Poker Coverage: Poker Legislation Poker Tournaments Poker Stories Podcast U.S. Poker Markets

OPOY Spotlight -- Mickey 'Mement_mori' Petersen

Petersen Talks About Poker and Becoming the Newest CardRunners Instructor


Mickey Petersen Credit: Hendon MobThe Card Player Online Player of the Year (OPOY) award honors the best tournament player across the major online sites in a given calendar year. Previous winners have included greats such as Isaac “westmenloAA” Baron, Alexander “AJKHoosier1” Kamberis and Steve “gboro780” Gross. Here, we take a look at one of the current top contenders.

Mickey “Mement_mori” Petersen is one of the best up-and-coming online players in the world. The 20-year-old has been an absolute monster on the virtual felt during 2010, having won over $600,000 for 18 final table appearances, including two wins. The pro from Copenhagen, Denmark recently won the second Full Tilt Online Poker Series (FTOPS) event of his career, putting him in the elite company of players who have managed the feat. With just under four months remaining in the OPOY race, Petersen currently sits in tenth place, just one major score away from taking the lead.

In this interview, the recently signed CardRunners pro talks about how he got his start and even offers up some advice for beginning players.

Julio Rodriguez: What inspired you to become a professional poker player?

Mickey Petersen: I’ve played games all my life. When I was younger, I played Magic: The Gathering pretty competitively, not to mention chess and backgammon. When the first Magic players began to have success and make the transition to poker, I took notice. Players such as Dario Minieri, David Williams and Eric Froehlich all came from Magic and were doing great, so I decided to try as well.

JR: Why is it that so many Magic players have made the switch to poker?

MP: Well, there is a lot more money in poker, but the games actually have a lot in common as well. It’s all about putting yourself in good situations and maximizing your chances of winning. Believe it or not, there are bad beats in Magic. Much like poker, you need to keep your head cool at all times and control your tilt.

JR: When did you begin your poker career?

MP: The first site I played on was Pacific Poker, after they had just upgraded their software to allow users to play on four tables at once. (Laughing) I realize that it wasn’t the most advanced site out there, but the competition was so soft and allowed me to build a bankroll. I made a few deposits, but it wasn’t because I was going broke. I just kept withdrawing money and putting it back online. I wasn’t the greatest at bankroll management. In fact, pretty much everything I learned back then was from trial and error. It wasn’t until I discovered some online forums and watched some videos that I began to experience some more consistent success.

JR: Gus Hansen was dominating the World Poker Tour at that time. What affect did he have in Denmark in promoting the game of poker?

MP: It was pretty big. Obviously he got a lot of attention from the poker media, but he was also getting a ton of exposure with the general media as well. His early success kind of made poker blow up here in Denmark. Of course, it just kept on growing when Peter Eastgate won the main event at the World Series of Poker. Denmark has certainly had their share of high profile players.

JR: You are stuck with a disadvantage playing in Denmark because many of the sites cater to U.S. time zones. What effect has that had on your schedule?

MP: On a weekend, I’m starting my session at like 7 p.m. and finishing up at around 8 a.m. It’s a hectic lifestyle, but it allows me to play at the peak hours for the American-based sites. If I want to compete in the Online Player of the Year race, it’s just something I have to do.

Also, I play on 14 different sites. There are sites out there that I’ve been winning on that aren’t even tracked. For example, there are probably 15 extra tournaments on a Sunday that are on my schedule that Americans don’t play.

JR: You passed up college for life as a poker pro. Were you parents upset about this decision?

MP: School is a bit different here in Denmark than it is in the States. Here, we have gymnasium, which is where you go from the age of 15 to 19 before going to University. I guess you could say it is the equivalent of high school. The only difference is that it is a bit more advanced which means that there isn’t as much pressure to even attend University as there is in the States. I decided to put it off for a year to see how poker went and fortunately, it’s gone well.

My parents were always aware that I was good at games, but it’s very difficult to explain to regular people how variance works and why the game is not all based on luck. I tried to sit them down and explain the rules and how it all worked, but I didn’t have much success. Fortunately, they’ve always trusted me and believed in me even though they don’t understand it 100 percent. Besides, it’s easier to believe the results and the more they see me win, the more they believe in my decision.

JR: Can you explain the origin of your online handle?

MP: It was supposed to be Memento_mori, but when I signed up for Full Tilt, I accidentally left off a letter. There was no way to change it at that point, so I decided to go for consistency and spell it wrong on all the sites. It’s a Latin saying that basically translates to “remember you will die.” I know it sounds pretty grim, but I thought it was fitting for someone who plays tournament poker.

JR: You were recently added to the CardRunners team of instructors. How did that come about?

MP: One of my best poker friends is Mike “Timex” McDonald, who is one the instructors. He let me know that they were looking for more and I told him that I might be interested. After talking with the guys at CardRunners, I realized that it was a really good fit for me.

JR: Does being an instructor add any pressure to succeed?

MP: I guess so, but only in a good way. When I’m making videos, I have to be sure that I’m on my A game at all times so that I can justify my actions. If anything, being a poker instructor just means that I’m held accountable for my play. If that forces me to play better, then it can only help me.

JR: Besides the ability to always play your best, what else separates you from the competition?

MP: I have notes on pretty much every single regular online. If I had to guess, I’d say that I have best notes of any multi-table tournament player right now. If you are among the top 300 players in the world, then I most likely have some information on you. The notes range from hand histories to something they posted on a forum to how they are currently running. You’d be surprised at how much a winning or losing streak says about someone’s game.

JR: What should beginning poker players focus on when they are just picking up the game?

MP: The biggest thing for beginners to understand is that they need to be aware of different stack sizes and what each of those stack sizes can accomplish. For example, a twenty big blind stack is perfect for shoving all in over an opening raise because there is still plenty of fold equity. With ten big blinds, you are pretty much stuck in push or fold territory. With a stack as big as 35 big blinds, you have enough chips to three-bet an opening raise and fold to a four-bet, because you wouldn’t have committed yourself. These are situations that every beginning player needs to recognize.

JR: What’s your take on the concept of tournament life? Many players advocate folding when they are beat even though they may be getting the right pot odds.

MP: Generally, I don’t follow the school of thought that you should value your tournament life above all else. There are players who will fold in spots where they are priced in just because they know they are beat. In online tournaments where the stacks are pretty shallow, you should be taking every edge you can get. So if you ever find yourself in a situation where you know you are behind, it’s just a matter of figuring out if you are priced in or not. I know a lot of live pros don’t play that way, but online, there’s always another tournament starting up and you can’t afford to throw away that positive expected value.

Keep in mind, there’s a lot more merit to the opposite approach in live tournaments. The stacks are usually much deeper, there is more information at your disposal and the play is generally worse, so there are perhaps some scenarios where it would be better to pass up the positive expected value in favor of preserving your tournament life.