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Blair Hinkle - Tearing up the WPT
Blair Hinkle, known online as blur5f6, made a big splash in the poker world with an 11th-place finish at the LAPC. But he isn't ready to give up his time in the spotlight just yet. The 22-year-old University of Missouri dropout has had a few big Web-based cashes already even though he just turned himself into a pro player last year. And now, only a week from his surprising LAPC run, he's made it to the money and Day 3 of the 2008 Bay 101 Shooting Star in San Jose.
He'll start the final 36 right where he ended in L.A., 11th in chips with a little more than $220,000. In anticipation of his making a deeper run in this part of California, PokerListings.com sat down with Hinkle to find out just how he got here.
Blair, tell us what got you started playing poker?
I started three or four years ago playing home games with my friends for like $5 buy-ins and eventually I met my college roommate in sophomore year, [2007 WSOP bracelet winner] James Mackey. He won a big tournament online for a few thousand and he gave me like $30 on PokerStars and I grinded that up. I started playing $5 and $10 sit-and-gos and then I started playing multi-table tournaments like a year and a half ago.
And you found some success right away?
I had to deposit a couple of times. It definitely took me a while. I was grinding the $5 and $10 sit-and-gos for a couple of months before I won like a $20 tournament for $1,000.
Then you had a big score in November of last year?
Yes. I won FTOPS Event 1 (on Full Tilt) in November for like $140,000.
I suppose having a roommate like James (Mackey) has helped your game a little. You guys must talk poker together?
We do. It's not all we talk about, but when we have been paying poker we will go over hands and stuff like that. You know, like, did I play this the best way and stuff like that.
Are you also posting on and reading a lot of online forums?
I've never posted on 2+2 but I should. I've actually enjoyed reading a lot of the stuff you find on those forums.
There's certainly a lot of stuff online that can help you become a better player...
Yes it's true. There's a lot of great stuff, but I've gotten to the point where I would rather talk to my roommates about that stuff than read it from some unknown online player. We consider ourselves some of the best players around right now and I'd rather just discuss it with them. What I mean to say is mig.com (Mackey's online handle) is a sicko, so it's always good to run things by him. You are always going to get a good answer.
So when did you make the jump to live tournaments?
I played in the WSOP Main Event this year, then the PokerStars Carribean Adventure and the LAPC. Mig and [another friend] are now backing me and L.A. was the first tournament.
I guess that was a good move on their part. You finished 11th at the LAPC and that was a real coming-out party for you...
In the end it was really disappointing though. I thought I was going to do better. I made two big mistakes in the tournament. One of them happened to be for a lot against Phil Ivey. I basically helped him win the tournament.
He had the kings and you just J-9 in that hand. I suppose you classify yourself as a loose-aggressive player and that means there is a possibility you will run into those kinds of situations where mistakes can happen. But still, to play that way you have to be fearless don't you?
Definitely. But if you are not willing to put people to a decision you can't play that game very well. You can definitely get by playing very aggressively and not making any big moves, just opening a lot of pots as a loose-aggressive player and folding to anybody who re-raises. But I think to take it to another level you have to start making bigger plays and play big pots. You're not going to win the tournament if you're not willing to put it on the line at any time.
Is there something specific you can pinpoint that's helped you raise your level of play right now and go deep here in two consecutive WPTs?
Before the World Series I played a lot of $2/$4 No-Limit on PokerStars and that really helped me out, learning how to play with a deep stack. I've just been working on my game. Online the tournaments are so short, it's too quick a lot of the times, but in here I get to play hands and I can see flops. I can tell that a lot of online players really need to work on their post-flop play, because it's so standard online as to when you have to push and here it's not. Here you are so deep even the short stacks have like 40 big blinds until we get down to two or three tables. So many players don't get that and you can take advantage.
You had to play against guys like Phil Ivey and Phil Hellmuth in the final two tables at the LAPC and there are a ton of big-name pros here at Bay 101. Are you able to learn anything playing with the biggest names in the game?
I learn how they play [chuckles]. It helps for sure. I have picked up a little bit. Watching Nam Le I picked up a few things and yesterday I played with John Phan. He was a lot of fun to play with because he was in a lot of pots and that made things interesting.
Well, you've got a decent stack and what looks like a good shot here; good luck Blair.
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Blair Hinkle may seem like just the latest in a long line of loose-aggressive online players to make a big splash live recently. But something tells us his attitude towards post-flop play in deep-stack tournaments means his 15 minutes of fame may last a little longer. No matter what happens next, it looks like these U of M kids are a force to be reckoned with in the poker world right now and are showing no sign of slowing down anytime soon.