At the age of 23 Scott Fischman became the youngest player in the history of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) to win two championships (Hold’em and HORSE). In addition, he had two more in the money finishes at the WSOP this year. And for anyone that thinks this young player is just a flash in the pan, he’s had another 18 in the money finishes since the WSOP and 3 final tables already in 2005. PokerLizard sat down to discuss how this prodigy learned the game and what future projects he has in the works.
PL: How did you first get interested in poker? How long have you been playing serious poker?
SF: I got interested through a school friend of mine named Jordan, who kinda grew up with a poker background. I’ve been playing for about five years, but professionally for two.
PL: When you say “professionally” are we talking full-time?
SF: Yes, full-time to make a living.
PL: This past year, you became the youngest player in the history of the WSOP to win two bracelets. Was winning those bracelets beyond your wildest dreams?
SF: I try not to set goals for myself that are unattainable and will be too much of a let down if I don’t achieve them, and I’ve always had the dream to win ONE bracelet in my lifetime, which was basically my goal. Winning two in a row at the beginning of my career was definitely something I’m in awe of. It’s still unbelievable to me – there really aren’t words that can explain it.
PL: What are some of your goals for this year?
SF: My goals for this year are to remain a successful player and to end up in the top 10 of Cardplayer magazine’s Player of the Year standings again (scott finished #7 in 2004), and of course to win a bunch of money. I haven’t even set a goal of winning another bracelet this year because it is so hard to do. Other goals for this year including getting my poker site, thefishtank.com (coming early April), up and running.
PL: Let’s talk about the ESPN broadcasts. Specifically, how they portrayed you versus Doyle, the Crew, and then about Norman Chad. Have you met him?
SF: Yes, I have met him.
PL: How did you feel about that whole broadcast and how they portrayed you and the Crew?
SF: I thought it was great! ESPN has the power and can portray people anyway they want. Some of the guys got a little bit of negative coverage and our coverage was a little weird, but I liked it and didn’t really see anything bad. I think they did a great job.
PL: How about the Crew – is it still together and do you still play in the same capacity like you did while you guys were getting ready for the WSOP?
SF: We’ve had somewhat of a break for the past few months where everyone took a little time off from when we were at the World Series, since we were playing for about four months straight before the WSOP. But with thefishtank.com coming out, we will all be traveling and playing in some of the bigger buy-in tournaments. I hope to get everyone involved, so it should be really good.
PL: Can you give us some more detail about thefishtank.com?
SF: Thefishtank.com is going to be part of the Doyle Brunson Network, which was formerly known as the Platinum Poker Network and I’m really excited about having my own site and working on promoting it…should be a lot of fun. (Update TheFishTank.com is now part of the Interpoker network).
PL: When will thefishtank.com be online?
SF: It should be up and running by the end or March or early in April of this year.
PL: You and some other young players have taken a bit of a beating on the internet for celebrating your wins. Is there anything you wish you would have done differently after getting caught up in the moment?
SF: No. I try not to get caught up in what people write online, since it’s pretty much gossip and hard to believe anyhow. For example, a few months ago somebody reported that Dutch (Boyd) died in a surfing accident. It’s kind of tabloid in nature and unrealistic. As far as celebrating, that is something that I would never take back. People that complain about the celebrations have obviously never been in that situation. On the other hand, that Swedish guy (Mattias Andersen – the infamous JAAAAAA guy) who was screaming after every hand, that’s different – I was watching that thinking, “give me a break.”
As far as what I did (falling backward on the table), and anyone who knows me or has ever played against me knows that was the only time in my entire life that I’ve reacted like that to a hand, whether it was the worst beat of my life or the best thing that ever happened to me. It was a total out of body experience, I think – the reaction I gave was totally spontaneous. I never planned on reacting like that and was just very excited and I don’t think people should be faulted for letting the joy overcome them.
PL: For that kind of money, I would’ve probably stripped my clothes off and ran around the room 3 times.
SF: I can’t believe that anyone is really upset, irritated, or even cares about it.
PL: Other poker pros have commented on the electricty present at the WSOP, and most people cannot imagine what it’s like to win an event…
SF: Definitely! Before I won that tournament, I had never reacted so strongly. I would hope that anyone who won their first title like that would show some emotion.
PL: Did ESPN ever come around and try and make you guys talk more and try and spice up their broadcasts?
SF: No, nothing like that. The guys would come around after and say things like, “That was great, we’re glad you won” and how much of a great show it was, that some of the others were kind of drab. I’ve seen the production crew at some of the other projects and they are always rooting for me. That’s about it. They never did anything “scripted”.
PL: The reason we’re asking is others have told us the WPT encourages the players to talk more…
SF: I’ve played on the World Poker Tour a couple times and they have never prompted us to do anything more than we would normally do.
PL: Why do you think ESPN decided not to show your HORSE victory? (for those that have never heard of HORSE, it involves playing different types of poker on a rotating basis throughout the course of the tournament. The games are: H old’em, O maha , R azz, S tud and Stud E ight or better).
SF: No, they had a set schedule from the beginning, of the 32 tournaments. I think they showed about 9 of them and HORSE was never included. They came down and shot the very ending for the highlights but that was it.
