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No Longer the Bridesmaid: Andy Philachack Gets His
World Series of Poker Circuit Winter Bayou Poker Challenge from Harrah's New Orleans in the heart of the Dirty Dirty is finished, with 33-year-old chiropractor Andy Philachack taking down top spot and the commensurate $247,860 first prize (plus exclusive PokerListings.com interview).
Philachack defeated ATLien and fearsome pro Josh Arieh in a brief heads-up battle to take the title, which also comes with a $10,000 buy-in to the 2008 WSOP Main Event and a shiny Circuit ring to impress the ladies. The victory came on the heels of a seven-hour final table, a three-day event and a poker career seemingly spent playing second fiddle to champions.
PokerListings.com caught up with Andy moments after his thrilling victory.
Congratulations, Andy. How are you feeling right now?
I'm feeling great. I'm feeling like I'm floating on clouds right now. It's a good feeling to win one instead of getting second all the time. It's so hard to win a poker tournament. I'm so glad this is it. Maybe I've crossed that line; maybe I can start winning more events.
You've had a number of runner-up finishes, most notably your second-place finish to Phil Hellmuth in last year's World Series. What do you think was different in this event compared to those others?
Well, in this event I started catching cards. The other events, when we were heads-up, I couldn't catch anything. Against Phil, the best hand I had was ace-ten against ace-three, and he flopped a three on that one.
But in this event I was catching cards. My ace-king was holding up, my ace-queen was holding up, and I was just catching cards, you know, it was one of those nights.
What do you think was the turning point at the final table?
Oh, man, it was the pocket tens against [Ted McCollom's] pocket aces. I was second to act and got an early raise. I pushed all-in for $70,000 and McCollom on the button had pocket aces. I couldn't avoid that, but somehow my instincts were right: I felt a ten on the river was coming, I said the T♥ was coming and it came for me.
That was the turning point. Then I got some chips and I wasn't scared to play anymore. I could limp in and play with the best once I got some chips.
What was going through your mind during that hand with McCollom when you were three-handed?
He raised my blind and I had ace-queen, which is pretty strong in three-handed play. I put him on a small pair - the only hands I'm really dead against are pocket aces, pocket kings and ace-king - and I tested him to see where I was. He put me all-in and I thought I had more chips behind me, but I only had $200,000 left.
I mean, if I'd had ace-king, I was committed by that point anyway, so I went ahead and pushed in and got lucky, caught an ace and he had pocket sixes. In this game you've got to get lucky; you've got to catch cards, and I did that tonight.
Can you talk about the heads-up match with Josh Arieh?
With Josh, I was just trying to limp in a lot. I know Josh is pretty aggressive. It was a cold deck for him. He flopped two pair, bottom two pair, and I flopped top and bottom pair and you can't get away from that heads-up. If you flop two pair it's going to go all-in.
But Josh is a great player. I was afraid to go against him because once he got some chips from me I knew it would be tough to beat him. So I knew I had to make my move pretty early and just got lucky with that hand.
What did it mean to have Kido Pham watching and cheering you on for this one?
Well, Kido Pham's been great. He's my Confucius - he coached me the whole way through, tried to keep me calm. Don't play like him, he said; just try to stay patient. Try to stay patient and pick your spots and try to move up in the money. He told me if I finished fifth today it would be great. I came into the final table with $35,000 and Josh had half a million.
What a run. I was catching cards today.
We hear you're a chiropractor in real life. How did you get into poker?
I was a chiropractor and my friends and I started having home games. I've been playing for a couple of years now and was always beating my buddies in the home games. I'd take all of their money but at the end of the night I'd have to give all of their money back because I'd feel bad. I'd just keep enough for the pizza and the beer.
Then one of them suggested I should play in a tournament, so about two years ago I went to Tunica and finished first money-wise and second overall (we chopped it up) in my first tournament, and ever since then I've been playing. I don't play that much, maybe three or four tournaments a year, and I've cashed maybe six out of 10 tournaments.
So, I'm a pretty good tournament player, but I'm a donkey in cash games. Just to let y'all know in Dallas - I'm a donkey in cash games.
Can you talk about your second-place finish to Phil Hellmuth this summer?
Oh, man, Phil Hellmuth was great. I also went into that tournament short-stacked - I think I came in eighth or something, and I just sat there and watched Phil knock everybody out. I went to the heads-up match and he had like $6 million to my $2 million. He'd done all the work.
He's a great player and I'm glad to have had the opportunity to play against him. He's a really nice guy - I know a lot of guys talk bad about Phil, but he's a great guy. People just have a misunderstanding about Phil Hellmuth.
How are you going to celebrate your win tonight?
We're going to go down to Bourbon Street and we're going to party. We've got to catch a plane back to Coushatta Casino; they're flying me back in a private jet tomorrow morning. We've got to play another tournament there.
So we're going to go down to Bourbon Street tonight and have some steak. But I want to say hi to my two boys, Max and Warner, and one of my good buddies back at home, Buddha. Quit eating; you're getting too fat!
Awesome. Thanks, Andy.
Buddha, you've been served. The rest of the poker world, you're on notice. Andy Philachack is here, and unless you're a cash game player in Dallas, you've got a few more problems coming.