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Isabelle Mercier


The 2006 second-place finisher in the WSOP Main Event has just proven he's no fluke with a 12th place cash in the 2007 Aussie Millions. In fact, he's racked up 6 cashes in major poker tournaments since taking the game seriously just three years ago. So how has life been for the young phenom, Paul Wasicka? And what exactly does he think of the Main Event champ, Jamie Gold? We caught up with him to find out exactly that.

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PL: It sounds like you have a big schedule coming up.

Paul: Yeah. There is definitely a few tournaments in the upcoming couple months that I'm planning on going to so I'm excited about that.

PL:So you're going to the L.A. Poker Classic?

Paul: Yeah. That one and then back here for the Wynn Poker Classic and then I think the Shooting Stars. I haven't really decided on that one yet.

PL: Are they trying to get you as a Shooting Star?

Paul: No. I don't think so.

PL: They'll be picking you off for five grand?

Paul: No. I'll be picking other people off hopefully.

PL:There you go. And you haven't decided on that one just based on the scheduling and how tired you might be?

Paul: Yeah. I mean I'll probably go but more because I've a bunch of friends up there in San Jose . So I'm not really that excited about the tournament. It's just not a great structure and I don't know. It's only gonna be like a three-day tournament or something like that I think. And most major events are five day so I would mostly go up there just for my friends.

PL:Speaking of that, you must have a pretty big entourage these days after all your big wins.

Paul: Yeah. I mean my troupe of friends has grown a little bit but I mean honestly usually I hang out with like a small group of close friends. So I mean I have gotten the occasional phone call from people that I used to know like way back when but not as much as you'd think.

PL:That's cool. And you have some people helping you screen some of those calls?

Paul: Yeah. Sherman does a great job. He's my best friend and I hired him on as my manager so he's doing a great job right now. A very good person to have in my corner.

PL:Did you become any better looking once you got $6 million? I mean I've always wondered if you won like a ton of money –

Paul: Actually it's kind of funny because yeah. He wanted me to start dressing a little better because I'm the type that will wear pajamas and stuff when I go out in public and he's like no more of that.

PL:Do you get stopped in public? Do people recognize you from ESPN very much?

Paul:Every now and then. I wouldn't say it's a regular occurrence but maybe like, I don't know – once a week or something like that. Which is kind of ideal for me because I don't really want that much publicity so it worked out pretty good I think.

PL:It sounds like I've read some interviews where you're pretty much happy with the way the World Series turned out as far as the publicity factor and I mean $6 million is enough to work, so it's kind of a double-edged sword. You didn't win, but now you don't have to have all that public scrutiny that Jamie Gold is obviously going through.

Paul:Yeah. But in all honesty I think that he likes kind of being in the public eye as much as possible so I think it worked out best for both of us because I wanted to have my name out there but I also wanted my privacy still. And he is just the type that really likes to be the guy that's talked about and stuff like that so I think it worked out the way it should.

PL:Have you kept up with Jamie very much recently? It's been a few months now.

Paul:Yeah. We're actually pretty good friends. We talk on the phone probably, I don't know, once every other week and we were hanging out at Sundance Film Festival together. He invited me there so I went and joined up with him. And we've had dinner a few times so I've gotten to know him pretty well and he's a really nice guy.

PL:Sundance. Now that's a cool get-away.

Paul:Yeah. We had a good time there. We were invited there by ESPN and we kind of sat around teaching people how to play and then going to parties and stuff. It was fun.

PL:So does he actually eat blueberries all the time? Or is that just kind of like his shtick?

Paul: No. No. I haven't seen him eat blueberries since the final table but that was kind of funny though.

PL:He's had them on High Stakes Poker though I noticed.

Paul: Yeah. Yeah. He had them on High Stakes. I only played with him for probably an hour and a half, two hours but we had a good time there.

PL:Were you nervous playing with those big time players like Doyle Brunson and Daniel Negreanu?

