Interview with John Tabatabai

How did you get into playing?

John Tabatabai
John Tabatabai

I started playing poker at school with friends, like how most people started I imagine. The difference being however, that I am a very bad loser. After losing 50p the first couple of days, I decided to research the game online and get some books on the topic and learn. Then I discovered you could practice online for free, and it began. I “cut my teeth” playing free rolls and progressed through to playing higher levels.

Was it the gambling that attracted you to poker?

No, I don’t consider myself a gambler in any sense. You could say I am risk adviser!
So what’s the crappiest job you ever had?
Work experience, on a farm!

So your weren’t ever a fisherman???

No, this was a practical joke which started on the bad beat website. I have never even been fishing! (No poker punt intended)

Where does your nickname, Kunkuwap come from?

People ask me this all the time and the story itself is an anticlimax. It’s just a random word an old friend from High School had come up with randomly, the word was fresh in my mind the following day when I opened up a Ladbrokes account, and there we have it. Although once outside a night club, a friend was involved in a altercation. I decided to shout random words in an attempt to lighten the mood and chill things out “Kunkuwap” was one of those words.

You’ve had a lot of success online haven’t you?

I have done reasonably in the past year. Before that, I had tremendous swings due to lack of knowledge and experience in bankroll management. Being with Badbeat they have made it nearly impossible to have those swings or lose. I just wish I was with Badbeat or had been given the necessary BR management skills right from the start when I started playing. Then I really would have had a lot of success.

In a game that values experience so highly, you became pretty damn good pretty quickly…

Without online poker many of the new top players wouldn’t be able to compete with the old school professionals. Online it is now possible to get 10 years’ worth of playing experience in 6 months and analyze your play in depth with the various online poker academies and schools – Thank god for multi tabling 🙂

What makes a good online player?

Many things; I think one could right a book in response to this question. Everyone has varying styles and all can be successful, I think the key is table selection. The difference between online and live is you can view many tables across many sites within a short period of time, and play at the softest games.

How would you describe your style of play?

Sick and aggressive

Moving swiftly on to the World Series. There were a lot of rumors floating around about how you raised the cash to play. We hear you were playing 24 hrs sessions to boost your bankroll.

(Laughs out loud), I had not heard that rumour. It’s actually not true in the slightest. My online sessions vary a lot, there is no standard. Generally they are quite reasonable. I have on the odd occasion played a 24hr plus session, but that is because the game is good or I am playing extremely well or running well. Not because I was chasing the buy in for a live tourney. My online play is sponsored by I have done well this year online whilst playing for Badbeat, as a thank you they bought me into the WSOPE.

At the final table you won a lot of admiration from fellow pro’s for your style of play, why do you think that was?

John Tabatabai
John Tabatabai

To be honest, I haven’t seen any of the reviews or the commentary on the final table. Marcel Luske and Kirk Morrison did complement me after the tournament which felt really good. When my JJ lost to Annette’s QJ, Jamie Gold appeared out of nowhere and took me away from the table to offer some words of solace. I think about it now and it all seems so surreal. But in the end, even the biggest names, they are human, they get dealt 2 random cards every hand the same as all of us. Once you eradicate the thoughts of them being superior or super stars and you play your own game and concentrate fully, most of their psychological edge disappears and then it’s back to pure skill.

Whom, if anyone, did you fear at the table?

I was most weary of Annette as I had been told she is more deranged than me! However, until we were short handed we didn’t tangle at all, which I think was a smart strategy on both our parts, otherwise one of us would have been knocked out very early I’m sure.
Generally, I think it’s pretty stupid to fear one person over another, If you don’t respect all the players, you’ll ‘donk off’ your chips. Anyone who makes the final table from has considerable skill, intelligence and ability to adjust to the varying styles. I was constantly watching every player and seeing how they were adjusting and reacting after every hand to each of the players involved.

You had a tough field at the final table, what did you think of the players?

Aggressive! It was tough; most hands were double raised preflop, meaning your tournament life was constantly under pressure if you made a mistake. You can see how tough it was as there were a few players who played flawless poker for days on end, and finally got fed up with all the constant reraising and just snapped and made some rather rash calls for their tournament lives. It was great to pit my wits against great players, it raises your game. I loved it.

Any great moments over the tournament you would like to share with us?

I called Jamie Gold a couple of times with just high cards and won. But the most surprising one was in the Heads up against Annette when on a board of rags 87632 I bet the pot on the river with KQ, she made a good read, she called with KJ. We both laughed about that hand.

So were you pleased with your overall performance?

Yes, I am extremely happy with my performance. It was possibly one of the toughest fields ever; how could I not be pleased? However, after I lost the last hand to Annette, I felt devastated. I play a lot of Heads up cash online and do quite well. Once I was heads up with Annette I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I was confident. Unfortunately she played very well and I ended up on the wrong side of the cooler.

Poker players tend to party hard when they win big. Did you and your friends go out celebrating?

The heads up ended at 03:30, we weren’t able to find anywhere open to go to on a Sunday in London. Shame. I did manage to buy every bottle of champagne they had left in the casino. The remainder of the week was partying also with various groups of friends. It was great but also tiring! No sympathy I know I know.

So now you’ve got paid, what’s going to change?

Not much is going to change to be honest. Most likely take a break from the game and do a few other things to refocus.

Interview  by Nick Ferro –