Over the past 12 months few players have been as consistent as Daniel Neilson. From Campbeltown in Sydney’s south-west, Daniel has amassed a live tournament resume which compares favourably to the very best of Australian tourney grinders.
His biggest cash to date came last year when he took out the Sydney ANZPT High Rollers Tournament for a cool $100k but most recently Daniel placed 4th in the Aussie Millions 6-max Event and 5th in the ANZPT Adelaide Main Event.
If poker doesn’t work out for Daniel, he is also an aspiring pinball hustler, and is currently seeking new suckers ... errrr, challengers to take on.
So Daniel, how did you get started playing poker?
Towards the end of high school a friend and I decided to start playing this poker game he saw on TV. He printed off the rules and we began playing Limit Holdem. After a few hours we realised how boring the game was and gave up. Eventually we moved on to 10c/20c NLHE. We also played the odd SNG before we all moved on to pub poker. Soon enough I deposited $50 online, lost that and spent an hour reading up on the game. After 1 hour of study I felt like a pro, deposited $300 and proceeded to turn that into my bankroll.
Thanks to your long list of good results, most people probably know you as a tournament player, but you were actually a pretty good mid stakes NL cash game player before that? What was behind your decision to play more tournaments, and do you think your cash game background helped you make the transition?
I decided to play a few live tournaments because I was sick of sitting at home in front of my computer all day. I thought playing some tournaments would be a good excuse to get out and socialise. After playing a few I realised it was a good excuse to do a bit of travelling as well.
At first I thought that cash game players were much better (and I was basically right), but there is definitely a lot of adjustments to make. At first I had no idea how to play less than a 30bb stack and really struggled in that very common area of tournament poker. I was also very cocky and wanted to win every pot which just doesn’t work in tournaments.
You had a very successful 2009, including a deep run in the Main Event at the WSOP. Can you tell us a little bit about what that was like for you? What were your impressions of your first trip to Vegas, and any advice to players venturing over for the first time in 2010?
Heading over to Vegas was a great experience. I loved the nightlife and the whole atmosphere of the place. It was also really exciting to play the WSOP at the Rio, where I’d watched all the TV pros play before. But at the end of the day it was just another tournament (albeit one with $10 million for first) so I took it one day at a time, like any other tournament.
I’m very realistic about what to expect playing tournaments, but I did start to get pretty excited when I was moved to the feature table half way through Day 6 alongside Peter Eastgate, Dennis Phillips, JC Tran and Joe Hachem. Being in the top 100 you start to think of what could be, but in the end I busted in 73rd place.
My advice to players heading over is to get there early and experience Vegas before the tournament. It really helped that I had been there for 6 weeks and was getting sick of the place. As such I was able to just go and play each day.
You and I formed a pretty formidable Beer Pong team over in Vegas. In all likelihood we could have gone pro, but our respective careers got in the way. Being a part of that team, and watching my clutch shooting must have been a highlight for you?
Beer Pong was a big highlight. There’s nothing better than drinking cheap beer from a dirty cup that’s just had an equally dirty ping pong ball in it which has been touched by hundreds of dirty college kid’s hands. Seriously though, I’m not sure why the game hasn’t taken off in Australia but when it does, watch out! I don’t recall many of your clutch shots, but since you made me drink nearly all the beer it’s possible I was slightly drunk. In any case it was nice having you on the team. It’s nice being around people who look up to me.
I know that you have been a regular on the ANZPT and APPT tours for the past year. Are you one of those guys who sits in his hotel room playing online poker, or do you like getting out and taking advantage of your travels?
When I travel I play almost zero online poker. I love the whole travel aspect and especially now that PokerStars have started offering touristy type adventures at each of the stops for online qualifiers. In Adelaide I visited some wineries and in Perth I swam with dolphins. Last year in Queenstown we went bungy jumping and to the snow, so for me that’s the best part of being able to travel to these live events.
I’ve watched you play in a lot of tournaments, and the one thing above all else that I’ve noticed is that you never really show any emotion at the table? What’s up with that?
It’s not that I don’t care, but at the end of the day I’m a realist and know if I enter a tournament with 200 or 8,000 people, I’m going to lose most of the time. I know that my AA is going to get beat by 77 20% of the time, so when it happens you just have to move on.
Playing online also helps because you have played so many hands, and have seen everything. I’ve lost hands as a 99% favourite before, and I will again. So long as you play your best and make good decisions you should be happy.
On the other side of the equation, if you win a big pot that means someone just lost a big pot. They don’t want to see you jumping around yelling and carrying on. So unless it’s someone I don’t like I just stack the chips and move on to the next hand.
I really want to increase the number of hands I play when I’m at home. Over the last year I’ve become lazier and I’m looking to change that. I set myself some goals at the start of the year, but with the travel it’s been hard to keep up. I also want to head back to Macau and Vegas as well as play all the ANZPT and APPT tournaments.
Which Australian poker player would you least like to be trapped on a deserted island with and why?
Mark Vos. I love the guy, but being stuck on an island with him for weeks would drive anyone insane.