Interview with Isaac “philivey2694/luvtheWNBA” Haxton

Isaac “philivey2694/luvtheWNBA” Haxton
Ike will battle Isildur1 in the biggest SuperStar Showdown this Sunday

Isaac “philivey2694/luvtheWNBA” Haxton has risen through the cash game ranks to become one of the best (if not the best) heads-up no-limit players in the world. He is one of very few top pros who has not moved to PLO, and this Sunday will be facing Isildur1 in the SuperStar Showdown. They will be playing four tables of $100/$200 heads-up no-limit over 2,500 hands with each player risking $300,000.

This is the biggest showdown that has occurred so far on Pokerstars and HighstakesDB have had the opportunity to have an interview with the challenger prior to the match. Isaac “Ike” Haxton discusses the showdown, the current situation of no-limit and poker, how he started and worked his way up to where he is today amongst many other topics.

Hi Isaac. Thank you for sparing your time to talk to me today before the showdown against Isildur1 on Sunday. Are you looking forward to it?

- Hi. No problem. Yes, it should be a great match.

I am thoroughly looking forward to it as I assume many people in the poker world are. There is no
doubt that you are two of the best heads-up no-limit players in the world so it should be an epic battle. Do you feel that you have an edge against him or are you playing the game as a challenge to yourself?

- Thanks. I believe that I have an edge against him which is why I am playing him. I love heads-up no-limit and like the challenge of playing Isildur but will only play someone if I think that I am +EV against them.

Ok I understand. Is there anyone in the world you wouldn’t play against HUNL, and who have been
the toughest opponents you’ve faced?

- Well no, not really. I respect Isildur’s game a lot and think he’s a very good player but I still believe that I have an edge against him, and other tough opponents are jungleman12, Sauce123, and Kanu7.

All of them are certainly top players. There is a big debate at the moment which I think Phil Galfond
has written very well about in his blog about the bumhunting situation currently in poker and especially in heads-up. As a player who is willing to play anyone, what is your opinion regarding this issue?

- I am one of very few players who will play anyone, so my personal preference as to the solution of the problem would be different to the majority. There has been discussions regarding making anyone who sits at a HU table for longer than X hours to automatically have to play someone else waiting around, and this would be extremely beneficial for me personally. Very few players are willing to play me even at PLO which is a game I hardly play. I hope that some sort of consensus is reached by the poker sites to try and rectify this situation but its unfair on the players if one is forced to play against opponent without it being their choice.

It must be annoying for you to have to wait at a table for anyone to join who is willing to play unlike for most players who wait for only a small group of players they are willing to play. Have you become used to waiting for and people declining you action? Furthermore, it must feel good that no one will play you HU at PLO because they probably feel that your NLHE game is so good that you are amazing at PLO too. You are one of very few top pros that haven’t transitioned to PLO; why is that the case?

- Haha. I’d rather have it this way than people following wherever I play; at least I know that people respect my game enough that they won’t play me, but I wish I could get some more action still. I have been playing a bit of PLO recently and ideally I would like if someone could play be for a long time at like $10/$20 so that I can learn the game more that way, but unfortunately its hard to find action at even that stake.

Do you believe that in the future no-limit will become even less popular and that PLO will be the most popular poker game or do you think that there is still enough action available at no-limit?

- Its becoming more evident that players are shifting towards PLO the last few years but I still feel that there is a reasonable amount of action still available at NLHE. I played approximately 20k hands the last two months, and when playing that many heads-up, I feel that that’s still more than enough. I have been playing a reasonable amount of HU SnGs recently at $1k hyper-turbos or $1k-$5k turbos. The win rates in HU are greater than those in ring games.

Do you believe you have a greater edge in heads-up or six-max, and would you be willing to play anyone at $300/$600 and $500/$1k if Stars introduced games that big like they had on Full Tilt?