Paul: Not really. More just like really cautious. Like I played pretty tight poker. I don't know if you guys saw the episode or not but I was playing pretty tight that first hour. A combination of not getting many hands and wanting to kind of feel out the table. All those guys had been sitting together for a good three or four hours so they kind of knew the dynamic whereas I was the newcomer. I was the last person to join that table and so I wanted to be pretty cautious and make sure I knew what everyone was doing.

But also I mean for that first two hours I wasn't getting many hands so it was pretty frustrating. But in this next episode, I'll be playing a lot more hands.

PL:I noticed Mike Matusow was obviously giving you the needle.

Paul: Yeah. I expected that going in though so it didn't really bother me.

PL:Did he give you the needle and then beg you for some money?

Paul: Yeah. My buddy was like dude, you should let me sit at the table and I'll do your shit talking for you. Like I should have come up with so many good responses and like shut him up or put him on tilt. Probably a good lesson.

PL: A little bit different when you're sitting at the table as opposed to sitting in back watching the cards.

Paul: Yeah. I mean it's really fun. I've been wanting to play on High Stakes Poker for quite a while and so to be able to sit down there was a dream come true so I was really happy that I was given that opportunity.

PL:You said though that you're not really looking to become a regular in the big game. You just kind of like the 10/20 no-limit level? That's your sweet spot I guess?

Paul: Yeah. Just to have fun. Just stress-free poker. Just jawing and talking with my friends. All my friends play and so I like talking about different players with my friends and talking about different hands and stuff like that. I don't know. It's just real stress-free poker. Plus I'm a no-limit player and most of the time the big game is limit and so I don't really have any interest in limit poker. But whenever there's a big no-limit cash game going on, sometimes I'll go down there.

PL:I guess as a segue off of that, are you strictly into no-limit hold 'em right now? Or are you trying to learn some of the other games and maybe become a horse player?

Paul: I don't know. That's a good question. For right now I'm not really interested that much in kind of becoming an expert at all the different games. I think most people do that because they get bored of hold ‘em but I don't really get bored of hold ‘em so I probably don't play as much as other people now. I'm trying to get more into other stuff like I really want to get outside more and do activities and stuff, so I've been running a lot and playing golf. I've been getting pretty big into golf. In fact I'm gonna go play a round after we're done here.

PL: Nice. Hopefully you're not playing with Doyle Brunson and the other sharks.

Paul: No. I'm actually fairly new but I'd like to get into it a lot more so I don't know if I'll be gambling $50,000.00 a hole or whatever those guys were doing though.

PL:So making the move from Dallas to Colorado was good for you since you love the outdoors.

Paul: Oh, yeah. Colorado is beautiful and I've actually really missed it a lot. I haven't been skiing in forever. All my friends and family are there. So moving out to Vegas was pretty tough when I made that decision a while ago but I don't think I'll be out here for too, too much longer. Maybe a year. Maybe two. Ultimately I think I'm happier back in Colorado or maybe somewhere else but just somewhere where it's more of an outdoorsy type atmosphere.

PL:Yeah. Outdoors in Vegas in the summertime doesn't really compute.

Paul: Kind of like an oxymoron.

PL:Last year's World Series of Poker, it was so freaking hot it was unbelievable.

Paul: Yeah. I was driving to the WSOP every day in my Ford Focus with no A/C so I know all about that.

PL:Boy, that's classic. So how did you stay focused during the World Series of Poker? Or even stay awake?

Paul: I don't know. It's definitely hard and it's not a question of making mistakes. I think everyone during that tournament made a couple mistakes every now and then. But it's how big they are and at what time are you gonna make them. Because playing that many hours I don't think it's possible really to play flawless poker for 14 days straight. Or whatever it was. But it's just capitalizing on other people's mistakes and trying to limit yours.

But, yeah, I mean keeping your focus for that long is really hard. Fortunately for the first three days we were allowed to listen to iPods. But once we made the money nobody was allowed to listen to music any more. So you had to resolve to table conversations which really wasn't really that entertaining.

