Craig McCorkell - a Brit and a bracelet

August 2012 cover

03 August 2012

Meet Craig McCorkell, the only Brit to pick up any bling in Vegas this year. We’re chuffed because we highlighted him as one to watch out for in our WSOP preview. And he was wearing one of our patches!

Here’s Craig on bracelet success, his raucous supporters and the deal with their boozy shoes.

Congratulations, Craig, you done us proud, son. Tell us about the bracelet event. What were the significant moments of the tournament for you?

There were a lot of interesting hands. A shootout is a really cool format. It really favours skilful players, especially players who are strong short-handed. You get to play short-handed and heads up three times, which is good, and good for me personally.

The first round of the shootout, I got heads up with an 8 to 1 chip disadvantage. The guy who I was heads up with knocked out the fourth place player – I was third in chips three-handed – and he knocked out the second-place player as well. So I went in to the heads up match with about 12 big blinds versus his lot of big blinds. I managed to overcome that which felt amazing.

He explained to me at the start of the heads up bit that he was just a cash game player. He didn’t really know how to play these stack sizes when they were really shallow. The first hand heads up, he spent ages deciding what to do and ended up just folding. He looked over to me and I was confused as to what he was doing. That sticks out, obviously, overcoming the huge chip disadvantage.

In the second round, I managed to get a pretty good table draw. The only names I recognised on my table – or anyone who had had any decent results – were James Akenhead and Christian Harder. I was to the direct left of James, which was nice, and Christian got coolered out pretty early. I was quite lucky in that sense.

The second round was six-handed. Once we got down to five, I thought I had a decent chance, and obviously the way shootouts work, it’s pretty important that all the payouts are the same – sixth, fifth, fourth, third, second… Then heads up, to make the final, the jump was for almost $23k. It’s a pretty huge heads up I had with James and it went on for a while. Again, I went in with a chip disadvantage but it wasn’t as major. There were a tonne of interesting hands. The key hand was at the start. I went in with 50BBs against his 100BBs, and we got it in with my jacks against his A-J for a lot of chips at the start. That turned the tables really early.

In the final, I just played really tight. With everyone starting with the same chips, it’s really important to ladder. I played really solid, won my all-ins when I had them and had some fortunate situations, which was nice.

What percentage is run-good and what percentage is being focused and awesome?

I’d like to think a lot was being focused. I think I made really good decisions in the final. I thought I was playing my super A-game for the whole of the Series, really. I started off pretty well, getting a couple of cashes, making a final table at the Venetian.

It was very different from last year. I felt really focused and every time I busted a tournament I just wanted to move onto the next one. When you get in a good rhythm like that, playing your A-game, there’s a really good chance of good things happening. Obviously I ran massively good in the final, the way it panned. Antonio [Esfandiari] lost with nines against sevens all in pre- versus the other stack when we were three-handed, which meant he got heads up with me with a huge chip lead. The other guy [Jeremiah Fitzpatrick] was definitely a weaker player than Antonio. That worked out well for me.

Tell us a bit about the rail. It was quite boisterous.

The rail got a lot of publicity. In previous years we’ve had really good rails and this year it was no different. Maybe it was a bit of a surprise it was only halfway through the Series, so early on. Then it sort of built. We hadn’t really had a rail yet. Ash [Mason], one of my friends, said to me the day before, “Cheers for making a final – it gives me an opportunity to get on the rail and have some beers.”

Everyone was excited to have a day off and someone to support and just drink and have fun. People were getting drunk very early. The final table started at lunchtime. Everyone started on the shots very early so by the time it got to four or five, everyone was very drunk. Everyone was loud. It was awesome.

Is it true that people drink booze from their shoes?

[Laughs] A shoe bomb has become an English tradition now. You put your shot in your shoe and down it. I don’t really know how it started. It’s cool. It’s unique and fun.

Can you describe the feeling of exhilaration when you realise you’ve won a bracelet? What the Hellmuth does that feel like?

Obviously, it’s an unbelievable achievement and it’s something that still hasn’t really sunk in, even now. Lee Davy, who was reporting, said, “When you get your hands reported, ‘WSOP bracelet winner’ will always go before your name.” It’s cool and obviously something that I’ll never forget. It’s an achievement that’s widely recognised, especially in an event like the $3k shootout which had a really tough final table. It’s something I’m really proud of.

Are you a little bit more famous now? Do people treat you any differently?

Not really, no. I don’t think it’s that huge a deal and will make that much of a difference. People – not my friends, but people I know in poker – were congratulating me and that was really nice. I’ve not noticed anything more than that.

You had a good run in the Main Event. Tell us about that. Where did you finish in the end?

One hundred and seventy-second, for $44k. It was decent run. I think the Main Event is a weird tournament. It doesn’t feel like a tournament until Day 5. Previous to that you’re so deep, the average stack is so deep and everyone plays so deep, it’s more like a cash game where you can’t afford to bust.

You should be playing really low variance, taking the lowest variance lines, trying to not play big pots unless you want to play them. Play a lot of pots in position. I didn’t really do anything that exciting or interesting. It’s the first year I was all-in on day 1 which I guess is unusual, but apart from that I just chilled and cruised through the first couple of days.

Days 3 and 4, there were some chances to accumulate chips, which was cool. I went into Day 4 with a really good stack, almost double the average, and a weak table as well. It was a chance to put some pressure on the money bubble. It was my first ever Main

Event bubble. It was drawn out, that’s for sure. I thought they did a good job though. It’s hard as it’s one of the few live tournaments where the bubble bursts with so many tables left. It’s a big process. People were stalling even at the end of Day 3 to try and make the money. It’s hard to deal with. The whole thing was a fantastic experience, though. Unfortunately on Day 5 I had probably the toughest table of the Main Event with two of my close friends in poker and some other really good players on my table. That was unfortunate. I just couldn’t get anything going.

Also, by Day 5 you’d run out of your lucky Bluff patches…

[Laughs] I’d run out earlier than that!

Why do you think the Brits (apart from you) weren’t as successful as in previous years? Is it down to variance?

I think it’s probably just variance. No one’s playing enough events to really realise too much of their potential. It’s so hard. You can’t really explain it away to any specific factor. I think, definitely, given how high expectancy was coming into this, it’s been disappointing. But it’s hard to put your finger on anything specific. I think everyone’s worked as hard this year as they have in previous years. They’ve put the hours and tournaments in. If anything, there was less partying this year than in previous years, certainly from my close friends anyway.

So you’ve had a bit of a bankroll boost. Any plans to play forthcoming events? Any high roller events you want to have a go at?

I don’t think anything is going to change. Over the past couple of years I’ve played the high live stuff anyway, all the EPTs, stuff like that. I’m getting a dog in a couple of weeks so probably won’t be in Barca. But after that I should be back on the live circuit. I’m going to grind online and concentrate on that for a bit. I definitely plan to play live poker. I’ve got a newfound love for it. It was pretty brutal to me in previous years, but I like it a lot more now.