Greg Mueller made three final tables at the 2009 World Series of Poker . His first came when he cashed in seventh place in the $10,000 seven-card stud world championship. Mueller’s next deep run came in the $10,000 limit hold’em world championship, a game that is one of his specialties. Mueller won his first gold bracelet at an impressive final table where he outlasted Chad Brown , Daniel Alaei , Matt Hawrilenko , Matt Glantz , and Soheil Shamseddin , and then defeated Pat Pezzin in the heads-up final. Mueller’s second bracelet win came 11 days later, when he topped a field of 571 players to take home his second gold bracelet in the $1,500 limit hold’em shootout event.Mueller joined Brock Parker (two bracelets), Phil Ivey (two bracelets and counting), and Jeffrey Lisandro (three bracelets) as the fourth multi-bracelet winner of the summer. His achievement was overshadowed a little bit by the abundance of multiple bracelet performances at this year’s WSOP , but his three final tables, two gold bracelets, and the $709,631 that he won are impressive, nonetheless.Card Player caught up with Mueller recently and he talked about how it felt to win two gold bracelets after he had come so close (runner-up finishes in 2007 and 2008) in previous years.Ryan Lucchesi: You came really close to winning a bracelet two times before winning the first one, so how thrilled were you to capture the first one?Greg Mueller: I didn’t really even have time to think about why I was happy, I just knew that I was happy. It was a really prestigious field that featured the best tournament players, and it featured a really tough final table where I was happy with my play. All in all, I was happy for my first bracelet. I can’t really pinpoint a spot and say this is why; I just was extremely emotional about it.People say it’s a monkey off the back, but I don’t think that. There are a lot of good players who are going to go through their lives and not win a bracelet, because it is tough to win a bracelet. The only reason I felt like I had gotten the monkey off my back was because I had been there so many times, and I felt like, ‘When am I going to close [it out]?’ I felt relieved after coming so close. I’m just really happy because limit is what I grew up playing and I have a reputation as being a good limit player. Having the best limit players and the best tournament players in that event made it a very prestigious win for me.RL: You won the second bracelet so soon after the first. Did this shove your emotions into overdrive?GM: I couldn’t really even finish celebrating the first one before the second. Is it any less sweet … of course not, because winning one may be a small chance, and now you win two, and you’re like, wow! I was just as happy and just as excited. Like I said, there are some phenomenal players who haven’t won bracelets and some phenomenal players have just won one. Now, here I am with two won in one year. It’s a thrill.RL: Do you think professional players give a lot more respect to the bracelets that are won at the $10,000 events hosted at the WSOP because of the tougher fields in them?GM: Yeah, the $10,000 events are filled with the experts in those particular games, as well as the best tournament players and those competing for player of the year. Even though the fields are smaller, you don’t really see too many easy spots when you sit at the table. There are nine or 10 players at a table, and eight of them are world beaters. Whereas the smaller buy-in tournaments are very tough because there are so many players, but when you sit down at a table you’ll see a lot of crazy stuff. In smaller buy-in fields, where there are 5,000 people, there are a lot of good players, but there are also a lot of bad players. In these $10,000 limit tournaments you see at the World Series everybody is a world beater.RL: Would you attribute your limit hold’em tournament success to the fact that you learned the game by working your way up through limit cash games?GM: Yeah, I think that … It’s funny, because I have made a lot of no-limit final tables, too, and I consider myself a better cash game no-limit player. I just believe that I think I’ve got the right formula in limit tournaments. If I’m short-stacked, I think I really know how to play, but a lot of players get short-stacked and they get impatient. There are no antes, so you really don’t need to panic in the limit events as much as you do in the no-limit events. It’s just not profitable to defend your big blind in limit events when no ante is the middle like in no-limit.Really, the strategy is a lot different, and I think I have the right formula down to play the short- , the medium-, and the big-stacks. I think I have a better advantage in limit tournament strategy. In no-limit, these guys have all the math down, and I don’t even do that. I look at every hand situational in tournaments.Combine it with when to value-bet and when not value-bet. In a limit cash game, I’m a big value-bettor. In the limit event, the $10K that I won, I was up against Pat Pezzin, I raised on the button with K-Q, and he three-bet with A-K and it came king high, the dream flop for his hand. I just called the whole way and left myself with a bet. Had I put one raise in there like I would in a cash game, I would have busted, so its things like that. A lot of guys would have gone all in. That one bet turned into a mountain. I talked to Negreanu after the tournament, after people were wondering why I didn’t value-bet that one extra bet, he came up to me and said, ‘That’s why you’re doing well in these tournaments, because you realize the importance of saving chips as opposed to getting the extra bet.RL: Did you learn poker playing the game while on road trips for professional hockey?GM: I always liked to gamble and have fun and bet and play cards. On the road trips in Europe, we would have 12-hour bus rides, so we would just sit in the back after games and drink and play cards. So, my natural affinity for strategic games gave me an edge over my teammates, some of them weren’t disciplined, so they were straight gambling. Some guys are great hockey players, and when it comes to cards they’re not that smart, and some guys are really competitive, so they find ways to become better. Even if you’re not that great to start out, competitive people in general find ways to get good.
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