EPT11 Prague: Goulder's golden run

It was 12.45pm and some 40 minutes had passed since Edgar Stuchly had uttered the words: "Shuffle up and deal." Yet at table 29, not a single blind had been stolen, no cards had been pitched back towards the dealer in anger and no one had ironically uttered the phrase, "Nice hand."

Of the players allocated table 29, only Felipe Boianovsky and Alex Goulder had shown up to play on time, much to the latter's surprise. "If it's a €5K I'll definitely be there on time," Goulder says to the PokerStars Blog, during the first break in play. "We didn't start playing until 45 minutes into level one and it was frustrating. But it is what it is and there's not much you can do about it."


Goulder pictured when he finally got to play

When two became three and the action finally started, there was an unusual table dynamic.

"Once we did start playing there were three of us with cards but six stacks in play," Goulder said. "So that's an up-side to it as that's obviously quite profitable. I had good position, as I was on the button with dead blinds but it kept on getting raised in front of me so I had to adjust and make some peels that you'd never normally make. Peeling hands like Q-9o in position just because the blinds are sitting out."

Goulder had another reason for wanting the action to get under way. The former poker dealer is in the form of his life. Between EPT Barcelona in August and the start of EPT Prague he's had two outright wins, two runner-up finishes and a fourth-place finish. These results have come in some sizeable fields too, with his second place finish in a €1,000 side event at EPT Barcelona netting him €79,600 for outlasting all but one of the 708 strong field.

His biggest score of the lot though came less than a week ago here in Prague when he took down a €2,000 buy-in event on the WPT that had 251 entrants. The €105,000 cash was the biggest of his career and took his earnings for 2014 to just less than $400,000. But Goulder isn't getting carried away.

"I almost entirely put these results down to variance," he said. "In 2013 I didn't cash in a single tournament with a £1k buy-in or higher and I've played a similar amount of live tournaments of that buy-in for the past two years, which is around 25. I didn't feel like I played badly last year, I felt like I played pretty good. And this year I feel like I've played well too. There's just so much luck in poker tournaments, it's just stupid really."

To illustrate his point he tells us about a hand that happened heads-up in the €2,000 event he'd go on to win."We hadn't done a deal so were playing for €32,000. I had him (Niclas Adolfsson) just covered, we got it all-in on the turn with my A-2 against his Q-3 on a 2-2-Q-9 board. So, he had two outs for all the chips, bar like five big blinds, and he hit a queen on the river. So that was a sick one. But I spun my five bigs up and managed to win."


Prague = profit for Goulder

Winning any tournament is obviously good for confidence but it is extra special when it comes at the start of a long trip. "It's a massive morale boost, it was the first tournament I played on this trip, so it's instantly been a hugely successful trip whatever else happens," Goulder said. "You're free-rolling the EPT, you're free-rolling other tournaments. There's a big group of us all staying in an apartment so a few people had swaps in me and we all had a big night out to celebrate afterwards. The way we like to do it is whoever wins pays for the majority of the night out."

As well as his golden run between August and December, Goulder has had a few other big scores this year, finishing 11th at EPT Deauville back in January for instance. Yet earlier this year Goulder wrote in his blog that he thinking about turning his back on poker.

"The thing is when I said that I was still having one of my best ever years, so it wasn't really to do with the money," he said today. "It was after I came second in an EPT side event at Barcelona for my second biggest score. I had this really great feeling for a few days and then after a few days it was a feeling that this cash hadn't really changed my level of happiness that much."

He continued: "Once you're at a certain level of bankroll and playing a certain level of tournaments, a big win feels really nice, but it doesn't change your life that much if you're already at the level you want to be playing. It's not like I can now play higher and I don't really want to. I don't want to play 25Ks and 10K High Rollers. I feel like I'm at a good level. To play higher it would take a lot of time and effort and guess I'm just not that ambitious."

Earlier today Laura Cornelius asked poker players what they'd be doing if they weren't playing poker. In that video Goulder, ironically, said he'd be a professional footballer. But he was eyeing up a different kind of career had he decided to quit playing poker.

"Right now I think if I started at the bottom in a career in finance, which is what I was going to do before I got into poker, I think it would take me 10 years minimum and probably 15 to start making the sort of money I am through poker," he said "That would be 10 years of a huge amount of hours and a lot of hard graft for not much money. I think my lifestyle would be much worse than it is now. Perhaps when I'm 40 or 50 I'm going to be earning more money and it might be more stable, but I decided in the end I wasn't willing to sacrifice the lifestyle and the money for the next 10 years."


Goulder - folding four cards instead of two

Like many players who have played professionally for a number of years Goulder is constantly evolving which games he plays and always looking to learn new games. Team PokerStars Pro Barry Greenstein is on record as saying the reason a lot of the older generation are so good at so many different games is that they had to learn them all because they would play whatever game the "fun players" suggested. It is something Goulder is only too aware of. "I've played a lot of live cash hold'em over the last five years and the money in that seems to be really drying up at any decent level," he said. "Certainly in England I was struggling to get any good hold'em games."

So Goulder decided something had to change.

"I spent a bit of time in Barcelona and there was a lot of pot-limit Omaha games there, while the hold'em games seemed dry there too. So it seemed to me that the pot-limit Omaha games was where the money was at and that it was probably the future was in terms of live cash so I started to learn Omaha. The rich guys seem to prefer pot-limit Omaha and mixed games than hold'em."

Goulder has come a long way since he cashed for £93 in a £10 beginners tournament in April 2009 and has some advice for anyone looking to tread a similar path. "A big thing that helped me was immersing myself in the world of poker," he said "I lived with poker players so we were always talking about hands, I spent a lot of times on poker forums, looking through other people's hands and posting my own hands. That was really helpful."

But poker is, as we know, part skill and part luck and Goulder admits he also had a large slice of the latter. "I did get really lucky too. I got staked into a big event, which I would never had played otherwise, it was my first ever really big tournament and I won it. As a result I continued to play at that buy-in level and I was now mixing with and socialising with players who were far better than me and I could learn from. I learned a lot in a shorter space of time that I might otherwise have done."

And while 2014 isn't yet over, Goulder has set himself a goal for 2015. "I'm looking to settle down a little bit more, maybe buy a house in England somewhere because that's a real life goal for me to complete sooner rather than later. Other than that I'm going to continue to travel the circuit and try and repeat the success of this year."

Follow all the action from the Main Event on the Main Event page. There's hand-by-hand updates and chip counts in the panel at the top of the page and feature pieces below.

Nick Wright
@PokerStars in Prague