Another week, another interview with an extremely talented young poker player!Tom HallI have just returned from a very successful trip to Vienna for the last stop on theeuropean poker tour. The Shrewsbury-born professional managed to finish second in two side events, totaling nearly €140,000 in prize money. A stormy start to the year for the online MTT specialist follows. Hall took 10th place in the PCA Main Event for $112,400 and still had time for a rewarding passEPT Live-commentaryarvensterto the final table of the same event.
poker playersat down with Tom to talk about his recent run and commentedIsaak Haxtonon EPT Live and why top pros love itJason Merciershould be more open about the strategic side of the game...
PokerPlayer: Congratulations on your recent big success, Tom. What does that do for you?
Tom Hall: Obviously very good! I didn't expect to do so well in Vienna overall, because in live poker you expect next to nothing and hope for the best! That's why it's absurd to finish second in two events. I think I'm more surprised that I've had so much success live this year because I wouldn't really consider myself a live player - my focus has always been online esports.
How hard are the side events on these major charts, are there a lot of regs?
Both were quite soft and overall I would say they are soft. Nine-handed Hold'em events are still pretty smooth. More importantly, there will be good regs in almost every tournament these days and the cream rises to the top so often that it will never happen again at the final two tables.
It all follows a very strong run in the PCA Main Event, which was something of a 'breakthrough' for you. You must be excited...
In truth. Even now the experience was great but I won't look back on 10EI will look at the trip in its entirety. Money doesn't really matter to me anymore. Until now it didn't occur to me that I won a lot in Vienna or at the PCA. I've always tried - and it sounds depressing - but to deny the emotion in both victory and defeat. If you get really excited every time you win, then losing will be ten times worse.
So I never stray from anything and I feel great. It was just cruel to go this far and not make a table, because until then I had never had a really valuable final table, except maybe a UKIPT high roller.
Are you sorry you didn't make it?
I don't regret how I played. There once was a $1,000 WSOP with 3,000 runners where I won 14Eor something like that, and it was so emotionally devastating for me that I was devastated afterwards. So with the PCA I was a little more prepared for that.
The game is absolutely brutal at times and my career up until this year has been pretty brutal!
If you didn't make the final table, you had a chance to join the boys in the EPT Live commentary window. How was an experience, especially for someone like Ike Haxton?
Commenting with Ike Haxton was a once in a lifetime opportunity, I tried to get as much information out of him as possible! I wasn't trying to show off my talent, I was trying to ask him questions and give him honest answers to my feelings.
I was more concerned with airing as much of Ike's real thoughts as possible. I see people like Jason Mercier on stream and they are so pathetic, I hate it. I know the more information you spread the less money you'll make, but it's a tough world anyway and if you don't want to help people it's kind of sad.
Are there any other professionals you'd like to hear more about?
I'm not trying to single out Jason Mercier, he's just a great example of someone who doesn't strategize on the mic and that's so detrimental to the game. The guys at the top should have wanted it to be more competitive. They need to get to the point where money is almost irrelevant and it's more about reputation and winning tournaments. Being known as one of the best is definitely more important.
So you'd rather share information than keep it to yourself?
Yes absolutely. If they sent me in there with a choice of being the fun guy or the strategy guy, I would always choose strategy. Why else would they bring guests? It serves exactly that purpose. I really like the idea of actually helping people. It's such a selfish environment that it's extremely fun to do something that benefits others.
You have received many positive comments about your performance in the comment box. Are you interested in doing more of this in the future?
Yes, I received many positive responses. In the future I would like to return to the locker room as it is a very satisfying experience for any poker player. It's great to be able to talk openly about the game and see people genuinely interested in what you're saying.
This is not the case in any other sport where you can bring in a visiting analyst and they can really put themselves in the shoes of the person they are watching. In no other sport is it difficult. Joe [Stapleton] and James [Hartigan] are also really fun to be around, they're so professional. Anyone who receives the offer must quickly accept it.
How much confidence did the invitation to watch EPT Live give you?
The comment didn't really boost my confidence in the game because I already knew I was good at the game. I didn't go to the locker room because I needed people to pat me on the shoulder and tell me I was good.
You've won over $1 million in MTT cash online. Is that still your livelihood or are you more focused on the live game now?
I don't think I'll ever focus on the live game. Honestly, live poker is like a vacation for me. I don't go there for fun, I still go there for business but it's more of a break from online poker. Online it feels like work.
I have $1 million in cash, but I'd say my focus is half satellites and half MTTs, and the satellites aren't even tracked by PocketFives. In the last year, the 90% share of MTTs has shifted to many more satellites.
We hear a lot from pros participating in satellites and winning endless packages. Are they still some kind of money maker or have they been acquired by good players?
They still offer good value for money. The satellites get more and more difficult once you start playing some of the EPT tournaments, but all the smaller tournaments always offer good value for money. I'm still playing through all the qualifiers and they're still very smooth.
People often think it's an over-the-top attempt to stay in the dark when they play a satellite, much like a lottery ticket: if you win, you're in. But if you really focus on it and work at it every day, there's a lot of money to be made.
Speaking of qualifying for live tournaments, how did you make the transition from online tournaments to live games?
UKIPT helped a lot, playing a whole season was a great experience. I also think the most important thing for me was to take it easy. I would never have entered an EPT two years ago just because I didn't feel good enough.
It's really hard to say if you're comfortable enough, because when I played my first EPT, I got knocked out in four hours and I was like, 'Jesus, what just happened!' well and the learning curve is so steep. People who enter and win right away are incredibly lucky. It cannot be said that there is a natural ability to win tournaments instantly. Your learning curve might take a few days with online poker, but with live poker it could take six months to find a strategy that works for you.
I would say it's learning from mistakes and, in general, what I learned the most was patience. Even if you have less than ten big blinds, you can't just play and hope for the best, you have to be insanely patient anyway. It's so easy to get in once you have the scum, but those scum can lead you to victory!
How did you get into poker in the first place?
I played penny games with my friends in college and I immediately knew I loved the game. I knew it was so deep and there was so much to learn. We played in the common room and it felt good, then we went to the bar and drank our winnings.
When I left Shrewsbury for the University of Nottingham, I dropped out of college within two or three weeks and discovered my love of poker at the local casinos. Halfway through my freshman year, I started playing online, mostly Sit & Go's.
How did you get better?
I'm a stickler for just playing, playing, and playing. It was at least two years before I sat down and examined the strategy. I don't mind waiting that long either, because my motto is "learn from your mistakes". You can read all you want online and watch as many training videos as you want, but until you make the mistake yourself, it won't cross your mind.
I'm not saying you shouldn't learn - even I do that from time to time - but playing is infinitely superior.
What do you do outside the game? Do you think it's important to have a good work-life balance?
I was afraid of this question because I can hardly live my life outside of poker! When I first started playing, it filled everything. It was something I could learn and enjoy, filling my time any time of the day.
Top players will have a very balanced lifestyle, but I don't think that's a necessity. My current life plan is to live an incredibly unbalanced life until I have enough money to buy a house. Once I have a home I can work on becoming more balanced because at least I will be financially secure.
A lot of people might look at me and think I'm clinically depressed, but that's all perspective. If you were in my shoes, you would see that I wake up every day wanting to play poker. When I'm not playing, I don't know what to do with myself. People might think I'm depressed, but I'm really happy, happy that I have something I really care about and that I didn't get the administrative job I once wanted.
Playing a game to earn money is really unrealistic.
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