Jenny Woo Talks Punta Cana Poker Classic With Winner Peter Cross

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Jenny Woo
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Peter Cross had an opportunity to cover the fabulous first ever Punta Cana Poker Classic last month.  The winner, Peter Cross, sat down with our own Jenny Woo to talk about that event and more.

JENNY:  How long have you been playing in live tournaments? And do you also play in online tournaments?

PETER: Yeah. I play quite a bit online. I play mostly on Absolute Poker. My name is Peter Hammer. I have played more in years past but I have a three-year-old daughter and I’ve been spending more time with the family this year. I’m also getting back into it now more. She’s a little older so it’s hard to have the privacy when you have a family. I want to spend time with them. It’s kind of hard to lock yourself in a room for 14 hrs on a Sunday and say, “Ok, see you later.” But I play quite a bit and I’ve had the best success on Absolute Poker. I’m really figuring out the game still. I mean, I guess you figure it out your whole life but I’m a winning player. I made the top 100 on the leader board last year and was player of the week on Absolute Poker. I’m playing a lot of volume, final tabled the 80K last week and regularly I final table or win events. But I play a lot of volume so I’m profitable but I’m not making a living off it. I still have a job.

With live play, I’m just starting to play more and I’ve been on quite a run over the last couple of years playing here (Dominican Republic). They have weekly tournaments here and big ones every three or four months. Actually, I’m going to win the tournament leader board for Puerto Plada in the Dominican Republic for the most wins. I also play at the Hard Rock in Florida. I played in the 50K there and just missed the big money bubble – the final table basically. I chopped the Venetian last year and made the money in the World Series in the 1500 and little cashes here and there.

My game is definitely on a different level now and I’ve learned a lot. I’m a member of Poker XFactor, which is poker training school and I just joined another one, Tournament Poker Edge. I’ve been also doing a lot of reading, Kill Everyone, Kill Bill, and that’s really helped me develop my game a lot more. I’m just putting more focus in it. I mean I play for fun but now it’s not fun for me unless I win or unless I top three. People say they play for fun but for me fun is winning. I’ve come close a lot of times and always ran into that one awful hand where I either got it in good and was beat or someone laid a beat on me or I lost a flip.

At Punta Cana, the last day – I mean I made some pretty significant moves on people to accumulate enough chips to take some hits. Then I ran into some monster hands at the wrong time and got knocked down. But then I just started winning flips and I came from behind a couple of times on all ins where I think it was the right move. I mean at that point you’re going all in with sub par hands, an Ace Jack and pocket of pairs and I just was hitting the hell out of the deck so that was for once – they say one time and that was the one time (haha) where I was really hitting it.

JENNY: Was that the moment where things changed for you and you thought in your head that you would see this through to the end?

PETER: There was a key hand – I was thinking through it after – there were a couple of key hands but there was one against the American guy from California. I just feel that I played it really well and that put me over a million chips where I raised – I think we were down to five or six and I had been pretty active – I had the stack and I was taking down the blinds a lot. I think the blinds were 10/20 or so and I made fifty thousand. I guess I was under the gun plus one and he just called from the big blind – I had Ace Jack and the flop came 10, 5, 6 rainbow and he let out with I think a 100K, which was really weird for me because you know I’m really aggressive. I had been really active all day and I had been betting into him and in continuation betting every flop. So at the time my reasoning was if he had any sort of hand he would have just check raised me – let me bet and then gone all in and I had nothing. But I re-raised him to 240K, which is a pretty crazy raise because it’s representing a very strong …… call or a shove – I mean he went into the tank for about 10 minutes and said there were only two moves for him to make and I was just praying that he was going to fold. (Haha) And he did. I just quietly raked in the pot and that put me over a million.

That let me take a few of the hits that I took where the small stacks were raking up with monsters. They were jamming and I was calling with Ace Queen or Ace King and they were having one time Aces, one time Queens, one time Tens and just taking it away and finally I went on a bit of a run. Other people took up people and then – I mean I made some good calls. I’m used to that and people jamming with weak hands. I didn’t have the suck out happen – someone jammed with Ace Five and I called with Ace Ten and they didn’t hit the Five and then I jam into Ace Jack with Ace Ten and I hit the Ten. So it’s Queen, Ace, Queen versus Jacks and river comes with an Ace on the river. That kind of just happened and I managed to accumulate a stack and after that it was smooth sailing.

JENNY: Was there any moment in the tournament when you thought you wouldn’t see it all the way through?

