As the final table table gets underway one player not returning is Mike McDonald. The former EPT Champion was the ninth place finisher last night, bringing the day to a close but ending speculation (again) about the chances of a first double winner.
Talking after the final eight were having their chips bagged up and back ground detail logged (we now khow old all of them are), McDonald spoke last night about his performance this week as well as his development as a player over the past four year.
Would he have done anything different?
“It’s tough to say,” said McDonald. “There are a lot of hands in hindsight that I could say ‘oh I made a mistake there’. I think for the most part I played pretty well today. Obviously I’m not that happy with the result right now but I’m fairly happy with how I played.”
As reported earlier this week, McDonald’s EPT record is exemplary, with eight cashes, all of which being finishes within the top 24, with one exception (27th). To come so close, so often; he could be forgiven for feeling a liitle down about it all.
“For me there’s only been one day in my life when I’ve been really disappointed in poker,” said McDonald. “That was when I came fifth in EPT Dortmund after getting first the previous year and there was all the build-up of being a back-to-back champion and the first two time EPT champion at only 19. I was also a lot more immature back then.
“That night I felt so bad. Then for the rest of the day I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t smile. I felt so shitty. I woke up the next morning and thought wait I’ve just won €200,000, why am I upset? As soon as I woke up I wasn’t upset.
“Here, I’m like five per cent as upset as I was that day. I’m sure within an hour or two I’ll think ‘I just won some money, that’s great’.
Even since that “failure”, McDonald had blossomed into one of the most fearsome tournament players in the world. No fluke, McDonald as excelled in the EPT while doing similar work elsewhere, winning an EPIC Poker League event in 2011, with final tables at the World Series and across Europe. He used to be a cocky thin kid with gap teeth.
“I’d say I’ve had a lot of changes in my game in the last couple of years,” he said. “I think one of the biggest things is my level of comfort playing live.
“When I was 18, every pot I tried to minimise the amount of live reads. I would just stare at the table, never stare at my opponent and be motionless every hand. Now every hand I play I’m trying to pick up as much info as possible. I pay a lot more attention to that kind of stuff. I’m also more consistent, making sure I don’t give off any tells, and stuff like that.
“I think I’ve made my game a lot more versatile that it was three or four years ago. I used to be good at playing one style that sort of worked in one dynamic. Now I can do well in a wider variety of tournaments against a wider variety of players.
“I’m happy with how poker has changed for me over the last couple of years.”
McDonald has achieved a lot in four years and is still just 22. In another four we could be looking back at the first double EPT champion. At least.