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Bada-Binger: Michael Binger Makes it Pop at the PCA
I caught up with Michael after a largely successful Day 1 of the PokerStars.com Caribbean Adventure, and the Stanford-educated particle physicist was kind enough to give me his impressions of the tournament, the Bahamas, and his 16th place finish in the most recent WPT event, the $15,000 Doyle Brunson North American Poker Championship at Bellagio in Las Vegas.
So how are you liking the Bahamas so far?
Oh, it's great. We just got in yesterday and it's beautiful. I mean, I went to the Aruba tournament a few months ago, and I think this is ten times better, from what I can tell, so far. Everything is really well-run.
Is it your first time at the PokerStars.com Caribbean Adventure?
Yeah. It's my first time in the Bahamas, ever.
How did your first day go?
It was good. I can't complain; I was always a pretty big stack. I felt like I played really well, my A-game most of the day, with one or two small missteps, but I feel really good. I pulled off a couple creative bluffs, and a couple times checked my hand three times just to induce a bluff, and it worked out, things like that.
I was up to about $70,000 three hours ago, midway through the day, and then took a bad beat for a pretty big pot, about $35,000, so I would have had about a hundred thousand. Right now I'm at $57,000, so I'm above average.
What happened with the bad beat?
I got all-in with kings against pocket eights preflop and the guy hit an eight on the turn. But overall I'm pretty happy. I'm just happy that I didn't make any stupid mistakes. I don't worry if I take a bad beat; it doesn't bother me too much, but when I make a mistake it haunts me.
How has the caliber of play been at your table?
Well, pretty low overall. I mean a lot of the players clearly haven't played in any live tournaments before, and they don't know how to handle their chips, so there have been some pretty good opportunities, I think. There are still some great players, but on average it's been a very low caliber of play compared to other WPT events. There are so many internet qualifiers who may have gotten very lucky or whatever.
Can you talk a bit about your play last month at the Doyle Brunson North American Poker Championship in Las Vegas?
Yeah, sure. That was the most disappointed I've ever been in a poker tournament, busting out in 16th. I was feeling really good, and I got all of my money in the middle as a 3-1 favorite in a $1.5 million pot and the guy hit his flush on the river. If I would have won that I would have had a really good chance of making the final table with Daniel Negreanu and Joe Hachem, which would have been a really fun final table to be at. They're both great players and fun to be around. And I was just really enjoying being there, and playing, and getting beat like that just pulls the life out of you.
We've seen you at quite a few WPT events since your WSOP Main Event finish in the summer. Did your success at the World Series have a big impact on your life and your poker career?
Yeah, most definitely. Before the WSOP, my plans for this next year or two were to play poker, but I probably wouldn't have been traveling around playing all of the big $10,000 events, because my bankroll wasn't quite up to that level. I probably would have been taking shots here or there, trying to win qualifiers, that sort of thing, so winning that much in the Main Event certainly helped me to play whatever event I want.
Do you get recognized a lot now that the Main Event has been broadcast on TV?
In poker, a lot, but not so much on the street. It's only happened once or twice.
Well, keep cashing in big events and it's bound to start happening, Michael. Thanks for the interview and good luck on Day 2.
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Binger's $57,000 is good for 10th on the chip-leader board after Day 1a. With half of the field yet to play a hand in this tournament, it's inevitable that his stock will fall a few notches before Day 2. It's also inevitable that as the tournament progresses, many of those who find themselves ahead of Binger in the chip lead will start to falter, victims of their own inexperience in live, high-stakes tournament poker. Binger's professional pedigree and history of going deep in big events like this should serve him well as the internet qualifiers fall by the wayside and the true pros start to earn their money.