David Cloutier lives about an hour away from the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls, Canada. He managed to win his way into the WPT North American Poker Championship playing in one of the many $1,200 satellite tournaments held here in Niagara. Now, this admitted amateur, who's been playing Hold'em for less than a year, has made the final six and has a legitimate shot at the $1.36 million first place prize.
Just before the bubble burst, PokerListings.com sat down with Cloutier to find out what it's like to be the luckiest man in Niagara Falls, living almost every poker fan's dream.
So Dave, how is the day going?
It's long and tiring, but I'm thrilled to be where I'm at so I have no complaints at all.
I understand you are from Brampton, Ontario, just outside Toronto and you got into the tournament through a satellite. How did you get your start in the game of poker?
I grew up in a card family. We were always playing Euchre and other card games. So I was always kind of card savvy and I found playing Hold'em poker was a lot cheaper than playing Baccarat at the casinos. I started playing six or seven months ago just locally (in Toronto). I've never played a tournament outside of Toronto. There are a lot of local underground games in the Toronto area and I just play tournaments there; anywhere from $150 to $1,500 buy-ins.Jonathan Little will join Cloutier at the final table.
I'm just a schmuck from Brampton, that's all I am. I've been driving home every night going to work for a couple of hours just to catch up.
Really? What do you do for a living?
I've got a company - we manufacture electric heaters, controls and temperature sensors - and I'm not about to give that up anytime soon.
Even if you win this thing?
If I win it I'll go back to work the next morning just like I normally would.
When you showed up on Day 1 did you ever even dream you'd be here?
I've had an objective every day and it was literally to just survive. I've had three rivers, two of them went in my favor and the one that didn't wasn't big enough to bust me out, so literally I just go into every day just to survive the day. It was nice to show up for the live tournament and see all the pros. But after you see them and talk to them a little bit and maybe have one at your table, then you have six or seven of them at your table and it's not that much fun anymore.
My goal was to get through the qualifying day and I thought that was an accomplishment. Then you get into Day 2 and when I started on Tuesday I was short-stacked, I only had $55,000 and I would have considered myself lucky just to get through the day, but by the end I had $1.34 million. So, I had quite a day.
There were a lot of big names and Internet pros in this field. Coming in, did you think you would be able to compete?
There are a lot of good amateurs around and I've noticed the way the pros play they have just a little more confidence, a little more arrogance. They just push you around; give them a chip stack and it's tough to play against them. So no, I never thought that because I have had some success playing tournaments that I should come play here. All my buddies told me to do it; that I'm the perfect tournament player and stuff like that. But I didn't have any delusions of grandeur coming to this tournament.
I'm confident in my skills, honestly I am, and I was confident in my skills coming here, but I've learned enough and played enough poker to know that you can make the right move every single time and you still have to get lucky when you make that move, or better still, you can't get unlucky when you make that move.
And now that you are on the cusp of making the televised final table, will you consider this a success no matter what happens?
I think if I lose, I'll go home and look back at this as obviously a great success. But [with] where I'm sitting now and where I came in at this morning, if I don't make the final table then I will think that I've wasted an opportunity. I was just a schmuck with a lot of chips that didn't make it to the final table. I've got to get to the final table to make it successful.
How about the future, will we see you in big buy-in tournaments from here on in?
Honestly I'm not thinking past today.
Well, PL.com is and we'll be back at Fallsview Friday at 4 p.m. (EDT) to see how Dave and these other poker pros and online stars handle the pressure of the hot lights and camera glare of a WPT final table. Good luck to them all; they're going to need it.