PL: Do you think they left HORSE off because it would confuse the heck out of the average viewer?
SF: No, I think they planned on a limited number of tourneys, since it was the first year to show anything other than the Main Event and they weren’t sure how it would go over (with the public). They wanted mostly the No-Limit events and Hold’em, so HORSE was left off the list.
PL: Which do you enjoy more, cash games or tournaments?
SF: I play cash games here and there, but I definitely prefer tournaments and online poker. I play cash games as a break if I get bored.
PL: How often do you play online?
SF: I play online very often, pretty much every day for at least a couple hours.
PL: I remember seeing you play on that big monitor during the WSOP show, how big is that monitor?
SF: That monitor is 21 inches and I couldn’t live without it. It allows me to play four full-sized tables without overlapping, so I don’t have to switch back and forth between tables.
PL: Overlapping tables is a pain – you end up flipping back and forth, clicking the wrong button…ugh!
PL: You seem to actually enjoy playing online more than in brick-and-mortar casinos…why is that?
SF: I enjoy the variety most…as being champ of HORSE may clue you in, I like to play all type of games. Online gives me the opportunity to pick and choose from a wide variety of games and limits. I play SOOO much that I need this type of variety to keep me on my toes and stay sharp!
PL: In your Cardplayer columns, you mention working as a dealer for awhile. Why did you become a dealer?
SF: I started dealing because I knew it would be exciting and that I would be seeing and doing something different every single day, and I wouldn’t be stuck behind a desk. The main reason I liked dealing was for the amount of knowledge. I got to learn all the games and watch the good players as well as the bad players, and learn why the good players were good. I learned countless tools from being a dealer: table image, etiquette, etc. Anything you need to know about being a good poker player, I learned from being a dealer.
PL: How about dealing with irate players, what was that like?
SF: It makes you realize what an ass a person can be, and makes you see how you don’t want to act at the tables.
PL: So you’d say you learned a lot more dealing than reading poker books or having a mentor?
SF: Yes, definitely. I’ve never read a poker book. Most of my knowledge has come from dealing and has been self-taught. Even in school I was never a big reader. I was a good student, but didn’t read for the sake of reading. Being a dealer is definitely the best for learning about poker.
PL: If someone wanted to follow in your footsteps and become a pro player, do you have any advice or pitfalls to avoid?
SF: As far as a lot of people wanting to become a pro player, I would tell them to have a good support system behind them and not to make the decision on a whim. Definitely do not quit your job to play for a living. I was pretty much playing for a living for the entire last year I was dealing, meaning I was making more money as a player than as a dealer. But I still never quit dealing. A person should take their time and make sure they have some support behind them in case you fail.
PL: You seem to have blown away the myth that poker dealers can’t play well.
SF: I don’t know where that myth came from, it’s not true! The myth probably came from the fact that a lot of casinos will let you play when you are on the clock or when you get off shift. I can remember days when I’d get off shift and want to play to just rail some guy who wasn’t tipping me. I guess when you go after someone like that, they may get the perception that you can’t play. Most of the dealers I know are great players.
PL: Wasn’t one of your final tables comprised of several dealers?
SF: Yes, it had me, Joe (Awada), Kent Washington…Joe is a great player, Kent worked as a dealer, all of my friends who are dealers or ex-dealers are all great players.
PL: Tell us a little about the imallinwear.com deal you have going. Do you own that company?
SF: No, I don’t own the company, I endorse their product line. They make high-quality clothing, not like the cheap stuff you can buy on the street here. It’s good gear, very nice, comfortable and I like it a lot.
PL: You’ve won over $300k since the WSOP in addition to your 4 cashes there. Do you feel vindicated from people who claim you were just lucky during the WSOP?
SF: Anyone who says that obviously doesn’t have a full knowledge of what’s going on. Since the world series, I’ve won tournaments, made final tables – I’ve already made three final tables this year and not just in Hold’em. I’ve been pretty much tearing it up every time I sit down at the table. That was why I was so excited to win the HORSE tournament. With the big fields at the WSOP, it does involve a lot of luck. The HORSE tournament on the other hand, doesn’t really involve luck. If you look at the past winners of that tournament and talk to knowledgeable players, they will tell you the same thing. Doyle Brunson has said that the main event should be HORSE – that gives me chills down my spine, knowing that I have the talent to win a tournament like that, and that he has so much respect for it!
PL: Has being a poker pro been all you expected it to be?
SF: Oh…it is much, much different than I thought it would be. It’s much better than I ever thought it would be. I figured I would be down at the Bellagio every day playing $15/$30 or $30/$60, and it’s nothing like that. It’s incredible! Different things happen every day that I am in awe of. It’s kind of like being a movie star – it’s crazy, and I never thought it would be like this. I thought it would be a grind. Playing cash games actually can be a grind if you’re just a regular pro poker player, but tournaments are different. For the average pro, the game is a grind and is not all glamour. I’ve been very fortunate.
PL: Which players do you like to play against and who are some of your toughest opponents?
