Michael DeMichele Interview

The 2006 third place finisher in the USPC has a message to those looking to turn pro: manage your bankroll and don’t get stuck on one game. Michael DeMichele, the quickly-rising poker star, also cashed in two events at this year’s WSOP – neither were in NL Holdem. But what may really surprise you is his take on the online game…is there life outside of multi-tabling? Read on!

PokerLizard: You started playing poker at age 18, and your first $10K event at 21. How did you build a bankroll to get you there? Mostly online, or was it live play?

DeMichele: I built my bankroll through live play. When I first started out, I built up a small roll from 1/2nl and moved to 20/40 limit holdem at Turningstone Casino. They really didn’t have any games higher than this and so for me to continue to move up I had to move to the internet realm. I started off 8tabling 3/6 limit holdem and eventually progressed to 15/30 and 30/60 where I continued to build up a decent sized bankroll. I then moved to Foxwoods and thought I would play live play casually as I didn’t think I’d be able to make a competitive hourly rate to what I was making online. Instead, I found that my hourly rate in their nl games after a year was quite huge, and I eventually started to learn omaha8b and stud8b as I wanted to progress to their 75/150OE games as 10/25nl was now much smaller than what I wanted to play. I’ve also found that it’s very important to diversify yourself in different games, because you don’t want to become a dinosaur. Stud used to be the only game people played, but now the stud players are dying out. The same thing is starting to happen to limit holdem players and it may even end up with nl players. There are alot more great nl players than there used to be and even the fish are better.

From here, I started to run hot in 200/400 HOE rotations in AC and my roll exploded to a large amount. I bought in cold to the USPC and got lucky to place 3rd.

PokerLizard: How many hours do you play per week? How many online tables/tourneys do you play at a time? Does playing multi tables help or hurt your game?

DeMichele: I generally only play about 100 hours a month. I get burnt out fast. I also exclusively play live and there’s alot of prep time of having to wait on waiting lists and drive to casinos, etc, that if I counted would really boost my number of hours invested. I don’t play online anymore. When I found that I could make nearly as much money playing live, if not more, I converted. I cannot stand sitting in front of a computer 8tabling, and never have. It’s not a healthy lifestyle for me. I feel like a robot. Besides, I have lost so much touch with the online environment. Things are very different than live play. I’m not accustomed to multitabling anymore. I can’t do 8. It’s not quite like riding a bike. Also, the players are much tougher than they used to be and the games are much tighter. Also, the best nlh players are much better than me. I cannot compete at their level. They are also much more experienced with the software required to beat online games, which really gives them a huge edge. I am a much more rounded player, as I’m good at many forms of games. That gives me a good edge in mixed rotations, but online you have to be a specialist to remain competitive. I’ve never gotten into multitabling online tournaments. I get so bored playing them that I want to quit.

PokerLizard: You’re from NY – do you frequent the “underground” rooms there much?

DeMichele: I’ve been to a couple of the old rooms that have since gone down. I’m not exactly from NY though. I grew up in upstate NY and moved to CT. I have not been fortunate enough to be invited to the great underground card games where the action is nosebleed and insane.

PokerLizard: You classify yourself as a crazy, aggressive player, which puts you smack in the middle of what everyone now knows as the “young guns” group of up-and-coming poker players. What sets you apart from every other 20-something year old phenom?

DeMichele: I’m a very good live player. I have alot of experience at a poker table for someone my age, starting from the age of 18. I can sometimes look at a guy and know what he has. That gives me a large edge over internet players. Internet players are going to be more fundamentally advanced then me, which gives them a large edge, but the environment between online play and live play is very, very different. It can be very difficult to perform well under a very different context of play. Aside from that, I am very good at stereotyping players. For instance, old players are liable to be tight and young players are liable to be aggressive. Reading someone based on betting patterns can only take you so far. You sometimes have to know what they’re thinking based on many other factors that internet players are not experienced with. Many internet players think that tells are overrated, but truthfully, it’s one of my strong points.

PokerLizard: Did you read any poker books to get you started on the game? What about continuous learning…are you picking it all up from other players and experience?

