It seems sometimes, while we are following Canadian players around the country and world poker circuit, it becomes all too easy to “pick chalk” in our predictions, choosing those from a handful of players that already have major titles under their belts as the favorites; this year it has been hard to ignore that the list of headliners has had some changes, with Montreal’s Christopher “d0r1t0s” McClung definitely on his way to the top.
The young Canadian started the year with a bang, winning a couple of local medium limit events with sizable five figure top prizes and earning him the cover story a nationally circulated poker magazine. Over the next few months, McClung would go on cash in the Top 50 of $1,000 WSOP event and take 3rd out of 1,771 players in the $320 No Limit Hold’em WCOOP Event #52 for another almost $48,000. Next up was Christopher’s trip to Europe, where he ran deep in…well almost everything.
Playing events at both the World Series of Poker Europe in Cannes, France and the European Poker Tour stops at London, England and San Remo in Italy, McClung cashed an impressive 5 times; 14th/837 in a 4,600 euro, 2nd in a 5,000 euro Heads Up, 28th/593 in a 10,000 euro, 3rd/66 in a 10,000 pound 6 max “high roller” and 31st/691 in yet another 5,000 pound No Limit Hold’em major event. All told, Christopher racked in the equivalent of around $265,000 CAD in just three weeks. Adding up only his larger cashes of 2011 on both the online and live felts puts McClung at easily $410,000 in tournament winnings in the first 10 months of the year.
We figured that averaging $40,000 dollars a month in poker winnings is pretty damn impressive and decided to catch up with Chris when he returned home to Canada; we believe that we’ll be writing a lot more about him in the future too. He took the time to answer some questions on what he is about, his notable poker resume to date and how he is making his way up the poker ladder; along with his thoughts on a very big hand from San Remo…
CP: “You have really made some noise in the poker world over 2011, but your previous results show you have been attacking the game for awhile now. To start things off and get to know a bit more about your poker history, how did you get started in the game and how long have you been playing?”
Chris McClung: “The first time I played poker was on a casino ship in Florida when I was 18, so about 9 years ago. I saw that we could play some poker against other players, though I had no idea how to play Hold’em. Back then the game was 5-10 Limit. I was there for a week, but it didn’t take that long to figure out that most players were doing things that made no sense. I quickly realized that a big part of the game involved math and that most players really didn’t understand any of it…I profited on this!”
“When I came back home, I started looking for places I could play in Montreal and found a couple of places where they would organize 30-50$ tournaments and I started playing online. Nothing serious at that time though, I was going to college and quitting school was not an option. Then, from playing in those small tournaments, I met someone who was going to organize a ‘BIG’, private cash game once a week and he needed dealers! I started dealing for these once a week during college, then 2 nights, then more. I made some pretty good money at that and it started my bankroll. I kept dealing, but I also started to work on my own game; grinding online sit & goes about 6 or 7 years ago. That was when I realized that there was more money to be made for me by playing poker than anything else, but mostly it was that with kind of job, I would be very ‘free’, which is very important to me.”
“For a long time, I grinded those S&Gs and local cash games, without really doing anything big. The reason: I was playing for fun, making money but not working on my game; I was just having fun and gambling, playing tournaments that were too big for me, again for ‘fun’. The thing was, it was easy at the beginning and I thought it would be like that forever…NOT! It was only about 2 years ago that I started looking at online forums, videos to improve my game…and I obviously really needed that. I was good enough to make a bit of money, but not enough yet to pass to the next level. I kind of think I have now, although I am aware of the fact that the game is consistently evolving and that poker is a non-stop learning process. So yeah, that’s pretty much how I got to where I am now!”
CP: “Whenever a player has an off the wall or original screen name, we have to ask. Yours is certainly one that is easy to remember; what in the world possessed you to use “d0r1t0s”?
Chris McClung: (Laughs) “I think I had a bag of Doritos beside me when I first registered on a poker site and I just thought it would be a nice screen name…several years after, I have to say I am quite happy with my decision (Laughing again). Oh and if anyone ever asks…I would be the Nacho Cheese ones.”
CP: “Leading up to the world circuit stops, you shipped two medium limits events in Montreal this year for more than $93,000 plus the equivalent of another almost $250,000 over the WSOPE and EPT in less than a month. You must feel like the ‘mother load’ score is just around the corner?”
Chris McClung: “Yes, I do, although I really thought it would be in one of the European events you just mentioned, especially the Main Event in San Remo. I feel like I played really well overall and that I can beat any field now…even though I am really disappointed on how I played at the end of that one. But, as I said, it is a learning process; I will keep getting better!”
CP: “More and more ’household names’ in poker seem to be coming out of Montreal. Can you tell us a bit about the poker landscape there? Are there any names we might recognize that you work on your game with?”
Chris McClung: “Hmmm. Yes, of course…I have been spending a lot of time lately with Philippe Boucher (just won a WSOP-E bracelet in PLO), Jonathan Duhamel (I don’t think I need to tell you who that is :P) and Samuel Chartier. I’ve also talked a lot about tournament play with Gabriel H. Morin and Vladamir “MALOYD” Faubert. I think what helps us get better is that we are kind of a team; we push each other to get better, to have more results. We talk a lot about poker, hands, etc. and it just helps so much when 3 or 4 good players discuss on how to play different hands in some strange spots; everybody keeps getting better faster.”
CP: “You had the cover of Poker Pro Canada for winning the $1,500 NLH Poker Pro Classic II in Montreal at the start of this year, then you followed it up with another win shortly after in the Playground Poker Club $500 Deep Stack. These wins had to help both confidence and bankroll to tackle the World Circuit. How important are these local events and winning them to you?
