The overwhelming emotion after Oliver Hutchins won a Platinum Pass to the PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC) was exhaustion. It wasn’t because of a marathon — he won the Platinum Pass Experience, which took around four hours start to finish — but for this relatively new player with big ambitions, this startling success represented something he hadn’t yet dared to think about.
“It was a really fun experience doing this,” Hutchins said. “But I wouldn’t want to do this every day because it’s emotionally draining, and it’s kind of weird having all the cameras on you. I don’t necessarily like having all the attention on me, but if it means having this [the Platinum Pass] and going to Barcelona, then I’m OK with it.”
That’s exactly what it does now means for this 25-year-old from Maidenhead, Berkshire, who was the standout performer in the exclusive eight-handed single-table shootout, held at Aspers Casino in East London. All the players had won their tickets in qualifying tournaments on PokerStars costing £5.50 to play, at which point the Platinum Pass was little more than a distant glint. But after prevailing from the final qualifying tournament and securing his passage to the final, the focus on the Pass grew significantly sharper.
“I had enough confidence in my game that I could probably win if I played well enough and ran well enough, and I did,” Hutchins said.
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Hutchins first learned poker around eight years ago, playing with friends while he was at college and then online. He worked for a few years in a warehouse, but quit his job earlier this year, moved house and played a lot more poker, particularly PLO cash games.
“I’m not sure if I really consider myself a poker pro yet because I only quit my job three months ago,” he said. “But since then I’ve been playing and I’ve had winning months, and that’s what I’m sticking with.”
In the summer, he took his first trip to Las Vegas and played the Big 50, more than doubling his $500 buy-in for navigating through the 28,371-strong field to 2,067th place. It’s his only documented tournament cash, so far. The rest of the time in Las Vegas he played PLO cash at the Encore and the Aria, and treated the trip as might any other first-timer in the world’s gambling capital. “That was more of a holiday,” he said. “Go to Vegas, have a blast, don’t worry about the money.”
Hutchins, though, is clearly a deep thinker about the game of poker, paying particular attention to the importance of emotional stability in what can be a volatile world. Though the Platinum Pass Experience final was relatively short, every player endured some severe emotional peaks and troughs, none more than Hutchins. He lost nearly half his stack early on when his eventual heads-up opponent Ben Rafiei rivered a straight with pocket eights and beat Hutchins’ turned set of queens, but Hutchins was able to grind back and then won a decisive pot against Rob Sherwood, rivering a nine with A♦9♣ against Sherwood’s A♥Q♥.
Hutchins, who was all-in and covered at the time, said: “Obviously I thought I was going. I thought I was going to finish in that place [fourth]…But yeah, that’s poker. I didn’t really emotionally react to it, because I’ve trained myself not to. I’ve been rivered so many times, and I’ve rivered so many people in so many pots, especially when you play PLO which is a crazy swingy game.
“I was happy that I hit the nine, obviously, but emotionally I had to stay with it because I was still in the competition. I still have to focus and I still have to play hands well. I didn’t let it go to my head or anything.”
By this stage, the blinds had grown huge and the game-plan for the remaining players was the fairly straightforward all in or fold. But Hutchins, who is a tennis player in his spare time, realised too that he had to accept the structure and roll with the punches.
“I’m a pretty good poker player, but there’s so much variance, especially when the blinds go up quickly,” he said. “It’s not like Novak Djokovic who can go on a tennis court and say, ‘OK if I play my best I will win.’ You can’t go into these things expecting to win otherwise you’ll be disappointed so many times. All you can do is play your best in the moment, as each moment comes, and if you do that, you’ll give yourself opportunities. And that’s what I did today.”
The brief heads-up battle ended when Hutchins flopped a straight and Rafiei shoved into him with middle pair. Hutchins called and held, and then slumped his head forward on to the rail, as things finally began to sink in. “I don’t know if I was emotional,” Hutchins said. “I was more just exhausted and drained emotionally. I wasn’t going to burst into tears or anything. I’m not that much of an emotional guy. But I was really happy.”
Hutchins received his Platinum Pass from Chris Moneymaker, another man who knows a thing or two about being thrust from obscurity into the spotlight. Moneymaker underlined the full extent of Hutchins’ achievement, turning £5.50 into a Platinum Pass, though Hutchins was quick to set the record straight later on.
“I played maybe four or five of [the qualifying tournaments], so when Chris said I got in for five pounds, that’s actually not correct. I’m more in for £40.”
Either way, Hutchins’ future now looks far different from what it did a month ago. In the immediate aftermath of his victory, Hutchins said he was going to do nothing more extravagant than lie down for a few hours and message the friends who had been watching on the stream. “As for the next three months? I don’t know,” he said. “I’ll obviously be anticipating the PSPC. I’ll just keep doing what I do. Maybe next year, four months before, three months before, I’ll start brushing up.”
HEAR FROM OLIVER HUTCHINS AFTER HIS BIG WIN