Online Poker Spotlight: Billy Kopp
Ultimate Bet's newest online poker pro may not be a household name yet but with his recent success and the coverage he is sure to get on ESPN's upcoming Main Event coverage, Billy Kopp is sure to see a lot more of the spotlight. Kopp sat down with PokerNews to discuss how he got his start, University of Kentucky basketball, and his infamous hand against WSOP Main Event chip leader Darvin Moon.
First off, congratulations on your fabulous run at the WSOP. Tell us, what’s been going on with you lately?
I've been hanging out in Lexington, Kentucky, grinding online. I was supposed to play the Legends of Poker event at the Bicycle Casino, but I am currently in the process of moving to Vegas, so I am not traveling as much until everything is settled.
So, what’s the deal with you moving to Vegas? Do you still plan on getting your degree from the University of Kentucky?
I want to begin playing live cash games, which I will be able to do more of in Vegas. I have close friends who currently live there as well. There are a lot of tax and investment advantages right now in buying property out there, which is also influencing my decision. I am putting school on hold for the time being. I have a great sponsorship with Ultimate Bet and will be traveling around playing lots of live events.
Do you have friends that are in Vegas that you share your strategy with and discuss poker?
The second half of the summer I lived at Carter "ckingusc" King's house. Mike "Benvo123" Benvenuti, Dan "USCSwimmer" White, Ryan Welch, Nick "I Spew Chips" Phillips, and Justin "Lockdowntex" Allen all lived there as well. Ryan will be moving out to Vegas in March, and Nick is moving in with me.
Tell us, when did you begin playing poker? Also, how much were you making then compared to now?
Freshman year at University of Kentucky I was playing small tournaments and small-stakes cash games at an underground card room in town. I was playing things like the $11 rebuys and smaller multitable tournaments on PokerStars. My first win was in one of the $11 rebuys for about $6,000 when the field was smaller. At the time, this was more money than I knew what to do with. Back then, people in the U.S. were still allowed on Party Poker. There was a series of steps on there like other sites have today. The first one was for $33. I put in a total of $99 and made it to the last step and won it for $100,000. I actually beat "Halfrek" heads-up who is a well-known online player today. As an 18-year old, $100,000 set me up with school paid for, a nice car and a bankroll to get me to where I am today. The next several years, I was still making more than the average salary for a working adult. Recently the past two years, I was able to take it to a new level.
Those were the good days with Party Poker, but beating Halfrek and winning 100k at 18 years old is quite an accomplishment.
I think only five people in the world actually won the step five because they didn’t run it often. As I understand, "Halfrek" also won one besides getting 2nd in the one I won.
Alright, I know you probably have been asked too many times to count, but tell us about your bust-out hand against Darvin Moon? Any regrets? Do you think you had the wrong read or would you have played it differently? Give us your thoughts.
Darvin Moon had just gotten to the table and I had no reads on the guy at all due to never playing with him. The table is shorthanded and I am raising a very wide range of hands to take down blinds and antes. At this point people are playing tight to get to the final table of the WSOP Main Event. I am very comfortable playing post flop. What two cards I raise is irrelevant.
Darvin Moon calls one of my raises from the small blind. I have and the flop comes . Darvin checks and I bet out 750,000, a standard continuation bet of a little over half pot. When he calls, here I am never putting him on a set because why would he check-call a set on a three-diamond board out of position. I am putting him on a hand such as king-queen with a diamond, the ace-x with a diamond king-jack off suit, etc. Hands where he check-calls and doesn't want to commit extra chips but has a valuable hand or a draw.
The turn pairs a deuce. As I stated before, the way he is playing his hand he has a set only a very small percentage of the time. In my mind, this card is the best card in the deck for me to see for several reasons. If he has a hand such as ace-x of diamonds pre-flop and flops the flush, he now has to fold if I move all-in, or so I thought. I can very easily have a set and boat up on the turn. A great majority of the time my flush is still good.
