Interview with Tom McEvoy(Page 2 of 3)
Was it not a big deal because you were making more money playing poker?
"It was really a relief because necessity is the mother of invention. I'd gone to Las Vegas six months before to play in the national table-tennis championships, and I spent more time on the poker tables than I did playing the matches. I picked up $1,000 in six days. My salary at the time was $18,000 a year, and the salary of the president of the company was around $50,000. I'd just picked up $1,000 in a week - you do the math. I was already chomping at the bit to go back to Las Vegas and give poker another try, so when I got fired I had some vacation pay and some severance pay. I said, 'Wife, I'm going to leave for a little while. I want to go out and give Vegas a try for about three weeks.' So I did and booked a nice win, so I wound up flying back and forth between Michigan and Vegas for a year. And, I knew this wasn't going to work because I had to pay all my expenses out in Vegas, plus maintaining the house and bills in Michigan. So, I told my wife, 'Look, this is something I have got to do, and the only way it's going to work is if I move to Las Vegas. We'll go out there and give it a try. If things don't work out, I'll go back to work as an accountant - everybody always needs accountants.' She was less than enthused to begin with, but she also knew I was making money playing poker. My parents thought I'd lost my sanity. Of course, it all worked out."
Writing poker books has become a huge side venture for all the pros now - is there really that much to say about poker?
"It's a pretty big topic, so it'll never be fully covered. People keep asking me if the game's changed, and I say, 'No, the game hasn't changed, but the players have changed. And, their approach to the game has changed.' You have to adjust and adapt to the new styles of play. Stu Unger was considered the ultimate super-aggressor of all time, and now he'd have a lot of competition if he were still alive. There are a lot of people playing that super-aggressive style - fearlessly putting in chips to put constant pressure on their opponents, risking going out early. You've got these internet players, in particular, who have changed the face of poker. They win their seats in big-buy-in events cheap, and they have nothing to lose. They're in there kind of recklessly and fearlessly. It changes the whole complexity of the game, and a lot of the time, top pros make big mistakes against the internet players. They try to run a bluff against someone who's just not going to be bluffed. But, if you know what you're doing and put your money in well against them, you've got a good chance to survive and prosper against them."
Do you have any criticisms of the books that are out now?
"Some of the books are written over their audience's heads - that would be specifically Sklansky and Malmuth. I still consider 'The Theory of Poker' one of the all-time important books, but it's not well written. It's basically, 'Look how smart I am.' They'll take poker problems out to four decimal places - it's absurd. To be successful at poker, you need about a fourth-grade math education; all you have to do is memorize a few things and deal with calculating approximate pot odds. Math is about 15 percent of the game. But, they put this big emphasis on math and write in such a technical, dull, dry fashion that it's difficult to pick this book up, read it and understand it. A lot of really intelligent people have had that problem. My books aren't literary masterpieces, but I can't tell you how many times people have said how easy it is to follow and read what I have to say. In my classic book with T.J. Cloutier, 'Championship No Limit and Pot Limit Hold 'Em,' we literally talked the book. We had dialogue in the book with me talking and T.J. talking. If we had a difference of opinion, we'd discuss it right in the book. Did I get a little criticism from the purists? Yeah. But, did the common man praise the book to the sky? You bet he did."
You were the first World Series Champ to win after buying in through a satellite - how did people look at it back then?
"That just spurred others to try to duplicate the feat. I have a big connection with Chris Moneymaker. I was the first satellite winner in 1983, and exactly 20 years later, he was the first internet satellite winner. He's also an accountant. I turned in my pencil when I moved to Vegas, but he actually kept his accounting job for a little while. I said to myself, 'This isn't going to last for six months.' And it didn't."
Did people get annoyed that you won without having to front the money?
"Not at all. I was a hero. One of my main places to play was the Golden Nugget. I'd been playing there since 1978 before I moved to Vegas. I was a regular, and people got to know me. The tournament took a lot longer than people anticipated; the heads-up portion is still a record - Rod Peter and I played more than seven hours head-to-head. When it was over, it was about 3 a.m., and I walked across the street to the Golden Nugget, where they were following the tournament. I just stood on the rail at the edge of the card room - now this is a busy, noisy card room - and you could hear a pin drop. All the sudden everybody - dealers, floor men, everybody - stood up and gave me a standing ovation. It was one of the most touching moments of my life."
Continued on Page 3
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