SF: There are so many, and I’ve never even had a chance to play with guys like Daniel. I’ve played in a lot of tournaments over the past year, and the only time I’ve played with Daniel was for a little while during a 7 card stud tournament. Guys like Phil Hellmuth, I’ve been at their table once, Doyle one time, Gus…never. John Juanda, a couple times…he’s incredible. It’s hard to say, there are so many players today and there are guys no one has really heard of – John Pham, Jason Tran – in my opinion these are two of the best players around, but since they haven’t won anything on TV, most poker fans don’t know them. But if you’re a poker player on the circuit, you know them. I would like to get some more time at the table with Doyle and Daniel, Phil, Johnny Chan, all those guys.
PL: It makes sense, with those huge fields, the true star players are becoming few and far between.
SF: Exactly. You just don’t get an opportunity like 4 or 5 years ago when only 100 people played and you saw the same guys at every tournament. I think these big fields are detrimental to a guy like TJ Cloutier who has such a great memory and can remember how someone exactly played a hand against him in the past, he was the best player when the fields were smaller due to his memory and he knew what everybody was going to do all the time. Now that’s difficult because there are so many unknown players that it’s impossible to have a read on everybody.
PL: What characteristics do you possess or are necessary to become a world class player?
SF: Discipline, patience, memory are definitely things that are common characteristics in all of the best players. Instinct, control, and some other things are also huge.
PL: If I had to guess, I’d say you are more of a “feel” type player than a “math” by the book type player, is that the case?
SF: I generally don’t pay attention to the math of the game. In tournaments, winning has a lot more to do with your stack and your position in the tournament versus the odds that the pot is laying you. It doesn’t matter how much the pot is if you have to call all-in on a draw, it’s generally not a smart thing to do. So I generally don’t care about the math – you can feel when it’s right or wrong to call, you don’t have to know the math to be successful.
PL: You recently played in the WPT Invitational out in LA. Didn’t I see you sitting next to Mimi Rogers?
SF: Yes I was, and she’s actually a pretty good player. She was still playing when I was knocked out in 18th place.
PL: Was it distracting at all, sitting next to her?
SF: (laughs) a little, I really didn’t want to beat her since she was so nice, she was the only one at the table that I didn’t want to knock out, which was sort of weird. Usually, I don’t care if you’re my best friend I’ll try and bust you.
PL: Did you play with any other celebs?
SF: The celebrities were everywhere, and the weird thing was, they were treating us like the celebrities, asking us questions…they are very intrigued by our business.
PL: What do you do away from the table during your down time?
SF: My time away from the table is spent playing online. I don’t really do anything else. I’ve been so consumed with the game and the learning process involved and trying to get better and better that there’s not much room for other things. I’ll go out on occasion with my friends, have a few drinks, maybe hit a strip club, but most of the time it’s poker…poker…poker!
PL: You seem to do well in tournament Hi/Lo split pot games what do you like best about them?
SF: I like them because there are a lot of players that believe there is only one way to play hi/lo games, but I’ve found a different way to play that is very successful versus those types of players. It’s also more of a black and white type game – there is almost no grey area involved so you can take greater advantage of other people’s mistakes.
PL: Do you prefer them over Hold’em?
SF: A lot of people ask me which game is my favorite, it’s really hard to say since I enjoy playing all of them.
PL: Whichever game you’re dominating is your favorite I guess?
SF: (laughs) Exactly.
PL: Do you think poker can keep growing like it has been, or do you think the buzz will die off?
SF: I think it will keep growing, you can’t go back to what it was, it’s acceptable to play now, in the past it was forbidden and taboo, now grandmas are playing it, everyone is happy to say they’re a player. It’s not hidden anymore like the guy who would tell his wife he had to work late and sneak off to play.
Obligatory 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?
SF: (laughs) I probably wouldn’t have had a girlfriend in the first place because it just doesn’t work with this lifestyle. It reminds me of last night: one of the young guys had his girlfriend sitting behind him and someone asked him, “how long have you two been together”, the guy looked at his watch… It usually doesn’t result in a happy relationship. Unless you’re married or have already been together and know what to expect there is too much travel and too much time required for most relationships to be successful. As far as Matt Damon’s character in Rounders, she would have been out right away.
PL: Any strategy for this years WSOP due to the huge fields?
SF: Everyone talks about how the day you bust out of the main event is the worst and most depressing day of the year and yada yada yada, but for me it’s going to be the exact opposite. With 6,000 players, it’s a crapshoot, the best player isn’t going to win. It’s going to be a total fiasco. I’m going to go in and play my game, and if I get beat, I get beat. There are other tournaments that I’m looking forward to.
A long time ago a doctor wrote that if you were dealt pocket Aces over and over and go allin each time and get called, after 4 or 5 times you actually not the favorite to survive. I think of that and I think of the huge amount of luck it’s going to take to win the big one.
PL: Are you planning on playing any of the WSOP circuit events? New Orleans etc…
SF: Yes, I’m actually headed down to San Diego to play in one. My goal is to qualify for that $2million freeroll – if I qualify early, I probably won’t head to the others.
PL: Thanks a lot Scott, keep up the good work in CardPlayer and good luck.