Having had a rough time at this year's World Series of Poker so far, Alex Jacob is sitting pretty after the first day of the Pot-Limit Hold'em competition. He had a solid day, but during the last hour or so went on a fantastic run that shot him up to chip leader. Everyone had a good time watching it, and for the first time, it looked as if Alex was actually enjoying himself at the poker table. He has a seriously unique poker face (mouth agape, mean eyes), so I anticipated a fairly tight-lipped interview, but he was cool. He's got a lot of poker experience for a guy who's only 21. And I don't exactly know why, but I've kind of been rooting for this kid.
So you finished insanely strong, and you're the chip leader. What happened today that hadn't happened during the rest of the tournament?
When I got all the chips at the end? It was mostly luck. I mean, you saw the one hand when I had ace-ten on the button, and John Shipley went over the top of me. You know, I thought I had the best hand so I pushed all my chips in, and, well, I was pretty shocked when he turned over the A-9. So I doubled through him. You know, I won pocket tens against A-K. This is what tournaments are about really.
This is your first Series, right?
Have you been learning much? I mean, how long have you been playing live tournament poker?
A few years. Before I was 21, I played in Monte Carlo, Vienna, Bahamas and places like that. I'm only 21, but I've played around 12 to 14 major $10,000 buy-in tournaments.
How did you get your bankroll?
Playing online poker mostly. Yeah, playing a lot of online poker.
So back to the World Series. What have you taken away from it so far, playing with all the big names and everything?
I've played against most of the big names before, but the World Series is different from other major tournaments because in a lot of these preliminary events, they just don't give you that many chips. You really have to make something happen. So lessons? Not really. To be honest I'm at home by four o'clock pretty much every day. I've played probably 16 tournaments, and today was the fourth time I've made it past the second break. I don't know. Maybe I play bad or I gamble too much or whatever, but there are so few chips. Everything has to go right. And it's tough for everything to go right, but that's what tournament poker is all about. If you make good decisions, then you'll do a little better. But for you to win a tournament everything has to go right, and that basically happens to one guy every tournament.
What did you get your degree in at Yale?
Economics and math.
So would you say you're putting that education to use right now - in a weird way at least?
Yeah, well not really. There's math in poker, but not really math that you'd learn in college.
Yeah I agree with you, but then there's guys like William Chen who say they base their whole game around math. He's got a Ph.D. in math.
I guess that's mostly away from the table. It's mostly analyzing situations - not while you're at the table because you don't really have time to do complicated math - but there is a lot of complicated math that you can get into away from the table. You know, figuring out what the right play is if 20 percent of the time he has this hand, 10 percent of the time he has a different hand, and half the time he has this hand. But anything of substance you can't really do it at the table. And most of the time, if it's a close enough decision, I just don't really worry about it to be honest.
Cool. Well, thanks a lot man. Good luck tomorrow.