Poker Champion

Written by Teddy Burch in the June 2008 Issue

While flipping through the channels, many of us have watched a portion of professional card-playing. The biggest event of the sport is the annual World Series of Poker (WSOP), played each year in Las Vegas. The game is Texas Hold’em, and Edmond resident Charlie Sewell will again be competing in this year’s tournament.

Q: How did you get into playing poker professionally?
A: I have had several different careers throughout my life and have never been afraid of new challenges. I started playing poker part-time online and some live tournaments when it worked out with my job schedule. It was working well and I had a great passion for it so I took the plunge when the time was right.

Q: What is it like playing with the biggest names in the game?
A: I have no fear. I can play against any of the big players and seem to even play better against them. I find it easier to play against well-known players because they can lay a hand down when they are behind. That results in fewer bad bets. Amateurs will make plays with the worst hand, and sometimes get lucky and win. It is hard to out-play luck, no matter how skillful you are.

Q: How long of a stretch do you play at one time?
A: We usually play two hours and then get a 15-minute break. After 7-8 hours we get a 90-minute dinner break. I have played from noon until 3:00 a.m. and then had to come back the next day at 2:00 p.m. to play again.

Q: What is your goal of playing in the WSOP?
A: [This year], 2008 will be the fifth year in a row that I have played the main event. Like most everyone, I would like to win the event. I want to win a gold bracelet in any of the preliminary events as well. In 2006, I finished second in one event to David “The Dragon” Pham, who went on to be the “player of the year.” He is tough but a great competitor.

Q: What do you eat while playing for so many hours?
A: At 5:00 a.m. I usually eat breakfast before a big tournament. Ham and cheese omelets are a favorite of mine. We get a 15-minute break every two hours, so it is hardly enough time to eat. I can grab a snack or burger during my break if I want. If I am fortunate enough to make it for 7½ hours I can eat dinner. An hour and a half is granted for dinner. (More than half the entrants do not make it to the dinner break.)

Q: If you were to win the WSOP, about how many hands would it require?
A: I would guess about 1800 hands, most of which I would look at and not get involved in. The big challenge is to win races and survive bad beats.

Q: What is your favorite part of Las Vegas?
A: I love people. Las Vegas is filled with them from everywhere. They are mostly friendly too.

Q: Do you have any friends that will play you in cards for fun?
A: Not really. After playing for many hours a day, the last thing I want to do for entertainment is play poker for fun.

Q: I’m staring at pocket jacks, and whoever is across the table is all in: what do I do?
A: Most decisions in poker are situational, so the answer is that it depends on a number of things: their stack size in relation to my stack size, will it bust me, past experience against this player, Does he/she only move all-in with pocket aces or pocket kings? I have laid down pocket jacks in a situation like this. It is easy to wait until you know you have the best of it. There will be another opportunity. I will always prefer to be the bettor instead of the caller.

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