Interview: Leif Force
Hometown: Tallahassee, Florida
Biggest Win: $1,154,527
Best Known For: Finishing 11th in the 2006 WSOP Main Event
Many recognize Leif Force as the caveman-looking fellow on ESPN's broadcasts of the 2006 World Series of Poker. After meeting Leif in Las Vegas, he agreed to free up some time to answer a few questions we had about his million-dollar WSOP experience and eccentric upbringing.
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PokerTips.org: Leif, first off, tell us how long you've been playing poker and what got you interested in playing?
Force: I've been playing poker since I was four years old. I was interested in poker because, during home schooling, if I played blackjack or other poker games it took the place of my math lessons.
PokerTips.org: When you went deep in the 2006 WSOP Main Event, you told a reporter that you'd bet all of your chips that you'd seen the smallest number of flops than any other remaining participant. Such an incredibly tight playing style obviously requires an immense amount of patience. How do you do it?
Force: Hehe, on Day 6 of the 2006 Main Event, Johnny Chan was asked by a reporter why I was playing so tight. He went into this whole spiel of why I was playing this style, and in my own famous words I said, "Sorry, John you're wrong!" The reason I played so tight was because that's all my chips allowed for me in the first seven days. Until my last day of play, I was ¼ to ½ the average stack, so I had no choice but to be patient and wait for those beloved pocket rockets.
PokerTips.org: You won $1,154,000 for finishing 11th in that tournament. Did you share your action with other people? How did winning that money change your life?
Force: Many people tried to buy my action, but I had 100% of myself. The exposure I received from the 2006 WSOP has led to many great allies in the poker world and so many wonderful friends that I'd never met otherwise. After the big score, I was able to get my parents out of debt and that was very amazing for the both of us. I bought my first car with the winnings, but other than having cash for bigger buy-in tourneys, my life has remained pretty much the same.
PokerTips.org: People probably remember you from ESPN episodes as the guy who looked like a caveman. What was up with the long hair and what made you decide to cut it off?
Force: I was surfing in Hawaii last winter, so I began to let it grow long. Then girls started to like my "goldenlocks," so I let it keep growing. I cut it because I never wanted dreads, but somehow they just appeared. I hadn't washed my hair for six months, so I figured it was time for a cleaner look.
PokerTips.org: How often do you get recognized in public from your appearances on ESPN?
Force: Last year, everywhere I went... from Tallahassee to California to Hawaii, people were always shouting hey "caveman" and "jungle boy". People always thought they knew me and it was always so funny when they realized it was from the TV.
PokerTips.org: You play online as "Jungle Boy", your were named Leif, and you showed up to the 2006 WSOP with the only $10,000 you had to your name while looking like a caveman. Is it fair to say you had a unique childhood? Tell us what your life was like growing up.
Force: My childhood-life was very unique. I grew up in a yurt surrounded by woods with two very hippie parents. I was home schooled by my mother, so my days were full of swimming, eating, playing sports, and of course poker. Poker has been the only "job" I've ever had. My world is and has always been very pure and simple. People told me I was so lucky after the WSOP, and I had to make them realize not everyone was bred to play games for a living.
PokerTips.org: In this year's WSOP, you cashed in the $10,000 pot-limit Omaha tournament. How did your strategy in that tournament differ from your approach to the Main Event?
Force: My strategies were almost the exact same: play unthinkably tight and wait for my chances. Of course, I played more hands in the Omaha Main Event, but still less than anyone at my tables.
PokerTips.org: For the second year in a row, you cashed in the WSOP Main Event, finishing 392nd this time around. Tell us a little about that experience. Was there a point in time where you thought you might be destined to make the final few tables again?
Force: From the second I sat down, cameras were in my face which was really crazy. I was a lot more comfortable with the players this time around which made the game a lot easier. There were a couple hands at the end where I picked up "monsters" and got no action, whereas last year whenever I got aces someone doubled me up. There just wasn't the same aura that I felt during last year's tourney.
PokerTips.org: What are some of your hobbies aside from poker?
Force: I play Ultimate Frisbee for Florida State University. I also play basketball, golf, and badminton. Swimming, eating, and traveling are my other passions.
PokerTips.org: When you cashed for $1.1 million in the Main Event, you were still a college student. How did that windfall payday affect your desire to finish your degree?
Force: I go to FSU now so I can play Ultimate Frisbee, and for no other reason. Before I went only because my parents wanted me to. College life at FSU is amazing.
PokerTips.org: What advice would you give to our readers hoping to land a million-dollar tournament payday themselves?
Force: It just so happens the little guy who won the Main Event this year came to me right before I was knocked out an asked me for the same advice. I told him to be patient and even though he had a lot of chips at that point, play as though every chip he lost was of huge importance. I tell everyone to treat poker as the game that it is and everything else will fall into place.