PL:Not too stimulating. Just some random guy breaking out in song for no reason to get on TV and stuff?

Paul: Yeah. Exactly. That's the thing that bothers me is that people are acting a certain way and then once the cameras come by they like will do whatever to get on TV. It's – I don't know. It's kind of lame.

PL:So people say table draw is pretty important in a big tournament. Did you ever have a day where you just like couldn't wait for it to be over because of your horrible table draw?

Paul: Yeah. Not even necessarily table draw but just sometimes you're at a table and for whatever reason things aren't going your way. People are re-raising you a lot. A lot of times you're at a table that you would think would be really, really good but because you don't recognize any of the players or maybe it's a bunch of satellite people or whatever, but the way things are going maybe people picked up hands against your hands or whatever. The flow is off and so you're just like please let this day end as soon as possible.

But there are definitely days like that and then there were a couple other days where I started to get some momentum and then the day ended. So it goes both ways. But the table draw is huge in a tournament. That will definitely make or break a lot of tournaments because they have certain people to their left especially. It just can completely ruin your strategy.

PL:We were told to ask you how you get ready for big tournaments too. Something about Tuff Fish? That's not the same dude who posts those hilarious videos on YouTube is it?

Paul: Yeah! I listen to that usually when I start out every tournament day just because it brings a smile to my face and I start relaxing a little bit more and it's kind of comic relief to a stressful environment.

PL:I swear that guy sounds just like Robert Williamson, III .

Paul: I hadn't even thought about that. I'll have to listen again and see if I catch that.

PL: So what do you think was the biggest thing that helped you become a good poker player? Did you read a lot of books or have a mentor?

Paul: That's a good question. The biggest thing that helped me become a strong player I would say was bouncing ideas off of friends. I have a group of four or five buddies that have been there the whole time throughout the last three years telling me, “I think you played this hand good,” or “I think you played this hand bad,” and kind of just always giving me insight.

I have one friend who always gives me player background info because he's obsessed with knowing everybody on the circuit and so he'll even tell you people you haven't even heard of. He'll be like, “Yeah, this guy cashed like two years ago,” and blah, blah, blah…so that really helps when he's telling me about my starting table. Starting out the day he's like, “This guy does this. This guy does this.”

So that really helps but actually getting to the point where I was at, all those friends. It makes a huge emotional security. Like when you're going through rough times they can help you out and then also when you're running good they can just keep that momentum going. So that was probably the most valuable thing for me.

PL:I guess you've been playing poker seriously for what – 3 ½ years now?

Paul: Yeah. I started playing three years ago but, I'd say seriously for about a year now.

PL:That's not a bad little ramp-up period. Did you play a lot when you were younger and then just kind of took a break and picked it back up? Or did you just kind of pick it up out of the blue and jump in headfirst?

Paul: I picked it up kind of out of the blue. I joined one of my friends who said he was going to a tournament in Denver and I'd played with my parents before like maybe once or twice, so I asked him if I could join just because I really liked it when I played with my parents. And so he kind of taught me some of the basics and I got hooked ever since.

PL:So what advice would you give somebody – a young guy that's thinking about turning pro?

Paul: A lot of that I address on my web site www.kwickfish.com. I'll say it again because it's so important. I really recommend keeping your job to pay the bills and delaying turning pro as much as possible until it doesn't make sense to go to work any more. Just because if you're paying the bills from your poker bankroll you're just gonna stay at a stagnant point where you make money and then you have to withdraw money to pay bills and then you make money and, you know. It's the same cycle.

Whereas if you keep a job to pay the bills you're gonna make money and then you're gonna just build from there. And building a bankroll when you're turning pro is really, really important. So that would be my advice. Just to keep a job and play, you know, maybe you can even do a part-time job but whatever can pay the bills and then keep your poker bankroll separate from your expenses bankroll.

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