With the new year’s first Black Belt Poker League on the horizon (tomorrow, 19:30 – register now!), the man everyone will be keeping a keen eye on and hoping to replicate the achievements of is reigning champion and League XII winner Mark ‘bornTOflirt’ Atkinson.
Armed with an eyebrow-raising moniker that suggests he’s a Casanova with the ladies and an avatar revealing his uncanny likeness to former WWE wrestler Big Van Vader (yes, that truly is Mark in the photograph!), Mark body slammed his way through the eight legs in dominating fashion, before mounting the top turnbuckle and holding his title aloft.
49-years young and hailing from waaay up north in Carlisle, Mark is a fishmonger of 20 years who fell in love with the game via a familiar spark to many a poker career: Late Night Poker. His interest blossomed into an eight-year home game (the first regular game and league in Carlisle) before he started venturing into other pastures and seeking new challenges.
The Black Belt Poker League was his latest test, and it was one he passed with flying colours.
Snoopy: Do you play much live poker?
Mark Atkinson: I play live only once a month now, at the Northern Poker Stars event in Carlisle. I do okay, and managed fourth in the league this year, but if results had gone right on the last game, I could have won.
I occasionally take a trip to a casino, usually in Newcastle (none in Carlisle), but have also played in Manchester, Edinburgh and Blackpool. I have cashed in most, and won a couple here and there.
Snoopy: How did you come across Black Belt Poker?
MA: I joined the site when Northern Poker Stars became affiliated to Black Belt Poker. It seems fine; a lot of nice people playing, and you don't get the bitching when a bad beat happens, which is nice
Snoopy: That moniker - is it true?
MA: I used to play on PKR and read somewhere that men play more aggressively against women. I thought I would turn that back around, so my avatar was a young, slim blonde girl, which is the complete opposite to me.
I’m not sure if the plan worked, but a couple of American guys used to stalk me, chatting me up and asking me out, which was funny. I was hoping they would send a plane ticket over for me, but that never happened, but the moniker stuck.
Snoopy: Did you play with a particular strategy in the League? How about the final Leg?
MA: I play tight anyway, but I went into limpet mode for heats six and seven. The final leg really was a formality; I just had to finish in the last 50. I could have just blinded out and still won it, but I played tight and waited for the others to drop away.
Snoopy: Which of the other participants stood out as dangerous?
MA: Sarannedipity pushed me close for the longest time, and mrdroodle had two good wins back to back, which was very impressive. During the last three weeks, I was watching the entire top 20 to see who went out early and who was doing well.
Snoopy: You couldn't attend the party, but played online tournaments instead. How did that go?
MA: it was a real shame I couldn’t get down to London for the party, but work comes first; it was the busiest week of the year, so was never an option to go. The tournaments were okay, but I couldn’t play the first one (was out drinking!) and just lost a coin toss on the second one.
Snoopy: In a dream world, which five players would you invite to your home game?
MA: Five opponents for a home game would be:
[Ed note: hmm]
To play with Doyle would be an honour, he has real class, and the others are all fine poker players and easy on the eye, but there are so many I could chose from.
Snoopy: Tell us something about yourself that we don't already know...
MA: I am a longtime New York Giants fan and went to Super Bowl XXI.
Snoopy: What are your poker plans for 2012?
MA: My poker plan is just to keep playing online and live when I can, and hopefully get back to Vegas again.
Snoopy: Will you be taking advantage of any of the Orange Belt offers?
MA: I will be playing in the Orange Belt Freerolls and also working hard to keep my Belt.
Snoopy: What area of your game would you like to improve on?
MA: I seem to be getting tighter the more I play, so I need to open up a bit more.
League XIII kicks off Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 19:30. Come join the fun.
Previous League winner interviews: