Chidwick, who plays online as “stevie444” is regarded by many as one of the strongest all-around poker players in the world.
It’s a notion supported by over $3 million in online MTT winnings, and one of the best online SNG records in history.
If that doesn’t convince you, consider how Chidwick won over 100 WSOP Main Event seats online before he was even old enough to play live poker in the US.
This is Chidwick’s third World Series of Poker and he’s already had a few close calls with the bracelet.
He’s cashed 12 times at the WSOP, including two final tables. Barely one week ago he finished third in a $1,500 HORSE event. In 2011 he finished fourth in the $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em Championship.
We sat down with Chidwick at the 2012 WSOP to talk about mixed games, WSOP bracelets and the pursuit of happiness.
PokerListings.com: This is your third WSOP. How’s Las Vegas treating you so far?
Stephen Chidwick: I’m having a lot of fun. I play all the mixed games so this is a really good opportunity for me to win a bracelet.
I’ve been working a lot on my non-Hold’em games recently, throughout SCOOP and playing cash, and this is probably the best place for mixed-game tournaments.
PL: You started out really only playing Hold’em so tell us a bit about making the transition to other games, and the move towards mixed games that we’re seeing throughout the poker world.
SC: Before I even turned 21 I had my eye on a bracelet so when I was about 20 I started learning all the mixed games.
It was mostly to be able to win a bracelet but I also really wanted to be a well-rounded player so if there was ever a really good high-stakes game running, no matter what the game was, if the fish was there I’d be able to hold my own against the strong players and chop up that dead money.
So I started reading as much as I could and watching videos and playing a lot.
There’s definitely a shift away from Hold’em going on in the poker world, especially towards PLO.
PLO is a game where the weaker players lose their money much less quickly because the equity generally runs a lot closer together, and it’s a very fun game.
I really hope that shift continues, towards the other games, because I enjoy them so much. Playing more games forces you to think more creatively and it definitely helps your Hold’em game because it forces you to think outside of the box a bit.
PL: What are the fields like in the non-Hold’em events here at the WSOP?
SC: The $5k tournaments in games like Omaha-8 and Stud-8 definitely hold a lot of value if you’re able to hold your own against the better players. There’s a lot of value in those events.
I think there’s more value in the mixed game tournaments, compared to the Hold’em events. But honestly there aren’t that many soft spots in the mixed game tournaments either.
But it’s mainly the cash games that are much softer in the mixed formats. You’ll have specialists who are really strong in one game in particular but have weaknesses in other areas.
I haven’t played much cash because I’ve played I think 24 WSOP tournaments so far. When I bust out of one there’s always another event to jump into. And the time I have had off I’ve just been trying to unwind.
PL: You talked about having had your eye on a WSOP bracelet for a long time. How tough is it to get so close like you did the other night but ultimately not get there?
SC: It’s a mixture of feelings. It’s very disappointing to have something you want so much be so close.
Last year when I came fourth they brought out the bracelet and put it on the table and I couldn’t stop looking at it. It’s definitely a big goal of mine so getting so close is tough.
But at the same time I’m really happy with the scores I’ve had and I just keep getting closer so I’m going to use it as motivation to keep playing as well as I can.
I know that I’ll get one eventually.
PL: There’s a famous story about you winning a bunch of WSOP Main Event seats before you were 21. Can you give us the definitive version?
SC: Yeah. When I was younger I played a lot of Steps tournaments, which basically let you start out at Step 1 and if you win you move up. Winning a Step 6 meant winning a WSOP Main Event seat.
I played them a lot and in one year I ended up winning 101 seats.
PL: You’ve always been big on rankings and leaderboards, and one of the biggest ways live players are ranked is in number of WSOP bracelets. Is the bracelet important to you in the same way that rankings and leaderboards are important to you?
SC: I’m a very competitive person and rankings have always motivated me, even though in the back of my mind I always kind of knew it’s not the most important thing.
When I was coming up online I would be obsessively checking the rankings and trying to move up.
So in live tournament poker WSOP bracelets are sort of the same thing, the marker for really good players. So I feel like if I can win some bracelets in a variety of games it will put my name out there as someone who is one of the best in the world.
And ultimately that’s what I want, to have that esteem from my peers.
PL: Is being the absolute best in the world something you’re interested in achieving?
SC: It definitely was at one point. But my goals have shifted a bit away from that idea because to be THE best at anything in the world you have to have such an obsessive focus on only that goal.
So at some point I kind of realized that I wanted a more balanced life with accomplishments in different areas, not just poker.
I wouldn’t say that being the best in the world is a goal of mine per se, but certainly being respected and well known as one of the best is something I’m striving for.
PL: What are some of the other areas you’re passionate about and want to develop outside of poker?
SC: I really just want to have a well-rounded life. I’d like to branch out away from poker.
There are a few business ideas that I’m developing and I want to make sure I’ve got a healthy social life and that I spend a lot of time with friends and family.
Mainly I just want to be happy you know? And when I was obsessed with poker nothing else really mattered to me, and it wasn’t very conducive to living a happy lifestyle.
When everything’s focused 100% on poker it’s very stressful, and it’s just crushing when you lose. And as a poker player you’re going to lose a lot of the time.