There are not many people like Canadian born Andrew Pantling in the poker industry. Pantling is a rare specimen who has managed to make the switch from being a top poker professional at the highest level to being the CEO of one of the biggest and most popular sports betting websites, Matchbook.com. In an in-depth interview Pantling voices strong opinions about Daniel Negreanu, online poker tracking software and poker players with business aspirations. Pantling finished second in the EPT Grand Final for €800,000 and also gives us a view on his way to the highest stakes.
Last spring you finishing second in the EPT Grand Final Main Event. You’ve had live results before but nothing of this magnitude. How was it to experience and go through all of that?
It was great. I’ve put myself in a position like that a few times in a few big tournaments, but I’ve never really gotten all the way to the final table, or as deep as I went in Monte Carlo. It was great that things bounced my way, and I felt like I played the best I could.
The €800,000 score is not something many players can say they’ve had in their poker career. How was it to finally get a chance to play for those big amounts in the late stages of a tournament?
It was exciting, but for me it’s not only about the money. I get a limited amount of time to play poker tournaments these days and I play for fun. When I was offered a deal when we got three-handed and heads up, I declined right away. I wanted to play for first, don’t get me wrong, the €800,000 is great, I just wanted to win the tournament. That’s the reason I registered.
Turning down the deal was a big topic of discussion within the poker world, but the only reason for it was just that the money wasn’t that big of a deal to you? Was it maybe also because you thought having that financial pressure in the heads up battle would you give an edge?
There are two reasons. The first one is; it’s so rare to get to a final table that when it was all said and done I wanted to be able to look back on it fondly and remember that I tried my hardest and played for it all. No deals, I just wanted to win the tournament outright. The second one is, when I was a professional poker, short-handed was my specialty, so I didn’t feel I was at any disadvantage.
During the final table everyone could see the hole cards on a delay. Daniel Negreanu, who was also at the final table and finished fifth, later voiced his opinions about your game and he was not too impressed. What’s your take on that?
At first, and I didn’t get to watch the feed, I just heard that Daniel had some negative comments about my game. There was some chatter about his comments on forums and, at first; I was annoyed. The reason is, I played with Daniel for a few days even before the final table, and I really beat him up with some big bluffs. I felt, he was quite frustrated and irritated by this so after he was eliminated, he went on the live stream and vented by disrespecting my poker game. Since then, I had a chance to look at the final table footage and I didn’t think it was a big deal, I just kind of laughed and wished I had the opportunity to play against Daniel more often.
That being said, as a brand ambassador for PokerStars, I think he represented himself and the company quite poorly. If I was a true amateur, I wouldn’t be overly keen to play poker on TV if I felt that a well-known PokerStars ‘pro’ was going to publicly criticize my abilities in front of my friends and family, who were watching and know very little about poker. I know I wouldn’t want my brand, Matchbook, represented like that.
Andrew Pantling heads up versus Steve O'Dwyer for the EPT Grand Final title. (Photo courtesy: PokerNews.com)
There’s always a lot of talk about having good fundamentals nowadays. Most players say that especially the old school players struggle with their fundamentals, but what you’re saying is that fundamentals aren’t necessary to get big results because your unconventional creative style is also a way to beat the big fields?
I believe so, but it depends on the type of players you play. If it was a cash game I wouldn’t be able to get away with nearly as much as I did throughout the entire tournament. Tournament players are generally quite good at playing preflop and on the flop, putting pressure on opponents and taking into account ICM. Generally though, they’ve rarely see a turn or river without the chips being all in. My style is designed to try to force them to play turn and river spots, make mistakes, big payoffs and folds. I tend to try to apply pressure later in a hand, and that’s what I tried to do in the Monte Carlo tournament.