On May 14, 2004 Gavin Griffin became the youngest player ever to win a WSOP event at the age of 22. Proving he was no “flash in the pan” he followed up this success earlier this month by winning over $15k in two Hold’em events at the Mid-America Poker Classic in Tunica, Mississippi. PokerLizard decided to sit down with Gavin and find out what it’s really like to be an up and coming poker pro.
PokerLizard: Congratulations on becoming the youngest World Series of Poker winner in history, you won over $270k by beating over 300 players (including many top pros)
in the $3,000 buy-in Pot-Limit Hold’em tournament recently aired on ESPN, how has your life changed since your victory?
Gavin: I wouldn’t say that my life has really changed that much. Things have been a bit easier and less stressful because of the money, but I still live a very similar life. I did buy a new car though! (an ’04 Acura TL)
PokerLizard: What was it like playing that final table? What are the people watching on tv missing out on, any interesting behind the scenes action?
Gavin: The final table was actually pretty boring, ESPN did a good job of making it seem exciting, but there really weren’t a huge number of big clashes going on. There was a lot of post-flop play early on that was interesting, but it was mostly a raise and take it situation.
PokerLizard: How long did the tournament actually take?
Gavin: The tournament was really long. We played from noon the first day until around 2:30 or so, then we played from 2:00 on the second day until 2 in the morning again with a 1 hour break before the final table.
PokerLizard: How do you maintain your focus over that length of time and with all the distractions (TV cameras etc)?
Gavin: I wasn’t bothered by the cameras b/c when it comes down to it, we’re just playing poker, no need to worry about what else is going on around us.
PokerLizard: What are the most memorable hands you played during the tournament? famous players you knocked out? bad beats etc…? How nice was it to be able to cripple Phil Hellmuth? (I’m sure that is a lot of players dream)
Gavin: There was one hand that was really memorable late on day 1. The blinds were 1500/3000 and I was the BB with about 80K in chips. TJ Cloutier was the SB with just a few more chips than me. It was folded around to him and he made a pot-sized raise to 9k, I looked down at AKo and made it 27K. TJ moved in like a shot, when he did that, I knew I was ahead b/c he had been thinking longer with his bigger hands. When I called TJ said “I like his hand, I have K high,” and turned over K9o. This is the hand that gave me the chip lead that I never relinquished after that. I didn’t actually knock TJ out, but it was a crippling blow, he was left with just over 3k.
I really don’t have any hard feelings towards Phil. Away from the table he is a really nice guy. At the table, though, it’s a different story. He has a style that works for him, he gets under people’s skin and gets them so aggravated that they don’t know how to handle themselves. I just decided to let his needling slide off my back and stick to my game and it worked. He can say whatever he wants to say, as long as I’m stacking his chips, it’s not gonna bother me 🙂
PokerLizard: Do you recommend any books or training materials (software) to help someone become a successful player?
Gavin: I think the best poker strategy book I’ve ever read is Theory of Poker. The best training material I’ve ever had has been discussions with my friends who are excellent poker players. Thanks to Derek, Dustin, Raj, and Brian. D-SQUAD!!
PokerLizard:How does a speech pathology major from Texas Christian get involved with high-stakes poker? In other words, How did you get interested in poker?
Gavin: Well, first off, I’m no longer a speech pathology major, I’m a general studies major now(my last semester left my grades a little lacking to be accepted back into that major). I started off playing home games for small stakes, then one year at college, I met the squad from Texas and I took off from there, I had never played higher than 6/12 before last March when I went out to Arizona and got destroyed in the 20/40 game there. When I moved back to Chicago, I played 10/20 as a semi-pro while I was dealing and occasionally took shots at the higher games like 20/40, 30/60 etc. Then, I won a seat on the PokerStars cruise, quit my dealing job and began playing full time.
PokerLizard: Are you playing full-time now? If so, What is the life of a poker “pro” really like? Any tips for someone who’s just starting out and wants to go pro?
Gavin: I am playing full time now. I am starting school again next week, but I only have class 3 days a week, so I can play a good amount. Playing professionally is hard and is not for everyone. You have to be able to handle the emotional swings as well as the financial ones. I don’t have a family to support and I didn’t have rent to pay last year, so it wasn’t as hard for me as it is for some. I don’t know if I’m qualified to give tips to beginners, but the best tip I can give anyone is to play within your bankroll, but allow it to grow. In other words, take a shot at a higher game when the conditions are good, but don’t be worried about always playing the biggest game in the room. Worry about getting into the game that gives you the best earning potential.
PokerLizard: You recently got back from Tunica, MS any interesting stories from the trip? Did you have much luck at the tables?
Gavin: I had a good trip, met some interesting people. I made a final table in the $1000 limit hold’em tournament, which was exciting b/c I don’t consider myself much of a limit HE tournament player. I also finished 17th in the main event and my good friend Dustin Sitar, another member of the D-Squad, chopped first place 4-ways (a nice little bonus for me b/c I had 5% of him). (PokerLizard Note: Look out Crew!)
PokerLizard: It seems as though young players were breaking through at the WSOP this year, I read that 5 bracelets were won by people under 25? What do you attribute the “young guns” success to?
Gavin: Practice, practice, practice. So many of us have put in thousands and thousands of hours online. We can build experience at an incredible rate, which causes players to be better at a younger age than ever before.
PokerLizard: From reading the online poker forums, It seemed as though a lot of the younger guys could be classified as “bad winners” by demonstrating a little too much enthusiasm (ie falling on the table, high-fiving the crowd etc) when they won. Yet when you won you were pretty sedate and just shook Gary Bush’s hand. What
do you think about the celebrations?
Gavin: I think excessive celebration is uncalled for when you win a tournament or a hand to knock somebody out. Someone just got knocked out of the tournament and probably doesn’t appreciate the fact that you’re celebrating right in front of them.
PokerLizard: The traditional PokerLizard question: If you were Matt Damon in “Rounders” how long would it have taken you to kick your girlfriend to the curb and get with Famke Janssen?
Gavin: I don’t think they measure time in increments that small.
PokerLizard: Do you ever play online? What % live vs online?
Gavin: I’ve been playing mostly online lately b/c of the convenience factor. I’d say I play about 85% online, 15% live.
PokerLizard: If you play online, Do you have any style differences when playing online vs live?
Gavin: I’m much more aggressive online, I value bet more, I push small edges more.
PokerLizard: Which future tournaments are you planning on playing?
Gavin: I’ll be at the beginning of the World Poker Open in January for sure, and I’m going to try and make it to the Five Diamond Classic in December. Other than that, it will be tough to make it out because of school.
PokerLizard: Great Interview Gavin, congratulations on your success.
Gavin: Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed the TV show. D-SQUAD!!!!
If you liked this interview please consider making a small donation, all proceeds will go toward my children’s college fund, Thanks.