Doug “WCGRider” Polk’s name may only have become familiar to a lot of our readers in the past twelve months or so, as he seemingly burst onto the high stakes scene from nowhere, crushing all-comers at the heads-up No Limit Hold’em tables whilst not being afraid to ruffle a few feathers along the way.
However, Doug has certainly paid his dues. A long time winning player, his background in mass multi-tabling low stakes is the stuff of legend, not least because of his (frankly insane) prop bet put out to the entire poker community on 2+2 some five years ago that he could make $10,000 (after paying rake) at $0.15/$0.25 NL within a month.
WCGRider has certainly put in the hard yards, and his apparent “sudden” success at high stakes has come from an enormous dedication to learning and honing his craft. He is one of the only players in the world who will sit with anyone at any stakes online, and is one of the very few true characters to emerge on the scene in the past few years.
But seriously, how does a multi-tabling, full ring, micro stakes player adjust his game and skill set to such an extent that he is now arguably the best heads-up NLHE player in the world? We caught up with Doug Polk to ask him a few questions.
Doug, thanks so much for taking the time out to talk with us
First off I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to do this interview. Highstakesdb has been one of my favorite sites for a while, I think it's really fascinating to follow all of the top players and how they are doing, and it's an honor to now be one of those players :)
First off – how the hell does a former, long time multi-tabling FR low stakes grinder become the best HUNLHE player in the world? That just seems like a cataclysmic leap? I mean, it just doesn’t happen like that?
The move from FR to HU was quite a transition. Particularly because I had fairly repeatedly failed in my efforts to move from FR to 6m, so why would HU be any different? I think what it came down to was I played FR like FR, and 6M like HU. So I think by the time I was trying to play HU, I had the right mentality for it. All of the pots matter, and you have to battle to try to become a champion. I would be lying if I said that my HU results were poor from the getgo, in fact it was the opposite, I was basically crushing from day one. I had a pretty bad downswing in 2010-2011, but other then that it has been fairly smooth sailing for me.
You rating yourself as the no.1 HU NLHE player in the world right now was a very bold statement to make – did you think your assertion would lead to the pages and pages of discussion on the topic in the forums, and do you find the whole thing amusing?
I rated myself #1 in the world because I believe, actually no, I am #1 in the world. I am led to this conclusion based on the performance of my peers, conversations I've had with the other HUNL titans, and the results that I have had this year. I think its sort of weird that I absolutely spanked Sauce in our 15k hand challenge, and then afterwards that doesnt even become a mention as to my credibility? I talk a big game, but I put my money where my mouth is and I'm ready to back it up at the tables. I do think it's funny how much everyone is angered by my comments (I dont understand why people are just jumping at any chance to defend Isildur, but lets not go down a pointless topic), but I'm going to continue to play at peak performance and maintain an effort to dominate the online arena.
From 2010 to 2012 it seemed that NLHE took something of a back seat as far as coverage in the poker news media was concerned, primarily because the biggest action shifted to the PLO tables. It’s amazed us how much the game, especially HUNL has actually evolved in that time – what made you stick to a game where everyone was telling us there were no edges left rather than seek fame and fortune at the “NLHE + 2” tables?
I think that a good poker player needs to be versatile. But when times are good, you need to capitalize. I never really went through much of an extended period of downswinging in the past year and a half or so, and certainly not in EVBB winrate (which is all that frankly matters). I've been making some brief appearances into the Omaha streets, and that might be more of a challenge for me in the coming year. Time will tell, and a good poker player finds his spots.
We all enjoyed your challenge against Sauce, and it was played with a great deal of class and in a very sporting manner (although I’m sure I saw a picture somewhere of you sitting on the floor rubbing his cash into your face?), were you surprised at just how easily you seemed to beat a guy as good as Ben Sulsky?
