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Andrew Feldman: Reformed and ready
In just eight months, a fresh-faced Andrew Feldman spun a few hundred pounds into a $100,000 bankroll playing poker online.
It took less than 24 hours to make it all disappear.
"One night, I was coming home from the casino where'd I'd lost quite a bit of money, £2000 on 3-card poker, so I was a bit steamed up," he said.
"I thought yeah, whatever, I'll go and get it back from poker. So I played out of my bankroll at $25/$50. It took just one bad beat and then I started playing bad and by the end of the night I'd done half the roll.
"I went to bed, woke up, was in a bit of shock after only seeing half my balance there, and within the next few hours all that had been wiped out."
Suddenly broke and dejected, a then 18-year-old Feldman said the worst was yet to come.
"I had to come clean to my parents and tell them that everything had gone, which was very hard because they kept telling me to withdraw the funds and I wouldn't do it because I was a bit superstitious that if I'd taken it out I wouldn't be winning as much," he said.
"So they just said, 'right, no more gambling in the house, we want you to focus on your A-levels and go to university.' I was feeling like I really wanted to play, so they made me go to Gamblers Anonymous just to get it out of my system, but even when I was going, all I could think about was playing again.
"I just wanted to get back to it because I knew I had the potential to make it. I knew I needed another shot."
As luck would have it, Feldman found a few hundred pounds in rakeback money on one of the sites he'd been playing and started grinding again.
"I built it up to £1,000 after one day, £10,000 by the week, £30,000 by the end of the month and then my parents made me take out most of that," he said. "They made me put it away, gave me £5,000 pounds to do with what I like and made me get my exams out of the way, which is exactly what I did.
"I managed to scrape through my A-levels, not really caring to be honest. I got accepted to University, but all I wanted to do was just continue playing poker."
Continue playing poker is exactly what Feldman did, working mid-stakes games online, moving into the live arena on the GUKPT, and eventually stepping into the bright poker spotlight with a $250,000 win in the televised 2007 888.com UK Open.
"Then I got invited to other events like the Poker Den cash game and I was the biggest winner there," he said. "Now I've done a bunch of TV events and just filmed the Full Tilt cash game last week."
A poker prodigy of sorts, Feldman, now 22, was introduced to the game by his older brother, who'd been playing satellites online. But his poker education has come through on-the-job training rather than study.
"I didn't read any books," he said. "It's all sort of been through experience."
Fellow Brit and outspoken high-stakes player Luke "__FullFlush1__" Schwartz has criticized Feldman for dodging the top high-stakes players in the game.
But a now more mature Feldman insists he isn't looking to take on the poker's best at nosebleed stakes just to prove he's one of them.
"For me, playing cash games, I try and be very selective," he said. "I'm not like [Tom Dwan] or Phil Ivey who will play anyone high stakes.
"Obviously, the Full Tilt cash game there was no dead money there, but that was kind of to get my name out there, for the experience. I didn't expect to win. I just wanted the experience and to see what it's like.
"I'm not too worried about being the best. That just isn't my game, my game is to try and target the weaker players."
Feldman also has little interest in engaging in a war of words with Schwartz.
"[Schwartz] likes to conduct himself in that way," he said. "He's very opinionated and he doesn't hold back. It's not something that I would advocate, because you've got to have respect for your fellow poker players.
"But he likes to do that, he likes to get players on tilt and that's his strategy. If it works for him and he feels he's happy then, you know, that's up to him to decide."
These days, with a sponsorship from Full Tilt Poker, Feldman is much more interested in big-time live tournaments than proving himself in the high-stakes arena.
"I would like to get a big tournament win," he explained. "I haven't had any big results lately. I feel I'm due a big result and I want to win a big title. So predominantly I'm focusing on live tournaments.
"If cash games come up and I feel there's a bit of dead money in the game, then yeah, I'll go for it. But live, I'm focusing on tournaments. I'm just playing as many tournaments as possible."
To read the full transcript of the interview with Andrew Feldman check out the PokerListings Poker Reporter Blog.