EPT11 Prague: On being Sam Grafton
Sam Grafton is out. When I spoke to him earlier is was still in, working on reaching a first EPT final table. But sometimes that's how it goes, and a player we try to feature departs before you get to publish their story.
But frankly Grafton is too good to leave out, even if he's no longer part of the Main Event. It's not just his ability on the table, it's that his performance this week was nothing more than an extension of his personality away from it, one that, you may have noticed, is a little different to most others--the clothes, the hair, the glasses, the gregarious bonhomie towards fellow player.
So I asked Grafton, who now lives with his girlfriend in Prague, about that (starting with the clothes) as he looked for something to fill the time during a break. He spoke knowledgeably, enthusiastically and quickly.
On his choice of clothes...
"When I lived in London I lived in the east of London and my aunt owns a club there. One floor is grimy house music, but then there's an upstairs that plays all sorts of 80s music and soul stuff and for a while I was going to a lot of gigs.
"What that area has is a certain superficiality, which may well be true, but it's certainly vibrant in terms of clothes, music and fashion. So I guess from there I started being less English and less concerned about dressing conservative or fitting in, and being a bit more creative."
On being himself...
"I was never concerned with looking silly, if I saw something that was bright or outgoing. I just see it as dressing up, if you know what I mean. When I pick out clothes or whatever, if it's fun or, mixing things together as well, like wearing glasses which are a bit geeky with like a lemon jacket or a sports top that's quite jock. Those two are contradictory. There's playfulness. I guess that's my attitude to life."
On taking that attitude to the poker table...
"I take inspiration from someone like Vanessa Selbst who plays unorthodox. If I want to do something and think it's right I'm not going to be concerned with what my friends are going to think or how it's going to look when its reported. If I think it's the right play I'm willing to be a bit more creative."
On whether poker is still fun when you're this close to the final table...
"Yeah it can be tense. But I think when you're playing against such good players they often tend to be quite nice guys as well. For me it's quite exciting to meet players from other parts of the world who do my job. Also players that I have some history with online, putting a face to the online name, which can be quite fun.
"You obviously have a shared connection in the tournaments you play and certain in-jokes that mean nothing to anyone who doesn't reg the Thursday, the Big 22 or the 30 cubed or the 50 re-buy big ante--certain tournaments that you grind every day with these guys and that only you guys know about. So that's quite a pleasure. It just depends on the vibe and whose there.
On talking at the table...
"Yesterday, the first table with Artem and Vanessa, was good fun. And then the second table, people were a lot quieter. I guess the guys at the second table were a bit more tense, a bit more quiet. So I respect that. Obviously I don't want like the guy on the bus pestering you--you're trying to get some shut eye on the train home, and he's like 'oh you want to chat!'"
"If people don't want to talk that's fine. I'm not someone who thinks you have to be making friends with everyone you play with. But if you can chat a bit between hands, make jokes, just break the tension, I get through the day better. I think that I play better when I'm relaxed and when I'm having an enjoyable time.
On playing against good friends...
"I think the only difficult thing is when you've talked strategy with people. It happens more in UK tournaments, when you know someone's game very well. You start questioning yourself--they know that I like to attack these boards, or they know I don't check back strong hands here. Then I think you become a bit more cautious entering posts with someone you're friendly with, because they'll be an extra level of complexity to it. They know so much about your game and you know so much about theirs.
"I know Vanessa is a very competitive person. She's gonna be absolutely fine entering a pot with me, so I've got to be the same.
On having to be ruthless...
"Yesterday, Vanessa and I were chatting and she was like 'what did you have on the king-nine board?' Yeah she three-bet me with queen-three off. So I know that happens, so the gloves are off as far as I'm concerned."
Full coverage of the EPT Prague Poker Festival is on the main EPT Prague page.
Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.