Posted at 09:00 2007-12-26


Cinderella Man

Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived in a house with 2 step sisters and a mean stepmother. Her name was Cinderella and she would dream of marrying a prince one day and living happily ever after.
What’s that you say you don’t believe in fairy tales? Okay let me try this one on you.

Once upon a time in Penrith, near Sydney Australia lived a 28 year old teacher who taught physical education. He had a wonderful wife named Sharon and was blessed with a 3 year old girl. In January 2007 he won a seat in the Aussie millions. It cost this teacher zero as he won his way in the event on a free roll tournament. After battling hard for 3 days he finished 89th and just missed out any prize money so no fairy tale for this young family man.
In June 2007 another child entered his life a baby boy a happy moment for all. In October he again dared to venture into the Crown Casino and take on 428 players in the inaugural Poker News Cup Main event. The poker gods were a lot kinder to him and he finished 3rd collecting over $131,000 in prize money.
A few months later in his hometown Sydney he joined 561 players who each paid $6,300 to try to win 1st prize in the inaugural Poker Stars APPT No limit Holdem. Was his achievement at Crown Casino a Fluke? After 5 days of battle Cinderella won one million dollars and became the first Australian ever to win such an amount in a poker tournament in the southern hemisphere. On his way the 28 year old had also won 2 x $320 tournaments online at Poker Stars. On 24th November with 270+ players he won 1st prize of over $21,000. A week later he played the same event with 330+ players and won again 1st prize of over $25,000.
The fairy tale was complete December 17th 2007 in the early hours he became the million dollar man.
Grant Levy a shooting star from nowhere.

After doing some background work I just had to catch up and interview this man and his unbelievable run over the last few months.
Croc; How long have you been playing poker and how did you get started?
Grant; I have mainly been playing poker previously for the last 2 years but mainly online with Pokerstars. With work and the family it’s not that easy to just get up and leave and going to play large poker events. I got into poker because I like my sporting days I love the competitiveness of Rugby League, touch football and NSW Athletics’ which I thrived at and competed at state levels. I injured my knee in my late teens and had to look for a competitive non physical activity and Poker satisfied that urgency. I have since grown to love the game. Croc; You don’t wear glasses or show much emotion at the poker table.
Grant; I kind of laugh at blokes who wear glasses or are in the middle of a big hand and they put on their glasses. I don’t wear them and I don’t think I need them. I enjoy playing poker and try hiding most of my emotions on the inside.
Croc; When there were 8 left you were short stacked; what went through your head?
Grant; At that stage it was costing 85k a round and all I had was 285k. I found a couple of playable hands and shoved it all in about 5 out of the next 7 hands to triple up basically without a show down.
Croc; When did you think you were going to win it?
Grant; I spoke with my wife Sharon at the dinner break when we got to 4 handed. I was short stack again and Sharon said “you are resilient so just keep playing your game don’t give up” The 3rd hand after dinner I went from 1.2 million to 2.6 million but nearly had a heart attack as my tournament life was on the line with A6 hearts all in against KQ clubs and the flop was AT both clubs and 7 hearts. Turn came a King thus he had more outs but I survived and from that moment I thought I had a fair chance to win at that point.
(For the record Grant was 56.5% favourite before the flop and very close to exactly the same price on the flop. The King on the turn made Grant 61.36% which held up.)

Croc; How did your wife feel before your victories about playing poker?
Grant; Sharon has always been incredibly supportive and we made a promise to each other after the Aussie Millions that I I try to play more of the larger tournaments as long as I still had ample time to spend with the family. It wasn’t easy as I had to get up early and teach and there were 3-4 days in the week when I had only few hours’ sleep before work (as I would be up until about 3 am playing online MTT’s. Reading books and playing many tournaments on Pokerstars on line to improve my game wasn’t easy, but it was a sacrifice I was happy to make.
Croc; Okay everyone wants to know how it feels to win $1 million?
Grant; It’s still all a dream it really hasn’t hit me yet. I know it’s an unreal achievement and I kind of hope that it sparks another poker boom in Sydney just like Joe Hachem’s win did to Australian poker and Crown Poker in 2005. The actual title was very important to me and the $$$ were great also.
Croc; What’s in store for Grant Levy and family in 2008? Grant; Obviously the Aussie Millions at Crown is a must. I am looking at 4-5 events and the main event. WSOP definitely but only thinking of going for the last 3 weeks as it would be too much time off work. As many APPT events that Poker Stars runs and promotes.
Croc; Do you feel pressure on you to perform now that the spotlight is on you with your current success?
Grant; Bloody oath I do as I have been flying under the radar prior to my 3rd at Crown Melbourne in the Pokernews Cup. Now everyone will know who I am and probably want to bust me pretty badly. Croc; In your short tournament career who has been your toughest opponent?
Grant; In the Crown Aussie millions in 2007 I was going along nicely and was chip leader at my table before they broke it up. I was moved to a table with some pretty huge stacks. Haralambos Voulgaris, the tournament chip leader at the time was on my immediate left and put pressure on me continuously. He was very difficult to play against, especially as I was a little inexperienced. Before I knew it my stash had vanished and I just missed out on the money finishing 89th.
Croc; Playing main events is very taxing on the body how do prepare yourself?
Grant; I try get a long sleep which isn’t always possible. Sharon is very supportive and lets me rest and gets up and makes me a big breakfast as she knows there will be no eating till dinner time. I also like getting to the Casino early to catch up with my friends and listen to my ipod.
Croc; What piece of advice would you give to up and coming players with less experience?
Grant; Stay within your bankroll and don’t put yourself under money pressure. Don’t put up the cash if you can’t afford it. Start small and work your way up.
Croc; Do you play any other poker games?
Grant; I love playing Omaha Hi Lo and I won a Razz tournament once.
Croc; On a more humorous note I hear you coach Sam Khouiss’ son Shane at Rugby League, so has Sam coached you?
Grant; We have never discussed poker strategies or how to play different hands. The only thing he has said to me is to maintain aggression on final tables
Croc; Sam has had a a nice juicy piece of you on your last 2 main events will he be getting 30% or more in the Aussie Millions?
Grant; Ideally I will have 100% of my action, however that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t swap a % which seems a better deal all round.
Grant it’s been an absolute pleasure talking with you and if you are as good a poker player as you are a gentleman I will have my work cut out when we cross paths across the felt. All the best Grant and you are definitely not flying under the radar any more.
So there you have a fairy tale complete. Will there be a sequel to Cinderella Man? Only time will tell.
One thing is crystal clear to me; if you have a passion for what you do anything is possible. With dedication and passion Grant made his fairy tale a reality.
To all the poker players all the best in 2008 and may the poker gods be with all the Aussies in 2008 and hopefully an Aussie finally takes out the big one at Crown.

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