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The 888Live Make It Big festival in Barcelona, as mentioned earlier today, has delivered on its promise.
With 609 entries in the Main Event and a €584,640 prize pool, Big is a fair assessment of the playing field and the atmosphere in Barcelona.
Lending to that atmosphere has been plenty of international pros who have gathered at the buzzing Gran Casino.
One of those big names is former November Niner Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi, who is at his third 888poker event after appearing at the inaugural Make It Big festival in London last October and in Rozvadov this winter.
We caught up with him for a quick chat about his extensive history of sponsorships and his thoughts on the big new changes to the WSOP Main Event.
PokerListings: As an American, please compare London and Barcelona for us.
Michael Mizrachi: One’s sunny, one’s not.
MM: One has a beach and one doesn’t.
MM: OK, London has better poker. There are more games and more places to play in London. If you want to make money playing poker London is better; if you want to enjoy life, Barcelona is better.
But here the Gran Casino is maybe the only place you can play. In London you can also play online so you can play against the whole world. Here you can only play with players within the country.
PL: Mizrachi is a household name in poker. Are you the most successful poker family in the world?
MM: We’ve had good success, especially Rob and me. My brother Eric plays, too, but mostly organizes parties in Vegas, and Donny is more of a DJ and a magician.
The great year was 2010 when all four of us cashed in the Main Event. We’ve had a few good years and a lot of years ahead of us.
PL: Where does this proneness to poker come from?
MM: We grew up with slot machines and roulette tables in the house. My brother used to have a slot machine during high school and sometimes my father would wake him up in the middle of the night and say ‘Rob, I need some quarters for the slot machine, like $10.’
We were a family of gamblers. My mom would play Gin Rummy and all those games. Robert pretty much brought me on board as a kid and when I was 16 I was playing professionally.
PL: Nobody has a longer list of different sponsors than you. What is it that makes you so attractive for them?
MM: (whispers) It’s the good looks.
PL: Ha ha!
MM: No, honestly, I have a great nickname – “The Grinder.” I’ve had a lot of success over the years, and I’ve been in the game so long, and that simply attracts a lot of sponsors.
PL: The latest one seems to be 888. Is there a contract coming up or what’s the idea?
MM: I’m more of a guest here and we have a great relationship. I love being with 888poker and I do a lot of the live festivals and I come to Europe — although otherwise I spend a lot of time at home in Florida now.
That’s where my children are so it’s hard for me to leave a lot of the time. My youngest son is nine, the girl is 11, and Paul is 12.
PL: Then how do you adjust your WSOP schedule this year?
MM: We’ll figure something out. They’ll spend some time with me and some time with their mom; it’s easy.
PL: Are you going to have a busy schedule?
MM: I decide by the day. I usually play around 30 events.
PL: They’re getting rid of the November Nine. What do you think of that?
MM: I support that. It’s good because no one can train for three or four months, the pressure’s on right there.
Also, I think that for more players it’s like if you’re hot, you want to go with the ride instead of wait for several months and get ice cold.
And some people have to travel across the world to get back to Vegas and it’s a long way. You’re there anyway. Maybe you want to take two days off, but you should play right away.
PL: You can probably make points for and against the November Nine.
MM: The only thing against getting rid of it is sponsorships but don’t worry … you’ll get a lot of phone calls in those two days.
PL: What did you do when you made the November Nine?
MM: I didn’t even look at anybody. I didn’t watch what they did, I didn’t watch anything, I just played my game.
For me that’s the best way but it’s different for everyone. I think it’s difficult to train me, because of my style, but for others it might be great.
I personally adjust to the players at the table.
PL: Did you feel that any of the other players at the final table had changed significantly when you all came back?
MM: I don’t think so but then you didn’t get to play that many hands with them before the final table so I wouldn’t be completely sure.