Cast your mind back to September 2004, can you remember what you were doing? It’s a fair bet that a large percentage of the Day 1B field were dreading going back to school for another year, be it in short or long trousers.
By that point Willie Tann had a WSOP final table to his name, although not yet the bracelet that he would earn in a $1,000 no-limit Hold’em event in July 2005. In September 2004 he was sitting down to play the inaugural event of the European Poker Tour. He didn’t make the money back then, but cashed in a side event. Today though he sat down to play in the hundredth edition of that same tour. The number of players who can lay claim to that particular feat are almost as rare as double EPT Main Event winners.
There’s a saying along the lines of: “When a man with money meets a man with experience, the man with experience leaves with money and the man with money leaves with experience.” Yet, despite Tann having results stretching back to 1993 (although you suspect he has plenty from the days before poker results were tracked) you’d have had long odds on ‘The Diceman’ surviving the ten years that have passed in between the two events, such have been some of his well publicised peaks and troughs.
But keep going he has and he was in jovial mood when the PokerStars Blog caught up with him late on during his dinner break. In typical Tann fashion he said: “The break finishes in 12 minutes and I’m on the big blind, I must be back.”
Despite having one eye on the clock he was happy to talk and started with a warning for those just starting out in the game.
“These younger players, they should continue with their studies so they have something to fall back on,” he said. “That’s the most important thing. It’s very hard to gamble for a living, I mean maybe 2 per cent of people survive. It’s a difficult life but they think it’s so easy.”
But it hasn’t been easy for Tann, who’s quick to answer when pressed on the most difficult aspect of surviving in the game: “Money management,” he says, not skipping a beat before adding. “And not having too many leaks like I have! It is very difficult to survive. Don’t ask me how I’ve managed it,” he jokes, genuinely a little perplexed that he has.
We all know that the past ten years have seen poker go through it’s industrial revolution and Tann has his own view on what’s changed the most.
“These youngsters are so aggressive, they call it a three-bet, we used to call it a raise and a re-raise. Anyway, these youngsters three-bet like its nothing! But this means they’re very difficult to play against, they know no fear.”
But, if anything Tann thinks his own game has gone the other way in the past decade.
“I’ve become less aggressive. Things I would’ve done as a young man, I couldn’t do it now. The game has changed completely.”
As has the EPT. Tann looks off towards the vast tournament room and said: It’s changed a lot. There are so many people and so many players. I don’t know where all these people find the money to play! But the EPT is the only tournament series in Europe that is equivalent to the WSOP now, and why go all the way to America to play the WSOP when you can play the EPT on your home ground?”
If Tann doesn’t believe he has an edge in the aggression stakes at his age he still firmly believes there’s far more to the game than blasting off.
“You have to adapt to the situation and play the people and the psychological game,” he said, and it’s an area where he thinks he has an edge but sadly Tann doesn’t think that’s enough. “Aggression beats all the old timers,” he says sadly. “We have to adapt ourselves to them,” he said, almost speaking for octogenarians everywhere. “We have to be more wary of their re-raises or their three-bets as they call it.”
It’s clear Tann is going to keep rolling the dice whilst father time allows: “I love to play, it’s enjoyable and great to see old friends again.” And with that he’s gone — he’s got a big blind to defend after all.
Update: Sadly Tann couldn’t mount a comeback and is one of around 130 players from today’s 1,009 entrants to have busted out from this record breaking EPT.
Follow all the action from the tournament floor on the main EPT Barcelona page. There’s hand-by-hand coverage in the panel at the top, including chip counts, and feature pieces below. There’s also EPT Live, which is streaming action from Day 1B of the Main Event.