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Alexander the Great! Borteh for the Bracelet
Just when you thought the Year of the Online Pro was a myth, a succession of young Internet wizards have fought back, establishing bracelet beachheads both at ESPN final tables and inside the dreaded poker shroud, where today 24-year-old Alex Borteh defeated Brandon Wong heads-up to claim the $3,000 Limit Hold'em title.
Borteh, an Internet pro from Columbus, Ohio, came into the final table as chip-leader, ahead of a surviving field of eight other competitors that included David Pham's A♦ 6♦, and I ended up winning that hand, and from there I was able to win some more pots and make some key call-downs, and it just worked out for me.
Can you talk about the heads-up match with Brandon Wong?
I play a lot of heads-up, and I felt like my opponent did too. I felt like we would both be trying to bluff each other a lot, because in Hold'em, most of the time neither person has a pair or anything, so I knew that would come up, and I figured that he was going to try to play me aggressively, and I knew I was going to play aggressive because that's how I play.
So it just came down to that. He was a very, very good opponent and he played very well. He put me to a decision for all of my chips on a pot where I three-bet him before the flop with jacks, and the flop came ace-five-six, I believe, and I bet the flop and he called. The turn was a seven, and I bet out and he raised.
At that point I had to kind of make a decision of what I wanted to do with my jacks. Since I had a lot of respect for my opponent, I figured he was capable of having a hand that I was beating there, so I called him. The river was an incredibly scary card; it was either an eight or a nine. I checked; I knew that he had to bet again and he did.
I called, and he said he had a pair of sixes, and I was pretty happy that my jacks were pretty good, because I didn't want to feel like an idiot if they weren't.
Was there a point where you knew the bracelet was in your grasp?
I knew that the bracelet was within my grasp when we got down to four-handed and three-handed, because I have a lot of experience playing those short-handed games, and I know that most of my opponents probably did too, but I'm really most comfortable playing four-handed.
You mentioned in another interview that you're a Limit specialist.
I guess, just because I play Limit cash games all the time, and I consider myself to be very, very good at Limit poker. I just don't play a lot of other games.
Do you play poker professionally?
Yeah. Mostly online, except for the World Series, which I've been coming out to.
You're a former Magic: The Gathering pro. Can you talk about how you made the jump from that game to poker?
I was playing Magic: The Gathering while I was in high school, and I got on the pro tour, and I met a couple of friends that were also on the tour, my friends Brock Parker and William "Baby Huey" Jensen.
They were Magic pros, and they started talking about how they were playing poker and winning a lot of money on these online sites, and I was just like, "What, poker? You can't win money at poker."
They told me you can, and it kind of intrigued me, so when I was in my college dorm room, I decided to start playing some cards and it just kind of took off from there. I moved to Maryland and they sort of taught me about the game, and I read some books and put in a lot of hours practicing and just got better at it.
What other events are you going to play at the World Series?
I'm definitely going to play the Main Event, and beyond that I don't really know.
How are you going to spend the money? Any impulse buys?
I don't really have any impulse buys; I'm just going to put it in the bank. I don't know what most poker players do, but I pay taxes on my winnings, so $200,000 is a lot of money but I'm still realizing that half of it is going to Uncle Sam.
So I'm not going to go crazy with it, but it's definitely really cool.
How are you going to celebrate tonight?
I'm probably just going to take some friends out to dinner and hang out. I don't know; I don't have any immediate plans yet. Just see what happens.
Great - well go off and have fun, whatever you do. Congratulations again.
Alex Borteh is a thoughtful young man with a strong grasp of the intricacies of Hold'em poker and a mastery of its Limit variation. Before his bracelet win, Borteh finished third in a LHE shoot-out in the 2005 WSOP, losing to eventual champion Mark Seif and earning $46,885. From watching Borteh's play today and listening to his analysis afterwards we think it's safe to say that as long as he's playing Limit Hold'em, Alex won't be hurting for cash - even after Uncle Sam takes his 50%.