DeMichele: I’ve read alot of books. I’m probably approaching 20. I’ve read all the staples that don’t need mentioning, aside from the ones released in the passed couple years, but I’ve also read alot of books that teach you how to play horse variations, as becoming a well-rounded player is my goal. When you’re a live player, being able to switch from game to game is very important. When a whale comes in to some random game, you want to be good at it. Truthfully though, I have 11,000 posts at 2+2, the majority of which are from posting in the lhe forums. 2+ 2 trained me to be able to problem solve and use the logic necessary to solve complex poker problems. Reading books can only get you so far, because they are all on a very simplistic level.

PokerLizard: You often listen to music while playing, does the style of music ever affect your play?

DeMichele: I like to listen to music when I play tournaments. I’ll crank up some good rock that I like to get my adrenaline pumping. Trying to get myself into a zone really helps my game. It makes me stay focused at the table. I do listen to music alot when I play, but its mostly to get through the boredom of sitting at a card table.

PokerLizard: What are your poker goals? What do you hope to achieve through poker (fame, fortune…)?

DeMichele: I would like to continue making as much money in cash games as I am now, if not more. I really need to learn how to play badugi and triple draw well, as the mixed games on the west coast always have those 2 games in rotations. I want to be a consistent player at 400/800BOT. I would also really like to get a sponsorship deal with a poker site. The money would be great of course, but getting signed actually means you became a somebody, which would accomplish one of my goals. Being a somebody in this poker world was always something somewhat important to me. Fame in the poker world would be great as well. I’ve had a share of fame from the USPC, as I’m sometimes even recognized on the street, but it’s really just superficial. Aside from getting a contract, if the fame doesn’t add to the quality of my life than it doesn’t do me much good. I will say though, when you tell people that you’re a professional poker player they often think you’re a broke college dropout. When you say you’ve been on tv and they show reruns every week, it adds all the credibility in the world to what you do.

PokerLizard: Any complaints about this year’s WSOP? What changes would you make?

DeMichele: Oh it’s awful. Harrahs blows. I really hope someone comes along and steals their monopoly. You’ll have to read my blog to hear my thoughts on what they’ve done wrong, I’m drained. Basically though, it’s everything.

PokerLizard: You’ve had two cashes in this years WSOP already; do you have any plans for when you get that first bracelet?

Demichele: Busting out of tournaments is just so heart-breaking. Everyone leaves a scar. I’ve been chipleader going down towards the end several times the past year, and have finished poorly every time. I don’t feel that I’ve choked at all. The cards just haven’t been in my favor. I feel that I play much better when the pressure is on. I get into a zone and my mindset is that I refuse to lose, and I refuse to make a mistake. When the pressure isn’t on I’ll often zone off and not pay attention. I don’t know if I’ll ever win a bracelet. I’m gonna keep trying though. This year I had 1/8th of the chips with 24 players left in a stud8 tournament, and finished 12th. That was quite depressing.

PokerLizard: You made a big splash with your 3rd place finish at this year’s USPC, what was it like seeing yourself on TV? Was it tough playing with the cameras in your face? How did you deal with the stress of making a major final table (I get wired playing $100 tourney’s I can’t imagine sleeping the night before a major final)?

DeMichele: When I used to play 10k events, I couldn’t sleep the night before. My mind would race too much. Fortunately, I somehow slept well during the USPC. Now though, I’m so used to playing 10k events that I don’t even get anxious at all. When I first made a tv table at the USPC I was very nervous for the first 5 minutes. I soon got over it though and played my game. Eating during the USPC was very difficult. I lost my appetite for 5 days and had to force myself to eat food. Even now when I play tournaments I generally can’t eat. The adrenaline kills your appetite. I found that during those 5 days of the USPC, the burden of feeling that I CANNOT lose, that I CANNOT make a mistake was very overwhelming and draining. Watching myself on TV was very, very weird at first, but I got over that as well. Having people come up to me every single day at Foxwoods for months wanting to shake my hand was just so freaking weird. I do wish I showed more personality on TV however. Next time I make a TV table I’m going to try and show more charisma.

