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Inside the Breakthrough: An Interview with WSOP Player of the Year Tom Schneider, Part Two

Inside the Breakthrough: An Interview with WSOP Player of the Year Tom Schneider, Part Two 0001

In yesterday's Part One of's extended interview with 2007 WSOP Player of the Year Tom Schneider, Schneider detailed the final table of his first bracelet-winning effort. In today's conclusion, he shares his thoughts on winning his second bracelet, dueling Jeffrey Lisandro for the WSOP's Player of the Year title, and more.

PN: All right, on to the second bracelet. Stud-8 again! How was this event different than the mixed event earlier in the series? You had been playing for weeks, for one thing.

TS: Well, yeah. First of all, I had a totally different perspective on being able to make final tables, and being able to win final tables. That's another tournament where, three times during that tournament, I had just one big bet. So three separate times, not like three in a row, but like five hours later, and the next day, where I was short-chipped. And I kept the same attitude, which is, "I'm not going to let them get it from me easy. It's going to be hard for them to get my last few chips here."

And I held on and held on and held on, and I finally went on a little bit of a rush toward the end of Day 2, and I actually ended up with the chip lead going into the final table, which didn't really represent how the whole tournament went.

PN: It seemed like it was a bit of an easier final table, just as far as the competition and skill level. Scotty Nguyen was there; Tony Ma was there, who was short-stacked. You had the chip lead going in. How were you feeling going into this one?

TS: Well, I wasn't quite as confident with my chip position versus my chip position at the other game, but I was extremely confident in the fact that I felt like I could play Stud-8 as well as I've ever played before. I did feel slightly better because there were four or five players at the final table that I'd never seen before. You know, just because someone's famous doesn't mean they play well, but it certainly means that they had to get famous, most likely, from doing something good in poker. These people, I hadn't seen. Other than – Scotty Nguyen and Tony Ma, I think, were the only people I knew at the final table.

PN: The heads-up was long. Three and a half hours, just heads up, no dinner break. Virtually tied going into heads-up. Hoyt Verner took sixth in this event last year. What are you thinking here?

TS: You know, I thought he played really tight when it was a full game and when it got a little bit short. And then, he opened up his game a bunch when we got heads up, and it kind of surprised me. So I felt I needed to change strategies on him, because I was going to try to do the same thing with him that I did in the other tournament, which was basically try to run him over. He wasn't run-overable! He played a lot of hands and played them very aggressively, so I figured that I'm going to try a different strategy with him and slow down a little bit and try and play more solid hands against him.

So he actually took a pretty decent lead and it looked like I wasn't going to win it, and I said "I gotta change my strategy here," and I did it and all of a sudden, I started catching some hands.

Then, toward the end, what was really helpful is that my wife was there, as well as a lot of friends, and I don't think he had anybody in the audience rooting for him at all. And it seems weird that it should matter in poker, but when every time you even take the antes, people are cheering for you, and when he wins a big pot, nobody seems to give a s***, it's kind of a little bit demoralizing.

And when I won several pots in a row, and I had people cheering for me every time – toward the last couple hands, it seemed as if he almost gave up or stopped trying his hardest. Or felt overwhelmed, or something, I don't know what it was – but the last hand he put a raise in when it was almost impossible for me to fold, and he hadn't made a hand yet. He was drawing for a low and a gutshot straight. He put a raise in, and it seemed as though he was saying, "Well, if I'm going to go out here, I'm going to win some chips from him," kind of a thing. And it wasn't a good time to put a raise in.

PN: Before you mentioned your family and friends were in the audience. It was almost like a home-court-advantage kind of thing.

TS: Yeah, I think so! I think that's right. And it's weird, like I said, in poker it shouldn't matter. I always felt like if I had nobody there, it wouldn't matter, I'm still going to play the same, but I think if you're getting beat-up on and people are yelling against you – not that they're yelling against him, they're yelling for me – I think there's a real psychological factor there, a little bit.

PN: There were a few players still in the running for Player of the Year by that point. Jeffrey Lisandro was still a contender there. Were you thinking Player of the Year then?

TS: I was thinking player of the year when I came in fourth, because when I came in fourth, it was still fairly early and I was the leader of Player of the Year at that point. And then a few people took over, Jeff Lisandro being one of them, Rob Mizrachi, and I think Phil Hellmuth, and I kept sliding down the list.

Then, when I won that, there were really only a few people that had a shot because it was so late. There were only a few people that had a chance to defeat me. And it was interesting because Jeffrey Lisandro and I got pretty deep, we almost made the money in the Deuce-to-Seven No Limit, which is a very fun tournament. I actually did a "save" with him – I paid him $5,000. If I win Player of the Year, I pay him $5,000, and if he wins Player of the Year, he gives me $11,000. I haven't told anybody about this, it's interesting. He came up to me and said, "Do you want to do a save?" and so that way, I mean, I paid him $5,000 because I won, but I would have got $11,000 if I had lost, which would have made me feel a little bit better.

