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TJ Cloutier is one of the most successful poker players of all time. With six WSOP bracelets and a total of 60 major titles, Cloutier was one of the original live tournament crushers. But the WSOP Main Event is a title that has so far eluded him. Cloutier has finished second twice in the Main Event, plus a third and a fifth-place finish, but has never been able to call himself a world champion. The 76-year-old Californian bought into this year's Main Event to give it another shot but said that even though the younger generation plays a little differently, he hasn't changed his game a bit. In this interview Cloutier talks about his persisting love of poker and games in general, and how the Main Event still gets him fired up. Unfortunately Cloutier didn't make it through Day 1 this year but it's clear he'll keep coming back as long as he can. Check out the video and stay tuned to PokerListings.com for more action from the 2016 World Series of Poker.
Matt Showell: There's not a lot of people who've seen more of this event than you. What's it like coming back here? People say that no matter how many tournaments you play, you still get excited to play the Main Event.
TJ Coutier: Yeah sure. It sure is. I still play poker a lot at home and in tournaments but unless it's a big one like this I don't really care that much anymore. Sure, you like to win the money and everything but I've got 60 major titles, more than anybody. But this one is worth playing.
You're facing a big field. Hell, I play $11 tournaments at night on Bovada just to play against big fields.
Matt Showell: When you're at the table I saw you're playing games on your phone. Have you always been into games?
TJ Coutier: I was playing 20-40-8 because I wasn't holding anything and just keeping myself calm. For years and years I used to come down an hour before and work a crossword puzzle because it opens your brain up. So when you play you're ready to go.
Matt Showell: So it sounds like you still have a lot of love for the game of poker.
TJ Coutier: Sure, sure. They want me to write my life story. I did those five books already and I just don't care about doing my life story.
Matt Showell: I first came to the Main Event in 2006.
TJ Coutier: That was the year I went into the Hall of Fame. Me and Billy Baxter.
Matt Showell: A good year. That was the biggest year and I know it's changed a lot since years past. And I know in other years you've made really deep runs. Are you nostalgic for the old days or are you just excited about the way it is now?
TJ Coutier: It's evolved just like we thought it would. You gotta remember one thing. All you can do is control your table. The only difference now and then is you gotta do it so many more times. Which is tough to do.
And of course the young kids started doing stuff like raising 2.2 because they want to see a lot of flops. But I haven't changed my game one iota. I still play the same. I've always of the notion I'm not a big card holder so I want to get as much as I can out of the hands I do play. So I start bigger pots, so I don't have to win as many to get to the same point.
Matt Showell: Are you grateful for the experiences poker afforded you. It seems like light years from someone who works a 9-5 job. You've been so many cool places and met so many cool people.
TJ Coutier: I went to Sweden. I went to Bulgaria to give a seminar. And Copenhagen and London and the Aviation Club in Paris. And my wife goes with me everywhere and we have a ball. And they pay you to go. You go on vacation and you make money.
Matt Showell: It's every poker player's dream to win the Main Event. You've come so close.
TJ Coutier: Two seconds, a third and a fifth.
Matt Showell: I don't want to ask you how painful that was but ...
TJ Coutier: It wasn't painful. When Chris caught that nine. You have to realize, to get that far he had to play great. I saw him get lucky two or three times but if you don't get lucky at some point in one of these big tournaments, and a lot of time the luck part for you is having the best hand and having it stand up. You can't win unless it works like that. Because it comes down to the flips. Like the ace-kings against a pair.
Johnny Chan, the second year he won the big one, with three tables to go all the way until the end, he had 13 coin flips and won all 13 of them. I think you could beat god if you can win 13 of them. Johnny's a good player don't get me wrong.
Matt Showell: But you gotta run good. Especially nowadays in these tournaments. They're enormous.
TJ Coutier: The first river tournament up in Winstar he was dead to a three and caught it. Here, when Ferguson caught the nine on me, I played two other $10,000 tournaments and all three I got down to heads-up and lost to a nine on the river.
Matt Showell: So it can go either way. That's the thing. Getting to heads-up is like this far and heads-up seems like it's really small but you have to get lucky once you get there.
TJ Coutier: The main thing with me and Ferguson was, he had an 11 to 1 chip lead on me when we got heads-up and we got even in money when he caught the nine.
But it's all part of the game. They all started coming to me instead of going to him when I got knocked out and I said, "Are you kidding me? How great do you think this guy had to play to get this far and to win this thing?"