We catch up with 2010 Irish Open Champion James Mitchell of London. 20 year old Mitchell defeated 707 other players in Dublin to capture €600,000 and one of the most prestigious titles in poker. He also replicated the success of his Black Belt Poker guru Neil Channing.
Pokernews: For those that don’t know, whats your story in Poker so far?
James Mitchell: I started playing poker with my mates from school when I was 15. We were playing £5 sngs and things like that. When I was 16 I started playing a bit on my dad's ladbrokes account. He wasn't keen on me playing poker when I was still in school but I noticed he had $50 left in his account which he had forgotten about after the grand national so I transferred it over to poker. I won a few small buyin tournaments and when I had $2k in the account I started playing 6 max cash games. I wasn't a particularly good player at the time but my aggressive style was working for me coupled with the fact most people were really bad back then. In about 3 weeks I had a little over $50k in my account but I made the well informed decision to start playing some $25/$50 because I recognised Nebuchad in the game and I thought he was a fish from my experience with him at $5/$10. Turned out he was one of the biggest winners in the game and in a couple of days I busted my account.
After I finished school I started grinding some live cash games at the Empire because the games were really soft and along the way I won a tournament at the Western for £13k. I think in a 3 month period I went from having a £10k roll to having a £150k roll after chopping GUKPT Luton for £60k. However, I had got into Nottingham University and my parents were really keen for me to go and while I was trying to balance my uni work, playing online and going to live tournaments I went on a big downswing and a year later my roll looked more like £40k.
I'm not actually sure how I lost so much money. I had €14k stolen from my house at one point which was pretty annoying and I wasn't taking poker seriously enough just assuming I would win in the mid to high stakes games without really working on my game. At the end of the year I realised I couldn't really balance both Uni and poker so I made the lazy man's choice and dropped out.
Now I play a mixture of live and online cash games with the occasional live tournament thrown in. Live I mostly play £5/10 NLH and PLO and online I play $2/4 - $5/10 PLO.
PN: You decided to play at the last minute, what was it that changed your mind to play?
JM: I'm pretty disorganised and I heard the hotel was sold out so in the week leading up to the tournament I told people I didn't think I would bother. Plus I have a really bad record in Ireland. I think preceding this trip I had been there 5 times and never come back with money in my pocket. I changed my mind because my friend Sida Yuen had booked a room and when he got there the night before he realised it was a twin room so I decided to make the trip.
PN: It must have been weird to replicate your mentor Neil Channings success two years on?
JM: I never really think of Neil as a mentor but I guess he kind of is. I think it definitely helped to get some advice from him late on in the tournament and also Roland De Wolfe who came 2nd in the event 3 years ago called me before the final and basically told me how big a deal winning this tournament is and to play for the win. It has actually been a strange year because two good friends of mine and me have won major tournaments with Jake Cody winning EPT Deauville and Kevin MacPhee winning EPT Berlin.
PN: How big have BlackBelt been in the development of your game to this point?
JM: Blackbelt really helped me to start getting back into the online game and to work on my game. Even though I narrowly missed out on making the original Vegas 8 I really liked the competition the grading provided. I think just being around other really good poker players and talking about the game will improve you as a player and keep you on your toes. If people are trying to progress from an amateur player or semi-pro to a successful winning poker pro BBP provides a great platform to do it.
PN: This win makes you pretty high profile, is that something you wanted or is it mainly about the cash?
JM: Winning a major poker tournament was something I wanted to do because of everything that comes with it. I really enjoy playing these tournaments and winning this means I can afford some of the biggest tournaments in the world. It's also opened some doors like being invited to this big game thing.
PN: You are playing in the PartyPoker Big Game IV. Whats the longest session you have played?
JM: The longest session I have played is around 30 hours. It was a £5/£10 round of each game at the Vic and I was winning big in the game so I just kept on playing until everyone went home. I'm planning on playing this cash game for between 3-6 hours depending on if I'm winning and also I might go home early if it is uncomfortably hot at the table because of all the TV lights. The TV table at the Irish Open was very awkward and I think Paul Carr the runner up was really suffering from the heat.
PN: What makes you want to play the Big Game?
JM:I was told there would be a few spots in the game plus cash game poker is what I do almost every day of the week so the opportunity to do it on tv was one I couldn't pass up.