William Kassouf Interview
High Roller Radio has interviewed some of the greatest gamblers, casino insiders, sports bettors, authors and poker players in the world. Here is our Q&A with William Kassouf, one of the most polarizing figures in poker. He finished 17th in the 2016 WSOP main event amid much controversy, brilliantly implementing his 'Speech Play' to put off opponents.
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William Kassouf Interview
An EPT Champion Perfecting ‘Speech Play’
Full audio of this Q&A HERE
Q: You’ve played a lot of poker since that epic cooler, Kings v Aces, in the main event against Griffin Benger. Is that your future? Just more and more poker tourneys?
WK: That’s it, you know, I’ve gotta keep trying, keep plugging away, keep improving my game, keep getting better and keep getting more and more results. I'm trying to get as many results as I can really.
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Q: You’re 2016 World Series of Poker main event was truly an epic ride. From the ‘Nine-high like a boss’ hand until that cooler against Mr. Benger. How would you sum up your WSOP experience this year?
WK: In one word? ‘Sick,” probably. It was really sick, I really enjoyed it, phenomenal, just the experience of it was fantastic. To play in the biggest tournament in the world, I have played in it before, andmake it your first WSOP cash. To have your first WSOP cash to be worth $338,000? I can’t complain really, that’s tax free by the way because I’m from the UK. So there you go, a sick rub for the US players. I have to thank the Brexit’ers as well, because the rate was really bad, so I think I made an extra $74,000 pounds tax free thanks to Brexit and that’s a massive difference in winning this year. In the grand scheme of things it was a great tournament, great structure, best in the world, and a two hour clock. That was my point really when people were having gripes against me. We’re in Day 7, I’m taking my time with things and they’re calling the clock on me, going on tilt and I think that was an excuse really, for me taking my time and tanking if you will. I think they were more frustrated with my speech play. If you saw the hands you’d realize I did have a decision the majority of time, even when I was tanking. In terms of the actual experience, yes it was fantastic and I recommend it to every poker player around the world. I know it’s not going to be in everyone’s budget to buy-in for a 10k main event but there are plenty of satellites, there are plenty of tournaments to spin it up in and you can even get backing. Build up your bankroll and just play it. You have to play it. It’s the dream for any poker player just to compete in the World Series of Poker. Just to say you have that on your CV, that you’ve played the biggest tournament in the world, the most prestigious tournament, it's was a fantastic achievement. In terms of tournament poker, it’s the best structure in the world. You just can’t beat it.
Q: You’re famous for your ‘Speech Play.’ What is that?
WK: I don’t insult anyone and I don’t berate anyone. People say I do a lot of talking at the table, winding them up, and they get frustrated. They let me get under their skin. They effectively portray me as a Tony G character. I’m nothing like Tony G in that regard because I don’t insult or berate anyone. I’m not rude to anyone. I just do my standard speech play. The fundamental theory behind it is obviously to try and get information from your opponent. What better way to get information than to converse with your opponent across the table. You have to try and get as much you can because, as a lawyer, I’ve been trained to use my analytical skills, to use the evidence before me to out wit my opponent, the other barrister, in the courtroom to convince the judge my client’s not guilty. Bringing that to the poker table, you’re using all the information you have, the cards that have been dealt, the opponents you’re facing, the bets preflop, on the flop, the flop textures, your opponents body language, seeing how they react to you, how they respond to you, is all in that line of questioning. Do they look comfortable? Do they look weak? Do they sound like they want you to call? All of these things are going through you’re mind, trying to figure out what they have, what do they think you have and vice versa, so it’s a whole different level of thinking in terms of the psychological aspect of the game. I think it’s a big part of my game, compared to some others who use game theory and math. You can’t knock them for that. A lot of people have had great results using those strategies. My strategy going in was to play my 'A' game, in terms of using the psychological aspect, getting into people’s minds, getting under their skin if you like. If they choose to allow it to get under their skin with a little banter, a little speech play, and if they let that get to them emotionally or psychologically than so be it. It’s just going to be plus EV for me going forward in the tournament. I told my friends that my overall strategy for the seven days was to play Day 1-to-3 to make the money and then, once we’re in the money, play Day 4 onward as a regular tournament. I stuck to that and didn’t make any moves early on. I ran pretty bad on Day’s 1 to 3 and didn’t panic. I was down to nine big blinds on Day 3, about 50 out of the money, and didn’t panic at all because we were on a two hour clock. I got it all in with ace-king of clubs against pocket queens and hit my ace, doubled up, and just went from there. I crushed my table on Day 4. I just spun it up and never looked back really. It just goes to show, like I said, the WSOP has the best structure in the world, a two hour clock, and there was no need to panic, even though I was down to under the starting stack on Day 3. It was a great achievement in that regard. I think I employed my strategy well and used it to maximum effect. I used the loopholes, if you will, on the ruling and what you could do, what you couldn’t do, and I was riding the line. I think a lot of rulings went against me that shouldn’t have. I called out Jack Effel on quite a few of them and even had Daniel Negreanu back me up by saying, 'Every time there was an altercation between Jack Effel and William Kassouf, William was right and Jack was wrong.' That should never be the case at the World Series of Poker main event. It shouldn't be the case that one player is always right against the tournament director. I think he had a nightmare directing the tournament this year. You have to give Jack Effel credit for his achievements over the years; he’s been the TD at the WSOP for years now, but I think this year he had a nightmare directing it, especially in the rulings against me. I felt like I was singled out, victimized, and that I was on the wrong end of a number of rulings, especially on Day 7, where he just got it wrong. I was a bit disappointed that ESPN didn’t show the reason why, towards the end in my coverage, I was so quiet on Day 7. Everyone was laughing and joking on the table but I was quiet. The reason? jack Effel came to the feature table on Day 7 and threatened me with a three-round penalty if I continued on doing what I was doing, even though I was playing within the rules. You had a bunch of Americans, especially Cliff Josephy, who were complaining about me doing it in every hand, even though I was saying nothing malicious. They just couldn’t take it.
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