Grumpy, hard to please and always ready to defend his opinions at any cost, Allen Kessler is not someone you can ignore. Gaëlle Jaudon had the opportunity to meet the American during his visit to Rozvadov. After all these years on the circuit, “The Chainsaw” still has the same obsession in mind: To finally win a WSOP bracelet.
Somuchpoker: Most of the time, you travel in the US poker circuit. What did that trip to WSOPE mean for you ?
Allen Kessler: I’m in the running for a lot of different WSOP records, so that’s the main reason why I came here—to chase bracelets. I’ve come in second a bunch of times. Last year, I came second here again in one event. I have a lot of WSOP cashes, so now I just want to play everything where there is a real WSOP bracelet. I arrived in Rozvadov at the very beginning, October 2nd. I was here the entire time to play everything. I cashed 4/5 times.
Somuchpoker: You’re known by the nickname “the Chainsaw.” For people who don’t know, can you explain why?
Allen Kessler: In the US, we use chainsaws to cut down trees, so it has blades and is very sharp, and people started to use it as a joke that I’m cutting through the field like a chainsaw. Because I’m known to play very tight and nitty, so it was the opposite of that. That’s how the joke started, and it kind of stuck; it has been 10 years already.
Somuchpoker: You recently conducted an interview with PokerNews, titled “What is Wrong and Right at WSOPE.” They even created a mini-series called “The Chainsaw Report,” where you often give your opinion about poker stuff and regulations. Why is it so important for you?
Allen Kessler: Because, basically, anywhere you go for poker, everybody should have a standard base of rules. I’m so used to having things done a certain way; like if my table is short, I want another player, blind structures or whatever. It’s kind of a thing with me; it has to be just the way I’m used too. Sometimes—not in WSOP—the floor might be lazy or not paying attention, and things go wrong. I just like the floor to be on top of stuff, be consistent, give you a lot of play. This WSOP Main Event had an amazing amount of play—100,000 chips. So they called it “Chainsaw approved.” If something needs my approval, it’s Chainsaw approved. This tournament, for example, is Chainsaw approved!
Somuchpoker: On a previous video from Vegas this past summer, you said “Fuck the haters” before a final table. When you give your opinion, people always give you a lot of feedback, both good and bad. Do you have to struggle a lot with that?
Allen Kessler: Oh, I have a lot of haters. They say that I’m a losing player, or that I don’t know what I’m doing, and they question why I play so much money at tournaments, etc. But if you look at my records, I’ve made like 10 WSOP final tables and finished second four times, so despite what anybody says, I have really good records, which you can see on Hendon Mob. And Jack Effel comes to me all the time with questions about how we could do stuff at the WSOP, and if he didn’t respect my opinion, he wouldn’t ask me. The fact that he even considers asking me means that my opinion is well respected. There is an article on PokerNews from 2014/2015 that specifically says WSOP took my advice and changed something midway through the series, so it’s something that never has been done before. People actually do respect my opinion. The people that hate me just really don’t know what’s going on.
Somuchpoker: You are known for being very critical of tournament organization in the past. A lot of work has been done about that through the years. Do you think it’s better now?
Allen Kessler: It’s ok. Basically, I can find one event that I play every weekend. There is always one event to play every weekend. When I’m in the US, I just pick which one I like the best, like a casino with slots machines or an area that I like, like Colorado, which is really nice with the mountains. So, for me, I literally play 42 weeks a year. I play events every weekend. