The following is a question and answer session with Bill Burford a Fort Worth, Texas poker player who just took ninth place in the World Series of Poker Event #15 in Las Vegas. By out-lasting all but eight of the players in a field of 810 Burford took home $33,213 for his effort and had the opportunity to play poker with some of the best the game has to offer. My questions are in bold and Bill was kind enough share what he experienced with me.
1. What is your poker background?
In high school and college we would play poker nearly every weekend. It helped pay expenses because most of the players were awful. I then stopped playing poker for about 25 years, other than the occasional charity game.
About 4 years ago I started playing Texas Hold’em on-line. I was mildly successful for have never played the game previously. When Black Friday came, I started playing in brick and mortar games at WinStar World Casino and in some local leagues.
I study the game all the time. I have probably read 50 poker books, have watched the WSOP/WPT on YouTube from 2006-2014, regularly meet with other players to discuss hands and strategy, journal my play, and read many of the poker blogs. (I don’t watch much television!)
2. Was this your first WSOP/Big Tournament exposure?
This was my first trip to the WSOP and the event I finished 9th in was my very first tournament.
3. What were you expectations going into the tournament?
I always expect to make a deep run in any tournament I play. I know that I have the ability to play with very good players and just need to get a little “run good” to help me along.
4. At what point did you feel comfortable playing in the WSOP?
Surprisingly for me, it took quite some time. I thought it would only take a few hands, but 2 hours into the tournament I was still very nervous. My tournament started with 9000 chips. I got to about 6200 chips, won a small pot, bluffed to win another small pot, and then doubled up to 16000 when I won with KK vs JJ. After those hands, I felt I could play with anyone I had seen at the time.
5. At what point did you realize you might make a deep-run?
Day 2 started with 144 players and the average chips was about 50K. I started with 77.5K and knew I was in great position. I was the biggest stack at my table, which gave me a huge amount of confidence. I realized that I could play with any player I had faced to that point.
6. Did you ever start thinking you might win the tournament?
Absolutely! In fact, I am somewhat disappointed that I did not win the tournament. I think I am every bit as good as the players that I played against. I had people following me on Twitter, Facebook, and text and sending me well wishes. I felt like I had let them down a little bit after I got knocked out. I know it was a good run, but it could have been so much better.
I was the chip leader with 12 players left by a margin of 500K (1.4 million to 900K). I called my wife during the redraw and told her that I had a real chance to win the tournament.
I made one big mistake that cost me the chance to win the tournament. I have replayed that hand over and over. Even at the time of the mistake I knew it immediately and then compounded the mistake with an all-in bluff that did not work.
7. What would you tell another first time WSOP entrant about the experience?
The experience was fun! I was very glad that I decided to do it and will definitely do it again.
8. Going into the next WSOP you play in will your expectations be different from the first time?
Not really. I am going to play in the Main Event in July and fully expect to make a deep run. I will break down my goals by day and soon enough I will be in the money and then trying for some really big dollars.
9. How did the players you normally play with greet you when you returned home?
When I got home, people at my work and church were congratulatory, wish was nice, but I needed people who understood the game to give me some validation. When I went to my regular Wednesday night poker game, I was met with applause by the 30+ players (I was 15 minutes late to the tournament due to a church function, so I got there late.) It was very satisfying to know that the excellent players that I play with each week understand what it takes physically, mentally, and emotionally to make a run as I did. I would not have been able to play like I did at the WSOP if it were not for the WNPL and SNPL that I play in. These players have made me so much better by their high level of play that I see each and every week. I truly believe that many of the players in these leagues are better than most of the “pros” that I saw in Las Vegas.
10. Overall what was you take on high-level poker in the WSOP?
A few things stand out for me, I would not want to be a professional poker player the lifestyle is terribly unhealthy and too many of the “pros” were rude or unkind to other players, dealers, and tournament staff. This was the worst part of the WSOP for me.
Burford accomplished something every casual poker player dreams of, “running deep”. While he may have regrets on a couple of hands and the way they turned out, the accomplishment says volumes about the poker world. Good players that make good decisions at the right time have a chance to shock not only themselves, but the poker world as a whole and I have every reason to believe that under the right circumstances at the right time and Burford could be the proud owner of one of those coveted “Gold Bracelets”.
Bringing class to the table, making the experience better for those at that table Burford did himself and those who cheered him on proud. Without doubt Burford is a good player who plays the game the right way, with class and humility leaving the table and the game better than when he took his seat, and that says volumes about the man and the game.