Darvin elects to check again. At this point, I bet 2 million. Again, a fairly standard turn bet. Now he raises me. He check-raises me on the turn. I'm not putting the guy on a set on the flop so he doesn't have a boat on the turn. The hands I am putting in his range are all hands where he may check raise the turn for multiple reasons. He can get me off a hand such as the ones I am putting him on due to a paired board. If I am bluffing, his draw may take down the pot. He may also think king-queen is the best hand and be raising me for value to call with a draw or a smaller king, etc. In my mind, he also check-raises the nut flush and other flushes the same way, but, the board paired. This is perfect for my hand because when he makes it 6 million and I shove, he has to assume I'm not shoving weaker flushes on a paired board.
This is the point where I move all-in because of everything I have just explained. No set, no boat, he folds all hands that beat me, I scoop a monster pot and win with the worst hand. Unfortunately, he snap-calls with the non-nut flush and I bust. This is part of the problem playing against weaker opponents. A lot of solid poker players would lay down even the nut flush there but with that being said, probably wouldn't play his hand the same way either. I do not regret the play at all. I would make the same play over and over because of my evaluation of the hand. I have had lots of success and go through the same thought processes every day that I play. I have done just fine for the past five years.
If he folded the and everyone sees it on ESPN in a month or so, everyone thinks I’m the "sickest player" ever and a hero, not the kid who "blew up." It was unfortunate and in some people's eyes unnecessary, but I stand by my play. I have been told that Darvin was quoted saying that he didn't see the board paired on the turn and if he did he would have folded to my river shove. I don't know if this is true or not, but it makes a whole lot of sense with the line he took.
Are you going to watch the 2009 WSOP on ESPN?
Yea, I will be watching it and may even go to see the final table live. I played with almost everyone at the final table once at some point in the tournament and am anxious to see who wins it.
Who are you predicting to win it?
I think if Phil Ivey doubles up he'll be hard to contend with, obviously. With all of the legislation being passed to legalize poker in the U.S., him winning would be a great thing. Winning several bracelets this year, beating over 6,500 people in the main event of poker, plus his past wins, would send home the message that this truly is a game of skill, not just luck and gambling.
Excellent point. We couldn’t agree more. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time when not playing poker?
Fishing, golfing, and drinking Kentucky bourbon.
Your prediction on U.K. football and basketball this year?
I think we will probably finish the football season around .500 or better. We will more than likely make a bowl game for the 6th year in a row. I'm very excited as is everyone else around here for the basketball season. John Calipari is an amazing coach and I only expect great things to come. I will be coming back for some games to say the least.
Best prop bet you’ve been in this past year?
Embarrassingly enough, last night after several drinks, some friends all bet me that I couldn't hula hoop for four minutes. Where the hula hoop came from, I have no idea. It seemed simple as a kid so I took the bet. Simple right? Nope. I was holding strong until it fell at three minutes and four seconds.
Come on, Billy, less than a minute short? Good effort though.
Yeah, especially when clicking a mouse is my main source of exercise.
What are your favorite vacation places to travel to?
I really enjoy Maui, Hawaii and Nassau in the Bahamas. I've taken tours on Maui, seen a lot of the island, and really appreciate all that it has to offer. I like going to Atlantis in Nassau and fishing there. I really want to go to Brazil. I heard the women are amazing there. I'm not sure what my dream spot is, but it would definitely be tropical. I love being outdoors.
Brazil sounds good to us. Don't you have a girlfriend though?
I'm not currently dating anyone. I was going through a breakup when I won the step five. I then dated someone for three years, and after that ended I had a great summer to say the least. So, maybe I'll start dating and breaking up if things like this keep happening!
If you weren't a poker player, what would your job be?
Before I got into poker years ago, I wanted to become a pilot. With poker, I never went down that road and I didn't go to college for that. I do still think about how amazing it would be to fly a fighter jet or commercial airline.
That definitely would be a cool job. Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us, Billy! We look forward to watching you on ESPN soon enough, and best of luck in the future.
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