Best known as one of Australia’s finest Omaha exponents, Jarred Graham also holds a unique slice of history as winner of the inaugural Sydney Championships main event back in 2009. Poker Media’s Ben Blaschke, who was there to watch Jarred lift the trophy, speaks with Jarred about that memorable victory ahead of the 10th anniversary of the Sydney Championships, kicking off on Tuesday 17 July.
First of all Jarred, does it feel like 10 years since you won the inaugural The Star Sydney Championships?
No it doesn’t feel like 10 years since I won the Sydney champs … but I can’t work out if it feels longer or shorter than 10 years ago!
What are your memories of that week? Did you have high expectations of yourself going in?
I had no expectations going into that week, it was just another Sydney poker trip for a week. I remember hitting a two-outer at the start of the final table with jacks versus queens.
What did the win mean to you at the time?
It meant a lot to me when I won that tournament because it was the first main event I had won. Before that, my only wins were in the smaller high roller fields.
Having played in Sydney since the beginning, you must have seen The Star Sydney Championships change quite a bit over the years since that first event?
The Star Poker room wasn’t as good as it could have been, but nowadays Steve [Ibrahim] does a great job of running it all and the new location is fantastic! I think everyone enjoys it a great deal.
What was it about Sydney back then? You seemed to win pretty much everything there for a while.
Yeah, I’m not sure what it was, but for a long time I won everything up there! I think it helped that poker was a lot softer back in the day. There are now a lot of very good players and even the average player knows what they are doing. Very few players are clueless nowadays.
You are, of course, known as an Omaha specialist first and foremost, but at that time you were also racking up some very impressive High Roller results. How do you approach a Main Event such as the Sydney Championships with its bigger field, compared to the smaller but high quality fields of High Roller events?
I think in the bigger fields you can go in with a less aggressive style of play and just try to zig zag your way through the tournament. There are a lot more spots where people will make mistakes and hopefully you can get their chips that way. In the smaller fields like the High Roller, everyone is good so you just can’t wait for people to make mistakes.
You’ve long been considered one of the country’s top pros but when you look back ten years, do you feel you’ve come a long way as a player since then?
Well, I started playing out tournaments online, then went to live tournaments, and then into Omaha cash games. My game has come a long way in terms of Omaha but I am definitely not at the level of the No Limit tournament guys. They have worked very hard to become very good and they would be a million miles ahead of me now.
How has the game itself changed in that time?
The game has got a lot tougher over the years with the introduction of training sites, more people trying to do it for a living or for part income. The average player knows what they are doing. The game itself is always changing in different cycles and then people adjust to try and take advantage of that.
I remember four years or so ago, everyone was playing crazy aggro pre-flop in tournaments and getting it in pre-flop for fifty big blinds with fives versus ace-king. They would laugh at the way the older guys played a lower variance game in order to protect their tournament life. Now that style has come into play where no-one is crazy pre-flop anymore. Everyone sees flops and people do want to protect their tournament life. Maybe one day we will see another big change.
Given your past successes in Sydney, do you look forward to coming here a few times a year?
I always enjoy coming to The Star Sydney. The fields have big numbers, the room is great, and it has a great atmosphere. I love the new poker room. It’s bright and comfortable, plus the natural light is a big bonus!
By Ben Blaschke