chip counts.

Stay tuned to Card Player for more coverage of the 2010 Main Event!