In honor of Lance “kingping023” Harris nearly winning his second FTOPs event of 2010, check out the Q&A he did with fellow poker player Nate Avenson after his February FTOPs win — for $330,000.
From the April issue of Minnesota Poker Magazine
“King Pin” – by Nate Avenson
February 15, 2010 was a sweet day for Fargo native Lance Harris, who currently hails from Apple Valley. In the wee hours of the morning, claiming victory over 1,540 competitors, Lance was the winner of FTOPS Event #12, adding a cool $331,315 to his net worth. I sat down with Lance to discuss his poker career, the big win, and what the future holds.
Nate Avenson: Let’s talk a little about your life before you found poker. What kind of work did you do?
Lance “kingpin023” Harris: I worked drywall for a number of years, before realizing it was time to go back to school. Once I was back to school, my younger brother was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood cancer. He fought it hard but passed away right before his 16th birthday. As you might imagine, this made school very difficult for me, and once again I dropped out and was forced to find another job.
NA: So, how did you find poker?
LH: Well, I used to play a lot of pool in the Fargo area, and through that, I met Rob Anderson, who was the site manager for Prairie Public Broadcasting’s Charitable Gaming. He hired me to deal blackjack, which was actually a fairly lucrative gig at the time. He was a long-time, avid poker player and sparked my curiosity in the game. I got my feet wet by reading Super System, and dabbling in the online games. I remember making a few $50 or $100 deposits on Party Poker, and splashing around in the low stakes games. I switched to Doyle’s Room where I had some early success in MTTs and decided to read more books and really just go full out trying to master the game.
NA: So, at what point did you decide to go pro?
LH: It was about 3 or 4 years ago. After dealing blackjack for a couple years I was offered, and accepted, the site manager position. The pay was good, but it was a very time consuming and stressful job. Eventually, I started making about as much money playing poker as I was at my job, but in far less hours. So I stepped down as manager to see what I could do playing poker full time. I kept dealing blackjack two nights a week, just in case things went bad and I needed something to fall back on. Within about six months poker was going great and I quit dealing blackjack altogether, which was a great feeling.
NA: What is a normal day/week like for you as a professional card player? How many games, and at what stakes do you play?
LH: Well, weeks vary. During big online events, like the FTOPS, I might play 80+ hours a week, playing from noon until 3am for several days in a row. I typically play 10-12 tables at a time. I’ll play re-buys up to $50 and freeze-outs up to $300, and occasionally take shots at some of the bigger games. I have a lot of respect for the hardcore grinders out there, putting in sick amounts of volume. I can put a lot of volume in, but I also like to enjoy life and take some time off. I think it helps me keep an even keel. I work hard for the money, and I think it’s important for me to take time off now and again to enjoy my success.
NA: Speaking of success, what was your biggest score before this event?
LH: I took 6th in the Poker Stars Sunday Warm-up back in September for about $28k. That was my biggest online win at the time. My biggest live win was a 3rd place finish in an HPT event for about $18k. I also had a deep run in the $530 2-day WCOOP event. Basically, I’ve sniffed a lot of big scores, but always came up short.
NA: Yeah, this game can be brutal at times. If I recall correctly, you recently suffered a fairly significant downswing on Full Tilt. Tell me a little about that.
LH: Yeah, I had kind of a strange year in ’09. It started out great. I made somewhere around $26k in two days. Then immediately went on a $20k downswing. I kept grinding all year, got it all back and was having a great year. Then, all of the sudden, I couldn’t win a hand on Full Tilt. I bricked tournament after tournament. I lost like $30k in MTTs and $10k in SNGs on Full Tilt over the course of 3-4 months. It was mind boggling, just an absurd downswing, but I tried to keep my head up. I kept telling myself that things will turn around, it was just variance. But towards the end of the year I was really getting discouraged. Things were going fine on Poker Stars, but couldn’t get anything going on Full Tilt. At the end of the year I looked back on my results at Full Tilt and I had made around $5k over about 1000 tourneys. It was very discouraging to say the least. I decided to give up on Full Tilt and mostly play on Poker Stars. But then Full Tilt ran a weeklong promotion of double guarantees in all their MTTs and I just couldn’t resist. So I decided to give them one last shot. After bubbling numerous final tables and making a ton of deep runs. I end up shipping the $30 re-buy for $12k, and chopping a $100 freeze-out on Poker Stars for $11.5k. The deep runs really boosted my confidence and put some motivation back in my MTT game. It’s funny because, before that week, I remember thinking about the prospects of finding a “real” job. I told myself that when my bankroll hits X, I’m going to have to start looking for a job. I’d still have plenty of money to play with, and I could rebuild my roll playing part time. I knew that if I didn’t do that, I risked the chance of going completely busto, and that would mean working full-time, and no poker. Not a pretty picture.
NA: So you had boosted your confidence significantly right before the event, is that what made you decide to play?