PN: A little bit!

TS: Yeah, exactly!

PN: Do you still not like Stud-8, or do you have a better opinion of the game now?

TS: Well, I actually think it's a game that, if you play against a bunch of people that know the game reasonably well, it's not a very good game. If you're playing against people that don't play it very well, it's a really good game, yet it's still very boring, because it's – there's not a whole lot of creativity in Stud-8. I like games with more creativity and Stud-8 is more straightforward. The good thing about Stud-8 that I like, is that it is about putting people on hands and squeezing people off of other hands. That's the strategy part that I like about Stud-8, but I would say that I have to like it a little bit more, but I still think it's kind of a slow game, as far as I'm concerned.

PN: What would you consider some of your best poker games?

TS: Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, Badugi and Pot-Limit Omaha. Those are some of my best cash games. I mean, everybody's kinda good at Hold'em. I mean, I think I'm a good Hold'em player – I came in second at my first table in the shootout and I made the final table in the shootout last year. I'm a decent limit Hold'em player and I'm a decent No-Limit Hold'em player, but everybody's kind of – I like to be good at games that other people don't play very often, where I have a decent edge.

PN: Yeah, how many really good Deuce-to-Seven players are there? Probably just a handful.

TS: Exactly. World class, maybe five to ten. And world-class No Limit Hold'em players? I don't know, five hundred or a thousand of 'em!

PN: Let's talk about your book, Oops! I Won Too Much Money! What is this book about?

TS: The book is not a strategy poker book. It's more of a life lessons book. It's about experiences in business and poker and life, and what I've learned from them and how they all kind of come together to create some of the same lessons that you can learn in each. There's 61 chapters of short stories involving poker and business and how they relate to one another. I sum it up at the end with what I call Winning Wisdom, which is kind of a way of, "Here's what I've learned from each of these stories." And I try to do it in a creative, funny way as opposed to an A+B=C. It's more of a "How's he going to sum this one up?" kind of thing.

PN: Is there any significance to the {7-Clubs}{2-Diamonds} on the cover?

TS: Yeah. The significance is that it's the worst poker hand, and I'm sitting there with all the money, and it's basically saying, "You don't have to have the best hand to be successful in what you do in life." Everybody puts aces or ace-king or these big hands [on the cover], but my whole thing was basically – I'm not a nut player in life, I play the hands that are dealt to me and I try to play them as well as I can.

PN: How did you get involved in Pokerati, a site that seems geared at least somewhat toward Texas poker players, but you're from Phoenix?

TS: It's kind of funny – I went to Dallas to do a speech on my book to a bunch of business people as an Addison Speaker Series. In the audience were two people. One of them was a guy named Karridy Askenasy. He was in the audience. The funny thing was, when I went to Texas to promote the book, they said, "Hey, there's a guy here who's having a poker tournament while you'll be here, and he's supposedly the guy to know for poker in Texas." And so I went to promote my book, but the night before they had this tournament that I played in and I won. And Dan Michalski, who runs Pokerati, he's the guy that ran the tournament. So I got to know Dan by winning his tournament. And it's kind of funny, because I actually felt more pressure to do well because, here I'm a poker writer, and I have to be better than these idiots from Texas – not that they are idiots; I know what you're thinking.

And so I did that, and I did my speech, and the guy that came in second in the Pokerati Invitational came to my speech. He wanted to hear my speech, wanted to hear what I had to say, and then he said, "Hey, I'm thinking about doing a radio show, would you like to do a radio show with me?" So we started "Beyond the Table," and then we wanted to have someone do current events in poker and keep us up to date, so we asked Dan at Pokerati to join us on our radio show. So that's how all three of us ended up on the radio show together. And then Dan said, "Hey, if you ever want to start posting on Pokerati, I'd love to have you do it." And I think Dan was also interested in maybe becoming out-of-Texas – not that he's leaving Texas or that he doesn't like it, but he wanted Pokerati to become more of a poker site for all people who like poker, not a "just what's going on in Texas" kinda thing.

PN: What is Beyond the Table about? It's a poker radio show?

TS: It's a poker podcast, and it is a show about poker, but we don't talk about poker strategy. We have fake interviews with famous poker players where we make fun of them. It's really intended to be an entertaining show with poker as the thread that runs through it, but certainly we don't sit and say, "How would you play ace-king, blah blah blah." We don't do any of that. There's too many shows that do that. We talk about poker in a very funny but not very focused way. It's all intended to be entertaining and try to make people laugh and have fun with poker.

PN: What's next for you as far as poker?

TS: I'm taking a little bit of a break, and I plan on playing several [WSOP] Circuit events. I will probably play some WPT events, but I'm just taking a break from poker. I played for two months solid – probably 15 to 17 hours a day for two months. Believe it or not, at one time I would have loved saying that, and probably would have gone back for more, but now I'm older and I want to just take a break from poker and play some golf. But I'll be back playing some Circuit events and some WPT events.

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