Amidst the hype about young players heading to the World Series of Poker for the first time, there was a name which in my opinion perhaps slipped through the net a bit. I was surprised that a player who has chopped the Sunday Million less than half a year ago, and enjoyed several EPT cashes last season (including a side event title in Malta) wasn’t included as potential ones to watch. Young British grinder Ben Heath enjoyed a “pretty full schedule” in Vegas according to him, and he spoke with Backdoor Quads about the experience.
“It was different to how I expected it to be!” said Heath, when I asked him how his first WSOP was. “You get so tired at some points. It’s so full on getting up every day and just grinding, and then as soon as you bust you go and play cash, or jump in another tournament. Doing that for 20 days in a row without a day off just gets so tiring.”
Chopping the Sunday Million
Heath is an experienced online player, regularly playing 100-200NL Zoom online, and chopping the Sunday Million in March for just under $170,000.
“One of my goals for the year was to final table a Sunday major, just any Sunday major really. So chopping the Million was pretty epic. I was in a hotel in Jersey at the time, and we started the session at 11am and as we went deeper we just kept on ordering espressos to the room. Suddenly it’s 8am and there are 3 of us in the Sunday Million. So when we finally chopped it was coming up for 9am and I was just so tired”
Ben started playing poker just like a lot of young British pros: at college and university. He also credits fellow young British pro Charlie Carrell for helping his game. With the two of them sharing a flat, that must have been one of the most talented student dorm rooms in the world!
“I used to just play small home games with friends maybe once every few months, and I was pretty awful.” He laughed at the memory of being bad at poker. “I was playing $7 and $15 SNGs through university just to have money at university, but it wasn’t as if I was actually learning them. I didn’t research any theory or anything, it was just to get money”
“I had a lot of time after university, so was playing MTTs on and off because I didn’t have too much work. I then moved in with Charlie Carrell. At that time I was playing 10NL and $10-20 tournaments. He started to teach me how to play and since then it’s gone a lot better”
‘Gone a lot better’ is an understatement. Ben’s Hendon Mob page is littered with European Poker Tour cashes, and more recently three World Series cashes, including a final table in Event 51: $3,000 NLHE Six-Handed.
“I actually had a list of aims for the year which I wrote down in January, and one of them was actually to final table a WSOP event, which was a very ambitious goal! I busted maybe my first 12 or 13 tournaments, so to get that first cash and then the final table was incredible”
“Vegas and the WSOP takes some getting used to because it’s just so different over there. The regs and the recreational players both play so different to Europe that it took a while, perhaps the first five or six tournaments were just write-offs and I didn’t feel like I was doing the right stuff.”
When you’re not playing your best poker it’s always good to ask fellow players for advice. Luckily, Ben had a couple of outstanding ones to turn to and ask. Former Main Event Champion Greg Merson as well as High Roller regular Tony Gregg.
“With Tony and Greg it was easy to go back and fix these problems quite quickly. In hindsight it was really good that we had people who had done it all before. If I had gone out there with a bunch of people who hadn’t been, we would have gotten a lot more stuff wrong!”
European Poker Tour success
His success at the WSOP came off the back of a strong showing in his first full season of the European Poker Tour, which started with a cash in a Barcelona side event, and culminated in winning a $1,100 side event in Malta for €58,093.
“It was incredible. One of my aims at the start of the year was to final table an EPT side event as well as a WSOP side event. I think I was 3rd or 4th going into the final table. When you start a final table, a lot of people say they that think they’re going to win it. I don’t feel like that. I have played enough MTTs to know that sometimes things just don’t go your way.”
“It was fun because I was playing cash with a guy the day of the event, and we were joking saying “See you at the final table!” Even at the final table we were joking “See you heads-up!” And he ended up coming second! It was really good experience. It’s nice, all my live events that thing where you think to yourself “could I have done anything differently?” and it’s nice to not have that with this one”
Grand Final €25k High Roller
At the Grand Final in Monte Carlo Ben went one step further, racking up what at the time was his second highest live cash in the €25k High Roller.
“I was unhappy at the time because I made a big mistake against Tony Gregg when there were 40 left and 31 paid. That crippled me on the bubble, and in a tournament where the other players are of such a high calibre you just can’t do that. So I ended up getting blinded down and then didn’t give myself a real shot to win it, once the bubble burst. But I have to say it’s one of the few tournaments personally where min-cashing feels really good!”
And who I hear you ask ended up winning that €25k High Roller? None other than Ben’s close friend Charlie Carrell.
“That was incredible. It was such a fun day. I was playing another event at the time, every now and again going and watching him play. And he was still in! Going deeper and deeper. It was so good for him he’s been crushing everything since.”
“Charlie’s on another level to anyone I’ve ever spoken to. If you watch him play and sweat any of his sessions it’s just stuff you can sort of understand, but only if he goes over it.”
I asked Ben what he felt the future held for him. Whether he sees himself as an online grinder, or a regular on circuits such as the EPT and at the WSOP.
“I feel quite competitive with the online stuff. I don’t really want to stop playing cash until I’ve beaten 2-5 Zoom. I’m still going to go to every EPT stop and then once that’s done I don’t know. The thing is when you play live, you go and play 100 hands. If you bust in the first few hours you might have one or two spots to talk about and then you’re done for the day. I like the fact that online you can play 10k hands and just have so much to do afterwards. I feel like even if that’s not where the most money is, I’m not going to stop playing zoom.
Ben seems a very goal-orientated player; driven by goals and striving to conquer the next level of Zoom cash poker. So I asked him what he felt his ultimate goal in poker would be.
“I don’t like the idea of having an ultimate goal because they always feel like something you’d love to do but might not happen too often. That’s why I said final table an EPT side event. It’s quite realistic really when you’re playing 9 events at each stop. My future goals I think will be pretty similar I think: final table another one by the end of the year I think.”
And with Ben planning on hitting all of the stops on the EPT, that goal seems thoroughly achievable.