Nobody in UK poker can match the spectacular last 12 months of Titan pro Sam Trickett, or any year for that matter. Starting with not one, but two seven-figure scores in Australia, he went on to become Partouche Tour Champion for a further million before squeezing in a WSOPE final table in Omaha. His ascent - which also included tearing up the super high stakes cash games in Macau - culminated in over $4.5 million in live tournament winnings which saw him surpass the Devilfish as the UK's biggest winner to date. And God damn it, he's still only 25!
Has your year been as good as it looks on paper?
It was amazing: I won in all forms of poker. I was up 500K online by the end of the year and was a big winner in Macau. Although I didn’t have all my own action at the Aussie Millions, I did in everything else, so obviously won a lot in live tournaments too.
I'd say Partouche was the most satisfying result because all my friends and family were there. Because of the delayed final, I was able to bring everyone along, and all the people I wanted to be there were there. It's the one I'm most proud of as well.
I won’t be playing that many tournaments this year, so it's going to be near impossible to outdo what I achieved in 2011, but hopefully I'll get a few final tables, win a bracelet in the Series, and cash for a million dollars again - that would be ideal. I'd like to maintain some sort of tournament success, although I've built up enough money that I don't have to go out grinding after every tournament, so I'm probably just going to pick and choose. I want to play in nice locations and then just try and enjoy life with my girlfriend.
Are people playing differently against you now?
Before, I’d wonder if they knew who I was and what they thought of me, but now I’m more aware that they likely know a bit about my game. They might have watched me on TV, but I play different styles in different tournaments, so I don’t know which one they’ve seen. For example, I was really aggressive at the Aussie Millions, but then in the Partouche final I played really tight, so you’re always wondering how they perceive your game and how they’re going to play against you. What I find with the younger online kids is that they're going to be more aggressive versus me, in position, and then avoid playing pots out of position. I have to then try and counteract that.
Did you always think you'd get this far?
If sounds pretty arrogant, but if you want the truth, I did, yeah. I used to win, and when I played the cash games, I felt like I had a big edge, and that I was learning the game quicker than most. I had friends who’d’ been playing longer than me, and I seemed to get better than them in such a short space of time.
I remember when I won the £100 tournament at the Gala [Casino in Nottingham] for four grand or something and I was going up to Julian Thew saying, 'Can you put in a good word with William Hill for me?' I proper thought I was better than what I was back then. I think he put a word in and they were like, 'Sam who?' but in my head I thought I'd always make it at poker.
Has your perspective of money changed?
I'm not stupid with money: I don't sports bet or gamble on other stuff. I do waste money on nights out and end up with stupid table bills, but to me, at 25, it's all part of being young.
I do struggle with 1K events as I don’t really play my best game because I’m not overly fussed about the prize pool, so any marginal spot, I just end up sticking it in. When I’ve gone from Macau to playing a smaller tournament, I tend to play badly, and don’t put much thought into the hands. I just look at my cards and kind of f*ck around – I need to get out of the habit of doing that because it’s basically a waste of money.
I’ve decided that I’m not going to bother with side events this year, and haven’t played any here in Australia. I’m just going to play all the big buy-in tournaments, maybe a few EPTs like the one in London, and focus on the cash games in Macau, then do other stuff in my spare time rather than just playing poker 24/7. I want to enjoy life, and I’ve been playing a bit of tennis, and doing some snowboarding.
Give us an overview on Macau?
It's a private game at the StarWorld Casino. A few people run the game and you kind of have to be asked to play. I considered learning Mandarin a while back when it was harder for me to get in the game, but because of my style, I feel welcome now. I still want to learn the language at some point though as I’d like to have conversations during the game because otherwise it gets boring. They all seem like nice blokes so I want to be able to hear what they say and join in with the conversation.
People think it's full of business guys who are just fish, and the pros - me, Tom, Ivey, or whoever - just sit down and pick them off, but it's not like that at all. The game is actually pretty tough, and the guys know what they’re doing. It’s just that the stakes are high so it’s exciting.
