Name: Matt Giannetti
Hometown: Clifton Park, NY
Chip Count: 24,750,000 (ranks 3rd)
Profession: Professional Poker Player
Years Attended WSOP: 5
The afternoon after the November Nine was reached, each player sat for an interview with the WSOP’s Nolan Dalla. Below are excerpts from those conversations:
Question: How does it feel to be one of the November Nine?
Giannetti: Very literally, since I was 18-years-old, I’ve been wanting this and although I’ve been a cash game player most of my poker career, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care what form of poker you play -- you want to make the WSOP Final Table. You want to win the gold bracelet of the Main Event. That’s poker immortality.
Question: Tell us your story. Where did you grow up?
Giannetti: I grew up in upstate New York -- just north of Albany, in Clifton Park. I grew up playing a lot of sports. I've always been very competitive. I've always been a pretty intense person, my teammates would tell you. I’ve always been a competitive person. Once I got into poker, I just wanted to get better and better and better. You just live and breathe the game, and as you develop, you can just see more angles, it’s just a beautiful thing.
Question: Do you view poker as a science in that it's like a puzzle to be solved?
Giannetti: Yeah, I always like to think of different ways to play hands and stuff like that. It always caters to the individual. I’m not trying to make myself sound like a genius, but it’s kind of like a science trying to figure out exactly how you want to play this hand against this opponent or even this hand against this opponent sitting there, while this person is still in the hand. All the dynamics are really, really cool. It's fun to think about all the ways you play a hand and all the possibilities. I have fun with it.
Question: What would you be doing instead, if poker was not an option?
Giannetti: At the University of Texas, I was going for a degree in computer engineering. But I quickly learned that I hated that. So, I think I'd be doing something with trading, or stocks.
Question: What's been the reaction to what's happened by your family and friends?
Giannetti: My phone has been going off non-stop. Friends from back home, from back in high school that I grew up with, friends from college -- the texts are non-stop. This morning at 8 am, I sat on my bed and responded to 95 text messages -- saying "thank you." I appreciate that they’ve been wishing me well the whole way. I finally had time to tell everyone I appreciated the support.
Question: You were low on chips and in survival mode for the last few days. Can you discuss that?
Giannetti: The thought of staying alive for another hour never entered my head. The only thing I think about each hand is how I can play that particular hand -- with the exception of maybe, thinking slightly into the future, what I could do in this hand to set up a hand in the near future. Staying alive, no. It’s just all poker dynamics. It was just me and Noah Schwartz, who I think is just a phenomenal tournament poker player. We’re always bouncing ideas off each other. Collaborating on, 'Hey, I wish you did this, or did that.' He’s not there making the reads and stuff, but I tell him I think that this guy plays like this or this guy plays like that. And then he comes back at me with I see why you’d go this route. But from a cash game standpoint you might want to think about this and that. And I’m like. 'Oh maybe you’re right.' It’s just a constant tweaking that’s going on. I'm constantly looking into stuff that we could do differently. It’s been a long tournament but if you aren’t constantly trying to adjust and cater your game to be the absolute best it can be for your seat, your hand, your position, your stack size, their stack sizes, then you’re really not thinking about the game.
Question: Which of the remaining player or players do you respect or fear the most?
Giannetti: Respect? I definitely have a lot of respect for Ben Lamb. He’s a good player, there is no denying it.
Question: How many WSOP events did you play this year?
Giannetti: I played the four PLO’s, the half PLO/PLH, the $5K in the beginning -- that’s the only one I cashed in. I consider myself a really good Omaha player. A couple $1,500’s. So, maybe like 10 or 11.
Question: Which of the following applies to the way you view the game – ‘Poker is fun,’ or ‘Poker is a business?’
Giannetti: For me, it's business. But, it can be fun, too. I’ve gone through multiple years in my life where I hated poker, where I didn’t even care if I win the Main Event.
Question: Do you have any regrets?
Giannetti: I wish I had graduated from college (Giannetti attended the University of Texas for two years). I’ll tell any young talented poker players out there who were thinking about dropping out of school -- it's important to get a degree and not feel like you’re stuck in poker. For me, it was such a miserable feeling thinking to myself, 'Oh, I’m playing poker.' I could have gone back to school, but it’s just hard to leave that life and feel like you’re giving up. I’m not going to give up. I’d feel like a failure if I go back to school because then I’m giving up on poker. It’s a Catch 22.
Question: But right now, a lot of college students are probably looking at you and would like to be where you are at the moment.
Giannetti: But I dropped out of college when I was 20, which was my sophomore year. I had everyone telling me basically what I’m saying now. I told them they didn’t know what they were talking about, that I’ve got game. I was cocky and thought I was God’s gift to poker. Now, I’ve been humbled. It’s been a rollercoaster for me the past four or five years. But now, I just think I have a much better perspective on life.
Question: Tell us more about the ups and downs of life as a professional poker player?
Giannetti: I’ve been a big cash game player. I don’t want to call myself great, like a jerk, but I’ve been a very good cash game player. I think a lot of other cash game players have a lot of respect for my game. I’ve done very well at that for a while. I was a cocky, young kid and I had done very well. Me and my good friends were all doing really well. It wasn’t a question of us ever getting into drugs or anything like that, but we all lost our focus at one point. We all lived in Vegas and were going out clubbing every night. This is back when poker games were really good everywhere, so we were going out clubbing, and not honing our skills anymore and not making money anymore and just spending money. We did that for like two years straight. Eventually that caught up to all of us and we had a reality check. All of us are just more humble now and much harder workers. It’s just crazy how much difference a few years makes. We were all like, ‘What are we doing?’ And then we go back and I go back and I work hard, I got my bankroll back up. I got my focus back and I’m making money again. Life is good.
Question: And now, here you are.
Giannetti: Right. I play Day One, and I end the day with 26K. I was happy with that. Then my girlfriend of two-and-a -half years right before Day Two tells me she wants to take a break. So, I have all this personal stuff going on with me emotionally before the tournament. It’s just sick how sick of a roller coaster it was and then that I’m at rock bottom and then my girlfriend of two-and-a-half years, we were very, very serious. We lived with each other. She tells me she wants to take a break and then I felt like I fell off a cliff. I’m not trying to make this sound like a sick drama or something , but I mean there after Day One, I felt like that put me into the sickest focus of my entire life because I just felt like I want this so bad right now just to vindicate myself as a poker player and just feel good again. I had been working so hard for so long. I have confidence in myself almost to a fault. I called somebody when there were 378 left I think and I was bottom ten in chips. He’s talking to me on the phone and he’s like 'You’re okay.' I said, 'What do you mean I’m okay?" I’m fine. I have like 11 big blinds. I’m going to do this. Everything was collapsing around me, but I just knew how to keep faith in myself. For this run to happen after all the things I've been through… I’m just on such an emotional high from everything. It’s incredible. I can’t even describe it.
Question: One final question. If we were to hypothetically offer you second place right now in the Main Event, would you take it?
Giannetti: No. The equity of the gold bracelet -- as far as endorsements go, especially if you’re a marketable person, not to mention it can make you a lot of money other than just playing… you know what I’m talking about? So, my answer is no.