Michael Long was the last man standing after the recent running of the Newcastle Poker Championships (NPC) Spring Series Main Event, hosted by Aussie Hold’em Poker at Club Macquarie in Argenton. Christopher Murphy spoke to the 36-year-old transport company owner from Tamworth about the biggest win of his poker career.
Christopher Murphy: Congratulations Michael, how long have you been playing poker?
Michael Long: I’ve been playing poker for two and a half years. I got into poker after watching a documentary on Foxtel. A journalist was doing a story on gambling. His wife wouldn’t let him pay to play in the WSOP Main Event, so he decided to thoroughly study the game; reading books and watching videos to learn as much as he could in six months. He then entered a satellite and won a ticket to the Main Event.
I’ve always been good with maths and knew that poker was more of a mathematical and skill-based game, rather than luck. I also have a good ability at reading people; knowing their strengths and weaknesses and applying these to my decisions.
My first game was at Crown Casino playing a cash game (back when I thought 10-3 off-suit was good – lol) and I’d just keep betting. Since then I’ve improved a lot, and the Main Event has been a great win. I’ve played online for some decent scores, and won satellites online for tournament packages but have fallen short of cashing.
CM: Where do you enjoy playing?
ML: The pub games in Tamworth aren’t that great so I prefer to travel to Newcastle, organise home games or play online. A group of mates and I normally head down and play at The Star a few times a year. Hopefully this year we can get a larger group going down, about seven or eight, and play the Summer Series this year.
CM: Tell us about some of the key hands that helped deliver your victory.
ML: I can remember two key hands that really helped me gain momentum and a big stack. I looked down at pocket nines on the button and raised just under 2.5 times the big blind. Both the SB and BB called and the flop came down A-K-9 giving me bottom set. SB checked, as did BB and I c-bet roughly half the pot, SB folded and BB thought about it, then called. Turn came another K, giving me a full house.
It was at this point that I saw big blind act kind of strange, which set off alarm bells in my head. He checked and so did I. The river came a J and the BB lead out for quite a small bet, I stood up and said “I have a full house mate, I’m not raising you, but I think I’m beat". I almost folded, but ended up calling his small value bet and he turned over pocket aces.
The second key hand happened on the first day of play. I was relatively short stacked with 45k with blinds at 1000/2000. I was in the small blind with pocket threes, myself and one other player called a middle position raise and we saw a flop of 6-4-3 with two hearts.
I checked, the original raiser bet out 10k, the other player called and I sat there thinking ‘I had the original raiser on pocket queens and the flat caller on a flush draw’. I moved all-in for my remaining 45k and both players called.
The original raiser ended up showing pocket fives for the pair plus open-ended straight draw and the other player had the flush draw, the board bricked out and I tripled up. After that I sat card dead just stealing blinds for the next hour and a half.
CM: What were your thoughts entering heads up play?
ML: Keep loose, keep playing my normal game. I was out stacked entering heads up play but obviously fought my way back to win it! The final hand was a relatively simple decision for me.
We were heads-up with my opponent first to act, he open shoved and I look down at pocket kings, made an easy call with my opponent showing K-10, the flop came down K-high and my opponent was drawing dead on the flop.
CM: Who is your favourite poker pro and why?
ML: Phil Laak, because of the strange lines he takes and the thought process behind some of his hands, plus his table antics are a great laugh! I’d also say Phil Hellmuth for his entertainment value; he’s easily tilted and it makes for a good laugh.
CM: What’s your ultimate poker dream?
ML: A spa bath with the royal flush girls? Hopefully playing the WSOP Main Event in Las Vegas in the next few years. Some mates and I are thinking about organising some home games as satellites for WSOP packages.
Other NPC Spring Series results
Event 1: $55 No Limit Hold’em Bounty w/ $20 add-on ($1500 guarantee) – winner: Karel Brstak
• A loyal Aussie Hold’em Poker player for seven years, this was Brstak’s first big win. Just days earlier, he won the monthly Tournament of Champions and said that he aimed to win the opening event of the NPC Spring Series to show it was no fluke. He is a taxi driver in the Edgeworth/Cardiff region of NSW, just like previous TOC winner Paul Bobeth.
Event 2: $55 No Limit Hold’em Six-max Deep Stack ($2000 guarantee) – winner Bill Delaney
• Bill is a very well known player in the Newcastle area and enjoys the big games. He has supported every NPC event over the past seven years and was a very worthy winner.
Event 3: $55 No Limit Hold’em Teams Event ($2000 guarantee) – winners: Michael Marzella & Scott Kerr
• Earlier this year it was decided to run the Aussie Hold’em Poker Team Challenge every three months. The first event took place in August. To make it more fun AHP had an old-style shiny “cup” made and asked teams to nominate to play under the banner of one of our two most popular hosts – Kyle Ives and Scott Kerr.
At the first event in August, two local players (Scott Clarke and Adam Mujic) lifted the trophy for “Team Kyle”. Scott was not impressed and vowed revenge. While the next Team Challenge is scheduled for November 18, it was decided to put up the trophy for grabs at the Spring Series. Kerr took revenge by winning it with Michael Marzella so the score is 1-1!
$550 High Roller Event – winner: David Haas
• David is also a well-known poker player (as is his wife, Leanne) in the Newcastle area. They follow all the big games, take poker very seriously and are regular travellers to Melbourne and Las Vegas. David has a great knowledge of the game and was a deserved winner.