Montreal’s Eric Afriat made World Poker Tour history this past week, besting its largest field ever at the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown in Hollywood Florida. Afriat’s victory over the 1795 entry field in the $3,500 event was worth more than $1,081,000 USD, or nearly $1.2 Canadian dollars at the current exchange – more than enough for even the most seasoned players to get excited about, let alone the extra bragging rights attached to claiming the trophy for taking down the biggest WPT stop yet.
Prior to this win, Eric had cashed for about a half million dollars at various medium to large buy-in around the globe, a total he’s since tripled – being he is now around $1.5 million in career winnings is good enough to see him climb near the top 40 on the All Time Canadian Tournament Money Winner’s list we figured it might be a bit overdue to find out a bit more to the man behind the title…
CP: We really appreciate you getting back to us so soon after your victory Eric, as a family man this must be a very exciting time for you. How is everybody at home taking this all in?
Eric Afriat: “It’s been amazing and most importantly it would have never happened without the support of my wife. She’s always believed in me and let me do my thing when it comes to poker and our vacations. Without her taking care of the family while I played, I would not have been able to chase my dream.” Eric happily continued, “Consider this a win for the married family men of poker.” (laughs)
“Besides my WPT Bellagio final table, my wife never really had an opportunity to watch me play, so I was extra excited to have her and my mother in the audience. My mom was never really a fan of me playing and it was hard to convince her that poker wasn’t just throwing money away, so it was also rewarding to show that if your good at something and stick at it, things will pay off. I think she believes it now. (laughing).”
CP: Reading the press releases right after your win, it sounds like this means a lot more than just life-changing money to you. You’ve won a DEEPSTACKS Poker Tour $1,500 event in the past, a $5k at the Bellagio and it looks like you might also own a trophy from the Wynn – so it’s not your first title. With that said how cool is it to have won the largest WPT field ever?
Eric Afriat: “I can’t describe how good it feels. I’ve had some really deep runs in large fields. Last year I finished 32nd in the ‘Little One For One Drop’ and before that 50th in another WSOP event – I’d get to the end of these tournaments with like 4000 or 5000 people in them only to bust a 95% favorite. I’ve never been known to be particularly lucky so to have things come together and grab this title is truly a dream come true. The World Poker Tour as an organization just keeps getting bigger and better and I’m so proud have accomplished this. I’ve been playing the game since college, home games, around town and on trips for around 25 years and I’m also happy to take one down for us middle age family men – just to show it’s not just the young internet sensations that can get this done (laughs).“
To further explain his picture with the Wynn trophy and past wins as well as the Playground Poker Club patch he was wearing at the TV table of the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown, Eric recounted the following:
“In the $2,000 event at the Wynn they wanted to make a deal. As chip leader the only way I would agree was to take the trophy. As for the DEEPSTACKS Poker Tour Event in Pompano, I thought they were really great guys and I’m glad to see them growing and coming to Canada. They remind me a lot of the crew at Playground Poker Club. I’m really proud of what PPC has built in Montreal and how thanks in part to them, Montreal poker players have undoubtedly become known as some of the world’s best. I was playing deep in this tournament with Jeff Gross, who you might remember came 3rd in Montreal last year, and as you know he represents Playground, so I picked up a patch to show my support for our Canadian players and the mark we are leaving in the game.”
CP: You’ve had some really deep runs in World Poker Tour events before – as we talked about earlier you made the final table of the Bellagio Cup VI $10,000 back in 2010, and just a few weeks back you finished 20th at the $1,100 partypoker WPTN Canadian Spring Championships in Montreal; did this add any extra pressure or just drive you that much harder to get it done here? What made your decision to take the trip to Florida?
Eric Afriat: “I had Florida planned for a few months, but I almost cancelled last minute! I guess it’s good that we went (laughs). We planned this particular outing around Jewish Passover, so it work out well in the end and luckily I was still able to play. At the nearly 1,100 WPTN Canadian Spring Championships, it was a bit lower of a buy-in event, so not quite the structure of the medium or higher limit events I also sometimes play and as I said I’m not really a lucky guy. When I was deep into this one though, I remember thinking,’you know, I’m ready for some good luck- it’s your time’ and my cards couldn’t have went any more perfectly.
CP: Looking at your live tournament cashing history, you’ve played a fair amount in the Caribbean at different events, some of the “higher roller” type events in Las Vegas including a decent number of Main Events and Championships, yet you still consider yourself an amateur? Do you think we can call you a pro after this accomplishment?
Eric Afriat: “Most of my poker trips are planned around business or family vacations, that’s why you see cashes around the world. I’ve played in Europe, Macau, and the Caribbean as you mentioned – anywhere work takes me. As for amateur versus pro, you know what they say, even the best golfer in the world is still an amateur if they don’t do it for a living and I fit that bill. As for not having that ‘pro status’ I remember at Bellagio when a good friends were pointing out Ivey, Negreanu – as well as other big names, and asking if it made me nervous- I told them ‘I know who they are, but they don’t know anything about me. They’ll have to wait till it’s over to see what I’ve been up to (laughs again)’. I’m not one to get intimidated, you have to go in thinking you are the number one player in the world if you want a shot at winning and it doesn’t matter who you’re playing against. ”
CP: You also won a seat to the 2014 WPT World Championships in Atlantic City – does this event be moved to Borgata and being much closer to home add any excitement for you?
Eric Afriat: “I love playing at the Borgata and think it’s a great establishment. I’m really feeling at the top of my game and looking forward to showing them what I’ve got! I plan to go down on Sunday to be nice and relaxed, get all settled in for all the action next week.”
CP: It appears that you often satellite into a lot of bigger events, was that the case here? As you made your living in the clothing industry, including owning several of your own brands, is this a case of ‘cutting the coat according to your cloth’, or are you grinding these live satellites for profit as well?
Eric Afriat: “I like to save money where I can, so winning a ticket to play only makes sense. I paid $2,800 to play in a $25k, a thousand to play a $10,000 main event. I look to win just one seat to take my shot.”
CP: You’re a business man and we often find these big scores are just what those with a dream need to take their goals to the next level, Matt Jarvis for example, – can we expect it fuel you to play more or will it have an impact on maybe something you wanted to do for your clothing businesses?
Eric Afriat: “I definitely won’t be going pro. Matt was another player I spent some time with deep in this one, a class act for sure. No, I’ll be concentrating on my new business, Globe Force International Recruiting – we specialize in finding highly skilled workers for construction and other industry; Millwrights and Welders for example. I sold my clothing companies and have been doing this since last February. I enjoy the game but there is none of this easy come, easy go type attitude, I believe it’s still a really big deal to win a million dollars. It’s not about being able to party and sleep in late, by the time I start most tournaments I’ve changed a few diapers, checked e-mails, returned phone calls, pretty much put in a full day’s work – to me this money means my children’s education is paid for and I don’t need to worry much about the mortgage anymore.”
CP: Eric, congratulations on your huge poker accomplishment and thanks again for taking the time out to answer our questions, we’ll be rooting you on again come Borgata, good luck!
Eric Afriat: “We’ll talk soon and no problem,I really like seeing CanadaPoker.com around so I wanted get back to you guys.”
We think it’s safe to chalk another win up under the good guys of poker; be sure to follow Eric’s progress next week at the 2014 WPT Championships in Atlantic City!