LH: I usually try to play the $1k’s during the FTOPS because they put such a big guarantee on them. So, I decided to try to satellite in. I had $300-$400 invested by the time I won my seat. If I hadn’t won a seat, I’m not sure I would have even played. It’s strange how significant outcomes sometimes hinge on minute details. Once I had won the seat, I set up a somewhat lighter schedule for the day than normal to be able to give this tournament extra attention. Where I would normally be playing 10-12 tables, I opted to play just 6-9.
NA: Did you recognize any of the players at your table early on?
LH: Yeah. Two to my left was Thayer Rasmussen’s brother Geoffras. I’ve played him before and he definitely plays good. On his left was Julian Verse, another very solid player. We started with 6k in chips and I had one significant hand early on that got me to 10k. I opened with KK on the button and the SB called. He proceeded to check/call all three streets with QT on a KQ766 board. After that, I didn’t get much going. I floated around with about 20 BBs for most of the event. I’d blind down to 15 BBs or so, get it in, win a flip, and float some more. I made some folds near the bubble that I normally would never make. One example is a hand where the HJ opened; I was in the CO with 15 BBs and looked down at KQ. Normally this is a snap shove, but with only $300-$400 invested and only 3 players left before a min-cash worth $1900, I opted to fold. Both of the blinds went all-in showing QQ and AK, which would have left me virtually drawing dead. I kept coasting along, nursing my short stack until there were 60 players left. I won a few big pots and accumulated a top 10 stack. When only two tables remained, I was sitting at the one with all the well-known players, while the other table was mostly nameless. Fortunately, when a player busted on the other table, I got moved and was able to come into the final table 6/9. I was very card dead and handcuffed with my stack size at the final table and just kept hanging around until we ended up 3 handed.
NA: What was it like to find yourself playing 3 handed with gboro780, the #1 ranked player in the world?
LH: I was definitely the least experienced player playing for that kind of money, they knew it, and I knew it. Chopping wasn’t an option for them, so we were going to play it out. I had already locked up a $155k payday, which I was more than happy with after being so short for the whole final table. At this point gboro780 was in 2nd and I was 3rd in chips. I knew I would need to loosen up and play back at him. I was fortunate enough to win two flips against him, QT>44 and 55>A8s to knock him out. I had played with grindtherail for much of the tourney and knew he was going to be a tough heads up opponent. Heads up he was opening 100% of his buttons and 3-betting me over 50% of the time. There was a critical hand where I opened with 99 on the button and he 3-bet me. I 4-bet, and I remember thinking that I would not be surprised if he 5-bet me. At this point the match was very much one of meta-game, with each of us trying hard to level the other. He ends up 5-betting and I 6-bet all-in. He snap called and showed TT. Again, luckily, I flopped a 9, giving me 7.5M chips to his 1.6M. Less than 20 hands later we get it in once again. I am holding A2 to his 77. The flop comes 2XX. The turn is another 2, leaving him drawing to one of two 7’s. The river bricks, and I just shipped an FTOPS event.
NA: What was going through your head after the final pot was shipped to you?
LH: I could hear my roommate freaking out in the living room and I just sat back in my chair for like 1 or 2 minutes, not really showing a ton of emotion. It had been a long tourney, and a long day. It was 6am at that point and I was kind of in shock. I went out into the living room and my roommate tackled me. We poured a couple of drinks to celebrate and I called my mom and some other close friends to share the good news. It took a while for it all to sink in, days really.
NA: So where do you go from here? What stakes do you plan to play? I found it a little humorous that 2 days after you won a third of a million dollars you and I were playing in the same $15 event online.
LH: Haha, yeah, that’s a fun little Super Turbo Knockout Pot Limit Omaha tourney. I obviously don’t usually play events so small, but that one only takes 2 hours and you can win $1600 or so, so it has a good hourly return. I don’t plan to move up in stakes at all. I make good money at the levels I play. I know where my edges are for the most part. I tried to satellite into the $2500 FTOPS, but after a few tries I stopped. Even though I could afford to buy in directly, I’d rather play games where I have a significant edge and risk much less of my bankroll.
NA: Do you have any big plans for the rest of the money?
LH: I set aside a big chunk of it for taxes. I also paid off my car loan. Other than that, I’ll use some of it as a down payment on a house in Vegas. I’m heading there in April to meet with Realtors. I moved to the cities from Fargo and I like it here for the most part, but I’m ready to go someplace warm. Vegas is the obvious choice.
NA: So, where do you see yourself in 5 years?
LH: What? Did this just turn into a really cliché job interview or something? No, joking aside, I obviously hope to still be playing cards, but it’s hard to say where the game will be in five years. The online game has an uncertain future for sure. I guess that’s part of the motivation to move to Vegas. No matter what happens to the online scene, there will always be cards in Vegas.
The author of this article, Nate Avenson, is a professional poker player and friend of Lance Harris’ who attends Bemidji State University. Nate blogs at MNPokerMag.com. Read more about him at NateAvenson.com.