Matthew "mjw006" Wakeman on home, happiness, and a first WCOOP
You get a different story each time you speak to a WCOOP winner. For some it's all about the poker, and the fascinating intricacies that they understood helped them win. For others, it's less structured, and you sense they're still coming to terms with their own remarkable story.
With others though, you can tell have had time to reflect, and put it all into perspective. They're delighted, but see the result in the wider scheme of things. A poker tournament win does not a career make, as Matthew Wakeman knows all too well.
Wakeman, who took up poker as countryman Joe Hachem was winning the World Series of Poker, won Event #36 last week. Like many this autumn, he was winning his first WCOOP title, but as a blogger himself, has since written eloquently about his achievement, which as many a family man will confirm, is not always a one man job.
He spoke to the PokerStars Blog about the event, WCOOP in general, and those ever important things that keep poker in perspective. A proud Australian of Korean heritage, and a big John Farnham fan, we'll let him do the talking.
On reaching another WCOOP final table
"It was obviously really cool and a lot of fun. I think this is my 5th WCOOP series and actually my first WCOOP FT. I've had a few close calls and a couple of SCOOP Final Tables but it was nice to finally get the monkey off my back."
On his approach to this event and WCOOP in general
"I was actually really fortunate to get a good sleep in during the daytime hours Australian time leading into Day2, thanks to my wife working from home that day. I had played a full WCOOP schedule (10 days) and had been feeling a bit burnt out and had skipped my first event for the series the day before. So she sent me to bed during the day time hours, and took over the household/child minding duties for the day, which was just incredibly helpful and beneficial for me. She works a pretty full on job with long hours, so it was such a blessing in disguise that she happened to be working from home that day.
"I woke up about two hours before it started, had some dinner, and reviewed my play from Day1. I took as many notes as I possibly could on opponents sizing or tenancies in this time as well, and just tried to be as prepared and focused as possible before the start of play."
On remaining focused
"This is what I practice and study for and I've been in lots of endgame situations before. And even though there is some extra motivation to play your absolute best (Bracelet + Big first prize), it is just another tournament at the end of the day.
"The focus has to be on just making good decisions and trying to forget about the actual value of whatever is at stake. Besides the ICM considerations, the payouts shouldn't be too important. And I think I'm pretty good at putting that aside these days and just playing my game.
"I've worked very hard on my game over the years, and basically that is all for these times when you get your big Final Table shots. So I have a lot of confidence in my ability to play well in lots of different situations."
On the key moments of the event
"Oh there are a couple. I just ran very good in all my key pots. Not just the all-ins either. There is a lot of hidden variance in poker relating to distributions, where sometimes you just keep walking into the top of people's ranges in your bluff spots, or you get some really bad board runouts that favour your opponent's ranges. I think all of those components really just went my way in this tournament.
"The AT vs TT hand on the Final Table bubble was obviously a huge one to win. Even though I wasn't at risk it was just such a big swing in my stack. Then getting the KK vs JJ early on in the Final Table really put me in a great position and gave me a ton of momentum + plenty of room to manoeuvre with my stack size."
On keeping things in perspective
"I am a Full-time Dad first and foremost. That is really my job as I have a 5year old son. He started school this year so that's a pretty big deal. I guess when you get old and start a family it consumes a huge chunk of your life and time just flies by. I do play a lot of poker, study a lot, and just have a great love for the game. But my priority is being a Father and Husband."
On being healthy
"I'm actually really bad at eating throughout my session. I could not live without coffee, and most days I will have somewhere between 4-6 cups. I have never really been a breakfast person, or someone who eats in the morning at all, and given that most mornings I will start between 2-3am (Australian timezone!), I generally don't feel like eating. I have started to realise the importance of getting something in my stomach during longer sessions (especially during WCOOP), and have been getting a little better."
On what happens to the money
"My son will probably get a trip to the toy store, but besides that nothing really changes. And to be fair he gets plenty spoiled most of the time anyway, haha."
On not playing poker
"I try to be a good house husband! I look after my son and spend time with my family. Outside of that I like to keep active, so I get outside and exercise whenever I get the chance. I'm a huge Sports fanatic as well - mostly Rugby League in the Winter and Cricket in the Summer, but I have a general interest in most sports. So I do spend a lot of time watching sports."
On celebrating the win
"I actually did something I don't usually do and made a some Social Media brag posts, haha. I talked to a few of my close poker friends on skype, and then actually went to bed for a few hours. It finished about 4am and I was back in bed at 6am. Sleep is the greatest gift of all during big online tournament series!
"My wife had organised a bit of a family lunch for later that day, so after I woke up I spent the rest of the day with my family hanging out and eating amazing dumplings!"
On being thankful for things
"I'm of South Korean descent but I was adopted and raised in Australia by Australian parents. I think a lot of people hear me talk or see that I'm from Australia and they expect me to be fairly typically Australian, and in almost every way I am, outside of my physical appearance where I am very Korean!
"I was raised in a very typically Australian household which is obviously the biggest influence on who I am. Then on top of that I spent a big chunk of my schooling years growing up in New South Wales where it's very stereotypically Australian. So I guess people find it all a bit strange, especially when first meeting me.
"I consider myself super lucky to have had the life and opportunities that I have had, and wouldn't change it for anything in the world. I grew up in an amazingly loving household, my parents are amazing, and I've always had every opportunity given to me to be the best person I can be."
Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.