WCOOP 2014: Jean-Pascal "hopezACE" Savard talks winning and learning
Perhaps it's the way of the new generation--of poker players at least-- a streak of dedication as long as an EPT turbo registration line. They turn their backs on excess and partying, and instead look for something to keep them grounded and focused, something like family or friends. Whatever it is it locks in a work ethic that is nothing short of old-fashioned when compared to some elements of society. But it's becoming more and more useful in a game that has been known to reverse fortunes on the turn of a card.
Take Jean-Pascal "hopezACE" Savard for instance. The 23-year-old from Quebec was the winner of WCOOP Event #40 ($1,050 NL Hold'em) nearly a week ago. After only two and a half years in the game he's already had significant success, but this month the hard work paid off in spades, with a WCOOP title, a bracelet and a first prize of $193,630.
But such things don't come easy, as Savard explained when recounting his experiences at the final table to the PokerStars Blog.
"It was mentally challenging," said Savard. "I felt it was harder mentally for me to one-table that event than it would've been if I had to play a regular Sunday of 15-20 tabling. You just have to think deeply about every spot and try to never exclude any hand from villain's range, and also pay attention to every showdown and tendencies other players might have to eventually exploit them."
You'd expect, from a man of 23, that success might swell the ego a little. But talking to Savard, it's easy to spot the pragmatism, particularly with his regard for the friends and family around him, and his approach to all things poker, which centres on constant study and analysis. Anything else would be folly.
"I'm a pretty busy person, if I'm not actually playing, I'm probably watching poker videos, coaching students, getting coached, or doing school-related work," said Savard. "I try and stay very organized and methodical with how I go with my days, so you'd see a lot of schedules and calendars posted on my room walls if you were here. I have side bets on staying in shape and weight loss which, fortunately, motivates me to work out and do cardio on a daily basis."
There's that familiar theme again. In the old days you're respected your health by saving your first cigar until after breakfast. Now you do so with runs, repetitions and the threat of financial obligation to others. But whatever works, and right now that's in part what's behind Savard's success. The rest he owes to friends, family and some pretty good coaching.
"It's a game that's just so hard to learn on your own, you have to have someone guide you through what you have to study or learn or else you're just overwhelmed and don't know where to start," he said.
"Ever since I've played, I've always been coached. I've also almost always had students which I think is also really important to help one's game. It drastically increases the amount of hand reviews I have to go through and therefore makes me second guess lines or think more in depth about situations. I also read a couple books and watch a good quantity of videos. No matter how good things are going, it's important to stay in current with the population's tendencies for spots. So it's an everyday work to learn and improve playing poker."
The results of all this effort have been obvious. Aside from this win (the money from which will likely go on a house or a condo), Savard won a WCOOP second chance in 2013. He also travelled to the PCA for the first time this year, and spent the entire summer at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. That he didn't necessarily conquer the live tournament world was not really the point. It was more a case that he learned from the experiences and got to meet and talk with fellow pros--the kind of thing that helps you win big back online.
But again all that was almost a side issue when compared to staying focused, and that means smoothing out the highs as well as the lows.
"I'd say that with success and money, most people would tend to slack, stop working, maybe even show-off to people or get twice a bigger head. I've never been or thought this way.
"I truly believe there is a lot of merit to staying true to yourself, not changing your attitude towards one another. I personally feel like I've been good at doing that and although I'm a person with a lot of ambition, I satisfy myself with very little, and I think that's important to keep your sanity in a world that can easily turn anyone wrong. I'm also really not a fan of people who like to show others that they have money."
So if it didn't mean a fast car to the nearest bar, what celebrating was there when he finally won his first WCOOP title?
"I had a couple friends and my Dad standing behind me watching the play unfold during the final table, which made it even more fun for me," he said. "When the tournament was over, I opened a nice cognac bottle I had been saving up for my first six-figure score and had a glass with my parents and the two friends who had been railing me.
"Afterwards, I headed out to the place where a couple of my students live and we just took it easy and chilled while they were finishing up their Sunday sessions. Then we just watched football and I came home somewhat early. We didn't celebrate or anything. I guess one is due but it's probably going to be in a week or so."
Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.