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Catching Up with Mike McDonald

THE WEEKLY SHUFFLE, 2010-02-07, by Ozone

It's been a year since we did an interview with Mike McDonald, the Canadian poker sensation who has racked up over $2.5 million in lifetime earnings despite still being too young to play in the United States. Mike has gotten off to a great start in 2010. He is currently in 3rd place on the Card Player Magazine Player of the Year standings. We caught up with him this week to hear how things have been going for him since we last spoke.

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PokerTips.org: Since we last talked, it appears poker has continued to treat you well. You've gotten off to a great start in 2010 by chopping a $1,500 event at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure for $147,000 and finishing 3rd at EPT Deauville for €295,000. First, let's talk about the PCA event. What was your experience in that tournament and why did you decide to chop with Jeffrey Forrest?

McDonald: I actually almost didn't get to play it. I had made day 2 of the $1k buyin there and finished 19th at like 2:10PM. I then asked if they had closed off late registration for the $1.5k and they said the guy next to me was the last person to get in, but I convinced them to let me late-register (so did 2-3 others, so I wasn't the *last* guy, but close to it). The tournament started out pretty slow and I was short for a while. As we neared the bubble, I started running pretty good (including knocking a guy out who had 1/2 as many chips as me with A2s v AA) and won a lot of other pots to end the day about average with 30 left or so. I came back the next day and right from the start it was going pretty well, and I managed to pick up a lot of blinds as well as win my share of allins to get to the final table maybe 3rd/9 or so. It didn't go so well for a while and soon I was 5th/5. I doubled up 44 v AJ and then eliminated a player A7s v QJ, then another player AK v A7, then another A9 v 66 to be HU with a big chiplead. Jeff was a 2+2er and we had a bunch of the same friends and he was playing really well. He had mentioned chopping earlier and I figured just chipchopping would make losing a lot more tolerable after having a 3.5:1 chiplead.

PokerTips.org: Not even two weeks after that you went to EPT Deauville and finished 3rd in a field of 768. Tell us how close you were to becoming the first ever two-time EPT champion.

McDonald: I was pretty damn close. 4-5 handed I had 10 million chips when there were 23 million in play. I doubled up the eventual winner JJ<A7o to get down to about 7.5m and the 3 remaining players were pretty even stacked 3 handed. I ended up losing a lot of the smaller pots and just not having things go my way, and ended up having 5.6m and getting allin JJ v ATo for 1/2 the chips in play. I lost that one too but I can't do too much complaining, I got it allin bad and won so many times this tournament (QJss against K3ss on T62ss board for most of my chips, AJs v QQ for all my chips, AQ v KK for all my chips, 44 v 77 for 1/2 my chips, etc).

PokerTips.org: You weren't the only recognizable name who made a deep run in that tournament. Peter Eastgate (8th) and Bertrand 'Elky' Grospellier (9th) also made deep runs. Was the field especially soft or do you think the bigger name players just ran really well? How did the final few tables of this tournament compare to other tournament tables you've been at in terms of toughness?

McDonald: A little bit of both. Nick Levi summed it up pretty well by saying, "next year, if I'm not playing this, I'll be in the hospital or the morgue." A HUGE number of the good players made deep runs in this tournament. The final few tables were quite tough (among the toughest I've played at deep in a live tournament), but the early stages of this tournament were some of the softest tables I've seen.

PokerTips.org: As you progressed deeper in EPT Deauville, how much was becoming the first two-time EPT champion on your mind?

McDonald: It was on my mind but surprisingly little. I was more just thinking about winning the first place money and having the double title follow.

PokerTips.org: Since we last talked, you became a sponsored red pro at Full Tilt Poker. Congrats! What can you tell us about what it's like to be a red pro?

McDonald: I like working with Full Tilt, everyone at the company is super cool and its nice how they're constantly expanding and trying out new things like cashouts or Rush Poker.

PokerTips.org: Hey I noticed you wearing pretty badass shirts on the tournament circuit, where can I get something like that?

McDonald: I'm currently working with a Canadian clothing company called Shodown Couture, they're not for everybody but they're worth checking out at shodowncouture.com. I should have a few Timex themed shirts out in the next couple months.

PokerTips.org: It's been about two years since you won the EPT German Open for $1.37 million. Do you feel that you have progressed as a player since that win? If so, can you elaborate as to in what ways you feel you have improved?

McDonald: I think I've improved a lot at understanding my opponents. I used to not understand how various types of players would react to me and would play pretty much the same live and online. Nowadays I think I'm a lot better at understanding how people react to my play, their image and the general flow of the game much better than I did 2 years ago. I'd say 2 years ago I could still answer a question someone is asking on the forums just as well as I can today, but nowadays I can understand specific situations and how to deviate from the standard play much better.

PokerTips.org: You've been playing EPT events for a couple of years now. Generally speaking, how has the competition level changed in these tournaments? Are they still as soft as they were when you first started playing?

McDonald: They've definitely gotten significantly tougher, but with the improved structure this year, I think its still possible to have a similar ROI. The EPTs used to get down to where starting stack was 30BB in like 4 hours, nowadays it takes more than a day.

PokerTips.org: You're not even yet old enough to play tournaments in the U.S. and your live tournament results are already better than most players could dream of having over the course of their career. Do you feel like that puts added pressure on you to put up great results once you start playing tournaments in the U.S.?

McDonald: Not a ton. I feel like I'm not a big enough name that most people in the U.S have their eye on me or anything like that. Obviously plenty of players know who I am, but those players are probably also aware of how much variance there is in the tournament poker world. I think the type of people who might expect me to just win everything in the States are too busy arguing over whose better between Phil Helmuth and Phil Ivey to know who I am.

PokerTips.org: Finally, if you got to take one specific skill from three different players and add it to your poker game, which three players and which of their skills would you choose?

McDonald: Ricky "TT_fold' Fohrenbach's table presence, Mickey "mement_mori" Petersen's motivation and Patrik Antonius's looks.

The Weekly Shuffle is our Sunday column with our observations and commentary on the poker world. Have an idea for an article? Leave a suggestion on the feedback page.


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