Interview with 2008 WSOPC Rincon Winner Michael Pickett

Michael Pickett
Michael Pickett wins the 2008 WSOP Circuit Rincon main event

Michael Pickett came to the final table of the 2008 WSOPC Rincon as a virtual unknown. He started the day as a short stack with just $120,000 chips and pro players Gavin Smith and Lee Watkinson grabbed their share of the spotlight. By the end of the day everybody was trying to figure out where this guy came from and how he acquired so many chips along the way.

The 23-year-old from Little Canada, Minn., had one key double-up through Watkinson and the rest is history. He triumphed over David "All-in" Peters and took down his very first WSOPC.

PokerListings.com talked to Pickett just minutes after his big victory.

So Mike you're obviously a fairly successful poker player; what did you do before you played cards full time?

I worked at a golf course actually and I met a lot of great guys through that - nothing to do with poker necessarily - but my two brothers introduced me to Limit Hold'em. In Minnesota you can only play Limit poker. It was really small stakes, like $60 tournaments. I learned there and I liked it.

Then I went to college at Iowa State and then some of my friends starting playing online poker and I fell in love with it. I played Limit and No-Limit and just basically started out really slow and got better. I've had some ups and downs but I feel like I'm really starting to get the hang of it.

Michael Pickett
The man in question showing off the spoils of war.

Your career path is somewhat controversial and a lot of people are worried about younger players dropping out of college to do poker full-time. Would you have anything to say to all the kids who are just getting started in poker?

I would say I've been really fortunate. I have a group of friends that also play and we all keep each other accountable. We play a lot of cash online and we never let each other have big losing days. We're always there for each other. We can talk certain hands over and get better.

As far as people getting started in poker it's really hard for me to say because only 5% of all poker players are ever going to make money doing this. I don't want to say that no one should go down this path but I think you should ask people after a few months of play if they think you're doing well. It's really hard to say. Some people can do it and some can't.

final table
No-holds-barred heads-up battle.

You're obviously a talented player. To what do you attribute your own success?

I'm fortunate to have a really positive attitude. Like I said I have a group of friends and we all support each other. We never let each other get down on hands and we pretty much eliminate the tilt factor. I work hard at it and I'm always talking hands over with my friends.

It's a lot of work too. I put in as many hours playing poker as people do at a regular job.

What were your thoughts heading into the final table? If I remember correctly you were one of the short stacks?

How much time do we have for this interview? [laughs] The night before the final table I just went over everybody at the final table. We had Gavin Smith, who is a really, really solid player, along with Lee Watkinson. Those were the two guys I was worried about. In my head the other players at the table were probably taking things a little more seriously and didn't want to gamble as much.

Gavin Smith
One of the two players Michael Pickett was most worried about.

I thought that those two pros would view me the same way so I tried to go after them a little more. I tried to bluff them a bit more because they might think I was just trying to get higher into the money and would only be playing solid cards.

I haven't played a lot on the tournament circuit so I didn't think they would think I would be capable of doing that. I also figured that the rest of the players wouldn't be bluffing that often so I just tried to stay out of their way until [Smith and Watkinson] were gone. It would have been very tough if the two pros had gone deep.

What did you think of David Peters in heads-up play? His style seemed unconventional...

He mixed it up a bit and he caused me some trouble. I kept three-times raising and he would either shove or fold. I started off playing a lot of small pots just to see how he would play and how he aggressive he was. He seemed pretty passive - he kept saying that I was really disciplined. I think he wanted me to be calling his all-ins with cards like 10-9 suited. I tried to stay away from that. I didn't want to give him an easy double-up. Overall he was a tough opponent.

David Peters, Michael Pickett
GG, thanks for playing.

You've played a lot of online poker. What was it like for you to make the transition to live play?

Well because I actually started out playing a little bit of live I did have some experience. After that it was pretty much all online for three years. My group of friends started to mix it up after awhile and play some live tournament as well. We also played some cash games at the Commerce and other casinos.

The transition hasn't been that difficult. We all talk to each other and help each other figure out how to play.

Where will we see you next?

I believe we're playing a few Commerce tournaments and then it's the World Series.

Thanks a lot man. Congratulations.

Thank you.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Hailing from Minnesota, Pickett has been working on his poker game since he was 18 years old and he's finally starting to reap the benefits. It's obvious that Pickett is well-liked because a plethora of friends were waiting on the rail to congratulate the young pro on his big victory. We'll probably see a lot more from the one they call "Micky."

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