Final Table-Bound: The Michael Baker Story

Michael Baker
Michael Baker on Day 3 of the Bay 101 Shooting Star, WPT Season 6

Coming out of nowhere to take a decisive chip lead late on Day 2 here at the Bay 101 Shooting Star, Michael Baker held fast for the duration of the day to secure himself a seat at the final table as well as the second-biggest stack left standing.

On one of the many breaks in action this afternoon we introduced ourselves to Baker and he was kind enough to share a few words.

We've never seen you on the tour before. Give us a bit of background on who you are and how you got here.

Well, I'm an information technology professional and I live in Arizona. I decided to come out for this tournament; this is my first major big-buy-in tournament. I played a $1,500 event at the World Series but I didn't cash. That was a couple years ago and for the last few years I've really wanted to play more. It's definitely been a goal of mine.

Joseph Hachem
Yeah, it's pretty cool.

So this Bay 101 event sounded really cool with the bounties and all the stars and everything so I decided to make the trip out here. I've been really fortunate since this is my first major event and I've been able to do so well.

Did you buy in directly?

Yeah, I bought in. I did come second in a one-table satellite but I came out with the intention of buying in regardless.

A $10,000 buy-in event is pretty serious so give us an idea what kind of role poker plays in your life and what your experience is like.

They first starting allowing poker in casinos in Arizona in the late '90s so that was my first introduction to it. I've played in plenty of smaller tournaments and that sort of thing though. Initially when the online craze was getting going I tried a number of different sites. Actually on Full Tilt I had taken my money out and I had accumulated some frequent player points that I used to satellite into a bigger cash tournament. I had a pretty decent cash in that one.

How does this event compare to some of those smaller events you've played in the past?

Day 1b
Deep stacks. Deep field.

Obviously smaller tournaments are a lot shorter, in terms of the blinds and the stacks, so this is completely different from what I've done in the past. It's a really different scenario because you really have a lot of time and you're able to play better poker, without having to constantly keep up with the blinds.

This was kind of a unique tournament because of the bounties and the bonuses and all the big names, like you said. You've got the chip lead at the moment so this question may be a bit redundant but have you had a good time?

Yes of course. At the beginning of yesterday I only had about $30,000 in chips. The first table I sat down at, the first hand, I picked up pocket jacks on the button. I made a raise and got a call out of the blinds and the flop came J-5-5 and he moved in on me so that was kind of the start of things for me. By the time I left that table I had accumulated a few hundred thousand.

Isabelle Mercier
Bounty numero uno.

At the table after that I had confrontations with the chip leader a number of times and ended up busting him out. At the end of the day I got my first bounty when I busted Isabelle Mercier and that was the end of play last night. So I finished the day with around $900,000 and I had a great time.

Everyone's still pretty deep compared to the blinds and antes right now but it doesn't seem to be slowing down the action much. It is a short-handed table but is the looseness of the game working to your advantage?

I think it is a bit. It allows me to be really selective in when I want to be aggressive. The table before this one we had a real wild man who was making a lot moves. I had to wait a little while but I finally picked up a legitimate hand and was able to bust him, so it is working. I've been really fortunate so far.

Thanks Mike and good luck.

* * * * * * * * * * *

As play wrapped for the night Michael Baker's stack was good for second place going into the final table, not bad for his first major event. With the exception of Brandon Cantu, who holds a massive lead over the field, Baker is well out in front of Noah Jefferson, who finished in third. He'll have his work cut out for him if he's to take down the whole enchilada but judging by the chip counts a top three finish seems to be in the cards.

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