Lee Davy takes a seat with Michael ‘The Grinder’ Mizrachi at 888Live Barcelona to talk about his relationship with the online poker room, fatherhood and hustling.
When I arrive at the Casino Barcelona for 888Live, Michael Mizrachi is one of the first people I see. The Grinder has been around for a very long time, and only 18 other people in the world have won more money than him playing live tournament poker.
I would pitch him in the old-school bracket.
“Don’t ask me, I don’t understand any of these abbreviations,” Mizrachi replies.
I get the distinct impression he thinks it’s the name of a PlayStation game, but, then again, I don’t believe he’s the video game type.
It doesn’t matter where I am in the world, Mizrachi always has his name on the guest list.
“It’s all about character,” Mizrachi tells me in between knuckle clicks. “I’m a good person; humble and respectful. I’ve had a lot of sponsorships in the past. When you are hot everyone wants you, but when you’re cold you have to put the work in, but that’s cool – I’m a hustler, and sometimes you have to hustle to get the gig.”
And here he is representing 888Poker. I’m not sure how much he had to hustle, but he arrives in Barcelona on somewhat of a heater.
“I have been spending a lot of time in Florida where I went on a heater. I came 8th in a $360 buy-in with 3,000+ players. I played the $15k WPT Championship and came second. Then I said, ‘screw it let’s play a $130 buy-in’, and I won that beating over 1.800 players. I came 10th in the $1k and then won a charity event with 300 players. So I am coming into this one on a good run.”
Mizrachi isn’t affiliated with 888Poker as a brand ambassador in the same way Dominik Nitsche and Chris Moorman are, but he isn’t here under his volition. I ask him about his arrangement with the online poker room.
“I play all the live festivals for them. I’m part of the team, and they are a good family. Everyone treats me like a King. I love Barcelona, London and Prague so why not – I’m coming.”
This is a very different Mizrachi to the one I last interviewed a year before. He has a fresh set of braces pushing his bottom pegs into place. His hair and beard look immaculate, and he is leaner and meaner than I have ever seen him.
What’s his secret?
“It’s not easy living the poker lifestyle: sitting down all day, eating crap, not being active. So I said, ‘screw this-I’m going to change my lifestyle’. There have been periods in my life where I have been active and then not so much – my weight going up and down. Now is the time to change that.
“I want to see my kids do the same thing, so I have to be a role model. My youngest son is nine, and he does jujitsu every day. He just won his first tournament. It was the best feeling ever, watching him – much better than winning a poker tournament.”
I wonder if the Grinder is one of those parents who stands on the sidelines living a failed sporting life vicariously through their children.
Slime in this ear.
Slime in that ear.
“I’m not like that. It’s two kids going at each other. I don’t want to see a kid get choked out while I’m screaming: ‘Kill him! Choke him out!”
Yeah, that would look bad, Mike.
“I had seen the other side of it when my kid was being choked out by the bigger kids. When he started fighting at his weight, he beat everyone. I like jujitsu, but am a little claustrophobic and don’t want people on top of me. I only do it for my kid. I prefer swimming.
“It’s a tough sport; anything can happen. You can break a hand or a leg if someone doesn’t tap out. It’s a little scary when your kids are doing it. I don’t mind getting hurt, but I don’t like seeing the kids getting hurt, but it’s a good sport.”
Mizrachi has been in the business for a long time. He is one of the dinosaurs that managed to avoid going under when the meteorite hit. I ask him how he manages to keep his game fresh after all these years?
“I play all the games, Hold’em isn’t the only game I play,” says Mizrachi. “If I could choose any game to play, then this is the last one I would play, especially in a cash game. The players are so much better in Hold’em so why not play the other games where yo can find softer spots. I enjoy Hold’em tournaments, but cash games are not as good as they used to be.”
I ask him how the game has changed over the years.
“I have a lot of experience. I have put a lot of work in these past 20 years, and I can use that experience against everyone – that’s my strong point. But I can’t be the aggressor anymore. Often, I am the one sitting back, and I can’t do anything because these guys will make the call. I’m known for making the big bluffs so I have to minimise a lot of things I used to do, but it’s working out well for me, lately.”
And how has HE changed?
“I have three kids now and with that comes maturity. I have won and lost a lot of money over the years. I have done a lot of growing up; I have been through a lot in the past 36 years but win or lose, I do it with a smile.
“Community is important to me, but I’m not going to let anyone put me down. I’m the Grinder. I do my own thing. I see people come and go. I see friends passing away, and others living an unhealthy lifestyle, and I don’t want that. I want to live a long life and be there for my children. I want the best for them – that’s the most important thing for me.”
With the WSOP just around the corner, I expect the new look Grinder to put in a decent shift. He always does well in the world’s premier event, and with a new fit and free attitude, we could see more bracelets.
I ask him about the recent changes, starting with the abolition of the November Nine.
“I agree with it, so there is no extra coaching, and you can get it over with right away. It sucks for someone who lives the other side of the world to fly to Vegas again and finish ninth, and they don’t see anything. It’s costly. It’s nice to get it over with. It was always like that, why change it?”
And the new Calling The Clock rule?
“I like the Action Clock. I am all for that and wish they had it at every event in tournament poker. I am tired of these robots wearing their stupid hoodies and glasses. I can’t take it anymore. They can’t play without their hoodies and glasses. Show yourself and stop hiding behind your hoodies and glasses.”
I hear you, Mike.
These kids can GTF.
Sorry, I forgot, no abbreviations.