Lee Markholt is no stranger to making it deep on the World Poker Tour, with 14 previous cashes under his belt, but he is a stranger to both the final table and the winner's circle. That all changed at this year's World Poker Challenge when he not only made the final six but went on a tear that ended with his five final-table counterparts hitting the rail and Markholt taking down his first WPT title and nearly half a million dollars.
After Mike Sexton had closed out the event with his trademark witticisms and the winner photos had been snapped, we sat down with Mr. Markholt to share a few words.
You mentioned earlier that you'd tweaked your game a little bit recently. First of all, how does winning an event compare to your long string of consistent cashes and secondly, do you feel like the win was a direct result of those changes or was it just a matter of time?
I'd like to think it was just a matter of time. I've had big stacks deep in WPT events four or five times in the last year alone but I have made some errors in the past that might have cost me the opportunity to win. I've played big pots when I really didn't need to and in this event I really didn't have to play a lot of big pots.
I was able to build my stack for the most part playing small-ball poker and that's really the way I want to do things. I don't want to have to play really big pots and put my chips at risk so I'm learning more and more to do that.
There was a bit of an issue at this final table with the blind structure. They shortened the levels and skipped one or two levels which made it a little harder to play that small-ball style you were referring to. Give us your thoughts on how the blinds affected the table dynamic and how it played into your strategy.
It really does change things but in this case I always had a good-sized stack and I was never at a point where the blinds were threatening me. So all in all it might have helped me a little bit because it really put a lot more pressure on the players with smaller stacks.
On the point of the dynamic of this final table, how much did Phil Ivey, Michael Mizrachi, Chau Giang and Pat Poels getting eliminated right before the final table change that dynamic and your chances at a win?
I've played a lot with Pat and Chau and to me they were never a serious threat. They both play pretty tight. They both play really well but I know where they're at and I'm fine with playing against them. The fact that Phil Ivey got crippled and knocked out was huge, though, mainly because he was going to be on my immediate left. If he had gotten chips it would have been a problem.
You told us earlier that your family would be arriving like three or four hours into the final table so you were going to try to stretch it out and not win too quickly.
Yeah; they just got here right after it ended.
So I guess you weren't able to string the other players along long enough for your family to see the win?
(Laughs) Yeah I guess not. I'll still take it though.
What's it like having friends and family sweating you at the end of a big event like this?
Having them here can be huge. It's really great to know you have some support, win or lose, but I knew they were on the way. I really wanted my dad to be here to see me win but I guess he'll have to watch it on TV.
Thanks Lee and congratulations again.
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Game tweaking aside, Markholt's consistent record made him one of those players who seemed destined for victory sooner or later. As he said himself, cashing all the time is great but it doesn't even come close to the win.