Ari Engel is one of the busiest players in poker today. He has nearly $2 million in tournament earnings and is on the road playing nearing constantly. Engel stepped away from the tables for a few moments to shed some light on why he travels so much and what the World Series of Poker could do to help players.
You’re certainly one of the most active travelers on the tournament circuit today. What is it in particular that drives you or inspires you to seek out the tournament glory?
“Well I used to play only online before Black Friday – like 90% of my play. After Black Friday I decided it didn’t make much sense to live in Vegas anymore. So I rented a couple different places, I found myself traveling a fair amount and myself paying double expenses with rent, cars and insurance. So I decided I’d just give up the rent and the car for a couple of months and go on the road and not have fixed expenses – just the hotel, car and things like that – now its been three years. I don’t know, I need somewhere to stay, a place to sleep at night so I might as well schedule it around a tournament and that’s when I show up.”
What kind of factors go into determining what your next step, is it the prizepool, the field, the location, or a little bit of all those things?
“Definitely how soft i think the field will be, how expensive it will be to get there, how much rooms cost and the location – certain locations are a little more exciting than others.”
At any point in the last few years has the thought crossed your mind about finding one place to live, like Florida or California, where there’s a constant stream of tournaments or does traveling and going to all these different stops still seem more appealing?
“Definitely, I’ve set up shop in Toronto a couple of times since Black Friday and realistically, it would probably be outside the US so I could play on PokerStars. Yeah, that crosses my mind all the time. It’s probably not a good decision in the long run for someone to travel and play small buy-in, live tournaments. I view it after seven or eight years of playing full time online, I’m doing a couple of years of live, but still mixing in a fair amount of online. It’s very, very difficult to not primarily play online if you want to make money.”
Are your plans for the summer pretty set in stone? If so, are they more WSOP heavy or are there tournaments all around Vegas?
“Definitely not set in stone, I guess tomorrow I would know. I’m in Day 2 of this ($5,000 No Limit Hold’em), but if not, for sure the Colossus. For sure the colossal I would play. I mean, I just wake up each morning and I decide what I’m going to do. I’m going to be playing a lot. It’ll be something each day, but I’m just not sure what.”
A couple of weeks ago you and a few others were talking about introducing chops in bracelet events and there was some push back from WSOP officials. Why do you feel it’s so important that players are given that option when they make final tables at the World Series?
“It’s important because it’s very likely that players are going to get scammed. The reason why I say that is, because I personally have gotten scammed in a deal like that. Where I made a deal, not in WSOP, but at a casino where it wasn’t facilitated. The person backed out and I got screwed. So I definitely think that’s a big issue. I think when it comes to WSOP events, they should be broken down into three tiers. There is non-bracelet events, there’s bracelet events and then there’s televised events. When it comes to non-bracelet events, I can’t see any argument why they (chops) shouldn’t be facilitated. Even bracelet events that aren’t televised I don’t see why they shouldn’t be facilitated.”
“I can definitely understand regarding televised events and their thought process. I still don’t agree with it, because some of the best TV comes from these chop negotiations. A couple of years ago there was a really famous one with Scott Seiver and Doc Sands, and it’s some of the best TV. Firstly, chops are real poker – that’s what happens and that’s real entertainment. It would be amazing for ESPN to show it and explain. I think it would be really entertaining and if they did it the same way the EPT does, where you force people to still leave money on the table. You’re still going to be playing for tons of money. Forcing them to play, like last year (2014 WSOP Main Event), a $5 million dollar heads-up sit and go. I don’t really think that makes a lot of sense but I think what ends up a lot of times happening is a back room deal happen anyway.”
In making some of those deals, you see a different side of these personalities. You get to learn a little bit more about the players.
“Yeah, and that’s what they want. They want the young online players to have more stories. It’s another way to help develop it. Chop negotiations are really intense and also can get heated. It’s very good reality TV. It’s really dramatic, I think the idea that it would make the tournament non-dramatic for TV and take away all the excitement – I strongly disagree with that.”
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