Sam Trickett Interview

January 2012 Cover A

03 January 2012

It’s been an extraordinary year for Sam Trickett. Since we last interviewed him, 12 months ago, Sam has overtaken Devilfish on the UK all-time money list, demolished the two of the most expensive tournaments in the world and won the Partouche Poker Tour Grand final.

He’s also been back to the big game in Macau amid rumours of a 2 million USD score. Sam took time out of his busy schedule travelling the world and felting people to tell us about the games in Macau, his rise from playing £100 comps at Dusk Till Dawn to the biggest games in the world, and why he’s not the new Phil Ivey.

What’s up, Sam?

I’m in Vegas. I’ve just played the Epic Poker Tour. I went out on Day 1, basically. I probably shouldn’t really have played because I just came from Macau and I did really well there, so I didn’t feel that bothered if I lost here. So I played a high variance game and didn’t do too well. I just bluffed off all my chips when I didn’t really need to. But whenever I get back from Macau, win or lose, I tend not to play very good. The stakes are so high there. Last time I came back I played on the 48 Hour Cash Game, and the stakes were, like, ten times smaller. It makes you feel like the game’s not important. But I won a lot of money on this trip, so I really wanted to celebrate rather than play.

Can it be dangerous, then, to play so high, in the sense that it can distort reality?

I don’t think so, because I can recognise the fact that I play badly when I come back. If I didn’t recognise that, it would be a problem. I know when I’m not in the right frame of mind to play, so in the future I’ll probably just dodge some of these things. But I think my brain’s shut down for Christmas now and I just feel like going out and having fun.

So where are these Macau games taking place and who’s been playing in them?

At the moment it’s at Starworld Casino. The game’s changing all the time, but at the moment they’re allowing pros in – Patrik Antonius got to play, I got to play, Tom Dwan and Phil Ivey have been playing and a few of the other Chinese pros too. It’s not really a good game at the moment, but the stakes are so high that it appeals to people. It’s currently $10k-$20 (HKD) blinds, which is about $1,300-$2,600 USD. It’s the kind of game where you can win or lose a lot of money, and the sessions are all so long – people will often play 30 hours minimum – which is pretty tiring, but it’s worth it. And it’s NLH. Sometimes some smaller PLO games run as well, but I don’t really play them. Live Hold’em is my favourite game.

Any crazy hands to tell us about?

This was the biggest bluff I’ve ever made in my career. I raised pre-flop to $100,000 on the button and the small blind re-raised me to $320,000. I called – I had, like, $15,000,0000 in front of me, and the flop came down 10-7-3 rainbow. The SB was an aggressive player who C-bets loads of flops – probably too many – but he just really quickly checked, without thinking about his decision at all. I had a gutshot with the 8h6h, so I just thought I’d go ahead and bet, expecting him to check-fold, but he check-called. I think he had, like, a seven or pockets eights, even some ace-highs – something like that. The turn was a three, which was a good card for me because in my head I was already like, “I’m going to give him two more barrels.” I bet $1.1m and he raised me to $3.8m. I think he’s trying to rep pocket sevens or tens here, but I didn’t think he would ever play them like that; he would have just bet on the flop. He would try to build the pot because he has no showdown value because he’s out of position. So I’m pretty sure he’s bluffing and I just call, which is how I would play it if I had a full house. I had it in my head that he would never bluff again on the river. Sure enough, he checked the jack on the river and I moved all in for about $8m into a pot of a similar amount. He folded after a 30-second tank. I still don’t know what he had and why he was thinking about calling. Maybe he caught a jack. Anyway, it was the biggest bluff of my life. I don’t think I’ll ever be bluffing that much again.

You’ve overtaken Devilfish on the UK all-time money list. Do these little milestones mean anything to you?

That particular one does, actually. It means a lot. I think it means a lot to the general public as well, in terms of recognition. So it is nice. Other records I’m not so fussed about. Apparently I’m the first person ever to cash for over a $1m three separate times in one year. But I’m not really bothered about that. It’s not an important milestone. I mean, it’s nice to be doing well and breaking records, but they don’t inspire me to do well.

You’ve had an amazing year since we last interviewed you 12 months ago...

Yeah, Australia was amazing for me. It was my first time there and I was always excited about going. The place is amazing and the venue’s brilliant. It was just after my first trip to Macau and I was on a little heater. I was super-confident going into the high roller events. In the $100k I don’t think I ran amazingly – above average – but I thought I played really well. In the $250k I just ran brilliantly and I didn’t play particularly well. I just sat in my seat and played my hands. When I eventually got heads up I had a 5:1 chip lead against Erik Seidel and I threw it away. I just thought that, because I was running so good, I was going to win anyway. I went in with the wrong attitude. I was completely fuming; really angry with myself. My dad rang me up to congratulate me and I was just in a mood. He must have thought, “God, what’s wrong with him? He just won $1.5m!” and I was just lying on a bench outside the Crown, so frustrated and upset. I thought people would watch it on TV and think I just donked it off and that I’m an idiot. I just want to win stuff, you know?

