Lee Davy sits down with Kenny Hallaert to talk about his amazing run in the world-record breaking Colossus.
The 46th Annual World Series of Poker (WSOP) will always be remembered as the time the greatest poker festival in the world opened the gates up to the masses. They walked through in their droves.
22,374 entries created a $11,187,000 prize pool, and Kenny Hallaert somehow managed to find his way to the final table. Anyone who has played live tournament poker will understand how difficult that feat was. It was the equivalent of falling into a vat of thumbs and coming out sucking on a Double D breast.
The brilliant Belgian finished in fifth place. He earned $182,348. It was the second largest score of his career, but most importantly, it came in a $565 buy-in event.
So how did he do it?
Let’s find out shall we.
Kenny, tell us about your Colossus run?
“It was a long grind. I played the first flight and busted in the 10th level. I immediately bought back into the second flight. So in total I played 20-levels of 40-minutes, so I was a little bit tired. It was nice to have the Saturday off.
“Day 2 went pretty well. I grinded it up, the bubble went very fast, and everything was organized, and run, extremely well by the WSOP. I ended the day with 300-400k, which was above average. There was still 400+ players left.
“Day 3 started well. I grinded my stack to 1 million without playing big pots. At that point I had a feeling that I might make a run in this tournament. I was playing well, and the field still contained a lot of recreational players whom I thought I had an advantage over.
‘Then I started losing pots and dropped down to 10bb. Before the end of Day 3 I doubled up a few times, ending the day with 3 million, and 40 players left. I was excited to make it to the final 40-players of such a huge tournament, as it was the final 0.5% of the field. But I was also aware that most of the money was going to be won at the final table.
‘I tried not to think about the money. I played one hand at a time and tried to make the best plays. I wasn’t stressed. I had final table experience, which was an advantage against some of the other players. There were still players making huge mistakes on Day 4. I thought it might be because they were all tired.
“I got short again – down to 10bb – and then doubled up twice in a row. Then I lost a flip for the chip lead, but still had just below average. Then I doubled again, when I didn’t have the best hand. This happened three times, when I was all-in for my tournament life without the best hand. I doubled up twice and chopped AT v AQ.
“You have to run well to get that deep. I never ran into a cooler. If I had queens they always had AK or jacks. Otherwise, you can’t get that far in a tournament. Then we were down to 10 players I had slightly under average. I doubled up again JJ v AJ and this brought me to second place at the final table.
“When you start second in chips your hopes are high. I was really happy to be at the final table. I still didn’t think about the money. I made sure I was well prepared. I asked Steven van Zadelhoff and Jorryt van Hoof to sit on the rail and watch the stream. They took notes. During the breaks, or during hands, I walked over to them and they helped me out. Unfortunately, at the final table the showdowns weren’t in my favor and I finished in fifth place. I have since watched the stream, and the most important thing for me is that I didn’t make any mistakes. I cashed for $182k in a $565 buy-in so you are talking to a very happy person at the moment.”
Was there anyone in particular that you kept up to date as you were going deeper?
“I didn’t look at my phone that much. I sent very few tweets. The guys I share a house with, and I, have a Whatsapp stream. I updated that on occasion, but I didn’t update specific people because I wanted to concentrate on my game. They could also follow it on the live stream. If you are on your phone you could miss a lot of important information. I do appreciate the support I got. It was a warm feeling for me.”
How does the money change things for you at this moment?
“It doesn’t change a lot. $185k is a nice prize, I might change some of the events I planned to play at the WSOP, but I won’t go overboard. I will continue to play, do some fun stuff, and invest. I will use the money wisely, but not do crazy stuff with it.”
How difficult is it to stay in the game?
“I have played for more than 10-years. I have seen a lot of people come and go. You have to have a good mindset first of all. I am not the best poker player in the world, but I have a very good mindset, and good bankroll management. I am a bit of a nit like that. Even when I get a bad beat I get over it quickly. I rarely tilt. Those are important things to make sure you have under control. I have seen a lot of players who are way better than me, but they don’t have the right bankroll management skills to survive in tournaments.”
Do you have a specific investment strategy?
“Not really. I will put some away, not sure exactly how much? I am still here for more than a month. So let’s see where I stand at the end of the series? I may brick every other tournament. At the end of the year I will take a look. What ever happens in the next few months, it’s already a great year. I will invest a decent part of it, but not a fixed percentage.”
Do you have a plan for retirement?
“I worked as an electrician before poker. I started playing in 2005. I was still working then. I quit my job in 2008 and started working for a casino, and still do. I am a Tournament Director (TD). I also work for a sports betting website. When I started playing poker I said if I can continue doing this for 4-5 years it will be good. I am still doing it. If I ever have to go back to work in a normal job I will. The dream is to do this as long as possible, and put enough money aside so I don’t have to work anymore.
“I have a certain percentage of money set aside for the future, so when I retire I can enjoy life for a certain amount of time. But we will see what the future brings, and how much more I can invest. If I win a WSOP or EPT event who knows? Not everyone can win a huge tournament, lets hope I am one of them.”
Do you love playing poker?
“Poker started as a hobby for me, and it slowly became a passion. It’s a dream to be able to play poker professionally. I have the same dedication whether I am playing a $10 or $10,000 game. That’s the key to becoming a pro player; you have to enjoy the game. Once that stops it’s difficult to keep playing your very best. If you start hating it then you need to stop playing and find something else to do.”
“It’s important for me to have other income streams. It helps me clear my head and work on other things such as the TD job and sports betting website. I always enjoy looking forward to directing a tournament, and when it’s done I look forward to playing poker again. As long as I keep enjoying poker I will continue to play.”