Irish Open champ Kevin Vandersmissen

Irish Open champ Kevin Vandersmissen

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Brighton-based Belgian Kevin Vandersmissen has had a spring to remember after beating a 502-runner field in Dublin to take down the Irish Open. We caught up with the champ to tell us how he did it.

Congratulations, Kevin. But how did you discover this crazy game in the first place?

I discovered poker in the same way almost everybody did, I suppose – just playing with friends for €5 in a bar. I’ve always been very competitive and so I really wanted to get better than my friends so I looked up some stuff on the internet and I found some sites where you could get, like, €50 free, so I just started from there. I got lucky in the beginning, winning a tournament early on, so I some free learning money to help me get better. Since then I’ve just been grinding and grinding, and here I am. I’ve been playing for two years and four professionally.

What did you do before playing poker professionally? Were you studying?

I wasn’t playing poker while I was studying and I didn’t go very far with my studies. I was just a builder. Construction was my vocation and I was just playing poker in the meantime. When I realised I was becoming quite good at poker, I decided to give it a try by working part-time and playing for the rest of the time. I did that for six months and ran well and then took a big shot at doing it full-time and life’s been pretty good since then.

This is your first major tournament win, but we recognise your face from somewhere.

I’ve won some smaller tournaments. My breakthrough was winning the Full Tilt Poker Series Grand Final, in Barcelona in late 2010. That gave me €150k, which meant I had the bankroll to play EPTs and stuff, which then gave me my best result before the Irish Open – second at the EPT Snowfest last year. It meant I could play any tournament that I wanted and I didn’t have to select tournaments carefully. But yes, my first massive tournament win is this one.

Tell us how the tournament played out, from your point of view.

I didn’t win any hands at the beginning at all. Over the first 24 four hours I lost 50% of my stack, and then I made a good hero-call with sixes on a J-J-9-7-Q board, and that practically doubled me up. Then, during the last five hours of the day, I moved up from 9k to 130k which put me into third place for the whole tournament.

Day 3 went pretty smoothly, just grinding it up and grinding it up, but towards the end of the day I lost a lot of all-ins with the best hand and was actually pretty fortunate to make it to the final table.

You were pretty short-stacked going into the final...

Yes, but I also thought the final table was pretty soft. There were two big stacks with over 500k each, and my position on them was perfect. The two other short stacks on the table busted early, so things were going my way. I had 20 big blinds and I just needed to double up, which I did, with K-J against A-8. Then I realised I had a good chance of at least making the top three, because the big stacks were soft and I had position on them.

How about heads up?

We made a deal heads up, so there was less pressure, but for some reason I felt that Thomas Beer wasn’t very comfortable playing heads up – I could see it in his face. Maybe he wasn’t so experienced in big tournaments. So I decided to play really aggressively right from the start and get at him as much as possible so he would make mistakes. It helped I had some good hands too. Then there was the hand where I had 4-5os and 3-bet bluffed the river. I decided to show the bluff to try and get under his skin and damage his confidence even more, and it kind of worked out how I wanted.

Is the money for bankroll or are you going to buy something extravagant?

I’m not the kind of person to buy something extravagant. I’ve been working very hard and I know what money’s worth and that it’s hard to come by. I’ll spend it wisely. But for the last year, every two months, I look at my profits and 50% goes into a different account that I don’t access, and that money is to invest in stuff like property, so 50% of this money will be going there, for my future.

You’ve just moved to Brighton, we hear...

Yes. Poker in Belgium isn’t regulated, so you can only play on three or four sites, and plus I’m sponsored by Lock Poker, which isn’t one of them. I just wanted to have the freedom to play on any site that I want. Also, the Belgian tax laws on poker winnings aren’t completely clear, so I just wanted to be somewhere where the laws are completely black and white, so that I won’t suddenly be landed with a massive tax bill in a few years. And also, I love Brighton. It’s a cool city for young people.

Tags: Kevin Vandersmissen, Irish Open, interviews