Interview: Spencer Lawrence
Hometown: London, England
Biggest Cash: $156,000
Best Known For: Making two final tables in the 2008 WSOP
You might not have heard of Spencer Lawrence, but that doesn't mean he's not a force to be reckoned with. At this year's WSOP, the unassuming Brit made two final tables including a 2nd place finish in the $1,500 Omaha/8 event. Spencer was nice enough to share a few words with us this week about his blossoming poker career.
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PokerTips.org: Spencer, you recently finished 2nd in the $1,500 buy-in WSOP Omaha Hi-Lo tournament for $156,000. Congrats! Would you say Omaha Hi-Lo is your best game?
Lawrence: No. Limit hold'em is my best game and no-limit hold'em is probably second with Razz third. Omaha/8 is actually one of my weaker games. My distribution knowledge is thin and I often struggle to find the right play over the felt in multiway pots.
PokerTips.org: What were the chip counts like when you got heads up against Thang Luu? Was it frustrating to get that close to a bracelet only to come up short?
Lawrence: I think we started heads-up with him 1.4M to my 1M. I dropped down to 360k before coming back to a 25k lead going into the break. It was frustrating to come so close but he deserved it, he'd been ultra aggressive from the bubble on down, and hyper aggressive opponents are the ones that cause me most problems in shorthanded Omaha/8. Going into heads-up, I thought I was a reasonable dog to him, but after I came back I felt enough of a favorite to turn down his chop offer. I swiftly got coolered with a Jack-high flush against his nut flush, but I still feel good about declining the chop. Friends were congratulating me afterwards and I had to ask them to delay for a few days because "2nd place sucks". I came for a bracelet so getting so close did suck a lot. Especially as with my volume I can only really expect to get HU for a bracelet once every 4 or 5 years.
PokerTips.org: Tell us some about your online poker career. When did you start playing? What games and stakes do you typically play?
Lawrence: I started playing in October of 2003. Nowadays I typically play one table of $50-$100 limit hold'em or four table some smaller games. I've played as high as $200-$400 limit hold'em and $25-$50 no-limit hold'em and pot-limit hold'em. I'm still not really comfortable when I play that high and the hours you can afford to play out of your comfort zone are very limited as its a lightning rod for disastrous tilt.
PokerTips.org: From your observations, is Omaha Hi-Lo a game where players are generally weak and thus exploitable? Or do the split pots tend to make it a bit of a crapshoot?
Lawrence: The live Omaha Hi-Lo fields at the WSOP were disgustingly soft. If you have even the slightest comprehension of how to play you're making money by sitting. Losing half the pot to someone drawing thin for half does suck, but on the other hand when they're drawing for half constantly that means you already have half locked up and are freerolling. With the super weak fields its actually pretty hard to bust so I think the split pots actually increase our edge considerably. On the other hand, the difference between a great Omaha Hi-Lo player and a good one is pretty small, so the best players don't have as big of an edge here as in the no-limit hold'em games.
PokerTips.org: What was your reason for traveling to Vegas? Were you planning on playing a lot of WSOP events, hoping to make money in the cash games, or just enjoying a vacation?
Lawrence: I came for a bracelet :-(
PokerTips.org: What do you enjoy doing outside of poker? Do you have any grand plans for your winnings from the Omaha Hi-Lo event?
Lawrence: There's life outside poker? I'll be reinvesting half the winnings in more events and hoping to make another run at a bracelet.
PokerTips.org: Tell us about some of your future plans or ambition with regards to poker.
Lawrence: Bracelet. I want one. At least one. (But its important to do it while being profitable and not by playing -EV super-high variance poker and high volume).
PokerTips.org: Who are some of the top British [or European] players that you admire?
Lawrence: Well Patrik Antonius obviously. I also admire Simon Trumper.
PokerTips.org: In your opinion, is the "poker boom" alive throughout England, or does it seem to have flattened out?
Lawrence: Well it's flattening for sure but that's largely because the initial growth was so sharp. I think we still have some growth to go and the plateau should be fairly long. I'm thinking we'll be in "boom" time for a couple of years yet at least.
PokerTips.org: Our readers would love any tips you could share regarding what has enabled your success in the poker world. Specifically, what type of advice do you have regarding Omaha Hi-Lo?
Lawrence: Self-belief is important and this comes from knowing the games you play. Analyze the game both on your own and with a circle of skilled friends you trust. Poker doesn't reward good actions consistently nor punish mistakes with regularity. The only way to learn correct play is from away-from-felt analysis. The more you understand the game, the more likely you are to know the correct play and the less likely you will be to make mistakes or tilt from not knowing whether a losing play you made was correct.
This applies especially to Omaha Hi-Lo which is a game that is fully understood by very few players and the edge of the best players is very thin over those that merely play decently. A solid foundation of the game's nuances will pay off with rapid and low variance success at middle limits.