Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier: “I Always Want to Be First”

bertrand grospellier
Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier

You just can’t keep Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier down.

Despite a lean year (by his standards, anyways) Grospellier remains one of the elite MTT players in the world and continues to be one of the great forces in French poker.

In fact Grospellier has a stranglehold on the all-time French earners leaderboard with $10.8 million in cashes.

It’s unlikely anyone will catch him any time soon as David Benyamine is a distant second with $7 million and rarely plays tournaments anymore.

ElkY is still hungry for more, however.

Grospellier, who busted from the EPT Grand Final Day 2 earlier today, took the time to talk to PokerListings about his struggles over the last year, multi-tabling and his never-ending search for a second EPT title.

Interview by Dirk Oetzmann

PL: Your performance hasn’t been as good this year compared to previous years. How do you explain that?

Bertrand
Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier in his element.
 

BG: It’s always hard to explain. Of course there is always variance, but also, things in my game just didn’t work out. I’ve been trying to adapt.

PL: Maybe you changed your game for the worse.

BG: No, I don’t think I’ve changed very much, but I have to do more to stay on top of it, because it’s the game that changes all the time.

PL: In the past, you used to be the guy that changed the game and who made other people adapt.

BG: Yes, but that’s changing, too. With the high buy-ins and good players these days, it’s hard to pin down what you are doing wrong.

PL: Is it true that you’ve been starring in a TV show lately?

BG: Yes, that’s correct, I took part in the show La Maison du Bluff (“house of bluff”). It’s a little bit like Big Brother.

16 people live in a house and play poker. Some of them are TV celebrities, some have qualified for this show, and some are actual poker players.

I was there as a tutor and commentator. It’s actually a nice show, and the winner gets 100,000 Euros, a contract from PokerStars and joins the pro team for a year.

PL: But you were not one of the participants.

BG: No. I was there as an expert adviser. The show takes five weeks to shoot, and I have some poker tournaments to play. Also, it wouldn’t be fair if I won the sponsoring contract.

It’s actually the same venue where Luca Pagano went. They are using the place to shoot the French show, and afterwards they are filming the Italian version of the same show.

PL: Let’s talk about online poker. You were about the first player to mass multi-table. Was the idea to beat the system not by winning, but by breaking even and earning money through rakeback?

BG: Actually, for me the idea was a little different. The games were softer, so it was much easier to play more tables.

Bertrand Grospellier
ElkY piles on the tables.
 

But also, quite simply, I wanted to be the first Supernova on PokerStars. They were starting this Supernova promotion, and I thought, “what the f***, I want to be the first.”

After that, it was pretty much the same with Supernova elite. That was actually much tougher. This was in 2006, and I had only taken about ten days to make Supernova.

But then I got a contract with PokerStars, so I had to travel and play in the Caribbean and other tournaments. So, I had to find a way to still become the first Supernova elite, and to do that I opened more tables when I was playing online.

I think I was already playing more tables than most people at the time, because thanks to my Starcraft past, it was easier for me to keep up with the action.

When I was playing Starcraft, I had about 240 actions per minute, but the best Korean players took it up to about 400, so you had to be really fast and have very good hand-eye-coordination to compete.

When you play a lot of – say – SnG tables, the decisions are pretty easy. Most of the play happens pre-flop.

In an SnG, you can quickly decide based on the ICM what to do, but there is a lot more thinking involved when you play less tables against really good opponents.

Nowadays, I don’t play as many tables anymore, but I like to mix it up between SnG, Heads-up and larger tournaments.

I can still stay pretty well focused if I play up to ten tables in full ring tournaments. Above that, it’s getting hard to stay on top of the action on every table.

PL: If you have to make 45 decisions per minute, are you still playing poker or is this more like a strategy game where you just click on different parts of the screen?

BG: It’s definitely still poker, because you make poker decisions, but it also becomes a mix of both because you have to be fast, you have to think fast, and you might have to pass on some spots because you can’t take the time it needs to make the optimal decision.

When you play a lot of tables, you are folding more often because you try to avoid tough spots. You’d rather wait and get your money in in a better one.

You can also speed up your decisions by looking at an SnG differently. For example, you don’t really have to wait until the blinds are 50/100 before you get your money in. The blinds climb fast, so you can just as well put it in at 10/20.

PL: After you moved from Starcraft to poker, you became successful within a pretty short time. Was that a question of talent or did you treat poker in a different way?

Chris Moneymaker
Chris Moneymaker was also responsible for getting ElkY into poker.
 

BG: At first, I didn’t really know what I was doing. It was just a hobby, and I was spewing money around.

This was in 2003. I was living in the US, and I was still a Starcraft player. I heard about poker from one of the Starcraft players.

It was the year of Chris Moneymaker’s win, remember, and suddenly a lot of people were getting into poker.

I played for some time not knowing what I was doing but after about three months something in my mind switched.

I began to improve my game, but that wasn’t easy. I wanted to read, but there were not many books around.

Today, it’s completely different. There are all sorts of information around, which makes it much easier to learn. On the other hand, the general level is much higher.

PL: So, are you still riding the wave?

BG: (laughs) Yes, hopefully. If you think about it, a couple of years ago I was not very good, but I was winning more than I do now.

The attitude of the players has changed completely. Today, you see 50 percent of the players in the gym in the morning. Ten years ago, you would have seen none of them there. Heck, 10 years ago, you didn’t see me in the gym either.

People would rather be in the bar at night than in the gym in the morning. Man, they were drinking at the tables.

PL: And where do you see yourself ten years from now?

BG: That’s very hard to say. I’ve never planned long-term. By now, I still love poker. I wanted to make a living of it, and it worked, so as long as I like to play, there is no reason for me to change anything.

If I get tired of it, I can always take a break for some months and then come back to play another tournament.

PL: Do you never get tired of NLHE?

BG: No, but I like to learn other games, too. 2-7 No Limit Single Draw is probably my favourite outside Hold’em now. 2-7 Triple Draw is pretty cool as well.

I don’t really like Pot Limit Omaha, though. I learned a lot from Eugene Katchalov, who is really good at PLO, but it’s not really my game.

PL: When you play online, do you use tracking software?

BG: Well, I have Hold’em Manager, but I don’t use it so much, because it’s not that valuable for tournaments as it is for cash games.

I usually have it running, but I don’t rely on it at all. You don’t have a sample size with single players that is big enough to be valuable.

Also, in tournaments, play depends so much on the stage of the tournament. The same opponent might play completely different on the bubble than in the early or late stages.

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