Craig McCorkell Interview

Craig McCorkell Interview

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Brit star on his deep Main Event run.

By Day 7, the WSOP Main Event had whittled its starting field of 6,683 down to a mere 27. Among everyone still left to fight it out for the $10 million first prize, there was only one name on the lips of every excited British railbird – Craig McCorkell. Craig played an absolute blinder for Blighty, eventually finishing 13th for $441,940. We talk to the man himself one week on.

Hi Craig – congratulations! What’s the past week been like for you?

It’s not been too bad, I went to Vancouver for a couple of days after I got knocked out. I saw a couple of my friends and had some good nights out, and now I’ve just got back. It’s nice to be home.

Talk us through your Main Event journey.

Sure. It was actually a really smooth first four days. I was fortunate with table draws – I think table draws are really, really important in the Main Event. The field is just so diverse, it’s a real mixture of good players, amateur players, and even celebrities. It really started feeling like a tournament on Day 5 onwards – that was when the pressure started heating up a bit.

The days are so long and exhausting, making a deep run is almost like a marathon. Was it tough to keep up?

Yeah. I mean, I have had days like that previously so I was a little bit familiar with how exhausting it was. It is very hard to just switch off after playing it, so I liked to go out afterwards with some of my friends. This helped me wind down a bit because otherwise I'd end up lying in bed not being able to sleep afterwards. Doing that continuously for seven days in a row is tough. I mean, I think I was one of the younger players left in at the end, and even I struggled a bit with that. I can imagine that if you’re a bit older then mentally that would be quite tough.

Was there a certain point that you got to where you thought, “Hey, I could really make a run at this”?

At the beginning it almost doesn’t feel like a tournament, because there are so many people there and you’re a lot deeper stacked than in most tournaments. I guess I didn’t really start thinking about that for a while – maybe at the end of Day 5? It was the first time I’d ever made Day 6 in the Main. I was chatting with some friends at the end of the day and they were getting excited, and I was thinking, “Yeah, I guess this IS pretty exciting!”

When you’re playing, though, it’s more focused. I’m very used to playing live poker – you just play every hand as it comes. It was only really at the end of that day that it really hit home how there were so few people actually left in this event.

You’ve certainly been around the block at the World Series, having won a bracelet as well as making a few previous deep runs. However, nothing compares to the Main Event when it comes to like the media spotlight. Do you enjoy that kind of thing, or was it stressful to be under the bright lights?

I actually didn’t really notice too much, you just kind of blank a lot of it out. There’s cameras everywhere I guess, and everything is just a little bit slower. You can tell its impacting people a little bit; I was fairly oblivious to it, to be honest. For the most part, I was again lucky enough with table draws that I wasn’t on particularly strong tables so they weren’t feature tables. Because of this I was just able to get my head down and get on with it and try and get a few more chips.

Some of the tables you were at on Day 7 were pretty aggressive despite being so close to the end. Was it hard to adjust to that?

Yeah. I thought some people were doing some pretty bizarre things. I hadn’t played a bunch with a lot of the players that were on my table on Day 7, so a lot of things were a little bit surprising. I don’t know whether people were playing up to the cameras a bit, or if it was just the pressure alone that was making people do weird things. I think you’re going to see a lot of hands on TV that are going to be pretty bizarre!

It may also be down to the fact that some of the players left in the last 18 were – I don’t want to be too harsh, but they weren't expert or advanced players. They were probably thinking that others were getting out of line in a lot of spots, and they didn't want to get pushed around on TV.

How much research did you do on your opponents?

Every night after Day 1 you get the table draws pretty fast at the end of the day. I always like to do a lot of research into players – I like to know as much as I can about them before I play with them. The Main Event is a tournament where you can play purely exploitatively. I changed the way I play hands versus people based on information I knew about them, rather than trying to go for a more balanced style. So the more information I had on people, the better.

I did a lot of research, especially from Day 4 onwards. Before Day 7 I obviously looked at all the players left in the event and tried to do as much as I could, but mainly focusing on my table. Unfortunately, halfway through the day I got moved to a different table, so that was a bit frustrating! Apart from that, it worked pretty well.

By the time you get to Day 7, the pay jumps become insanely big. Was it difficult to take into account the ICM of not only the money you'd earn, but also the impact it would have on your life if you made it to the final table?

Yeah. The Main Event is unique in the sense that, yeah, the pay jumps are massive when you get down to the final 27. You have to pay attention to that, and there are a lot of ICM spots that come up. But apart from that, you have, as you say, the added incentive of making the November Nine. It's just such an incredible achievement, and such a rare opportunity. It's obviously at the back of your mind that first place would be just unbelievable for any poker player. So yeah, there was a definite conflict of thoughts in that respect. I felt that and I’m sure other people did too.

Would you say that ICM-wise a lot of people were just lighting money on fire?

[Laughs] I mean, like I say you are going to see some pretty weird hands when it's broadcast. I don’t want to be too critical of opponents, because it’s not something I like to do... but you will see a couple of hands where some people are doing unbelievable things that at the time cost them a lot of money, maybe even millions of dollars. It will be interesting and maybe even quite painful to watch!

When you busted you tweeted a single broken heart. Just how disappointing was it to get so far and fall at the final hurdle?

Very. I was disappointed with how Day 7 went, because I just couldn't get any momentum. I think that I played as well as I could at the event. I don't regret my bustout hand [Craig open-shoved K-5 suited on the button]. It was just one of the consequences you can suffer if you get short. I was always going to have to flip at some point, and unfortunately it just didn’t work out.

It goes without saying that it was an amazing finish, and it's your biggest career cash so far. Have you gotten over the disappointment enough to feel pleased with yourself yet?

A little bit, yeah. It's for any good tournament player to be happy with a 13th place finish, but the money is nice, and the Series went well apart from that point. Always something to be happy about!

How did it feel to have the whole of Britain to be rooting for you?

That was so awesome. I didn’t even have time to look at every single message I got. You forget when you are deep in the Main Event just how big of a deal it is and how many people are watching. My friend's girlfriend was telling me how she was at work and getting nothing done because she just couldn't stop refreshing It's amazing when you hear stuff like that. I would have loved to make the November Nine and have everyone out there in November. It would have been the most amazing experience.

You were wearing a Bluff patch when you won your bracelet – maybe you should have worn one this year!

[Laughs] Yeah, I should have worn a Bluff patch! Damn, hindsight, hindsight.

It's a week since the conclusion of the Main Event – are you going to get back to the grind straight away or take a bit of time off?

I’ve missed online poker, so I’ll playing a bit of that over the next few weeks. After that I'll be going to EPT Barcelona, and once that's over I'm going on holiday to Dubai to chill out.

Will it be hard to motivate yourself to play such relatively low buy-ins after playing the biggest tournament in the world?

No, it's still part of my job to make as much money as I can at the moment. It’s not like online is ridiculously small, so I can still make a lot of money! Having said that, live events are really fun, and there’s nothing like getting deep in a big live event. Online is the bread and butter though, so gotta get back to work!

Tags: Craig McCorkell, WSOP Main Event, interviews, World Series of Poker