Trayner keeps a rollin’

Images courtesy of PokerGo

A day after winning his first World Series of Poker bracelet and a cool US$1 million (AU$1.5 million) in the process, Sydney’s Malcom Trayner still couldn’t quite believe what had happened.

“The reality of winning that much money hasn’t really sunk in yet,” the 24-year-old told PokerMedia Australia. “I don’t know – the whole of today I’m just on cloud nine. I woke up this morning with a big smile on my face. It’s the best feeling I’ve had.”

Australians following the WSOP from afar woke up to the news this week that Trayner – a rising star on the local poker scene over the past 12 months – held the chip lead heading into the final table of the $1k Mystery Millions, ironically the first WSOP event he has ever played on US soil.

Trayner ultimately bested a massive field of 18,409 starters to claim victory, rolling through the final table to claim Australia’s first bracelet of the series. Reflecting on his run, the Sydneysider says it wasn’t until Day 3 that he started to look at WSOP gold as a realistic possibility.

“I came into that day sitting 12th of 18 [players remaining], a little bit below average stack, but I won one pot early and from then I was convinced that I was a good shot at winning it,” he recalls.

“Once we reached the final table, I made sure not to make any crazy moves when 9-handed. I was nervous going in but then as people started busting out, as the money started going up, once I hit US$100,000 [in prize money locked up] I relaxed and said to myself, ‘OK, you’ve just secured six figures, you’re just going to have fun with it now’. And then when I was chip leader or like a dominant chip leader, I knew what to do and just put pressure on everyone.”

There was one small speed hump along the way, however. On the very first hand of heads-up play and holding a dominant 4:1 chip lead over Carson Richards, Trayner got it in holding AK against the 76 of Richards and was one card away from victory before the American flushed him out on a board of 8AJ52.

“That hand, actually I was so keen for it to be over after the first hand,” Trayner recounts. “There was just a wave flooding fear that I would end up losing after having such a big chip lead and when he caught up and eventually overtook my stack.

“I really had to breathe slowly, fix myself up in my chair, take a few mental breaks and then just treat it like ‘OK man, you’re heads up, you both have the same stack – just play your game’.  I had to really disassociate from the money because I mean, it was a US$500,000 heads-up and no matter how good you think you are versus your opponent, heads-up is a very high variance game and the edge is only so minimal.”

In the end though, those challenges ensured victory tasted just that little bit better.

“It was the best feeling ever just running over to my rail and they were so excited to greet me,” he says. “I just give them a big hug. I’ve never felt anything like that, you know? it takes me back to the primary school and high school days of winning the grand final or something. It was like that but even more special because you’re like the main character in the team or the story.”

Trayner also felt the wave of support from his fellow Aussies both home and abroad, revealing he has never received as many messages as when news of his success was confirmed.

“Everyone really got behind me,” he says. “The Australian support was phenomenal. People on breaks, even if they were playing in a tournament, they would often stop by on their 15-minute break and wish me good luck from the rail. It was beautiful to have the Australian support. I didn’t realize how much that would mean to me.”

Trayner’s success in such a mammoth field – the sixth largest in WSOP history – was stunning although perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised given his performances over the past year.

He famously won three events in three days at the APL’s The Ville 600 in November, including The Centurion, took down the Australian Poker Tour’s Vault for $75,500 last October and topped the $5k The Titan at the Australian Poker Open in Sydney in April for almost $60,000, among dozens of other deep runs.

Asked about his preparation, Trayner explains, “I’ve played tournaments. I’ve done a lot work aside from just playing so I know my game and I just try and exploit other peoples’ weaknesses. It tends to work out quite well for me.

“I actually coach people myself now but in terms of my own preparation I look at solvers and most importantly I do population tendencies – studying what I think the population will do in spots and then comparing that to the solver. So I try to figure out how opponents are playing different from the solver and making mistakes so that I can exploit them.”

Trayner has now locked away his legacy as Australia’s 34th WSOP bracelet winner, not to mention that life-changing US$1 million score, but he admits it has also changed his plans for the Vegas summer.

“Initially my whole reason for coming to Vegas was just playing cash games and picking a few of my favourite tournaments to play, because with the tax issue I didn’t want to min-cash the $5k or $10k events,” he laughs. “But I’ll probably be playing a few more now, obviously.

“Winning this event is definitely going to take some pressure off because I’m pretty set now for this series, so I can just play my best game and try and win as many chips as I can.”

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