There’s a good mixture of players at the table, and the styles are all different. Preflop, no one’s brilliant and you’ll get people limping and calling any raise, but they’re all really good post-flop. It obviously depends whether they’re winning or losing in the game.
Do you get nervous?
The only time I get nervous is if it’s a close spot and I'm not a hundred percent how he’s analysed the hand and whether he’s going to fold or not. That's the only time I feel my heart go.
The 6-8 hand where I had the gutter was the biggest bluff I’ve ever made…
[With blinds at $1,300/2,600, Sam was three-bet preflop with 8h-6h then bet $60,000 on a Ts-7d-3d flop and flat-called a check-raise from $140,000 to $490,000 on a 3h turn, before bluffing 1,310,000 on the Js river. His opponent made the fold.]
… but I didn’t feel nervous one bit because I knew he was folding. Because of the way the hand played out, I figured he would never ever bluff the river again in a million years after I flatted on the turn; he'd always bet for value. He’s never checking to trap, so once he does check I can be pretty sure he’s going to fold if I bet. It was a big pot, but you try not to think about the money; you just focus on what they’re going to do in the hand.
Do you worry about being robbed?
I never carry more than a few thousand on me, and I just wire the money to the casino when I play. I hear it happens quite a lot in places like Barcelona, but I think it’s avoidable these days as you can get cheques, leave it on deposit and so on, so anyone who’s carrying around huge amounts of money is doing so at their own risk. You do wonder if someone might come up to you one day and say, 'Give me this amount of money or we're going to do this or that,' which would be pretty scary, but hopefully I'll never find myself in that position.
Are you still enjoying Vegas?
I love Vegas; it’s my favourite place in the world. It’s brilliant. Even if you take your girlfriend there’s still loads of stuff to keep you busy, and something entertaining to do or see every night of the week. Having said that, I go there for eight weeks every year for the Series but then can’t wait to get away from the place during those last couple of weeks. I’m normally so burnt out that I don’t play particularly well in the Main Event and just want to get home.
There’s pretty much a party every night, but I do try and keep it in balance. A couple of years ago I didn't drink for the first two or three weeks because I was determined to have a good Series, and I was broke as well so it was more important. But then I did have a good Series and I partied towards the end.
Last year, I didn't party too much, and a lot of my friends were going out more than me, but I still had a decent number of nights out. It just depends how I feel, how my poker's going, and if any of my friends have had a good result. That's the thing with Vegas: it's not too bad if you miss a night out, because there's always the next night. It's not like the weekends in England where if you don't go out on Saturday night, you have to wait until next week for a good time. There's no rush.
Is that bracelet niggling at you?
I’ve had some good results at the World Series, but last summer was frustrating because I was feeling super confident and so decided to refuse all swaps and percentages and play for 100 percent in every tournament. But then I ran really badly and maybe didn't play so well toward the end of the Series as a result. It was a pretty disappointing Series for me overall, but it doesn't keep me up at night or anything like that. I would like to have a bracelet and it's kind of annoying that I don't have any kind of major title. Partouche is a pretty big title, but I’d like to win an EPT, WPT or bracelet – I feel I deserve one when I look back at some of my results.
The WSOPE was particularly frustrating because I was chip leader going into the final and everything was going so well. That's the thing with PLO; it's pretty hard to build chips when you just don't make any flops whatsoever and your opponent keeps hitting, which is basically what happened to me on the final: I played a few three-bet pots and got nowhere near the flop. I three-bet myself with hands like J-Q-T-8 double-suited and it would just come like the worst flop, 2-3-5 or something. I've had so many near misses in World Series events, but I think it's coming and I'll get one eventually. It's just a matter of time.
