Sam Trickett - Summer of Sam

October 2012 cover

28 September 2012

Sam Trickett won millions last summer, literally. From Macau to Vegas, the lad from Retford hoovered up the dosh. In fact, when we spoke to him, as he attempted to recover from a horrendous hangover, he confirmed that he’d won $800K in the same week, playing online PLO.
And to cap it all, he wins British Poker Player of the Year at the British Poker Awards, presented by Bluff Europe – surely the finest achievement of his career – ahem. Bluff meets a man at the height of his powers.

Which felt better, Sam? Coming second at the One Drop, the richest poker tournament ever held, or winning the Player of the Year award at the British Poker Awards?

It’s definitely the $10m!

Really? Filthy ingrate! What do you think about awards ceremonies, though? Do they mean anything in poker?

It’s always nice to be called the best player of the year and to get titles. I’m always looking to win things like that when I’m up for them. It’s never nice being nominated for something and not winning. It’s good to get recognition for what you’ve achieved in poker. And it’s voted for by the public so it’s not just the opinion of one person or a committee.

Tell us a bit about that whole One Drop experience. What were the significant things that you remember about the tournament?

I got off to a really good start, which was important in that tournament because it was such a big buy in tournament. No one really wanted to get knocked out, so it was nice to be able to have a stack to put pressure on people. I had more room for manoeuvre than other people which really helped. I was never really in danger of going out of the tournament the whole way through as I had more chips than anyone else.

I took a few high variance lines on hands early on because I felt that everyone was going to play low variance. That gave me a bit of an edge in the first few levels which enabled me to build a stack.

What was the skill level like? You had rich businessmen and top pros. Was it a strange dynamic from that point of view?

Not really. It’s not like these business guys have never played poker before. They’d played quite a lot. It just means that, rather than play hands straightforwardly, you have to think about who you’re playing a pot with and whether what they’re thinking about the hand is what you’re thinking about the hand. But it was fun to play with non professionals and it did create that little extra edge for the pros.

Were there any really significant hands in the tournament?

Apart from the final table, there was one that got me going. I had aces in the first few levels and one of the business guys had queens and I won a relatively big pot. That got me up to 4.5m from 3m and I used that extra 1.5m to start putting on pressure and bluffing a few pots.

The most important pot was when I knocked out Phil Gruissem near the bubble. I had jacks versus A-Q. I was able to go on and build chips around the bubble, but if I hadn’t won that pot he’d have been on my left with a big stack which might have made things tough for me. So that was the most significant pot for me.

I know how much you like to win. Did it hurt to come second or did you feel it was fair enough?

I was obviously disappointed at the time but, looking back, I can’t feel too bad, considering it was such a big win. The money was so significant to me. It’s not as if it’s a second place that people will forget about. People will remember it as the biggest buy-in tournament ever and I came second for $10m! I was more disappointed when I came second against Erik Seidel at the Aussie Millions, as I had a five to one chip lead and that’s a match I’d quite often win. I knew, going heads up, that Antonio had three times as many chips as me, so I was fully aware I wasn’t the favourite. It wasn’t a shock to me, like losing to Erik was.

Were you really freerolling in that tournament?


You got half the money?

I took no risk and got half.

Did the fact you were freerolling give you an edge?

Not really. I’ve always found that being backed or not being backed doesn’t change my decisions in any way. I just always do what I think is right at the poker table. I’d never make a decision based on the fact that I’m freerolling. It doesn’t affect things in any way really.

Tell us a bit about the trouble afterwards in the nightclub.

It was after the nightclub. I left with my girlfriend. It was 4am or something. We’d reserved a car and the car arrived and these guys tried to get in it. My girlfriend said “we’ve booked it”. They started arguing, one of them spat in my girlfriend’s face and it just started from there. There were six guys, which resulted in me getting a good hiding from them.

Did they know who you were?

I don’t know. I wouldn’t like to say. I think so. They were English guys.

You recently finished seventh in the Macau High Stakes Challenge. Tell us a bit about that.

That was great fun. Everyone who played it said it was brilliant. It was a fun tournament. Because it was one day, the average stack was so shallow – 13 big blinds on the final table was the average, I think. It was ridiculous thinking of how much money we were playing for at the final table. I was forced to call it off pre-flop with, like, 2-3 off suit, K-9 and stuff (laughs). I was priced in to call and it was quite funny at the time. I was playing a tournament that was US$7m to the winner and I had to call of with 2-3! I was thinking if my parents were watching on TV they’d think there’s no skill in this game!

Did you realise it was going to be that kind of crapshoot when you entered?

I knew it was going to be a bit like that but it didn’t help on the final that one of the guys had half the chips. That made everyone else’s stacks really shallow, so it was a shove fest. It was funny.

I lost two coin flips back to back. One of them was K-9 versus 5-5. I hit a nine on the flop and he rivered a set, which was painful. If I’d won one of those flips I’d have been getting a top-three finish. It wasn’t to be. It’s not as if I haven’t been lucky in flips over the past few years. I wasn’t too disappointed when I was knocked out as I realised that you needed a lot of luck in that tournament.

You obviously love these high buy-in tournaments. But do you think they could send a lot of pros broke and that could actually be bad for the poker economy?

The only thing that’s at risk at these high buy-in tournaments is, for example, if some business guys win a few of them, then there’s a danger of that money not coming back into the poker community.

It’s hard to say because you’d think it’s good for poker because the pros are going to do well in the tournaments over the business guys, which inevitably means businessmen putting money into poker. I don’t think it’s too bad.