Chris McClung: “They are very important to me; I have been a presence in the Montreal poker world for years and winning those tourneys was huge to me. Not only the money, but having everybody around knowing that ‘d0r1t0s’ won those; it is priceless to me. I don’t really know how to put it to words, but I really like it when others know that I’m the player to match in Montreal, that’s key for me, I think it helps my motivation. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not, but that is what it is. (Laughs)”
CP: “You have moved into the Top 100 on the HendonMob.com ‘Canadian All Time (Live Tournament) Money List’. Is this of any significance to you? Is “d0r1t0s” motivated by the prospects of making a fortune or the fame and recognition of a major title score?”
Chris McClung: “That’s easy to answer; BOTH! What is the most important? I honestly don’t know. Obviously money is very important…but as I said earlier…I like to prove to myself and to others that I am the best. Right now, I am not and I might never be, but that is my goal. Even if I was very far from that not too long ago, I believe that I am going in the right direction and I am trying to get better every day; so yes, I want to go up that list and make sure you interview me again when I reach the Top 10! J”
CP: “You are also currently ranked in the Top 5 online players in both Montreal and Quebec according to PocketFives.com, with now nearly $1,000,000 in MTT winnings and your ’1M badge’. You have also come very close to winning both FTOPS and WCOOP major events. Do you think you will focus more on playing live or online going into 2012?”
Chris McClung: “I basically do whatever comes…I might play a little more live events, a couple of EPTs, the PCAs and of course the WSOP, but I would never miss the WCOOP or SCOOP; those are just so much fun and packed with value. I don’t really know which I will focus on more; I guess it is going to depend on how I feel.”
CP: “Do you think playing the tough fields online have given you any kind of edge when it comes to the live circuit? Put a different way, do you believe the experience of playing a ton of the players you now face in the higher buy-ins live has contributed to your recent success, or is it more just all the time you have put in playing live that is really starting to pay off?”
Chris McClung: “A little bit of both. Live fields are so much easier than those online, it is not even close, so I think becoming a winning player live when you come from online is pretty easy. Also, being able to analyze a number of things at once is so important live; playing a lot of tables at the same time helped me in that aspect. I would have to say what I think is paying off is just the number of hours that I have put into poker (both playing and learning), whether it is live or online. I feel like it is about the same; it’s all about being the best at using every bit of information you have, in order to make the right decision. In live play, you just have way more information.”
CP: “At EPT San Remo, after owning the field and chip lead for almost 2 days straight, you had a huge, pivotal hand with Kevin “ImaLucksac” MacPhee. You found your AQ dominated, but looking back at the WCOOPs and your online poker track record in general; we are going to assume previous history with this player went into your thought process in the hand? Can you explain, (without giving away too many trade secrets), what you were the biggest factors in deciding to make this call?”
Chris McClung: “Hmmm. Well yeah, I have played a lot with him online and we both know each other’s game pretty well, I think. To be honest, I don’t like the way I played that hand; taking that risk was just bad, considering how easy the field was and how it simple it was going to be to get further…So, I really think my play was poor there, even though it’s kind of close. There was also another hand where I had KQ, that I felt like I played bad. Honestly, after that San Remo tournament, I was so angry at myself, to spew an opportunity the way I did was devastating. But as I said, it’s a learning process and don’t worry; I’ll be back for more! It’s not going to affect my confidence…It’s just very frustrating when you’re trying to prove to everybody how good you believe you are…and then you make a horrible decision like that; it hurts so much.”
“But still, here is the thought process: First, I’m the one raising the most at my table; BY FAR and then I raise again under the gun. Kevin 3-bets from the small blind, I don’t like folding there, AQ is way better than my range at this point, so I hesitate between calling and playing a flop, or 4-betting for value against his range. At that point, I am thinking that he expects me to 4-bet a lot there; he might shove with some weaker hands if I do 4-bet. So if I 4 bet for value there, it is to call a shove; then he shoved and I called.”
“As I said, looking back at the hands, even if the thought process makes sense, it was just too big of a risk and the truth is he never 3bets light from the blinds there in a tournament like that; it would just be too risky for him…So it is obvious that pre-flop, I should have called his 3bet. That play was so bad, can’t believe I did that.”
“Since I came back from Europe, everybody is congratulating me for my scores…and I’m like ‘Yeah..But I made two big mistakes at the end, so I’m sooo bad, etc…’ Fortunately for me, my friends are there to remind me that what I did for a month in Europe was remarkable and that they are proud of me. That helps in continuing to try to be the best!”
CP: “Your deep runs in Europe had you very close to major titles on a few occasions. This has to be a bit frustrating, but it doesn’t seem to be slowing you down and realistically, with the schedule you have kept, there really doesn’t seem to be much time to ’regroup’. Are there any tips for players you have been using for just getting back on the horse and playing your ’A-Game’ so quickly?”
Chris McClung: “Not really, it’s just about confidence in yourself and concentration, simply trying to make every good decision on every street of every hand and being consistent in doing that. Obviously, you’re going to make some mistakes…but if you stay focused, everything should go fine. As far as the time it takes to regroup; I think it is harder to collect yourself when you get unlucky/play bad, but when you keep having results in big tournaments like that, is just so easy to believe in yourself and keep the focus.”
CP: “What are your goals for poker in 2012? Do you set milestones or keep it as simple as, let’s say winning something huge?”
Chris McClung: “No milestones really…just to be able to have fun playing poker…and get better! That’s the only 2 goals you can set yourself, I think, as a poker player. Obviously, you want every year to be the best of your life, so yeah, I want that too…AND…I really, REALLY want to win a bracelet next year!”
Thanks to “d0r1t0s” for letting us pick his brain and a big Congratulations on one kick ass year! For now we figure it’s just a matter of betting on which will come first; the Top 10 of bracelet interview?