Busting a tournament will always piss me off, and I’m never really satisfied unless I come first. There are unusual circumstances where you might have a really small stack and manage to ladder up, but most of the time you’re going to be annoyed unless you win. In the A$250K at the Aussie Millions, I was having a great time – I’d already won the $100K, and I had a 5:1 chip lead heads-up against Erik Seidel, but then when I lost I wouldn’t speak to my girlfriend for a while; I was proper tilted and didn’t forgive myself for a few hours. A few days later I was all right.
I just like winning basically; the feeling is brilliant.
Thoughts on the Epic Poker League… Who are the world’s best players?
I played two, and thought I was going to win the first one because I was chip leader with 18 left, but somehow messed it up. I played badly on the second one and ran bluff after bluff for no reason, but the actual structure, format and idea are brilliant. Matt Savage and Annie Duke do a pretty good job of organising the events and the hospitality is really good, so I hope they do well. It's hard to say no to these events when they're adding so much money to the prize pool, and I've heard they’ve done a deal in Europe now, which will be even better.
I’ve played against some really good players, but I think Patrik’s [Antonius] temperament is one of the best I’ve come across; he doesn't seem to tilt too much, and I think he makes the fewest mistakes out of anyone I've played. In terms of tournament players, Jason Mercier’s impressed me, and he doesn’t make mistakes either. I’ve never played cash with him, but his tournament game is probably the best I’ve seen.
To be fair, I don't play that many tournaments, so I don't really see these players day in and day out. I've never even played with Jake Cody, [Matt] Perrins, or any of these boys, so it's hard for me to give an honest judgment.
Views on the poker lifestyle…
You can feel like a bit of degenerate, waking up when it’s pitch black, eating burger and chips at the table. I can play 30 hours, 40 even, sleep for 12 hours and then just go back and play again – so it can get a bit tedious. In Macau, they smoke at the table, so it’s even more tilting. It reminds me of the Gala when you used to go home smelling of fags.
When I got back together with my girlfriend, I explained why it might be tough because I travel a lot more than I used to, but everything’s fine now and she does all my accounting for me, books my flights and accommodation and keeps pretty busy. She looks after the house while I’m gone, but whenever she fancies a trip away she comes with me. To be honest, I’ve been spending a lot more time back at home, and this is the longest break I’ve had from poker since I started playing as I took a few weeks off before Christmas and haven’t really played a hand this year, so we’ve been spending more time together.
Would you have preferred to be a footballer?
[Sam’s footballing career was cut short due to injury.]
I would snap your hand off. I would love to be a footballer; it's still my first love, and I prefer their lifestyle: they get up, go and train for a few hours, look forward to the match at the weekend, and have the odd night out here and there. It's the ideal life for me and I'd love it, although I’ve made a lot of money from poker and it's going to be hard for me not to be comfortable in life now.
Do you feel like a veteran now?
I know what you mean, and I do feel like I’ve been playing for ages, but I don’t really feel like a veteran at 25. It’s weird. We’re like in the middle, and there’s a new generation of players coming through who live, eat, sleep and breathe poker, and it’s all they talk about. I discuss interesting hands with the boys, but we tend to forget about poker when we go out.
What are you up to at the moment?
I haven't played any side events, but there's like a A$1,000/2,000 PLO game that's running over the next few days, and then I’ll play the $100K and $250K events. I'm going to go to the zoo tomorrow with my girlfriend, and after that I'm going to get stuck in and start playing some cash.
Where I’m staying, we get access to this private breakfast area, and there are all these tennis pros in there; we’ve seem them all: Djokavich, Nadal, Roddick – they’re all eating breakfast, and sometimes just a table or two away from where we’re sitting. I thought Nadal would be eating granola with some fresh orange juice, but he was getting stuck into the coco pops. I was loving it.
Our New Year Reviews will continue throughout January and appear every two days.
#1 - JP Kelly
#2 - Roberto Romanello
#3 - Daniel 'jungleman12' Cates
#4 - James Keys
#5 - Julian Thew
#6 - Jerome Bradpiece
#7 - Rupert Elder
#8 - Barny Boatman
#9 - Jake Cody
#10 - Sam Razavi