- I am certainly a stronger HU player than in a six-max game but still consider myself strong in the latter. I prefer to play HU as well because of the intricacies of the game. In terms of bigger games, I would be happy to play that high but its often hard to find action at the nosebleed stakes because there are very few fish. Even at $100/$200 and $200/$400 on Stars, the no-limit games hardly run on the site, and if they do, its rarely for a long period.

There have been reports on the internet that you had a lot of money stuck on Full Tilt and Ultimate Bet prior to Black Friday. I will not go into detail in terms of discussing the figures but are you still optimistic in getting your money back? Additionally, how else has Black Friday affected you?

- I have a lot of money stuck on both sites, and have little, if any, optimism regarding getting my money back from UB. I, however, am still optimistic regarding the Full Tilt situation and am hoping that I will get my money back from there soon. I would obviously like to get it back from UB as well but have little faith in that happening. As a result of having a significant amount of money stuck on both sites, I can probably not play as high as I used to at like, let’s say $500/$1000, and on top of that, I have had to relocate to play poker. I have moved to Malta with my wife and like it here a lot, but we still plan on moving back to the USA when everything is resolved there.

Have you considered going to play in Macau in the really high stakes cash games there?

- I have definitely thought about going but to be honest, I don’t like playing too much live cash games. There is a lot of politics involved in getting into some games and that hassle isn’t for me. I’d rather play HU cash online.

That’s fully understandable. I assume you didn’t jump straight into HUNL when you started playing
poker. Could you give a brief description of how and when you started, your parents’ reaction, and how you have progressed through the stakes?

- I started playing poker seriously in 2004, and made a total of two $50 deposits onto UB. I was introduced to poker by some fellow Magic players, and at that time I was playing Magic at a competitive level. After busting my first deposit, I have never looked back since the second one. I started playing $0.25/$0.50 limit hold’em actually. I was pretty aggressive with my bankroll management at the beginning moving up whenever I had 200BB (Big Bets) for the next limit. I was regularly playing $100/$200 LHE within three years and was studying for my philosophy degree at Brown.

- After the UIGEA was passed, I decided to take a year break from university because it could have been my last opportunity to play poker and did not want to pass it up. My parents supported me in my decision to take a one year break, and I completed my degree the year after, which they were happy with. They have been supportive of me all the way. The year that I took a break was actually the best year for me in my poker career and it was that year that I came second in the PCA main event. I started playing NLHE initially at ring games at $2/$4 before moving to HU in less than a year, and have worked my way up since. I incurred one major downswing during my career and that was in 2008 playing $500/$1k (HighstakesDB graph shows that he lost $1.3 million in the last four months of the year) but I grinded my way back up.

You seem to primarily be a cash game player who has still had phenomenal success in tournaments.
You mentioned the PCA performance in which you won $860k plus you came second in the $40k WSOP NLHE 2009 event cashing for more than $1.1 million in addition to coming third in the $100k High Roller World Poker Classic in December 2011 for $580k and third in the $25k High Roller at the PCA this year for $380k. They are extremely impressive results and with tournament winnings of over $4 million, will we still be seeing you a fair bit on the tournament circuit? How about sponsorship in the near future; are you willing to sign to a site?

- I hope so. I particularly focus on the high roller events and will play many events at WSOP this year. I am open for sponsorship but it depends on the deal; if the right deal comes, I am happy to take it.

There has been interest by many top high stakes HUNL players in the “World Cash Game Championship” that has been proposed by Kanu7. (For our readers who may have not read about it, the format is still being decided but its going to be either a league, knockout or group stages format played at $50/$100 to determine the best HUNL player in the world). Is the championship an idea you are interested in?

- Definitely. Its perfect for me. I have spoken to Kanu about it and I am very interested. Hopefully it happens soon.

Thank you very much for your time and its been a pleasure talking to you. Good luck in your match
against Isildur on Sunday.

- Hopefully it all goes well. Thanks a lot.

Tips: Isaac has been using to help him improve his game. The site has great poker tools to increase your winrate.

Further information on the SuperStar Showdown can be found here


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