PETER: Yeah, I mean I ended each day pretty strong but I made some folds, which I second-guessed myself a few times. I have a bit of an advantage down here because I play with a lot of the local guys and they have a very aggressive style. They’re very emotional and they get very excited. They jump up and they’re all in and they slam their chips down. So I picked off a few weak situations and it’s tough to take. I mean, I lost a few hands and the guy is running around and singing and running around the table. We’re just not really used to that – at that level anyway – we’re not at the final table of the World Series or anything.

I got caught in a couple of hands – a couple coolers – I had against an older guy with 18 left or so. The pots are getting big and I had Queen Jack and I’m raising stealing the blinds. He flats with King Jack - I think - and in the flop comes Jack, Jack, Five. Well we get it all in of course and he takes half my stack and I say, “Nice hand.” At that point you’re just like, “Oh man. Here we go. We’re starting.” But it was nice. I mean it was a massive beat. I lost a little over half of my chips but then I just got back up again and kept doing it. At the final table when I lost – I lost a couple of hands and went down to maybe 300K – 350K and I had started the day with 600K. So I was sweating inside my skin – I was feeling the heat. I was like, “Oh damn.” There’s such a huge difference between first, fifth, and fourth and I really really wanted to win it just from the minute they announced the tournament. I said, “I’m going to go in there and I’m going to win it.” It’s always nice when that works out. But early on it was pretty smooth. I mean I didn’t run into a lot of resistance. I was able to maneuver around my table, get people to fold when I wanted, and get them to pay me when I wanted. I folded Queens pre-flop in one situation where it was on day one. There were two all-ins and I opened and raised and I was the one who had Kings. So that’s kind of the discipline I guess where you can’t give up your whole tournament because you have a top three or four starting game. You have to think long term. But I made some pretty good moves at the right moment and people abided.

I had Tens against Mike Caro and raised and he re-raised me about half his stack from the button. He’s an old school player and I mean I know I’m crushed – I’m pretty certain I’m crushed anyway and he showed Queens and I folded obviously. You know, I just had kind of the right sense and right feel for it and I managed to stick with it and finish it off.

JENNY: As far as your style of play, would you say that your style of play is aggressive and not so safe?

PETER: Yeah, once the anti’s get involved and once the blinds are a little bigger, I’m definitely either bubbling or getting a big stack. I’m not too worried about sneaking into the money. In the beginning stages, in day one and for most of day two, I’m playing very tight and aggressive. But definitely once the blinds start getting up there, I’m going to be 3 and 4 betting. I’m going to be making moves and sometimes you look like a raving lunatic and other times you look fine. But I’ve just learned that folding after you’ve committed thirty or fifty percent of your stack is negative EV and you know sometimes you’ve just gotta get it all in there. I don’t do a lot of calling. I’m the one that’s putting the pressure on. I’m the one going all in. Just generally calling it out like with any hand because your only method of winning is the cards. But definitely I am a very aggressive player and that’s something I’m trying to control more and more. 

JENNY: Going back to Absolute Poker, you mentioned that you’re on the site a lot. Do they sponsor you in any way?

PETER: No, I’m not sponsored by anyone. I wish I was. I play there regularly.

JENNY: Well hopefully that changes soon for you.

PETER: Yeah. I’m going to the PCA (PokerStars Caribbean Adventure) in January. I just booked my flight. So I’ll be going in the $1000 and $1500 ones. I’m not going in the main event but that’s still really big for my bankroll. Hopefully I can go on a good run again and maybe ship something for six figures or more. Tax-free is nice.

JENNY: Well of course that’s nice. (Haha)

PETER: Yeah it’s hard in the U.S. the way it’s set up. Especially for me. I wouldn’t consider myself a professional poker player. I play a lot of poker and I’m a winning player but I’m not at the point yet where I would categorize it as a profession.

JENNY: Is that where you want to be? Making poker a profession, is that your goal?

PETER: I think that as far as recognition and as far as being a winner and known as a winner – for any player that’s where you want to be. In poker you keep score with the money. Right? So the more money you win, the better player you are and as far as getting into the level where the pros are now – I like to stay out of the U.S. I mean I still play in the World Series and some of the deep stacks. But with the taxes, I’m Canadian, so they withhold thirty percent of it right off the bat and there’s ways to get it back but you pretty much have to prove your bosses are the same. You know how it works. To have an additional thirty percent rake on your winnings just makes no sense. So I love events that are around Latin America and around other places in Europe and the Bahamas and stuff like that because they don’t have that rake. Of course, it’s always a good problem to have because it means that you’ve won. (Haha)

JENNY: You’re originally from Canada but now reside in Dominican Republic. How long have you been in the DR and what brought you there?

