In my opinion, the term ‘professional’ poker player is banded around too lightly. Just because you sit down and play poker every day does not make you a professional. If you don’t understand what on earth I am talking about then spend some time in the company of Andy Frankenberger. A man who embodies what it means to be ‘professional.’
Frankenberger politely accepted my offer of an interview whilst playing in Event #57: $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em (NLHE). He was sharing a table with the recent runner-up of Event #41: $5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO) Six-Max, Salman Behbehani, and, for a short time, the enigmatic Antonio Esfandiari, who was eliminated whilst I was watching the table.
“Antonio is very tough opponent if you are on his right, but if you are a short stack on his left then I can’t imagine a greater spot to have in a tournament, because he opens up a lot of pots and having position with a great re-shoving stack is a wonderful spot. But generally speaking he is always going to be putting you in difficult spots, and you never want to be in a hand against him hoping he is going to fold. That’s just not a good spot to be in against Antonio.” Said Frankenberger.
The last time I saw these two duking it out was in the deep end of Frankenberger’s amazing WSOP bracelet victory at last year’s series. The classic confrontation with Phil Ivey where nobody gave Frankenberger a chance except the New Yorker. During that last spat, Esfandiari had chips and was using his chatter to try to pull a reaction from Frankenberger. Once again the former World Poker Tour (WPT) Player of the Year (POY) remained professional and the words fell on deaf ears.
“There is nothing he said that really bothered me…I don’t remember him needling me…but he does like to shout out my surname a lot, but that’s all good fun, and he’s a good friend.”
When Frankenberger switched careers and moved over to poker from his position in Wall Street, he cleaned house. There is nobody, in the modern era, who walked into our game and took every title the way that Frankenberger did. He must of thought this game was easy, but what’s his opinion now the flips are falling on the other side of the felt?
“2013 has definitely been a tough year for me. I have bubbled close to $100k in tournaments this year, and it gets to you mentally. I am fortunate that I had a great run at the start of my career and that’s why I had the confidence to continue to play this game.
“My decision to leave Wall Street was independent to my decision to play poker. I was ready for a new challenge and it wasn’t until a year later that I started playing poker. Everyone knows that tournament poker is tough, and a grind, but I have been making consistent deep runs; I just haven’t won the flips to get to the next level. I am something like 3/20 at this years WSOP, which is pretty gross. That eats away at your confidence and you start trying to avoid flips, which is the wrong way of thinking, but happens.”
You can condense the year that Frankenberger has had down to one hand. A hand that still bothers Frankenberger when we begin to talk about it. It’s the money bubble period at the WPT World Championships and Frankenberger gets it in good against Amir Babakhani, in a hand that would have propelled Frankenberger to the top of the chip count with 16-players remaining.
With blinds at 6k/12k 2kA, Babakhani opened to 27k in mid-position, Frankenberger three-bet to 77k and Babakhani called. The flop was [Js] [8d] [7c], Babakhani bet 100k, Frankenberger moved all-in and Babakhani made the call. It was [As] [7s] for just a pair of sevens for Babakhani and pocket queens for Frankenberger. So far so good – that was until the dealer put the [Ah] on the board to reward the man who had made the crucial mistake. Frankenberger was eliminated not long after when his TT hit a set against the AJ of Sam Goldman – on a QT8 flop – only for the king on the turn to hand Goldman Broadway and send Frankenberger spinning from the competition.
“The bad beats, and tough years, are an important part of the game. Fortunately, I have never had a poor year as such. It’s good to keep some realistic expectations and makes you appreciate the deep runs in tournaments, because they are very difficult to do.”
Frankenberger tells me that he still loves the game and never questions his decision to turn poker into his new career. I believe him. But I can also see that the nasty weather that poker has made him endure, this year, is having an effect. His mojo is missing, but as everyone in poker knows, it only takes one result to get it back; and with Andy Frankenberger you just know that one result is just sitting around the corner waiting for him to turn, bend down and pick it up.