Tournament poker must be very frustrating for someone with that kind of winning mentality. How do you cope with the variance?

It doesn’t bother me one bit if I play well and lose because I know there was nothing I could have done differently, but I hate coming out of game having played bad and made mistakes. Bad beats don’t tilt me one bit, but if I think I haven’t played my best I really feel myself boil. Sometimes I’ll be in a pot and I know what the right play is, my gut will tell me, but I’ll just do something different or lose concentration, and when I do something wrong I get super-tilted, really bad. It’s more to do with performance than results for me.

Tell us about the Partouche win. It capped off a good year...

Partouche was the highlight of my poker career so far. I had all my family and friends there and I don’t think that’s going to happen again because there aren’t that many tournaments with delayed final tables, so to have them all there when I actually won was amazing. It was just the perfect scenario.

Did your parents accept your choice of career to begin with?

My mum’s always supported whatever I do and I think she quite liked the thought of me doing something different, but my dad always hated it. He never gambled in his life and he hated the thought of me gambling for a living. He could never get his head around it. My dad is a professional artist [John Trickett], known for his paintings of Labradors and wildlife. At first I was losing a lot of money, playing when I didn’t have an edge, losing my wages every week. He bailed me out on my credit card for, like, £1,500. I had had to go to him because I was completely broke and couldn’t afford my bills. I looked him in the eye and said, “I promise I’ll never gamble again.” Three days later, I maxed my card out again. It was so hard to go back to him again to tell him what I’d done. But I did, and then I stopped playing for a bit while I went to work and earned some wages. He bailed me out again on the condition that I would never play again, which obviously didn’t quite work out. But he’s happy now with all that I’ve achieved.

You were destined to be a footballer but injury put a stop to that...

When I was 13, 14, I was the best footballer in my school and I was a little bit cocky and arrogant about it. I used to be at Nottingham Forest, but I’d rather go to the school disco than training. If I got benched I’d get a face on because I thought I was too good to be benched. My attitude sucked, basically. But I always thought that one day I would be a pro footballer; that it was just a matter of time and that I didn’t really have to work hard at it. When I was 16, 17, I matured a little bit and realised I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. I was at Retford United when I snapped my knee and did my cruciate ligament and they told me I’d never play again. It was disappointing. I had no idea what else I was going to do because I’d never really taken school seriously, so I was in a bit of a pickle. I decided I wanted to be a gas engineer. I passed my Corgi examination, paid two grand to get my accreditation, and while I was doing that I discovered poker. So essentially I wasted two grand.

And how did you go from playing little comps in Nottingham to these dizzy heights, Sam?

I was lucky to have good people around me when I started playing. Dusk Till Dawn had just opened and I had players like Julian Thew and Paul Jackson around me; experienced, nice people. They would advise me and Paul staked me online, which worked out well for both of us, and Julian took a few shares of me in the £100 comps. I always got some form of results from day one. I won a few tournaments, built a little ’roll up and I’ve always done well in cash games. I went from there, building up in cash games while punting away at tournaments. Eventually I got some big results. Then I went to the World Series in 2008 and came 4th for $250k – and I won the $1k Monday online while I was there for another $80k. But then I got too big for my boots and thought I deserved a sponsorship deal and I probably thought that I was better than I was. I felt that money came by so easily that I could spend it however I wanted. So I spent too much and was gambling too high. In 2009 I went to the World Series and I was already on tilt for losing so much, and I played bad for the whole Series. I literally bubbled every single event I played and I just got way tilted and started gambling whatever money I had on roulette and blackjack. I pretty much polished off my whole ’roll at that World Series.

I was basically broke, and then I met James Bord of the Poker Farm. He suggested that I went to Cape Town to teach people how to play. So I went there on the basis that he’d give me £30,000-worth of tournament buy-ins if I worked for him in his office for four months. I’d broken up with my girlfriend and had nothing better to do so off I went. In Cape Town I was playing thousands of hands every day and teaching good players about difficult situations. I find difficult situations so much easier now because I’ve come across them so many times. It also brought me down to earth; it got rid of some of that cockiness that had been my downfall before. I learnt a lot from James Bord too. He’s obviously a very wealthy guy, but he was playing on Full Tilt for smaller stakes than I was when I was broke. He said he had no urge to play big because the games aren’t good, whereas I knew I’d never do that; if I had money I wouldn’t care, I’d just be sitting with anyone. He taught me how to have respect for money and make good decisions.

Are you the British Phil Ivey?

No, I think he’s a breed of his own. But it’s nice to be asked that question, put it that way...