How were the cash games in Macau?

They’re brilliant out there. It’s just a fun place to play. You play big pots and you get to squeeze the river; they fire the river to you and you get to squeeze it. It’s a really chilled, laid back game. It’s fun and obviously really big – it’s about $20K/$40k (HKD) and it’s got harder to get in. Not many pros can get into the game at all. The smaller cash games aren’t so good at the moment – they’re full of pros.

How did you do on your last trip?

On my last trip, I won good.

Any crazy pots, bluffs or big hands to talk us though?

Not really, there were loads of little pots. I won a couple of million dollars US, or something. No – $3m. I just won loads of little pots. I didn’t play any really big pots this time.

You’ve been playing online lately. You just had a massive day playing PLO…

Yes, I won $700k this week playing PLO. My friend Pab came third in the WCOOP for $200k or something. I’ve been after some dollars online for a while because you can only deposit, like, $5k a week. He sent me $100k – well, he sent me $50k and someone else sent me $50k – and I ran it up to $800k.

So you’re playing online a lot? You said before you prefer the live game.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love online poker. I feel like I have a decent enough edge to play it. I can just never get money on there. I have difficulty depositing. And I don’t want to sit and play small stakes and try and grind it up. I can’t be bothered. It’s nice to finally have a roll on there to play the size of games I want to play. Hopefully I’ll continue winning.

Recently it seems that the money has been rolling in for you. Do you ever think, “I’m happy now, I can just chill out forever”?

I know what you’re saying. People have said why don’t you have a break. I haven’t had more than a week without playing for the past couple of years. While I’m running so good, when I sit down at any game in the world right now I feel like I’m a big favourite. And it might not always be like that. There might not always be these big cash games around. I’m just trying to make the most if it while I can. If I wasn’t enjoying it, if it was like a job for me, then I might take in more breaks, but at the minute I really enjoy playing.

You still live in Retford?


We’re not saying Retford isn’t glamorous, but have you ever wanted to move? You could live anywhere in the world?

I’ve thought about it. The truth is I’m the happiest when I’m in Retford. All my friends and family are here. Everyone I’ve know since I was young. It’s nice to be around people who don’t know you through poker but know you from football or when we used to knock around. It’s nice to have that relationship with people.

I moved London for a year. I lived in Belsize Park, a beautiful area, but it didn’t feel like home. It felt like I was staying in a hotel. There was something not right about it. I feel more content and happy with my girlfriend back home. I’ll be staying here for the next few years. If I change my mind I’ll go abroad somewhere. I wouldn’t mind living in Manchester. I like to go to Man Utd games and I’ve got a few friends in Manchester. One day I may move there and get nearer to Old Trafford.

How’s the new Ferrari?

It's unbelievable! Absolute class! Ever since I was a little boy I’ve wanted a Ferrari. Just a few years ago – four or five years ago – I had my picture taken by this Ferrari and wrote “maybe one day...”. My sister showed it me the other day. Bloody hell! To think back that then I was dreaming about having a Ferrari. To actually have one, it certainly makes me happy.

It must be quite strange to look back and realise how far you’ve come in three or four years. Your life’s been totally transformed.

It’s unbelievable. I realise how lucky I’ve been to achieve what I’ve achieved in such a short space of time. But I worked really hard. I had to move to Africa to earn money at one stage. I had to leave everything behind as there were no options for me. I’ve made sacrifices and put the hard work in. And I had lots of luck, as well. It’s a combination of both that’s led me here.

Any comment on the Andrew Feldman situation? Or would you rather not go there?

I don’t mind. I lent him money and he refused to pay me back. He doesn’t like poker players and the poker industry at all since he went on that programme [Secret Millionaire]. I think what he’s done to me is disgusting. That’s all I can say about that. He was always bitter towards me because he got no recognition for the amount of money he’d won in poker because it came on the internet. Obviously I get a lot of recognition because I’ve had tournament success. He was always bitter towards me about that.

Tell us about your becoming an ISPT ambassador.

As soon as I heard that players like Michael Mizrachi and Patrik Antonius were on board it was a pretty easy decision. After speaking to the guys, they seem super confident that it’s going to take place. It’s not going to be as tough as people think. They say a lot of the pros are thinking about all the possible things that could go wrong, and a lot of things could go wrong. But at the end of the day it’s at Wembley Stadium, that place is used to coping with thousands of people, week in, week out.

Tell us more about the concept…

They're targeting around 30,000 people and 1,000 can buy in straight on to the pitch. The rest will be in the stands, playing online, trying to satellite on to the pitch. It’s a great concept – very ambitious. It’s one of a kind, really – an attempt to hold the largest poker tournament in the world, with the one of the largest prize pools ever generated. Very exciting.

What’s the deal with your sponsorship at the moment?

I never had a long-term sponsorship with Matchbook. It was just a short-term deal for the One Drop because it was good marketing for the company and myself. I wanted to play, it obviously. They’re not involved in poker, they’re a betting exchange. That partnership ended which I thoroughly expected it to. I don’t have a sponsorship at the minute. Since I parted ways with Titan I’ve had a few other offers but nothing really suited me. I’m very specific about what type of deal I want as obviously I play a lot of cash and not lots of tournaments. I don’t want to be in a great cash game in Macau and have to fly to an EPT or do a photoshoot. At the minute I’m going to stick it out and see what offers come to the table over the next few months.

What's next?

Play a few tournaments in London. I’m going to see what cash games are going in London. There’s some £100,000 tournament on the 25th that I’m going to play.