Underrated players like Matt “mjw006” Wakeman are infusing new life into the Australian poker scene.
The 26-year-old from Newcastle, New South Wales, has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars online and made it into the top 10 ranked players on PocketFives last month and #1 on the Australian rankings.
Despite earning that much online, Wakeman is modest about making it into the PocketFives top 10 global ratings.
“It’s a nice achievement but at the same time it’s a bit embarrassing,” he said. “My biggest score is like $30k whereas everyone in the top 100 has six-figure scores pretty much. I don’t know if I’m actually as good as my ranking suggests.”
Surprisingly Wakeman has only been playing MTTs for eight months and previously concentrated primarily on heads-up Sit & Gos.
From Late Night TV to the Real Thing
The story of Wakeman’s introduction to poker should be familiar to 90% of poker players.
He started playing home games with friends and then started watching the game on TV.
“We used to find it really entertaining watching late night WPT episodes,” he said. “We used to laugh at how serious Mike Sexton took everything on the show.”
From there one thing led to another and in 2008 he started taking the game seriously.
“I’m a really competitive person so I really wanted to crush all my friends,” he laughed. “I got online and started researching. I visited a few training sites and it just developed from there.”
Eventually Wakeman started to crush heads-up Sit & Gos and he was content to earn his cash in those games for two years.
Last year he decided to switch things up and start playing MTTs.
The transition has gone well and although Wakeman has yet to land that huge score, he’s been very consistent.
“I was always happy to play under the radar but since going to MTTs you get a lot more opportunities to do shameless self-promotion,” joked Wakeman.
Hardly a recluse Wakeman is an active participant in social media and contributes to TwoPlusTwo, Tweets and blogs on Poker.org and HUSNG.com.
“I enjoy writing,” he said. “Some players do it as a form of stress relief and while I’m sure it helps me with that in some regard, I just like putting myself out there. It’s really important to me.”
From Online to Live
Thanks to his online poker success, Wakeman has started to dip his toes in live tournaments.
Despite some APPT and ANZPT events, this is the first year Wakeman has played Australia’s flagship tournament – the Aussie Millions.
It’s been a learning experience for Wakeman as he attempts to adapt his online game to the physical felt.
“My live experience is basically spewing chips in every main event I’ve entered,” joked Wakeman. “I only made it to Day 2 in one of the eight events I entered last year.
"I basically think I can get old men to fold hands every time.”
Despite the lack of success, Wakeman can’t ignore the value that exists in live tournaments.
“It’s really soft,” he said. “That’s the appeal of it. Plus it’s nice to get away from the computer and actually meet some of the people I talk to on the Internet.”
Balancing Poker and Family
Interestingly Wakeman has a two-year-old son and makes an effort to balance poker and family.
“It hasn’t been that bad yet,” he said. “My fiancée has been a full-time mom for the first two years.
"She’s just now starting to go back to work so once she goes back to work we’ll have to sort out child care, which is hard in Australia."
Wakeman mentioned it’s important for players who make their living from poker to treat it as an actual job.
“At the end of the day poker is work for me and when I need to work she takes care of him,” he said. “He also seems to know not to bug me when I’m at my grind station.”
Wakeman’s luck in live tournaments may be changing. He bagged up 25,000 chips on Day 1a of the Aussie Millions and while that’s below average he can finally add another Day 2 to his poker résumé.
The Newcastle pro is optimistic he will play APPT Seoul in March and some other APPTs and ANZTs as long as his campaign here at the 2012 Aussie Millions goes reasonably well.