Hoyt Corkins, the Alabama cattle farmer, made a name for himself when he won the World Poker Finals championship event in Foxwoods a couple of years ago. He graciously replied to some questions I emailed him recently, including an interesting nugget on that match against Phil Hellmuth.
Q. As I recall, you played tournament poker pretty seriously about a decade ago and won at least one WSOP bracelet in the past. Did you stop playing, and if so, why did you decide to return to the circuit?
A. My grandmother died and then my father died suddenly of cancer. I was very close with them. My father supported my efforts in poker, so it was a crippling blow for me. I needed to take time off from poker to deal with my emotional losses.
Q. Regarding the tourney circuit, where do you travel and how often are you gone? What's the hardest part about it? To what do you attribute your breakout success in 2003?
A. I go just about anywhere. There are some tournaments in Europe and Australia that I have not been to, but look forward to making. The hardest part is not feeling like you have a home. Having that comfort of home helps my mind wind down. My success is in part to my loving girlfriend, Natalie. She encouraged me to get back on the circuit and helps me keep my mind straight. She goes with me everywhere and handles the little details of life that can sometimes be very overwhelming for a poker player when he has spent all his mental energy in the game. She is typing my responses for me right now, since I don't type that well.
Q. What do you think of Hellmuth's reaction to your "all-in" strategy at Foxwoods in 2003? Why did you use that strategy?
A. I thought it was quite comical. Phil, despite what people say, makes a very good poker show. Some may say that he is overly dramatic, but that drama makes the show more intense. I used that strategy because of an article that he wrote in Card Player. He had just played Toto Leonidas at the US Poker Championship a couple of months earlier and wrote in detail about it. Poker is about using information to your advantage, and Phil gave me all the information I needed.
Q. How much time do you spend in Vegas, and how much in Glenwood, Ala. (where he has his farm)? Why do you maintain residences in both locations? What cash games do you play in Vegas?
A. I spend most of my time in hotels, really. :o) I probably spend more time in Vegas than in Glenwood, due to the fact that there are so many tournaments in Vegas. Glenwood is in the middle of nowhere, and staying there is not good for travel. I keep a house there, because that is where my family is. I try to escape poker when I go there and get refreshed.