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BoM Champ Nicolas Proust: I'm Coming Back to Make History
After winning last year’s Battle of Malta, Frenchman Nicolas Proust will be back at the Hilton in just over a week's time intent on defending his title.
He knows it's a long shot, sure. A very long shot. But he's not backing away from giving a repeat title his best effort.
One week before he tries again in the tournament’s fifth edition we met up with him to discuss his approach for this year's tournament and how life has changed since his big win.
PL: Nicolas, let’s start with how your year has been since your victory.
Nicolas Proust: It really didn’t go as I imagined (laughs). I wanted to spend most of my time playing poker and play much more live.
In the end, even though I have played quite a lot of tournaments, I haven’t done what I wanted to - especially because I didn’t go to the WSOP in Vegas, for various reasons.
I got a little bored of poker. I don’t know if it’s because I won a big tournament and a lot of money, but it made me want to do other things outside of poker, like travel.
I did do a lot of this and it was an amazing year, almost a sabbatical (laughs). I went to Thailand, it was magical.
I didn’t see that many different countries but I took advantage of my newfound freedom to visit everyone - family, friends...
After that it was tough to really get back into it. My live tournaments didn’t go well, with no cashes in any of the €1Ks and €2Ks I played (EPT, FPS, Eureka), which didn’t help.
So it has been a bit of a dead year. I wasn’t even sure I would stay in Malta.
I like my job, I like tennis, and I could see myself in a tennis club while still playing poker.
PL: Did you receive any offers from sponsors or poker rooms?
NP: No, I didn’t, but I’m not someone with a lot of visibility. Maybe I have the qualities to be sponsored but I don’t advertise them.
I didn’t do anything to get a sponsor. And outside of the Internet, where I’m a little bit well-known, live no one knows me except in Malta.
And as I said I didn’t do much this year, which is probably not a good way to attract sponsors.
PL: How do you explain this bad run?
NP: It’s not just luck. It’s about the state of mind, the commitment. They’re essential.
Another thing is that I don’t necessarily have the opportunity to talk and share with players that are better than me, which would help me work on my weaknesses.
I think part of the reason I lost my motivation is because I felt I wasn’t progressing anymore.
But what I miss most lately is to play just for me. It’s annoying, because I have already fulfilled all my goals for this year.
They weren’t huge but it went quick. I did great online after my victory at the BOM because I was very confident.
But they’re not very exciting goals either, so I kind of lost my motivation afterwards. I was playing mechanically, without any pleasure.
Money isn’t really my main motivation, even though I would like to be rich, like everyone. What I miss is having another reason to play.
In tennis, a very individual sport, what I liked were the team competitions during the year. It gives you a sense of belonging.
So I have a few projects, like creating a poker team. I think there is a way to create something so that you don’t just play for yourself.
PL: What are your goals for the 2016 Battle of Malta? Are you coming to defend your title?
NP: Definitely! This year I'm intent on making it two in a row and making history, no doubt about that. If I haven’t been ITM this year it’s because I was waiting for the BOM! (laughs)
Here’s a message for those who will want to bust last year’s winner at any cost: guys, don’t hesitate. I want you to spend as many chips as you can.
Please bluff and use crazy moves. (laughs) Maybe it’s my only chance for another deep run. (laughs)
But yes, I would really like to go deep again. The odds of winning a tournament like this twice in a row are close to zero but the mere idea that it’s a possibility is exciting.
This time I will be playing for something else than money. I will be playing to make history. It can be a way to start it all up again.
With the Battle of Malta coming up, motivation is coming back. This tournament is the reason people know me. People talk about it all the time here.
They’re pushing you, want you to do the impossible. It really is a nice feeling.
PL: Will you feel any particular pressure as the title holder?
NP: No, the other players will feel the pressure, I can tell you. (laughs)
As I said the odds of winning twice are so low that there is no pressure at all. The only pressure I have is to play my best game and to enjoy being at the table.
Pressure has always been a good fuel for me. It prevents me from doing crazy things. I was serious last year, I was focused.
I would really like to get back in that state of mind. When you play a sports tournament you need this will to do your best, even throughout your preparation.
I had never taken another tournament so seriously. Before the Battle of Malta I was going through a tough time. I was running out of money, times were hard. I got to Malta after the worst year of my life.
It was my last chance for poker and I wanted to do my best to seize it. Preparing is essential, even though luck plays a part.
But all in all I really hope I’ll do well. It’s sentimental here and always will be. It was the first time poker gave me such emotions.
Feeling so much thanks to a card game, it seems crazy. And people who don’t play poker don’t understand. (laughs)
It’s such a positive feeling with so many people around you ... They’re magical moments that stick with you forever. To me, they’re the best reasons to want to play.
But I would be ok with cheering for a teammate who would have a good run.
PL: Do you have any advice for Battle of Malta first-timers?
NP: If I wanted to bluff, I could say 'Every night, you need to go out for drinks and go hard!' (laughs)
But really the best advice I can give is to do what you want to. If you’re here to play and win, then do everything you can to do so.
And enjoy it. Poker is still a game. So really, enjoy it. When you enjoy it, you will play your best game and you will want to improve.