Nicolas Levi: Playing the Odds

Nicolas Levi
Nicolas Levi, EPT German Open - Day 2

French pro player Nicolas Levi has had his fair share of success the last few years, making final tables in Europe, the Caribbean, and now at the WSOP.


I had the chance to talk to Levi today after he finished playing the $3,000 No-Limit Hold'em event.

Nicolas, you just busted from the $3,000 event.

Yeah, I started the day with a short stack and kind of slipped into the money. I wasn't really trying to but the bubble was so fast - we had to eliminate 10 players and it happened in like 20 minutes, so I didn't even have a chance to try to bust myself [laughs]. They did it too fast.

How much WSOP experience do you have up to this point?

I played last year, and I only cashed in one event. I got a little unlucky, but I also wasn't ready for the fast structures, so I was trying to hang around.

I know how to play a short stack, but I think here in the small events, like the $1,500s, you have to take a lot of chances in the beginning. If you have a big stack you have a really good chance against weak players. So you have to be ready to take marginal spots to try to get the big stack often, and then play very good with that big stack.

With this being your second year here, you're still sort of adjusting to things. How does the WSOP compare to European Poker Tour events and other tournaments in Europe?

Well, for starters, with the organization they've gotten so much better here this year at the WSOP, it's incredible. But the EPT is still the best as far as I'm concerned. They have a team of dealers who travel and only deal EPTs, and they do all the events. You never have a slow dealer.

Here I've seen some funny ones. There was one dealer, there was an argument over whether someone had done a string bet or not, so the dealer decided it wasn't worth calling the floor, or maybe he'd get shouted at or something. So he asked for a hand vote. [laughs] And people did it!

So that's not going to happen on the EPT. The dealers either know the rule or they don't, and they know when to call the floor. They're fast and the tournament is well run. When the players bust too fast, [EPT tournament director] Thomas Kremser, the best in the business, will add another level. The EPT really takes care of the players' interests, because they know that if the players are happy they'll come back next year.

Harrah's is just starting to catch up with that. They've got a way to go, but they've done so much between this year and last year, I'm very optimistic for next year.

How do the fields at the EPT compare to the WSOP? People obviously like to play here because there's so much dead money in the pot. Is it like that in Europe too?

The EPTs are very expensive. They cost over $10,000 each right now with the current exchange rate, so you have a lot of pros in the field. It's not that easy to pay so much money for it. There's a big field of European pros - we have all the Danish, Swedish, Norwegian players, and now there's a big contingent of French players on the tour. You get stacked tables with a lot of what you would call "Internet kids" over here, but they're now live players. It's a tough circuit.

I think it's interesting that when European players come to America, they think the field is weak. And when American players come to Europe, they think the field is weak. So I've discussed this with a few good American players who have come to Europe, and they think that everyone is a donkey. It's a case where the field is different and you have to adapt differently. So right now the European players will be good in Europe and the American players will be good in America.

I personally think my style is really suited to the American style. Like when I played at the WPT Championship at Bellagio [in April], every player at the table was good, but they didn't really adapt well against the European style. So, maybe there are more Internet pros in Europe and more live pros in America - maybe that's what it is. I got the feeling that they never knew where I was at, but maybe that's just my ego. [laughs]

One final question: where did you get the pimp hat?

The pimp hat - I don't know. I started off on the circuit playing very conservatively. I'm a logic guy - I was doing a computer science degree before poker - and I knew I was going to be playing the odds most of the time. So I didn't want my look to say who I was.

So I decided to pick up a flamboyant character, to make it harder for people to put me in a box right from the beginning, the same way that people assume that a girl at the table is going to play tight. Of course, now I play loose-aggressive [laughs], so maybe they know what I'm about now.

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As poker continues to grow in popularity throughout Europe, the players keep getting better and their eyes are set on Las Vegas just like those of every other poker player in the world. It's a sure bet that more European players like Levi will begin to have success here at the WSOP over the next few years as they play more events.

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