I really thought I was going to win the challenge with Ben, so im not surprised with the outcome. I am surprised that it was by such a convincing margin, and I'm also surprised that he didnt try to bring more to the table in terms of adjustments. I think he wasn't really planning on making many changes, and when things started going badly he was content to try to stick to his guns. I think that if he had been more versatile, it would have gone better for him.
If you played each other again now, do you think you’d beat him so easily?
I ran quite good in both EV and situationally, so in future matches I wouldn't count him out at all (he still has a great poker mind).
We’ve noticed you playing a LOT of HU PLO against Rui Cao recently. Any particular reason you chose Rui as your sparring partner at PLO? After all, he is widely regarded as one of the very best HU PLO players in the world. Do you think you have an edge, or do you think playing someone of his calibre will improve your game more quickly?
I dont really want to get into the Rui discussion too much, but honestly we are both horrible at PLO. It makes me sad I am unable to beat him but hopefully his day will come :)
Would you fancy your chances vs Isildur1 at HU PLO?
Im not looking to take on Isildur at PLO, at least not for the foreseeable future. I went on a 600k downswing where I had 100% of myself this month, and that was pretty brutal. I think that I needed to work more on my PLO game and not just dive right into it, and it was an expensive lesson to learn. That said, since then, with some NL/PLO mixed in I've been doing alright. For now, I wouldn't count on a Isildur battle in the foreseeable future.
As you may know, our readers tend to have something of a soft spot for Viktor Blom, a feeling I suspect you don’t share. Despite early resistance, I think most people now accept that his HU NL game is not the wrecking ball it once was. Having played him a decent amount of late, have you noticed any improvements in his game whatsoever, or do you think his game is too stuck in the past to ever compete with the best players these days without recourse to a whole lot of work?
Again, poker is a game about making money, and in doing so you need to maintain some degree of tact. I will say that Isildur has much to learn if he wants to once again become a behemoth of the HUNL world. Will he take the time to do so? Seems hard to say. For now I think he is several notches below myself and some of the people I would consider top tier.
You also made a point that Viktor’s etiquette is somewhat lacking with regards to ending sessions without warning, quitting while his opponent is stuck etc, which I think most people will acknowledge. However, Alex Millar made the point that he would much rather deal with that, than not get the action. Don’t you feel that any respect Blom may lose with these antics, he makes up for due to the fact that he is often willing to play guys who have a considerable edge over him rather than totally duck them?
Yes, Isildur has a right to do as he sees fit. But I also think that there should be a level of respect among poker pros to give some sort of estimate on session length. Isildur also isn't just some random high stakes player, he is sponsored by Full Tilt poker and he represents them. I think that his actions should have more class, but I understand that it is how it is.
You may have noticed how well ragen70 is doing this year, he’s now up over $5.5m on Full Tilt, which has come from the NL and Triple Draw games. How do you rate his NL game, and does his success at Triple Draw not tempt you into transferring your skills over there? There seems to be a LOT of money in those games.
Ragen is quite good at NL, but it has been a little while since we have played. Ragen has to be one of the smartest poker players, so I'm sure that he has a good strategy in place for those games. If I wanted to be good at triple draw, id probably have to learn the rules first, so we are probably a while away from seeing my skills in that game type. There does seem to be a substantial amount of money to be made in those games though, so maybe I will expand my horizons in the days to come
Are you answering these questions with a baseball cap on back to front, or are you wearing your PokerStars sweatshirt?
For some reason I wore a hat LITERALLY ONCE to any poker tournament, and now i get berated by Isildur fans for being "some sideways hat wearing punk!!!!!!". I like to from time to time mix in wearing a hat, but it's not something to do with my identity. Plus, I have awesome hair :D.
Would you put your entire roll on the line in a live situation playing $100/$200 HU NL vs Phil Ivey given you had to play until you were either bust or had doubled your money?
I dont think it would be possible for me to go bust given my winrate vs Ivey. Yes, I'd do that, but let's bump it up to 2/4.