NoflopsHomer: First of all Arnaud, please tell us a little about yourself.
Arnaud Mattern: I am 28, I was born in Paris, and I've been living in London for more than a year. I've been playing poker for 3 years.
NF: Congratulations on winning EPT Prague, how does it feel to be up there in esteemed company as an EPT Winner?
AM: Thanks, it feels great. Thanks to Thomas Kremser, the EPT tournaments offer a great structure and fast dealers. I feel that there is a lot of prestige in these tournaments.
NF: Any big plans for the money?
AM: I'm probably going to take a few shots at higher limits, but, other than that, I don't need anything in particular; I like to travel the tournament circuit, meet my friends abroad, and to have a good time in general. Even if it's not free, you don't need a lot of money to do that. Oh, and I'm gonna have lots of Mojitos too...
NF: You came to the final second in chips, was it a difficult path to navigate through the five hundred other players to make it there and how tough did the standard of play tend to be?
AM: Day one was good, I had a good table with unexperienced players, and an overly aggressive Scandinavian player to my direct left. So, I basically played a lot of small pots versus the unseasoned players, and I tangled against the Scandie player and managed to get a lot of his chips. Day one is the only one where you can play deep stack poker and use your skills post-flop to hurt the other players. I also was fortunate to have Kate at my table, the fastest dealer in the west (!) and was probably playing between 30 and 35 hands per hour. I then made a stupid mistake in a blind battle at the end of the day, and finished with 31k (average was 27k).
Day 2 was really card dead for me, I made a couple of lay-downs, and finally got my double up with K-K. People seemed to be more experienced, but still made huge mistakes, and were tilting a lot, thus spewing a lot of chips in the process.
Day 3 was very good, I managed to slowly build up my stack. Still, people were making huge mistakes about the hand ranges they should have played, and some of the big stacks were not aware of their image, or completely ignoring the flow of the table. I got moved to another table, and the good news were that the game was going to be short-handed (6 handed and then 5 handed). I once again got a chips delivery by a player not paying a lot of attention to positional play and risk/reward ratios. Finally, I played a few hands post-flop and hit some flops, and finished the day at 980k, slightly behind the chip leader. I was ready to come back for the final table.
I'd say that the final table was tougher, especially with Juha Lauttmaas and Kristian Kjondal (right), and both of them respectively to my left!
NF: This was one of the EPT's that was not actually filmed, which lead to a pretty tense atmosphere and a vociferous crowd. Would've you have preferred to have played on a televised table, or do you find that they can slow things down and break players' concentration as hands are dealt slower?
AM: Well, I would have loved to do a televised final table, as people appear to play differently when they're being filmed, they usually don't want to "be ridiculous" or get "caught red-handed" doing something stupid, so I guess you can use this to your advantage. But the atmosphere was nice and lively, so I liked it. French supporters were on monkey tilt, and my ears still hurt... (thanks to them again!)
NF: Very early on, you won an absolutely huge pot with Kings against the then chip leader, Mikael Norinder who held A-Q, what were you feeling during the hand, and did the fact you then had more than twice as many chips as anyone else change your game plan in any way?
AM: If there was one time in my life where I didn't want to see an ace, it was this one...The big stack allowed me to steal more chips and put pressure on the rest of the table for a while. Then Juha Lauttmaas got short (20bb), Markus Golser and Nedzib Suman too, so I had to become a bit more careful with the gear I was using, and I picked up my spots more carefully.
NF: Later on in the final, you had an interesting hand with Juha Lauttmaas, who was to your left and had become the chip leader. He had re-raised your button raise and you flat-called, he then check-folded to a very small bet from yourself on a Q-T-9 board. Were you surprised he gave up this pot so easily, or do you think he just assumed you had a very strong hand?
AM: The big picture is more interesting than the actual pattern of the hand, in my opinion. Juha Lauttmaas and Kristian Kjondal were both to my left, and were the ones I considered to be my toughest opponents at the table. So, when people fight back, there are two ways to deal with it : either you let it go, and slow down, either you make a clear stand. I chose the second option. Most players would elect to do it with a pre-flop 4 bet, or a big raise somewhere in a hand. The way you do it is not very important, the pre-flop call showed that I was sticky and that it probably would be the case for the rest of the day...The small bet on the flop confused him, and put him out of his comfort zone (10% of the tournament chips were in the middle...).I lost a coin-flip against Juha Lauttmaas (T-T versus K-Q) for nearly 900k a few hands before, so I think it was time to psychologically take back the lead from him. Winning a 3-bet pot by betting a fifth of the pot in position just did it subtly.
