Michael Binger: The Next World Champion?

Michael Binger
Michael Binger during Day 5 of the Main Event

You've been sitting at the top of the leader-board all day, you've gotten a hold of a lot of chips. Take us through your day so far.

Well, I started the day in good shape with about $1.9 million and I was just looking to chip up and not make any stupid mistakes. I caught a couple hands, I got a guy to go all-in for about $700,000 with pocket nines against my pocket queens for a third re-raise so that was good. I won that hand. I've just been slowly accumulating chips, nothing too exciting really.

How have your tables been so far?

Well, I just moved to a new table one hand before this break so I'm not sure about that one. I started today at the feature table with Humberto Brenes. That was good to me, I won some chips there. Then they broke us, and I moved to a new table, and that was a good table as well. I felt like I had a good handle on the players, nobody was too wild or crazy, like raising all the time.

If we could talk a bit about your background coming into this event.

Michael Binger

I'm from Atherton, Calif., which is near San Francisco. That's where I've lived for the past seven years. I moved out there for graduate school. I've been playing poker for about five or six years, I kind of burned out of graduate school in '01 or '02 and discovered poker. I've been making the majority of my income playing poker for the past five years.

Are you an online player or mostly live?

Both. I've got a lot of experience playing tournaments. I used to play a lot of local tournaments, like $200 weekly tournaments, and I won a couple of those. I've played online tournaments and done well in those. I just finished graduate school, so it's hard to play the multi-day tournaments, the big ones, but I've played a few. Last year I played four events in the World Series, didn't cash. This year I came out, and I played three and didn't cash, but then I made a final table two weeks ago in the $1,500 No-Limit and made about $100,000. I mainly play cash games, although I just finished graduate school two months ago so I'm hoping to play more.

Did you play in the Main Event last year?

I did, I made it to Day 2 and busted out.

Since this isn't your first WSOP or even your first Main Event, what were your expectations coming into this tournament?

I was very confident coming in and hoped to win a bracelet. I felt like I had the tools to do it. I've studied the game for a long time, I've played a lot of hours online and a lot of hours live. I'm feeling confident. Things have worked out my way so far. I've been very lucky. I've had no bad beats at all. I mean, you get in with a two- or a three-to-one favorite twenty times, and you should lose one, but I haven't lost any. It's been a mixture of good playing and good luck.

Have there been any hands where you know you made a mistake and should have played it differently?

Michael Binger

Well, everyday I've felt like I played my A-game except maybe for day number three. I made one really crucial error. We were on the bubble, and I was the big stack at the table with like $400,000 at the time so I was pushing it, trying to pick up chips.

I raised with 3 5 and this lady who I knew to be a very tight player called me from the blinds, and the flop was T-8-2 with a couple of hearts. She checks to me, and I bet out - I could have taken a free card there - and then she check-raises me. At that point I knew if I push all-in, she can only call with a set. My mistake was that she had already told me she had a set when she check-raised me. But I pushed, and she called and beat me with a set. I lost $200,000 on that hand, and it was a bit demoralizing.

How about a pivotal hand that went your way?

Well the one I mentioned, queens against nines. If I had lost that, if he had spiked a nine on me, I would have been down to less than the average stack. It was a $1.5 million pot so that was very important. On Day 1, I played a very interesting hand which gave me the chip lead at my table. A maniac had just moved to my table with about $50,000, which was a lot on that day, he donked off about $25,000 just playing every hand, it was unbelievable. I raised with T-J suited and he re-raised me from the blind, and it was like $1,500 more for me to call, and I had about $22,000.

It was kind of a marginal call but I felt like if I hit that flop hard he was going to pay me off. The flop came K-9-2 rainbow, he checked so I took a free card, queen on the turn, giving me the nuts. He checks to me, I bet, he raises, and I push. He calls with a set of queens. That gave me about $50,000 so that was crucial. In the first two days of the tournament, I was five-for-five on hitting gut-shots which was pretty amazing. I never had to pay much at all to see them, but I got payed off.

Great, thanks Michael and good luck in the rest of this event.

Michael Binger hopes to continue doing research in physics without having to run the rat-race of getting a job and impressing all the right people as he puts it. A win here at the World Series of Poker Main Event would definitely give him the freedom to do pretty much anything he wants. Stay tuned to PokerListings.com to find out how Michael, and all the other players in the Main Event, are doing.

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