Sam Grafton aka The Squid

Sam Grafton aka The Squid

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Sam Grafton, one of poker's more colourful pros, speaks to Adam 'Snoopy' Goulding about his rapid rise to success in the online world.

How did you pop your poker cherry?

About four years ago I played a £10 rebuy. I was a nit in those days and only had a couple of buy-ins behind me, so I’d just play premiums while everyone else shipped it in, but because it was full of gamblers it played quite deep after the rebuy period. They were absolutely terrible and it didn’t take long for me to realise that there was skill involved and I could beat the game.

Your poker career got off to a pretty explosive start…

I mainly played live at first, but then a friend sent me some money online and I ended up chopping a $24 tournament for $7K on Full Tilt Poker. I played two $11 rebuys on PokerStars a few months later and got second in both for $10K and $8K. It was also around this time that I came fourth in GUKPT Manchester for £14,400 too. After Vegas, I played my first FTOPS event and came third for $81K, which basically sorted me out. I was definitely running way above expectation during this period.

How does your colourful character fit into the reclusive world of online poker?

You can have a balance, and I’m lucky that I’ve got a girlfriend who can pull me into normal life. There’s a social side to poker, and if there’s a tournament in somewhere like Leeds or Bristol, there will be a group of guys who can take us out. I’m backed, and a bit more comfortable financially, so am lucky in that I don’t have to grind as much as I used to.

What are the advantages of backing?

Volume is key in poker and backing allows you to play more tournaments and at higher stakes. You need a lot more money than people think to play by yourself. I was fortunate that I had a good graph and proven record, so people were keen to back me. I don’t think I’d leave backing now. If I won big I’d spend the money on a house or something and stay backed, but that’s just me.

We understand the International Club was a big part of your life….

It was like home for me. I loved that place; it’s where I met many of my best friends and there was a community of people who encouraged me. Players like James Akenhead, Roland De Wolfe and Praz Bansi came up through that place, starting out in £10 rebuys… it’s pretty inspirational. I think it’s a shame that it’s gone. Poker players shouldn’t have to play in an environment where they’re around every form of gambling, as that’s what leads to problem gambling. It’s inevitable.

You play up to 18 tables simultaneously. How do you keep up?

Firstly, I balance what tournaments I’m playing. For example, it’s not optimal to be playing a dozen six-max tables where you need to make complex decisions based on game flow. And when I go deep, I zone in and give those tables more prominence.

Secondly, I use a HUD [Heads-Up display]. I don’t have a lot of stats as it can be distracting, but enough to help me out with a tricky decision. Against regs, I don’t think HUDs make a huge difference, but it really helps against randomers. Most pros can live without it, though; they work off instinct and are naturally tuned in to when someone is getting out of line.

What’s the key to being a top pro?

It’s a boring thing to say, but volume. Every single successful online player at some point has put in a massive amount of volume, grinding really hard. So much stuff after that becomes second nature; you recognise lines and understand how people are thinking. If you think about how much someone like [Chris] Moorman played, it’s absolutely ridiculous.

How important was your SCOOP win earlier this year?

[Sam won $240K in a $2,100 SCOOP event back in May].

It was more about getting a big result than the actual money. I think, with nearly all of us, we crave the recognition and the affirmation that a big result gives you. I’ve worked hard on my game and I wanted that big result. I want to show people what I can do and be seen among the elite. You can’t help but be a little results-orientated in that sense.

You did a deal. Is this rare for you?

I’m normally pretty ruthless and won’t take a deal unless it favours me. Recently, I was heads-up in a Party major with a 3/1 chip deficit and a big pay jump, but I thought my edge was strong, so declined the deal. That’s my default position and I think I have an advantage on most tournament players.

The SCOOP was different, though, as I had an overwhelming lead and was offered just under second prize with $20K still to play for. That’s a pretty unique situation, and it’s not often you’re carving up a million dollars. It was a huge amount for me with Vegas coming up, and there’s still a lot variance with six left.

What are your thoughts on the raucous British rail at WSOP?

It’s born out of something quite genuine. We’re really close as a group and know how much the bracelet means, so when someone makes the final we cheer them on to express our support. It’s organic; we all want to get that big result and seeing your friends do well is the next best thing.

I was disappointed to be ejected from Craig McCorkell’s final as we’re really good friends. I think it was a bit unnecessary, as it’s incredibly good-natured and no one says anything derogatory. I think having a rail in the background with people cheering is good for TV and attractive to new players. It feels as though something exciting is taking place, while with something like the EPT, with its sealed rooms and smaller rail, it’s less euphoric.

What the hell is a ‘shoe bomb’?

Ah, it’s just downing a shot from your shoe. It’s pretty outrageous. I think Pez [Matt Perrins] popularised it. He’s an absolute animal. Athanasios 9 [Athanasios Polychronopoulos] even did one at one stage. The Brazilians were great and we bought each other drinks. Antonio Esfandiarai was loving it too and was joining in with the banter. It was a lot of fun.

How do you see your future?

It’s hard to say. I would never have known I’d end up playing poker. I did very different things before. I’m aware that life can change and you can discover new passions, and I’ll always follow my instincts. Once you’ve been playing, you’ve got that hunger and desire, and I don’t know whether you can switch that off. I’m just really enjoying poker at the moment and feel good about my game. Keep playing. Keep improving.

Tags: Interviews, Sam Grafton