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01 April 2007

Battle of the best at the Bellagio

Joe Hachem returned to the scene of his WPT Five-Diamond success, the Bellagio in Las Vegas, to take on the world’s best in the $25,000 buy-in WPT Championship.

Is my luck ever going to change in these PokerStars’ European Poker Tour events? The 2006-07 EPT wrapped up once again in Monte Carlo, which is one of my favourite stops on the international poker calendar.

It’s a great place to hang out for a few days, watching Ferraris roar around the street, before playing in one of the biggest and best events in the world.

The EPT grand final reminds me of the PokerStars’ Caribbean Adventure, as it attracts the best young players too young to play in US tournaments.

Believe me, my 16-year-old son looked older than 90 per cent of the players. So many young kids, 18, 29 and 20, even 23-year-olds but they looked so young. It was great to see such a turnout, and lot of these guys have so much talent. It was scary to see how young they looked.

We see young guys like this at the Aussie Millions, like Jimmy Fricke who finished runner-up to Gus Hansen. A few of them came across for the Aussie Millions as well. Whenever I talk to young guys, all they talk about is poker, and playing, and putting in 12 hours a day.

Guys, get a life! Don’t let poker become your life, let it be part of your life. It’s not pretty when poker becomes your life. Too much of anything is no good for you. I love to play poker, but I’m not going to stop doing everything else in my life just to play poker.

I’ve never made it past the first day of an EPT event – unfortunately, it was the same story in Monaco this year. Midway through the first day holding pocket aces, I raised to 300 pre-flop and was re-raised to 1000 by Jonathan Little. I call, and the flop comes Qs Qc 2c. I bet out, Little raises and we end up all-in. He shows A Q off-suit, and I’m out.

From one extreme to the other, I’m now back at the Bellagio for the WPT Championship (the first prize is a massive $US4 million, almost double what I won in the Five-Diamond)), the same venue where I won the Five-Diamond Classic late last year. It feels great to be back here, playing along side the biggest names in poker – you can barely shift your head without seeing a table packed with the best pros in the game.

People ask me if I’ll play in the big cash game in Bobby’s Room while I’m here at the Bellagio: I tell them I don’t fancy playing in that big game for a number of reasons.

Firstly, most of the games they play, I don’t play. Secondly, it’s mostly limit. Thirdly, it’s a bunch of guys who play together every week, every day. I don’t plan on being the rabbit to sit there between them. No matter how good I am, these guys know each other inside out, and I don’t need to prove myself that way. It means nothing to me.
And finally, I’m not comfortable playing poker for those sort of stakes, unless I’m worth $100 million or $200 million and I’ve got a $50 million bankroll. Seriously, you could lose a million a night.

I know for a fact that a lot of those guys who play, they’re on the verge of being broke all the time because they can’t take those swings. There are only a handful of people in that game that can actually afford to be in that game. If we talk about poker being gambling or a profession, then in that case, you’re gambling, you’re not managing your bankroll properly.

As you may have noticed, I made a late start on day 1B of the WPT Championship and took a steady approach to play throughout the day. I took down a nice pot late in the day. On a flop of 9 9 2, I’m in middle position. On the turn (an 8), it’s a check from the small blind, big blind bets, I call and the small blind calls. Same on the flop (seven), except the small blind folds. The big blind should have folded, as I’d made a straight with my J 10!

When the next edition of Bluff Australasia hits the stands, I’ll be preparing for the 2007 WSOP main event, I can’t believe it’s come around so quickly! Look forward to updating you from the Rio.

Ed’s note: join Joe Hachem on www.pokerstars.com; and check out Joe’s Pass the Sugar merchandise at www.bluffaustralasia.com.au

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