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Second Chances - The Sorel Mizzi Interview
Sorel "Imper1ium" Mizzi landed himself in a little hot water in 2007. Turns out he bought a seat off of a certain Bluff Magazine editor after said editor had run himself deep into one of the big time Online Sunday tournaments.
An experienced online pro, Mizzi managed to bring home first place in the tournament, but it wasn't long before the site looked into things and Mizzi was forced to own up to the multi accounting no-no he'd been guilty of. The money went back, Mizzi's account was suspended and a lot of apologies were made.
It's now a new year, months later, and Mizzi is still dealing with the aftermath of his biggest mistake as a poker pro. He admits it was a mistake, he says he's sorry and that said, even poker players deserve a second chance.
Now he's on the road trying to prove himself on the live tournament circuit and PL.com had the chance to catch up with Imper1ium on Day 1a of the 2008 PokerStars.com EPT German Open to discuss his day, the reason why he loves the EPT and just exactly how he's moving on from one of the biggest poker scandals of 2007. Unfortunately Mizzi busted out soon after our little chat, but you can bet he'll be back.
So Sorel, Germany has been a tough go so far?
Well, I started off good. I got down to $5k early then I got it back up to $15k without showing a single hand. Then I made a really weird play against kind of an aggressive guy. I'm not really regretting it though.
I raised an amount I didn't really want to. I was going to make it $1,700 to go but I actually made it $1,200. Then I thought that he would think me raising him small would mean weakness, because he's a good player and he knows that I'm not going to reraise him that small with aces and make it that obvious.
So he probably puts me on an ace to nine hand or just something stupid. I felt that was what he was thinking and he reraised me to like $3,200 and I shoved for $13k effective and he had kings. I'm not really regretting it though because yes, it was for a lot of chips and it was uneccessary, but I went with my read and it was wrong. Sometimes that happens.
So how comfortable are you playing with a short stack?
Lately I've been trying to play tight early, because I have been really loose in these main events and I've noticed that it messes with your head because people start playing back at you and you have to create all these variables and sometimes they don't really exist.
It seems like live players always have it - these older guys that play. So now I've just raised the last five hands and I have tens on the button, I raise and he reraises and I have to call and make a decision on the flop and I've been going broke with a lot of seven high flops in those situations. It's hard because you have to have it in your mind that you've been really aggressive and he must think that as well.
By playing tight you get a bit more credit, but right now with like $2k I'm being fairly straightforward. It's all about sit and go strategy from here, when to shove or when to fold.
I value my tournament life a lot so I'm usually going to get in fairly good - take advantage of position and weak players on the big blind and try to chip up that way - I've done it before so I can do it again.
At Ceasers I was down to my last $25 in chips and in a hand with a guy who was nice enough to check it down until the river. He bet and I was getting like 1000 to 1, but I knew I was beat so I folded it down. Then I ended up turning that $25 into $25,000. I busted out of the tournament the next day, but as long as you have chips you have a chance.
The truth is I'm feeling good, even with the short stack. One double up and I'm back in it.
Are you a big fan of these European Poker Tour events?
Yes, the truth is I find the fields are probably a lot weaker than in the US. There are a lot more young players that I'm used to playing against (online) who are aggressive and you can trap them.
Everything is also very convenient because it's all like an hour or two away from each other. So I'll be playing a lot of EPT events, pretty much up until the WSOP.
I think basically Europe is a little bit behind North America, because the poker boom happened here after it did back there. So you get a little bit of an edge because you have more experience than most of the field.
I also like Europe a lot, I like being here and I have fun. It's always important to have fun. Vegas, I don't know if I can stay there for long periods of time, so I prefer playing in Europe.
If you are running into a lot of online players, you must running into a lot of people who want to comment on the whole multi-accounting scandal...
Surprisingly no one really mentions it all that often. The people that do just come up to me and tell me positive things. They think it's really not that big a deal or I got punished too harshly.
At first when I read all the forum responses it seemed like 90 to 95 per cent of people really were against me, they thought I did something terrible and were really happy with the penalties I received. But what I realized was a lot of these people on the poker forums are just low stakes players trying to find some way of justifying why they lose at online poker. The people that I talk to in person, that are successful, none of them think it's a big deal.
At first I kind of thought I was raised wrong, or I didn't have some kind of ethics or morals like everyone else. Obviously now I feel that what I did was wrong, but not to the extent that a lot of the extremists on the forums do. Most people here have been really supportive and I appreciate that.
All the negative press must have been tough on you...
Definitely, I mean it's kind of hard when you go from someone who a lot of people like to someone everyone hates. It was really hard on me psychologically. I had never been on a downswing in poker until this happened to me. For the three months after it happened it was getting to my head and I wasn't playing properly. I think I've recovered from that now, but when I'm emotionally unstable and I'm playing I do really stupid things and get involved in situations where I shouldn't and it's all been very stressful for me. I'd like to say that I can completely ignore it, but it does get to me. I'm trying to move on and I'm just trying to forget about it.
The people that think what I did was so wrong that I should be sent off to some Island somewhere, those people are going to think that no matter what. It's kind of depressing that some people think that way, but I still have good friends who support me and don't judge me based on just one action like so many people do.
I really think that whole situation was blown out of proportion and I was made an example of. No one in the history of online poker has ever been caught or penalized for what I did. That's what was in the back of my head when I did it and I just really didn't think it would be that big of an issue. It ended up I was wrong and I dealt with the consequences, which were pretty ample.
Moving on, how did a kid from Toronto, Canada end up as one of the biggest online pros in the game and out here on the EPT?
I used to play in high school for 25 cents here, 50 cents there and I used to play five card draw with my mom.
I started playing Texas Hold 'em when I was in high school and as soon as I turned 18 and could get a credit card I started playing online. My brother owed me money actually and wanted to pay me on Party Poker because he had no cash, so he sent me money on Party. I ended up losing that and a lot more playing limit. I just kept playing like a 'degen' and eventually had a few big scores. I went on some sick rushes, but I was definitely a losing player until I discovered tournaments and I just knew that was my calling
Turns out, although it was about a decade later, you went to the same high school as Daniel Negreanu, was it a case of 'if he can do it why not me'?
Actually I didn't find that out until like four or five months ago and I was like wow, that's so amazing.
So after you found out, did it give you some hope that maybe one day you could be the new face of PokerStars?
Definitely. Why not?
Thanks Sorel and good luck.
With game like his it wouldn't surprise anyone to see Sorel Mizzi become the next big thing in poker. Sure he made a mistake and it was a big one, but he's genuinely sorry and it's only fair he be given a second chance. PL.com is hoping he does great things with it!