Originally from Adelaide in South Australia, David Steicke has made Hong Kong his home for the last six years while building a career in finance and playing poker in between. He is now a regular on the tables of tournaments all around Asia and can be seen at almost any APT, APPT and ANZPT events as well as where we caught up with him at the recent Macau Millions.
While this event was a relatively small buy-in, Steicke is more well-known for his high-roller tournament success, having won the 2009 AUD $100,000 Aussie Millions Challenge for a massive AUD $1.2 million payday and also cashed big in several others. Here we sit down with Steicke to get an insight into his life and what it’s like to throw down $100k on a tourney…
Poker Portal Asia: How did you go at the tables for the Macau Millions?
David Steicke: I played four times but I’m not in the final so that’s that.
PPA: Are you disappointed?
DS: Yes and no. It’s only a small tournament so if you are going to get sucked out on then this is the tournament. In some ways it feels better to have it happen in this than some big tournament where you have more on the line. But you obviously try to win every tournament and don’t turn up to go all in with Deuce Seven.
PPA: You’re known more as a high-stakes player so does it make it hard to not do silly things in small tournaments?
DS: It takes the pressure off but whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, I don’t know – the jury is still out on that. I have won smaller tournaments as well and cashed in small tournaments. I’ve won medium sized tournaments and cashed in medium sized tournaments. So I don’t know how much you can read into that I’m supposedly better at larger buy-ins.
PPA: So you don’t see yourself as a high-stakes specialist?
DS: Not a specialist but I do play in high-stakes games. Someone like Erik Seidel is a high-stakes specialist. I mean I’m not the best poker player, I know that for sure. When you do play in these big games you do see some very good players. You see just how good they are. But it’s always a challenge to try and match it with the best. Also, it’s always a challenge to match it with a pool of a thousand players here at the Macau Millions. It’s a different sort of tournament.
PPA: When did you first start playing poker?
DS: The very first time I played poker was Draw Poker about 20 years ago at university playing 1c/2c. Then once I finished university and started trading I sort of forgot about poker. We sometimes played Two-Card Manila in the Adelaide casino in the early days but that was short-lived. Then about four years ago I got invited to play at a poker game in Adelaide with friends. And I went there and I only got two cards and I thought ‘Oh, so we’re playing Manila’ and they said ‘No we’re playing Texas Hold’em’. I learnt the rules and won that first night. Later I met up with Andrew Scott and then he put me on his regular emailing list. I found out there was a tournament in Korea but I only made it late in Day 1. But then I came to Macau and there was a high-rollers event and I came third. I won USD $100,000 so I was free-rolling for at least a year of buy-ins and as it was I had some more cashes. I wouldn’t play if I was losing. It’s not a good feeling to have a hobby where you’re banging your head against a wall.
PPA: You mentioned Erik Seidel before, so is he at the top of other poker players you most respect?
DS: He is at the top now. His patience at the tournament table is second to none. He’s got the patience and he knows what he’s doing. He always knows where he is at in the hand. He made one very bad error against Johnny Chan 20 years ago, but he must have learnt a lot from that. He’s on top of the money list now.
I have a lot of respect for other players but I couldn’t really put anyone above anyone else: Johnny Chan, Joe Hachem, David Chiu, Gus Hansen… I’ve never played against Phil Ivey but all those guys are the same. They are right up there. I couldn’t really say that ‘this guy’ is my hero or I really aspire to ‘him’.
But I’ve just played a lot with Seidel in the Aussie Millions High-Roller. We were on the final table and he ended up coming third and I came fourth. He should have actually come fourth as there was one hand where I had him in for all of his chips. I had Kings and he had Queens and all the money went in on the turn. The last card was a queen so he two-outered me. I would have eliminated him and been chip leader going into three-handed. My expectation then was at least to come second with a payday of over AUD $1 million but in coming fourth my actual payday was AUD $300,000 – that two-outer cost me AUD $700,000! And so you can see why here [at the Macau Millions] the pressure is off.
