2012 was an up-and-down year for JP Kelly. He enjoyed some deep runs in major events, but couldn't quite capture the big payday he was vying for, and although he took $302,055 for 26th in the WSOP Main Event (he finished 111th only the year prior), many predicted he'd be flying the flag in the November Nine. Then, at the tail end of the year, he parted ways with PokerStars to become a free agent once again.
Tell us about the last 12 months…
I experienced a bad start and end to the year, but did really well in the middle. At the moment I'm on a really bad losing streak, which is annoying. I'm playing mixed cash games, Omaha and a few tournaments, but just bricking everything. I'm playing well still, but just can't seem to win a hand.
I think what I'm going to do is just have a break over Christmas and then come back fresh in the New Year. I'm very much a believer in playing as much as possible when you're doing well, and stepping back when it's not going your way. Jake Cody, for example, is going deep in every tournament he enters, so he should be looking to play as many events as he can.
I haven't been playing live much because I got a little fed up with the travelling; the last tournament I played was the EPT in London. The standard's got a lot better too, and now you can have an EPT starting table with around four good players. There are always going to be bad players though, and I like to think that I can stay ahead and keep reaching that next level when I need to. It's what I've done ever since I started playing poker.
Thoughts on WSOP...
I have mixed thoughts about the World Series. In the Main Event, I bluffed off a lot of chips when I didn't need to, which was frustrating. In the quads hand [see here for details], I knew he had a strong hand once he'd peeled my three-bet preflop, so I was trying to get him off something like jacks. People have told me that they think the bluff was fine, but the problem is that I was repping thin and didn't need to make this bluff as there were other, less risky opportunities our there. It's two-hour levels with deep stacks, so there are always going to be better spots.
I was also disappointed with the A-K hand [see here for details]; I just didn't need to flip there. The guy was [Sam] Barnhart - who'd been playing really tight - and he opened under the gun, so he's always got a good hand and I think I'm seeing aces and king a lot. In hindsight, I should have just called preflop instead.
I didn't feel too bad as soon as I went out because I was short-stacked and just felt like I was freerolling, and that anything from then on was just a bonus, but 10 minutes afterwards I was gutted. When I got home I enjoyed a good run online, and then played Partouche [Poker Tour], and had a good holiday in Barcelona with Jake [Cody] and Matt [Perrins], so got over the WSOP pretty quickly.
What happened with PokerStars?
PokerStars just didn't want to renew. I think it was 50-50 in the end. Maybe if I'd done a bit more. I don't go around moaning about it, but I do think I've been a bit unlucky this year. I've gone deep in a few tournaments - like the Irish Open, Copenhagen, and then WSOP - so perhaps if I'd made one of those finals they may have kept me, who knows. That's just poker though.
I didn't love the media stuff; I prefer to just get on with playing. I enjoyed it now and then, but there are times when I felt: do I really need this? Also, when you play $25/50 online, sometimes bigger, it's hard to motivate yourself for a £500 UIKPT, and then I'd have to do a lot of media stuff while I was at the event. They told me I wasn't Tweeting enough at the Series, but having said that, I understand that these things are part of the responsibility (I probably ended up Tweeting too much during the Main Event!) and that overall the pros outweigh the cons. I also got to keep 100 percent of my winnings and did enjoy the notoriety in events.
Obviously sponsorship is good, but it's not as important to me as other players because I mostly play cash rather than tournaments. It's also good to be able to just focus on my game rather than worry about other stuff. PokerStars don't have too many UK-based pros at the moment, but that's just their strategy, and I guess they think they have this market covered. There are quite a few randoms, though, and I actually played on the site regularly, and in some of the bigger games. They were nice about it in the end, so I have no hard feelings.
What do you make of Black Friday?
I didn't have any money on Full Tilt Poker myself, but I know others who did. I think it's bad that Stars don't have any competition any more. Black Friday will also put off a lot of recreational players. Hopefully we'll get a wave of new players coming through as poker's a constantly growing industry, which is why the government should definitely be taking a look at it over here. It's very hard to predict what's going to happen.
How has your game changed?
I used to play really well against bad players, but felt a little out of depth against good ones, but these days I think it's almost the opposite. I definitely think I've improved; I wasn't that good when I won the bracelet in 2009. My game's really evolved, mainly through experience. It's also good to have a lot of friends in poker. I currently live with Andy Mosely, Tom MacDonald, and Jonathan Godfrey, who are all really good poker players, so I've learned a lot from them. Andy in particular is doing well in the cash games.
I also know guys like Sam Trickett and The Hit Squad, and went out with [James] Mitchell, Flushy [James Dempsey], Dubai [Dave Shallow] and Sam Grafton last night. We almost feel like a different generation to the new breed of players, bridging the gap in a way, and we laugh about how poker was played when we first started. There were no good young players when I started, even a couple of years after, but now virtually everyone is good - I've never even heard of the guy who won the EPT in Greece.
I tend to make my own decision on players, rather than judge them based on one game, or whatever other people say. I play them first. Benny Spindler came across as very good, so I wasn't surprised when he won the EPT. I think Ash Mason will do well in 2012 too if he can sort out his live game - he's very talented. The standard is just so high at the moment in this country, mainly because people have a lot of friends and discuss hands on Skype and so on.
Plans for 2012...
In 2012, I want to perform better in online tournaments; it just feels like lots of people clicking buttons at the moment, and I have a feeling of not really knowing what's going on. I spoke to [Chris] Moorman a lot a few years ago, and that did me some good. The problem I find with tournaments is that you can't just quit when you're doing badly or don't feel like playing, which is what I like about cash.
You've kind of caught me at a bad time as I'm not really enjoying poker right now. Also, I don't know what I'm doing next month, never mind for the rest or the year, or further down the line. I just want to avoid poker getting stagnant. Maybe I'd like to do something on the side, something creative business wise. Either way, I'm just going to take each day at a time. In terms of the immediate future, I'll probably play the PCA [PokerStars Caribbean Adventure] and the Aussie Millions, and also PLO cash.
Our New Year Reviews will continue throughout January and appear every two days.