PokerLizard: Which are tougher, live or online players? Why?

DeMichele: Online players for sure. They are more fundamentally advanced and they are much more dedicated to the game than live players.

PokerLizard: Unlike a lot of online pro’s you seem to be playing more than just Hold’em; do you consider yourself a more well rounded player? Which games do you like the most? Why?

DeMichele: I wouldn’t consider myself to be an online pro. I’m really just a live player. It may seem that I’m an online player, but that’s because I’m young and so well rooted in the 2p2 community. My favorite game is probably stud8, then probably limit omaha8. I just find them much more entertaining than holdem. I think its because the scenarios of the game are so dynamic. There are many more combinations of things that can happen in omaha because you have more cards and the split pot factor causes more complex scenarios. I get so bored playing any variantion of poker these days other than O or E. They are just so much fun.

PokerLizard: What does your family think about your career choice?

DeMichele: At first they thought I was out of my mind. As time grew on and the money rolled in they think it’s great. My father plays poker and I think he lives vicariously through me. It’s also a great thing we have in common. We talk a good amount of poker and he’s always eager to hear how I’m doing and listen to whatever crazy hand or game I played. My extended family on my father’s side thinks what I do is awesome. They love poker as well and loved watching me on TV.

PokerLizard: What do you think makes you a successful poker player?

DeMichele: I’m passionate about what I do. I accumulated all those posts on 2p2 because I truly loved analyzing hands until my brain ran dry. I’ve also always been very good at games in general. I was the kid growing up that beat everybody in everything. I’m not that smart, but my competitive spirit and motivation to improve forces me to do so. My only downfall is that I’ve never been great at anything. There is always someone who is better than me. I think this mostly has to do with the fact that I’m not brilliant and I just don’t have it in me to be as dedicated at something as some people do. Aside from that, I also have a very good head on my shoulder. Alot of players are degenerates and end up blowing up their bankrolls. I’m not that type of person. I’m very calculated. I will admit that I can often be egotistical, which is not something I’m proud of, but I don’t let my ego put me in losing situations. My ego however is alot less big than it used to be, which in some ways is a very bad thing. When someone is egotistical it’s because they want to be so good at whatever spawns their ego that they cannot stand being wrong, and cannot stand anyone knowing something they don’t. It’s the people who can still be openminded and learn despite their egos that go on to be great at things, and it’s the people who are closeminded that never amount to anything. I may have had a rather big ego in the past, but I would sit down and absorb everything you had to say about poker for hours.

PokerLizard: Any advice for someone thinking of turning pro?

DeMichele: For me, turning pro was a rather easy decision. I didn’t have to make many sacrifices to do it. I moved into an apartment without a lease and gave it a shot. I didn’t really have anything good in my life that I was giving up at the time. You have to be careful if you have to make sacrifices. The most important thing I can tell you however, is that if you decide to turn pro, you need to truly be passionate about the game. It’s no longer a hobby. It’s your life. You have to love poker so much that you want to sit up all night and talk about it. Also please, practice good bankroll management. Use common sense and don’t be a degenerate just because your friends are and you cave to peer pressure.

PokerLizard: What do you enjoy about the tournament circuit?

DeMichele: I love the variation in scenery. Staying in one place too long is hard for me. I get bored. If I liked my life outside of poker enough then maybe I would hate travelling, but for the longest time poker was my life. I have a girlfriend now though so I might not want to do that much travelling. Having something meaningful in my life outside of poker will probably keep me grounded. I don’t like flying however. Sitting in planes and terminals is just brutal.

PokerLizard: If you were Matt Damon’s character in the movie Rounders…How long would it take for you to get with Famke Jansen after your prudish girlfriend had dumped you? What was Mike McDermott thinking?

DeMichele: See, Mike’s a fucking idiot. You can’t hold that against him though. He doesn’t know any better. His girlfriend had him severely whipped. Sex with a prude can’t be that good anyway. Drop that hoe and chomp into that kobe beef.

If you liked this interview please consider making a small donation, all proceeds will go toward my children’s college fund, Thanks.

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