Zana Ali is a 26-year-old poker enthusiast who’s been playing for eight years.
His family is from Kurdistan in Northern Iraq but moved to Norway 18 years ago, so he grew up in a town not too far away from Oslo.
In real life he works as an automation engineer, maintaining boats and ships all over the world, so travelling is not a big thing for him.
His trip to the Bahamas this week is a new one for him, however, as it’s about playing poker and living the life.
Exclusive PokerListings Freeroll
Ali won his trip to the Bahamas in an exclusive PokerListings freeroll and, despite busting out to our 84-year-old Man of the Day on Day 1a, loved playing in his first major poker event.
He got to play with two of the stars of the game and now, with some free time on his hands, enjoy the best Atlantis has to offer.
PL: Do you consider yourself to be Norwegian or Kurdish?
First time on Atlantis stage.
Zana Ali: That’s a tough question. I grew up in Norway, so in my mind I’m Norwegian, but I still know where my roots are.
I’ve travelled there several times and will go again in a couple of months. I have a lot of family there. For example, I have 67 cousins there.
PL: Tell us a bit about your game.
ZA: I started playing on the internet eight years ago. I’m more of a tournament player but it’s only a hobby for me so I play only low stakes.
Since I started working several years ago I haven’t played much poker for a couple of years. My work brought me to places like Nigeria, Angola, Egypt, Dubai, Spain, Scotland and other places, but I’ve never been to this part of the world.
PL: And how did you get to play in this first PSC Bahamas?
ZA: I played the PokerListings freeroll on PokerStars. There were about 140 players so it was rather small for a PokerStars tournament.
There was a lot of value in it, you could say. Places 2-5 received a satellite ticket for 500 Euro, I think, so it was a very intense heads-up to play for 10,000.
It was quite a long heads-up, about 30 minutes, considering that the tournament only lasted about 2.5 hours. It was exciting to play as the prize was so big and I was short or average through most of the tournament.
Time to get outside.
When I won, I was quite shocked.
PL: How long are you staying here?
ZA: The whole week. I brought a friend with me so he’s the one who got even more lucky. I haven’t tried any of the activities yet as I was playing Day 1A, but I’m out now, so that’s exactly the plan.
PL: What happened to not go through to Day 2?
ZA: I made it to the last level and was pretty short with about six big blinds. I moved in from middle position with jack-ten off-suit and was called by an 84 year old guy with ace-seven of spades.
I flopped a ten, so I was a big favorite, but he turned an ace and that was game over.
PL: The guy who busted you has become pretty famous here; he was probably even sorry to bust you.
ZA: Yes, he was such a nice person, so it wasn’t too bad.
Playing with DNegs always a thrill.
PL: Did you find it intimidating to play in a $5k event?
ZA: In the beginning it was intimidating. I tried not to think about it but I had Daniel Negreanu and November Nine player Vojtech Ruzicka at my table, so it was a tough table.
What made it even more difficult was that I have friends at home who’re following me on Facebook and they wanted me to update all the time. But it’s way too demanding to sit there and play to think of anything else like updating a Facebook page on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, I was quite card dead for a long time and my bluffs didn’t really work either. One of them was against Daniel. I managed to take some chips from him but he took more from me overall.
PL: Are you going to try to come back?
ZA: Definitely. I’ll try to qualify somehow and be back next year. The buy-in is too high to buy in but qualifying would be great.
I’m considering playing some more here. There are a lot of tournaments and some of the lower buy-ins are pretty interesting.
PL: Thank you Zana and have fun!