It’s good to be the king of poker.
22-year-old German Pius Heinz has had a couple of weeks to settle in to his new role as World Champion (and defacto ambassador) of poker, and so far so good.
As he outlined in our news feature yesterday, Germany is showing signs of embracing the game of poker on a wider scale and Heinz hopes to be a big part of it.
Read on for the full transcript of our interview that includes the story behind the white hoodies, the Pius Heinz chant and his thoughts on the now infamous KJ hand between Ben Lamb and Martin Staszko.PokerListings: It’s been a few weeks now, what’s changed for you since winning the 2011 Main Event?
Pius Heinz: It’s been a surreal experience since I won. Obviously a lot has changed for me.
I’ve had a lot of media attention over here in Germany. I’ve met a lot of cool, interesting people, a great deal of whom I’d only seen on TV before.
PL: What’s the reception been like from the German media?
PH: It’s been pretty good. I’m quite happy about it. You’re always going to have a few negative articles but most of it has been very positive.
The German media, in general, has been quite supportive. I’m really happy about that.
PL: What do you think your victory will do for German poker?
PH: I hope it helps grow the game in Germany. I want to do my part and be an ambassador for the game.
Poker is such a great, interesting game that has a unique psychological aspect to it. Hopefully I can relate that to the general public.
PL: How have your friends and family reacted?
PH: They’re all super happy and very proud of me. A lot of my friends and family came out to support me in Las Vegas and that made winning the title even better.
PL: If the money was the same would you have just taken second place and avoided dealing with the media and the various World Champion responsibilities?
PH: It’s a pretty big honor to be the WSOP champion. In 20 years when you have kids you can tell them you were the World Champion once.
Being the World Series of Poker Main Event champion is something no one can ever take away from you.
It’s like winning an Olympic gold medal or something like that. I’m really proud that I was able to achieve that and happy with how things turned out.
PL: Your white hoodie became one of your signatures at the table. Did you plan that all along?
PH: I just started wearing it at the poker table because it was comfortable. Once my Main Event started going well it became my good luck charm though.
PL: Did you know all your friends and fans would be wearing them at the Main Event final table?
PH: No, they surprised me with that. I thought it was really awesome. (laughs)
PL: Who helped you out most heading into the final table?
PH: I got coaching from Mike “Timex” McDonald so he definitely helped me out the most.
I’m also friends with a lot of high-stakes tournament players from Germany, Austria and the United States and we all help each other out and talk about various hands.
It’s really important if you want to grow as a player.
PL: It seemed like you didn’t check the live stream very much during the final table, did that affect your game?
PH: I actually checked the live stream quite a bit. Not every 15 seconds or anything but every time there was a big hand I would go talk to my friends.
It definitely helped. It gave me a lot of confidence because I watched the Day 1 coverage and felt that almost every big decision I made was the correct one.
PL: So I guess you’re happy ESPN decided to go with that coverage format?
PH: Yeah I was never against it. I mean it’s the same for everyone.
Everyone is seeing the same thing so no one has an unfair advantage. It’s also good for poker and anything that’s good for poker is eventually good for the player.
PL: Your fans had a very memorable chant during the Main Event. Where on earth did that come from?
PH: It was a friend of mine from Scotland that came up with it. I don’t know how.
I guess he had a few beers and that made him really creative (laughs).
It’s from that song “Baby Give it Up” (by KC & the Sunshine Band). It just caught on. I thought it was really funny.
PL: What’s your average day been like over the last few weeks?
PH: Usually getting up in the morning, having some breakfast, doing some phone interviews. Later in the day I do TV interviews.
The TV interviews tend to take a whole day because there is quite a bit of preparation involved.
I spent last week in London and I’m in Cologne right now. I head back to my home in Vienna, Austria next week.
Later in the month I’m going to be on a German poker show, which is sort of our equivalent of High Stakes Poker although obviously the stakes are smaller.
It’s been a pretty busy schedule and whenever I get a day off I thoroughly enjoy it.
PL: Have you played much online poker recently?
PH: Honestly I haven’t played a single hand of online poker in over a month.
I’m really looking forward to playing again when I get the time. When EPT Prague is finished I’m going to go on a little vacation and I think I’ll schedule a little online poker in that time.
PL: Perhaps the most talked about hand at the Main Event final table was when Ben Lamb jammed with K-J three-handed. What were your thoughts on the hand?
PH: I don’t think either player played it that well. I definitely see where Ben was coming from though.
I think it’s usually fine but the fact that it was the first hand of three-handed changed things a bit. I tend to feel that players are not light on the first hand back.
Everyone is nervous and usually plays tighter. That’s not to say Martin (Staszko) is not capable of being light there but I would definitely tighten up a bit there.
I also would have preferred if Martin flatted with sevens there. I certainly would have played it differently.
PL: Outside of poker and considering you grew up in Cologne, Germany, are you a pretty big football fan?
PH: Yeah I’m definitely a fan of the Cologne soccer club. I used to go to the Stadium every home game for around three years.
I used to be a pretty big fan but I haven’t followed it as closely over the last few years as I’ve been quite busy. I’m still a fan though.
The NBA finals were actually much more important to me than the Champions League or something like that.
PL: Do you think Germany is a favorite in the Euro Cup this summer?
PH: I hope so. They’ve definitely been playing really well. I mean Spain is always really tough though. They are probably the best team in the world right now.
I think Germany and Spain are the big favorites for sure.
PL: Germany could potentially legalize online poker next year but you live in Austria. Do you feel legalized poker in Germany is still quite a ways from reality?
PH: I honestly don’t know. I’m not really an expert on the topic.
I really hope it’s legalized and I’m going to try and do my part to make that happen. I want to show the German people how beautiful the game of poker is.
PL: What did it mean for you to sign with PokerStars?
PH: It was a really big deal for me. I’m really happy to be a part of the team.
To me PokerStars is probably the best company in the industry. It’s always great when you can work with the best.
It’s an honor to be a part of a team that includes Sandra Naujoks, Jan Heitmann and Johannes Strassman.
PL: You’re known as an online grinder, did you have any money stuck on Full Tilt in the Black Friday ordeal?
PH: I did have a little but not near as much as some of my friends. I know people who have a lot of money stuck on there.
PL: Who are the best German players in the world right now?
PH: As far as tournaments go Benny Spindler is really, really good. Sebastian Ruthenberg and Tobias Reinkemeier are really good as well.
PL: What kind of tournament schedule do you think you’ll play in the upcoming year?
PH: I’m going to play quite a few EPTs starting with Prague next month. I’ll definitely play the PCA.
I’ll probably play around 10 the rest of this season. I’ll also be heading back to the Las Vegas for the 2012 WSOP, probably for the whole summer.
Looking forward to the mixed events at the WSOP.
PL: Thanks Pius, great to talk to you.