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Marc Karam: Takin' it Down For Canada
Going into the second half of Day 3 at the WPT Season 5 North American Poker Championship here in Niagara Falls, Canadian-born Marc Karam is sitting pretty with a dominating lead over the other fifteen players still alive. At the beginning of a much needed dinner break, Marc was gracious enough to sit down and have a little chat about how he managed to amass such a monster stack.
You've gotten a hold of some chips here; take us through the tournament up to this point.
Well, early on in Day 1, I took a big hit. I had the second nut flush, and I was up against the nuts, so I went down to about $5,000 from the first $20,000, and I was pretty much packing up and thinking I was going home. But I got lucky and doubled-up and then doubled-up again off David Williams, which pretty much knocked him out, he was just left with a few chips. I just built up my stack. I didn't get in many races. I was just playing really aggressive and taking pots down pre-flop and after the flop. I ended up finishing Day 1 with like $160,000.
I came back yesterday and my goal was to finish the day with $500,000, but things just went my way. I got kind of lucky with the cards. I mean, I wasn't getting aces or kings or anything, but I was raising with like T-8 and I'd hit a straight and the other guy would have a set.
Having gotten down so low early on, did the slow structure of the event help to get you back on your feet?
For sure, I only had a quarter of the starting stack, but I still had way more than a hundred big blinds. That let me play some real poker instead of having to just go all-in every time.
Despite the way it helped you, do you like the slow structure?
I love it, I love it. If we could've even started at $10/$10 it would be even better. It gives an edge to the better player. The more chips you have, the more patient you can be and you can pick your spots more carefully, so I love it.
You've had some success on the EPT and in other WPT events, so how do you think this tournament compares?
I think the championship event in Monte Carlo, where I finished fourth, there were less players and it was a €10,000 buy-in so I think the level of play was higher. Here you have a lot more qualifiers and people who satellited in, so you have quite a few bad players. But I just love the structure, $20,000 to start and $25/$25 blinds, it's my favorite tournament I've ever played in.
Did you think about the fact that less experienced people would be playing unpredictably?
Yeah, that's exactly it; I tried not to overplay my hands. I waited 'till I had a really big hand and then pushed really hard, and when my hand wasn't so strong, I tried not to let the pot get too big.
You seem to be really taking control of the table you're at right now; do you feel like you've got a good read on the way they're playing?
Yeah well, John D'Ag's (John D'Agostino) pretty low, and he's playing pretty tight. I've re-raised him a few times now. I'm at about $1.8 million and the next guy's at like $800,000, so I really don't care right now. I'm playing really aggressive and fearless. If they want to gamble with me, go ahead but one of the times I'm going to have a hand or crack them. No one can knock me out right now.
You're from Ottawa; do you feel like you've got the home-field advantage playing on your own turf?
Oh yeah, three or four of my buddies came down last night, and if I final table today, like 10 more are coming, so I really feel like I have the advantage. I want to take it down for my city.
Tell us a bit about how you got into the game and how you progressed to turning pro?
I started playing like seven or eight years ago, just with buddies for like $5 or whatever. Then I started playing a bit online and won a few hundred here and there. After a few years of that I started making more from poker than from my job, so last September I just quit. After my fourth place finish in Monte Carlo I was sponsored by Eurolinx Poker, so now they pay all my expenses and buy-ins.
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Marc, born in Montreal and raised in Ottawa, worked in the trades industry before becoming a professional card player. He has an aggressive yet controlled style and an intense concentration when he's at the table which has certainly served him well so far in this event. Already in this tournament, I've seen him go toe-to-toe with some of the best in the world and emerge triumphant. With expenses and buy-ins paid for it is easy to predict that we'll see plenty more of Marc Karam in the future.