NF: Up until it went three-handed, you tended to play fairly conservatively compared to the other players, is this your natural game or was it simply a reaction to how the rest of the table was playing?
AM: I like to bully when I can, but I don't think that the stack sizes, and the position of particular players allowed me to do so in the 6 to 3 handed phases. So, I decided to favour a more conservative approach.
NF: Short-handed, you had a number of tussles with Kristian Kjondal which tended to favour whoever had position, was he your toughest opponent on the table?
AM: Kristian Kjondal was without a doubt my toughest opponent at the table. His play was well balanced, and his pre-flop and post-flop skills didn't show any leaks. He also had excellent composure. 3 handed, he had position 2 hands out of 3, and on top of playing great, he hit many flops. I decided to focus on playing lots of hands against Gino Alacqua in position.
NF: Heads-up, you were at a significant chip disadvantage but managed to get a big double-up with Jacks against A-9, how tough was it to fight back from what was nearly at one point a 3:1 deficit?
AM: I had 1.4 million chips (out of the 5.5 million in play), and Gino Alacqua began to hit a lot of flops, but as strange as it may sound, after his rush I still had 1.4 million chips remaining. I guess I ground out a lot of small pots, and proceeded to value bet pretty thin for large amounts. Then the first big hand came up, when I re-raised all-in with Jacks, and Gino made the call with A-9. Surprisingly, it held up, and I was then ahead in chips. A little bit more grind, I went up to more than 3 million, then the final hand was about to happen.
NF: The very final hand against Gino Alacqua must have put you through all the ranges of emotions?
AM: I could feel Gino was getting a bit tired, I made a pretty solid raise with A-K, and Gino re-raised all in for just under 40bb with Q-T of diamonds, I quickly called. The flop brought J-x-x with two diamonds. I had the ace of diamonds (just in case...).Turn brought a king...bah, a little sweat is not that bad. The river was the most beautiful brick I've ever seen : A little black, crappy deuce of clubs. It was over.
NF: You received a lot of vocal support from the French players watching, particularly your good friend Nicolas Levi, how long have you two known each other?
AM: I met Nicolas Levi five years ago in Paris in a bar. I was already playing Backgammon and Poker. He asked me to teach him how to play Backgammon, but gave up after a month or so. He said, “Ok, forget it, I want to try that poker thing.” I gave him a few books to start, he started to play on-line, and three months later, he played already as well as me. In my whole life I never saw someone learn that fast. After three or four months of grinding, he built a bankroll, and we were playing the same stakes. We played the 100$ and 200$ sit'n'gos at the same period, most of the time 8 tabling. We brainstormed all the time, and we improved very fast.
Every time one of us had problems, or was running bad, or was making mistakes, the other one was here not only to support him, but also to correct the bad decisions : “Here you played too tight, here too loose, this is blatant tilt etc.”
I learned a lot, I think he learned a lot too, and it also kept us out of trouble, or situations where we could have lost it all. Beyond the solid friendship that we share, I don't think we would be 'here' if we wouldn't have worked as a team. Our experiences, tournament trip reports, and even cool pictures (!) can be found on our blog: www.teamrobusto.com.
NF: Before you played this event, your previous biggest tournament win was the Gutshot Masters for around $51,000. Are you more concerned with concentrating on playing tournaments or cash games? Or are you happy to mix with both?
AM: I like Champagne and soda, blondes and brunettes...Same goes with poker, skills needed for tournament play are so different from skills needed for cash games; I just love both, and I'm going to spend my time playing both.
NF: As a Frenchman, how do you do see the problem that poker has had in France with the cancellation of EPT Deauville and the WPT leaving the Grand Prix de Paris?
AM: I really hope that Europe will find a solution regarding the legislation of poker.
NF: Every country is now seeing it's internet-age players start to take the stage in live tournaments, we already know about the countless Americans and Scandinavians, but do you know of any up-and-coming French players that are ready to take over?
AM: I recently joined Team Winamax, and I have to say that I am honoured to travel and play with them. All of the players are great, the atmosphere is great fun, and I guess the results from the last 3 months speak for themselves.
I'd bet that: Nicolas Levi 'Crocmonsieur', Ludovic Lacay 'SirCuts', Guillaume 'Johny001' De la Gorce , Anthony Lellouche, Anthony 'Tall' Roux , Alexia 'Nechee Girl' Portal, and Almira Skripchenko are going to do noticeable results in the poker tournament circuit. And I don't bet on the wrong side very often...
NF: And finally, what are your plans for 2008?
AM: Relax, enjoy life, and also play all the EPTs and some of the WSOP events...