If you play the tournament circuit around Asia then you most likely would have noticed Gordon Huntly. Not just because there are so few tall, heavily accented Scottish players out here, but also because he consistently seems to run deep in each event he plays.
Over the last six months Huntly’s focus on poker looks to have intensified. He’s playing more tournaments in Europe and is hungrier for results than ever. And the effort now appears to be paying off handsomely. On Sunday March 25, Huntly took down the ANZPT Sydney title for AUD $191,780 (post deal). It’s his biggest cash to date and represents yet another reason why he’ll stick out from the field in Asia.
It’s great to see one of the tournament regulars here snap up a prestigious title so Poker Portal Asia hunted down the Scotsman just days after he arrived back in his home city of Bangkok. Here’s what he had to say when we called him up…
I’m still on Sydney time so I actually got up quite early, a bit unusual for me. I was up cleaning and then I was off to the gym trying to get the body working again after long flights and sitting at a poker table for four days. Then I was just trying to get organised to book some flights for Manila. And I’m going on a holiday next week.
A much deserved holiday, I’m guessing?
Actually I already had it planned but I guess I’m doubly looking forward to it now. I’m going to Whistler snowboarding. We were there for Christmas and New Years as well and it was absolutely wonderful. I don’t get back from there till about the 19th so I’ve booked the Manila flight to get there for Day 1B of the APT Main Event.
So how did you end up living in Bangkok?
I have been in Asia for over 20 years. I came out here at the end of 1988 and I was in Hong Kong for eight years. And then I went to New York for work for three years and I came back here with the same company in Thailand and did five years of that.
And you only started playing No Limit Hold’em poker in May 2009, according to your poker resume you kindly emailed over to me…
They say you can take the man out of corporate…
So it was all just corporate life before poker?
Very much so. But one of the great things is that it involved an incredible amount of travel and meeting people, which as you know is not that dissimilar from the poker life.
And less than a year after you started playing you scored a huge USD $166k runner-up finish in the PAGCOR Chairman’s Cup. Did you think that the game was easy at that stage?
That’s a great question. I don’t think so. I also made a Macau Poker Cup final table and you know how difficult that is. Yeah, I guess it was relatively difficult at the time. I didn’t know very much. I guess you play on your innate skills and intuition so I think at that stage I just felt kind of normal. By the time I got to Manila for the Chairman’s Cup I was studying the depth of the game as I was going. What brought me into it in the first place was studying the scope and scale of it, which I had no idea about prior. But, by the time I got to Manila, nothing was being taken for granted then.
And now you have taken down a big title at ANZPT Sydney. How does it feel?
Like I said at the time, I feel absolutely elated. Just to follow up your last question, when you understand how difficult it is to navigate your way through these enormous fields you start to wonder a little if it’s going to happen. So it’s absolute elation, absolute delight and, quite honestly, a little bit of relief. You have to believe in yourself, and if you didn’t believe in yourself you wouldn’t do it. Ultimately, when you bring down a major tournament, it’s mixture of elation and relief.
Did you begin to doubt yourself for a while there?
No I wouldn’t say that. You can’t doubt yourself on this. You have to bet on yourself. I put a plan together last year which was basically focused on accelerating myself in terms of experience and exposure. That included going back to Europe last year and I went to two EPTs – Barcelona and London – and two WPTs in Malta and Paris. All of those were very focused on accelerating my development as a poker player. I felt I was playing some really good poker and I never doubted myself. I told myself that my game has come together stronger. There was no doubt but, at the same time, there is the essence of relief.
I actually got off to the worst possible start. I never won a single hand for the first two levels of the tournament until the last hand of level two when I picked up Pocket Queens and hit a queen on the flop. My initial stack went from 20k to about 12k. I also got my money in bad – my Ace-Queen against Pocket Kings and for once I hit the ace on the flop. That gave me a double at that stage to about 24-25k.