PPA: So that was your worst bad beat recently?
DS: It was funny, after that suckout, in the Main Event of the Aussie Millions I actually went one better. I had a set of Aces against Tyron Krost who had a set of Jacks. We both flopped it and there was a small bet on the flop. All the chips went in on the turn and I knew I was going to get one-outered because I just had to go one better – and he made quad Jacks on me. But I didn’t mind as it was just late on Day 1 and it didn’t cost me $700,000 in expectation. After those two suckouts, my next tournament was a small one in Macau and every hand I played I would just suck out on everyone. I would call with bottom pair and catch up and hit a set of Twos against guys with Kings or Aces, and hit some gutshot for a straight. So it all evens out.
PPA: Are you still based in Hong Kong?
DS: Yeah I’ve been living in Hong Kong for six years now. I was born in Australia and then I moved to Europe. I was living in Switzerland from ‘98 till ‘03 and I was always going backwards and forwards from Switzerland to Australia so Hong Kong sort of became my third home and the trips just got longer and longer there until I just arrived there one time and just stayed.
PPA: Is poker your profession now or are you still trading?
DS: My profession is still a trader but I play so much poker that people would think I’m a professional player. I guess I’m a bit like most of the older brackets that are playing the poker tour. They probably have some business behind them where poker is not their main income. If I win or lose a tournament it doesn’t affect me too much. For some of the young kids I know it’s 24/7. I’ve also got a family to take care of – a business and a family – so poker has got to be the hobby.
PPA: How big is your family?
DS: One wife only.
PPA: That’s a start…
DS: And two children. The baby is two years old. Actually I’ve got one boy in Australia from my first marriage who’s 15 now. And my wife has one from her first relationship who’s seven. So I say it’s two but it’s really three.
PPA: Are you going to impart your poker wisdom on your kids?
DS: Maybe. It’s up to them. We have some home games so they get to see it. It’s funny cos I was reading Doyle Brunson’s book the other day and when you read his first book he’s talking about his family. And he said there’s no way any of his children are getting involved in poker. It’s just not in them and he can’t see it. And so when Super System 2 came out the guy who wrote the chapter on Stud Hi Low was Todd Brunson so that’s one thing that Doyle got wrong in his poker career. He didn’t get too much else wrong but he got that wrong.
PPA: What Asian players do you have the most respect for?
DS: Elton Tsang – he won the Poker King tournament here and came second in APT Philippines. I played cash games with him and I thought he was average – I’m only average myself – but he looks like he has the tournaments worked out. He’s always finishing in the money. Plus the resident pros here: Bryan, Raymond and Celina. But Elton is the quiet achiever.
PPA: What about places and tournaments that you love playing?
DS: Well this is a great spot. The hotel is very nice. You don’t need to leave here. The poker room is very nice. This has got to be one of the best ones. We just came back from Manila and it was my first time at Resorts World – that was a nice hotel and casino. Next time I’ll take Air Cebu because then you can just walk across from Terminal 3. Also in the Philippines, Cebu has been very nice. Melbourne’s Crown is a really great place. I’ve always had cashes at the Aussie Millions so it’s a happy poker room for me. And the Crown hotel is absolutely superb.
PPA: What are your hobbies outside of poker?
DS: English Premier League football, of course [pointing to his Wolverhampton Wanderers shirt] but all kinds of football. I like Italian and Spanish football and the World Cup when that comes around. All sports, really. Snooker – I played my fair share of snooker at university. Actually, I played nothing but snooker there. I like drinking a nice bottle of wine and just enjoying a quiet night at home with the family.
PPA: I notice that you haven’t had a poker nickname that’s stuck so is there anything that you want to push out there before we go?
DS: Well with the way that I stack my chips when I run deep they started calling me the “Great Wall of Steicke” because I’m based in the Hong Kong-China region. I think it was Eric Assadourian that gave me that. Joe Hachem tried to nickname me “The Machine” and he still uses that. And Van Marcos called me “God” because he thinks I apparently run like God.
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