It’s been an incredible breakout summer for the UK’s Ben “Fabaz” Farrell, and it’s far from over.
If you’re unfamiliar with the expression “no carbs before Marbs” — and if you’re not from the UK, chances are you will be — it refers to getting your body in shape before you go on your summer vacation (to Marbella, in this case), so you can strut the beach with confidence.
With so much poker action, summer also happens to be the time that poker players need to work on their games and get them into “beach strutting” shape. The season kicks off with the Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) as a warm-up, then moves on through the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and a few more stops around the world, before coming to an end here at the European Poker Tour (EPT) in Barcelona.
In this analogy, Ben Farrell is like the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson of poker. There aren’t many players who have had their games in as good a shape as he has over the past few months.
First Farrell made the final table of a $3,000 Shootout event at the WSOP, finishing in sixth for just under $40K. He followed that up with his first major live victory in the $565 WPT500 at the Aria for a $155K score. A couple of weeks later he took down the $1,700 GOLIATH Las Vegas Main Event for $162K. And a couple of weeks after that he finished sixth in the $5,250 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open Main Event in Florida for $139K more.
Not bad for a predominantly online player who, prior to this summer, would tell his friends he was “due” some live results.
“I just pretend that I’m ‘due’ all the time and it seems to work,” Farrell says, on break during Day 4 of the EPT Barcelona Main Event.
Yep, it’s hardly surprising to see him deep in yet another big event.
“Big fields are my thing,” he says. “It’s the same online too, I always seem to do well in the big fields. I guess I’ve just got a lot of patience.”
Farrell has been plying his trade online under the PokerStars screen name “Fabaz” for years now, and has a CV boasting big final tables and Sunday major scores, as well as a TCOOP title. This year has undoubtedly been his breakout when it comes to live poker though.
“I definitely learned a lot this summer,” he says. “I final tabled that $3K Shootout at the Rio in the first couple of weeks, and I learned a lot from my mistakes at that final table. Then I just slowly got a bit better.
“I think being positive helps a lot, although it’s unrealistic most of the time,” he says. “I think it helps the momentum. I find I take my time [on decisions] a lot more now, as before I played a lot quicker because I played so much online. I take a few more seconds on every decision now.”
That’s not always easy, particularly in events like the EPT Barcelona Main Event where a shot clock is introduced.
“I like them actually,” he says. “I’m kind of used to the shot clocks as I played a couple of tournaments in Las Vegas with them. It’s a bit daunting at first, having only 30 seconds each time. But right now I have 10 time bank cards, so we’re good.”
Rewinding several years, we first came across Farrell on the PocketFives forum on which he regularly shared his struggles of balancing an IT job with a passion for poker and a desire to turn pro. His posts provided plenty of inspiration for other players with similar ambitions, and when he started seeing great results, he proved it could be done.
“Yeah, it took me a while to finally make the leap to being a professional,” he says. “I first took a year off work, just to see if I could do it full time, and I actually had a downswing that year, which was pretty rough. I didn’t have much support from my girlfriend at the time, so it wasn’t easy. I have a new girlfriend now who supports me, and I think that helps a lot.
“Back then it was just a constant grind. I’ve played a lot over the past few years, and if you just put the work in and study a lot — not that I study that much — but eventually hard work pays off, I guess.”
It paid off big this summer in Las Vegas, that’s for sure. We wondered where Farrell’s live titles rank for him among his online success.
“The live titles sit right at the top for me. Winning the WPT (World Poker Tour) was cool, I got a nice little trophy. I didn’t get a trophy for the Goliath, but that’s all right,” he says.
The studying element of poker seems to vary from player to player. While some prefer to run sims on solvers, Farrell opts for a more social approach.
“I’m not studying a lot at the minute, I’m mainly just talking with friends,” he says. “I have a lot of good friends, some of whom are like, the best in the world. So I can just message them and ask for help.”
Would he care to namedrop anyone in particular?
“Michael Zhang,” Farrell says without hesitation. “He’s helped me a lot over the past few years.”
A beast online, where he plays under the PokerStars screen name “mczhang”, Zhang has recently made the transition to playing live high rollers and even super high rollers. But Farrell does not have similar aspirations.
“I’m probably not good enough to play those at the moment,” he says. “I’d have to do a lot more studying. For now I’ll just stick to what I’m good at.”
What he’s good at is winning big-field No Limit Hold’em tournaments. You know, tournaments like the EPT Barcelona Main Event.
“If I win €1.6 million here maybe I’ll probably flick some [high rollers] in, yeah!”