His name is James McCarty. He’s an Asian American who went to Asia with the dream of trading financial markets in Tokyo and discovering his Asian roots. He fell in love with live poker a year ago, and on a chance weekend to Macau, he won the ‘PokerStars Macau Poker Cup’, beating a long line of Asia’s finest poker pros. Read about poker’s unlikeliest underdog and what it takes to bluff Asia’s greatest bluffers.
ZP: So James, where are you from and how did you end up in Asia? Mainly for the ladies?
: Haha…I was born in Boston, grew up in New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and then Oregon. My senior year of university I was given a job opportunity to trade in the financial markets, which was my dream. The opportunity was in Tokyo and I took it. I shouldn’t say I moved here for the girls, because I love girls from all continents.
ZP: So how did you first get into poker? Let me guess, from playing Zynga Poker the greatest poker game online in the world ever?
: Hahaha, actually I first started playing poker when I was a waiter in Alaska during summer 2004. I learned the rules after the night shift, playing with other waiters and the cooks. Then when I was backpacking in Cambodia one year later, my friend Jason taught me real strategy. He is now a professional player in Macau. Zynga Poker is great and I have met people who first got into poker through Zynga. I admit, however, I am a newbie. I only installed it this year.
ZP: And what do you love about playing poker?
: Living in Japan, Macau is a lot closer than Las Vegas. Live poker is a thrill, and I love visiting Macau to compete when I can get away for a weekend. I’m a trader and I see endless parallels between poker and trading. Managing ego, sizing up risk, understanding the psychology of the market/ your opponents, knowing when to push your advantages and when to cool off. Poker makes me a better trader, and trading makes me a better poker player.
: Before the tournament started, what stage did you expect to get to?
: At first I was just trying not to be the first one knocked out. I was dealt KK my second hand and though I only managed to win a small pot, it calmed my nerves. I got poor cards the rest of Day 1 and Day 2 but managed to survive. I was very short stacked most of the time, so I was not really thinking about a potential win. I stayed up late partying the night before the final day because my stack was so small and chances of a comeback slim. And I wanted to enjoy time with my friends. This actually served to loosen me up, and before I knew it I was playing well, finally getting good cards, and steamrolling through the final table.
ZP: How much did you take home in winnings and what are you going to spend it on?
: HK$490,000. As a pretty conservative guy, I am torn between two choices. Saving it in my bank account and investing in bonds. Or spreading it out on my floor bill by bill, and rolling around in it. I'm still taking suggestions.
ZP: So have you thought about giving up your day job and going pro? You’ve clearly got the talent.
: Everyone who has played poker has probably daydreamed about going pro, don't you think? Poker is a great game. I enjoy my current job and prefer to keep poker as a hobby for now. But ask me again in two years ;)
ZP: Zynga Poker is full of budding poker newbies who would love to emulate what you’ve done. Any advice for how to sharpen your skills and beat the best?
: I still have a lot to learn myself, but here are some lessons I have learned-
1. Stay disciplined.
I won US$2000 one time in university. However, I played recklessly and lost it all in the following two weeks. I got depressed when I thought about all the pizzas I could have bought. I promised myself to never again play recklessly with my winnings, and began playing more disciplined poker.
2. Keep your ego reined in, but stay confident in your abilities and potential.
This balance is admittedly very tough, but if your ego gets out of control you are bound to blow up. This is true in poker as well as in trading.
3. Don't play scared, because you will make poor decisions.
Instead play confident and creative, i.e. don't be afraid of raising under the gun with 7-10 suited every once in a while. This will keep your opponents uncertain of what you hold, which is exactly what you want.