But then I ended up third chip leader on Day 1A and that was very much based on picking up a couple of premium hands and getting paid. A slow start but once I accumulated the first chunk of chips my tournament life was never really at risk.
Take us through your thoughts going into the final table and when you realised the tourney was yours for the taking?
Again it comes back to the confidence question. I came into the final table fifth in chips but there were the two giant stacks on table. Liam [O’Rourke] was on 3 million and Anthony [Aston] had about 1.7 million. I was on 650k but I was still very well positioned and just avoided encounters with Liam and Anthony. I felt very comfortable at that stage and I really enjoy final tables. I feel that all the hard work has been done to get there and it’s your time; you can really enjoy yourself.
Very quickly we lost a couple of people that I had nothing to do with. Liam continued to be so aggressive so I had to choose my moments. I benefited a lot from Stuart being on my right. Liam continued to be aggressive but Stuart was happy to flat a lot of his bets and it allowed me to join the pots and not have to go head-to-head with the chip leader. Stuart was hitting a lot of cards and took a big chunk but then he wasn’t getting lucky on the cards so he started to leak chips. I thought there was a good opportunity there to pick up chips and at four-handed it was the first time I became chip leader.
When Stuart went out, he had Pocket Eights against my Pocket Tens and that’s when I really knew the dynamics would be quite different. At three-way I was the slight chip leader and I had more opportunity to be quite aggressive. I started to take control a little more with raising a lot of pots and that seemed to frustrate Anthony a bit. He would just push over the top all in when he felt he had a hand so I laid down some fairly big hands to his pushes. Eventually he and Liam went head-to-head and that leveled up the chip stacks for the heads up.
I just tried at that stage to be very aggressive, raising every time on the button. After a very short time, I just did a standard raise and Liam quite uncharacteristically came over the top all in. It was just unlucky for him that I had Pocket Jacks and it was a standard insta-call and the Jacks held up. But it was really at three-handed that the dynamic changed.
You and Liam ended up doing a deal at heads up right? How was that worked out?
We did the deal at three-way first of all to pony up a bit more for third place and level things out a bit. Then we said when it comes to heads up we would revisit. At heads up we were almost equal in chips and I believe in deals. When you get to that level you don’t know what’s going to happen. In one, two or three hands the whole thing could change so we just got better equity.
But while I believe in deals I also think if you play for the title there has to be a meaningful amount on the table as well. We came up with the $160,000/$160,000 and left $31,000 on the table to play for with the trophy. The deal making there was very straightforward.
I heard you were previously toying about the idea of going to China Poker Carnival instead of ANZPT Sydney… do you think you made the right decision there?
[Laughs] China looked interesting and I also toyed with going to EPT Madrid but ultimately the ANZPT timing was better and I know a lot of people in Sydney. I also thought this was going to be more value so it was a fairly logical decision.
How did you celebrate your win in Sydney?
Probably like an old man! It was great having Mike [Mariakis], Henry [Wang], Brian [Mcallister] and his partner Helena and Dennis [Huntly] there with me. It helped me enjoy the moment a lot more. We just headed up to the VIP area and had a few glasses of champagne and stuff to eat. But it was quite fair to say we were all exhausted. However, we have a bit of a tradition that started in Macau with our group where we have a ‘Champion’s Dinner’ on the Sunday evening if one of us has done well. And my Champion’s Dinner will be Manila or Cebu.
Will we be seeing you in more high roller events now with your new bankroll?
I’ve done a few. I did EPT Deauville. I was wondering whether I should play it but it came back to if you believe you are playing well then you should bet on yourself. That’s exactly what I did and I came 4th in a fairly accomplished field. I will continue on trying to up my poker activity and that includes more European tournaments. But next will be our Manila activities.
Well I will definitely see you in Manila then and I look forward to my invitation to the Champion’s Dinner. Thanks for talking to me.
No worries. Cheers mate.
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