John Tabatabai

John Tabatabai

18 June 2009

By his own admission, John Tabatabai had a torrid time of it at the World Series last year. We caught up with him to see how he’s preparing to do things differently this year.

Here’s John’s indispensable advice for the Vegas virgin on preparing mentally for Vegas, where to find fresh fish in the desert and how to survive as a dapper Welshman in a strange land.

What you been up to, John?

When I went off to Australia for the Aussie Millions I just spent a long time playing live. I played a lot of cash games and did well in the heads up tournament and – I don’t know – something just clicked, and when I got back I just felt like playing a lot more live poker. So since I got back I’ve just been playing a lot of live cash games. I used to play online a lot, but now it’s just the big Sunday tournaments. My roots are online, I guess, but I’m becoming more balanced in both disciplines now.

Off to Vegas soon?

Yeah, that’s right. I’m heading over in a couple of weeks. I’m going to be staying with fellow Betfair pro Sorel Mizzi, so that’ll be pretty cool. I’m still not sure how I’m going to approach the Series – whether I’m going to take it easy and play selected tournaments or whether I’m going to play them all. I don’t think I’ll know until I get there. It depends what mood I’m in. I just want to play my best.

Last time we spoke you were a self-confessed Hold’em kid looking to improve your mixed games. Will we see you playing the HORSE this year?

(Laughs) I always say I want to learn more languages. It’s the same with poker – I really want to learn other variations but I just never get around to doing it. I’ve been playing a lot more Omaha online and Annette [Obrestad] has become quite proficient at Omaha cash games, so I’ve been watching and learning with her. I think I will play a couple of Omaha tournaments but I don’t plan on playing the bigger ones unless I’m doing really well generally.

You had a bit of a lousy time last year, didn’t you?

I’d only been once before and then I only played a couple of events. But last year I tried to play the whole thing and I just wasn’t used to the intensity of it. If you’re staying in a hotel for six weeks it can be quite depressing if you’re doing badly – what with the constant noise of the slot machines in then casino, the 24-hour distractions. It’s very, very difficult to stay focused. The biggest decision I made this year is to not stay in a hotel and to rent an apartment. I think that will automatically balance everything. I also think that staying with Sorel – a very disciplined tournament player will also help me stay focused. I think it’s going to be a great year.

Are you going to party less?

(Laughs) I wouldn’t say I’m going to party less, just more sensibly, and not the night before a tournament. I’m going to try to get us much sleep as possible before I play, eat well, and – dare I say it – even go to the gym. Healthy mind, healthy body and all that. But when I have some free time I’m going to have some fun.

Favourite Vegas hotspot?

The best place by far has to be Tao. It’s one of the most incredible clubs I’ve seen. Also, Tryst and Blush at the Wynn are very cool clubs. Really good atmosphere. As far as eating – the food in Vegas is great. I love the Italian at the Wynn. The freshest fish ever. The new Japanese at the Bellagio is very good too.

What’s this Betfair Free Million Dollar Game you were telling us about?

It’s this promotion where you can only enter by doing freerolls, which is pretty cool, because it puts everybody on a level playing field. It’s done regionally, so all the Norwegians and Germans and French people will play against their own countrymen every night in these freerolls, and if you finish in the top 18 you then qualify for the weekly finals. If you progress through the levels, you then play in a live final sit n go, which takes place during the WSOP, where first prize gets a million dollars and runners up get entries into various WSOP events.

What are your goals for the Series?

Every poker player wants to win a bracelet; it’s the highest accolade you can get in the game. Of course I’d be over the moon to win one, but when you ask about my short term goals – I don’t want to set the bar to high. Making a final table – that’s realistic and attainable, so for now I’ll settle for that.

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