Sylvain Loosli at EPT Barcelona.
French poker pro Sylvain Loosli has exactly two live tournament cashes on his professional résumé.
One is a 24th-place finish at an EPT Deauville side event for €2,350. The other is for, at minimum, $733,224 for making the final nine at the 2013 WSOP Main Event.
Don't think for a second that puts the 26-year-old cash-game veteran from Toulon out of his league, though.
With more than enough poker chops to hold his own - and two very experienced pals in Guillaume de la Gorce and Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier to bounce hands off of - Loosli has as good a shot as anyone to bring the life-changing title and $8.3m prize home to London.
PokerListings France's Fred Guillemot caught up with Loosli at EPT Barcelona to find out more about his background, his deal with Winamax and his plans for the moment of his poker life.
PokerListings: First off, how do you feel about your new status and the relative fame that comes with it? How do you handle it?
Pressure starting to sink in.
Sylvain Loosli: At first, I thought it was really cool. Receiving all this support, all these messages, it was awesome.
Well, I still think it's cool, but now I've actually realized what I've done and I'm starting to feel the pressure building up.
I'm pretty happy though, it's nice to feel recognized, especially for someone like me who mainly plays online and was pretty much anonymous until now.
PL: Did you create a buzz in your hometown of Toulon?
SL: A bit! Some local newspapers wrote pieces on me and I received messages from people I don't know on Facebook. It's pretty nice.
PL: I suppose you've already started to study your future opponents. What's your approach?
SL: Yeah, I have. I'm mainly watching various coverages from the Main Event or from previous tournaments that they've played.
Since there will be some pretty well-known players – J.C Tran for example – at the table, it's not too hard to find material to work with.
PL: Who do you think will be your toughest opponent?
SL: It's hard to tell, I think it will be a very tough table overall. They're all good players, so you can't make mistakes.
I do think J.C Tran has the edge, especially considering he's got the most chips. Lehavot also seems to be a very solid player who won't be giving any chips away.
Tran has the edge, but Loosli has ElkY.
The Canadian, McLaughlin, is a good player too – I've played against him.
PL: Did you get to talk with Antoine Saout, who took part in the final table of the 2009 Main Event?
SL: I did, yes! I actually saw him right after the Main Event, we went to have a drink with other French players. We got to talk and he told me how he'd tackled his final table.
He tried to be as relaxed as possible, no pressure, just trying to play his game. Sounds like a good idea to me, especially since he came pretty close to winning.
It's very interesting for me to be able to share his experience. Now I'm going to have some free time before the final table and I'm going to use it to work on my game and study my opponents.
I might also get a chance to talk with ElkY – who knows some of these players very well. Especially J.C Tran, because he's played against him before.
PL: Before the WSOP, you finished 24th at the 2011 Deauville EPT but you don't play that many tournaments, do you?
SL: No, I don't. I played two EPTs at the beginning of the year – Deauville and London. I didn't play very well, I wasn't really focused.
But it's true that I don't play many tournaments, I'm more of a cash-game guy. I do enjoy them though, I like the competition. And it's a nice change too.
PL: Why did you choose to join Winamax? Did you talk to other members of the team?
Saout's experience will help.
SL: I did, because I already knew a few players there – some of them I was already friends with. Plus my roommate is Guillaume de la Gorce and he used to be part of team Winamax too.
I knew a lot of players who used to be in the team and I knew the atmosphere was good.
Not to mention the fact that the team has been playing very well for the last couple of years – they've been doing really good work, especially thanks to Stéphane Matheu.
There's a sports coach, a mental coach, etc. They do everything to help the team improve.
PL: A pretty logical choice, all in all. What do you think the money you will win will change in your life?
SL: I think it might change a lot of things, but I don't have any specific project in mind yet. I don't want to think about it too much because I want to stay focused on the final table.
I'll probably invest some of the money and I might buy myself a nice apartment in London.
Of course, if I finish in the top 3 or if I win, then I'll probably try to play at higher stakes, play some high-rollers and work on improving my game even more.
That's also why I signed with Winamax. I want to keep playing tournaments and winning titles, because that's pretty exciting.
I'll probably play higher online too. Plenty of new challenges!
PL: Can you tell us a little bit about Sylvain Loosli outside of poker? What are your other passions, your hobbies?
SL: Sports, mainly! I play some tennis, I run, I swim and when I get the chance I surf and snowboard. I took it up a few years ago, so I do it whenever I can.
Other than that, I'm a pretty calm guy, there isn't really anything crazy about me, unlike some other players who party a lot or spend a lot of money on nights out.
It happens occasionally, but really not often.
PL: I read that you spent a year in Ljubjana when you were a student and that it was where you really started studying poker?
SL: Partly, yes.
PL: Was there really nothing else to do there?
SL: Oh no, it's actually a really cool city, and it's beautiful! Plus, as an Erasmus student, I spent a lot of time partying and travelling to Eastern Europe.
So I really didn't have time to get bored to be honest. But yeah, I began to grind there, and then played more and more until the end of my studies.
PL: One last question: as an online player now playing live, what do you think is the hardest part of that transition?
SL: Mostly learning how to handle stress and pressure. When you're sitting at the table with very good players, you know that the tiniest mistake and the littlest tell will not go unpunished.
That's my biggest challenge – to be confident in the way I play and not give anything away. I want to forget the context and play my best.
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