PETER: I’ve been here for five years. I came down here to open up a customer service call center, which is my day job. So I operate a seventy-seat customer service call center for some long distance and Internet companies in Canada. I work normal days and then at night I go home and play online.

JENNY: What was your overall experience at the Punta Cana Poker Classic? Not just in the tournament itself but also your stay at the resort? And will you be attending next year’s tournament?

PETER: Did you stay there? Were you at the resort?

JENNY: Yes I did for the full week as well.

PETER: Wow! I mean what a phenomenal place. I’ve stayed in “all inclusive” all of over the place and living down here I sneak away every few weeks and go to a place. You know, it’s just nice to have a place to get away. But that is the best hotel I’ve stayed in by far.

JENNY: How did you like the whole concept of how it was set up? It wasn’t just a place for you guys to play in the tournament but they also encouraged the players to bring their wives, girlfriends, or even a friend to enjoy the resort as well.

PETER: Oh yeah, it was a great deal. I mean the whole package was a great deal. It was really relaxed and I just found that the whole structure was good. The people running it, there wasn’t any mass confusion. There wasn’t any stress or anything. It just seemed like everyone was really relaxed, having a good time and happy to be there. You know, sometimes people get frantic at these tournaments and that’s where mistakes happen. The dealers where a little weak but I’m used to that. So that might have a been another edge too that I had because I’ve played – I was sitting at the table and our guy had three missed deals in a row and exposing cards. People were obviously not too pumped about that but I mean it’s part of the course. You kind of get used to these kind of weird things that happen at the table and you just kind of relax. But for someone that’s used to the professionalism that would come in Vegas, as far as the dealers, it’s not there. They brought in sixty of them or something and gave them a crash course on what they needed. Obviously they did the best they could.

As far as the resort and the way everything was run was just awesome. I was really happy with everything. It was really neat to have all the pros there. I mean wow, to have those people in that type of buy-in situation where you’ve got people like Hoyt Corkins, Doyle Brunson, Mike Caro, and all the Brunson 10. Just so many phenomenal players were there. That’s really unique for here. Here you have a tournament, you’re lucky if you have thirty or forty people that would come in for a $300 or $400 buy-ins. So it was a tremendous effort I’m sure to get all those people there.

JENNY: has confirmed that there will be a Punta Cana Poker Classic 2011. Will you be attending that as well?

PETER: Oh, absolutely. I’ve heard rumors that maybe they’ll do multiple events. Something like the PCA or something like that, where you have maybe two or three different buy-ins over the course of seven or ten days, which would be great. But yeah, for sure I’ll be there. It was a tremendous occasion and of course you couldn’t ask for a better way to cap it off. (Haha) There are definitely no complaints from me. The food was phenomenal there too. All the restaurants were very good and I’m speaking from someone who is used to going to restaurants down here. This is a third world country. That type of food isn’t found anywhere in this country. They really really have done a good job.

JENNY: Well you can only imagine how good next year’s event will be. They only had 3 months to plan this year’s event but will now have a year to plan the next one. So I’m sure there will be a lot more to come for the 2011 Punta Cana Poker Classic.

PETER: Wow. I do want to add in that Ivonne from True Poker is sending me a bunch of hats and jerseys to wear at the PCA. They’re not necessarily sponsoring me but I’ll give them some representation while I’m down there and hopefully on a final table.

JENNY: Lastly, what’s next for you besides the PCA?

PETER: It’s almost Christmas. So I’ll go home (Canada) for Christmas to see the family with my daughter and wife. There’s a local game there and of course everybody wants to see me and play with me after this, which is my largest win. So they’re all pretty excited. I’m going to see my dad who taught me poker. So I’ll play some with him. Maybe go to Niagara Falls and play some 1-2-no-limit and all together things in the world unrelated to poker I’ll be doing. (Haha) I’ll celebrate Christmas, New Year’s, and all that. Then pretty quickly the PCA, the PCA is January 8th to the 16th. I’ll be going down over that period of time and my friend has a condo there so I’ll be able to stay there. I’ve never been there so it should be a good time.

JENNY: I would like to get back in touch with you after that to see how you did.

PETER: Sure. Definitely.

JENNY: Thank you Peter for sitting down with me.

PETER: Thank you.