Interview en anglais pour le site pokerlisting.com que vous pouvez lire directement en totalité ici :
"Live Poker is Harvard, Online is Public School"
Whether you like him or not, French poker icon Roger Hairabedian is certainly a character.
A longtime tournament casher and now recent winner of a WSOPE bracelet, Hairabedian took a few moments in Cannes to sit down with our colleague at PokerListings France.
Among other things he talked about his big win, his flap with Brandon Cantu in the €10k Mix Max, his past as a judoka and, as if that wasn't enough, his plans to help put on the world's longest poker tournament in Marrakech next year.
All that, as usual, with no waffling whatsoever.
PokerListings: Roger, let's first go back to that €10k Hold'em Mixed-Max, Event 5. What happened when you lost to Brandon Cantu in the semi-finals? I guess you're feeling very frustrated, but how do you analyze it?
Roger Hairabedian: Well, of course I'm happy because it's a good result, but once you get that far you want to go for the win.
I am not happy at all about the draw system (for the heads-up round) that makes chip leaders meet. It's illogical.
In tennis, that would be like having Nadal play Federer or Djokovic in the first round. Last year already I had to play against Michael Mizrachi even though I was chip leader and he had the second-biggest stack.
I finished 3rd though, so I guess I can't complain too much.
I did find that the tournament director wasn't logical on one particular hand though, when the dealer had decided I was in the right. But in the end they decided Brandon was right after they pretended to watch some video that someone supposedly filmed on their phone.
I don't even think it actually exists, otherwise they'd have decided much sooner. Despite feeling very welcome, at that moment I felt there were shortcomings on the part of the organization.
I think there is more solidarity between Americans, because we're in France and yet they decided in favor of Cantu. Not only did he insult the dealer, but they said he was right.
If I'd done something like that, I'd probably be in prison right now or something.
That hand would have changed everything. I think Brandon was very cunning and took his chance. Scandal follows him everywhere he goes, he's used to it.
On that hand, I could've taken the lead. If he pays at the turn, he has to pay again at the river.
I only needed a couple of hands to beat him. I'm not a sore loser, but I really think I was completely wronged by the organization.
Losing doesn't matter, but things could have gone my way if the rules had been followed. And since a little while before that I complained about people behind me and asked to change seat, I think they wanted to punish me for that behavior.
I did everything I could to throw Cantu off balance, and it almost worked. Unfortunately they decided he was right and that calmed him down.
Psychologically, I was on top. I had practically already won. I usually accept defeat. But losing because of a trick, that I do not condone.
Then again, he also impressed me a lot. He's one of the best players I've ever met, so hats off to him.
PL: How do you feel about your game?
RH: Considering my results, I think I've reached the quintessence of the game.
A few years ago, I felt that the players were much better than I was. I've matured a lot since then.
I've reached the top level and I think I'm one of the 50-100 best poker players on the planet.
PL: Do you think the bracelet you got last Wednesday in the Pot-Limit Omaha Event is an accomplishment?
RH: You can wait for it your whole life and never get it. So yeah, of course it's an accomplishment.
I'm delighted to be one of the French players who have won one. But to me, the most important thing is to be consistent.
It's much harder to achieve. A lot of players have won bracelets but are nowhere near as consistent as I am and they never win anything again afterwards.
PL: How do you explain these two big performances in a row?
RH: First of all, I wouldn't have won this bracelet if I hadn't been eliminated of the previous tournament.
I was so angry about the way I played my last hand that I went and signed up for the €5k Omaha tournament straight away.
After that, I was confident. I played some unpredictable hands, made some players tilt.
I'm a live player, and a lot of online players can't understand the things I do because sometimes they're a bit eccentric.
Playing poker is like fighting a war. You have to use all the weapons available.
Pressuring someone mentally and verbally is one of them, and making a player lose it is part of the game.
One word can make a player tilt. That's something online players will never be able to comprehend.
For me, online poker is to live poker what a town's public school is to Harvard.
PL: Do you feel a bit disconnected from this online player community?
RH: I belong to a completely different world. So much the better too, because that's what helps me get results.
I think playing online is barely an ersatz of real poker.
PL: What about sponsors?
RH: I would like to have sponsors, but no-one is interested. All they want are youngsters who play online and who have a less nervy image than I do.
They don't give a damn about consistency, and that's unfair too.
If you want sponsors, good results aren't enough. You have to look good too.
I don't have the looks, and I don't have the youth. I don't always understand the way things are done, but that's okay, I'm doing fine on my own.
And then the young ones run out of steam pretty quickly, but it's not their fault. Poker is a rich man's game, like golf.
I know there are a lot of talented young players out there. But they can't keep up because they don't have the necessary bankroll to qualify, what with the cost of a whole week of tournaments for example.
I know a lot of talented pros who had to quit because their budget couldn't keep up. Nicolas Babel for example. And then when you get older there's also the family life and everything.
We need big investors, big groups, like they have in soccer, and then maybe poker would take another dimension ...
I'm also disappointed that the tax office are looking into poker. I don't understand why they're getting into this.
I think we already pay enough in rakes or in commissions for the tournaments. They might as well tax lottery players while they're at it.
But the day they decide to come and see me – which I highly doubt since I'm a Moroccan resident – I'll offer them an even better deal.
I'll say that since I'm so good, I offer you to become associates. This way, I don't give you 20% but half of what I win.
We go halfsies. But then you also pay when I lose.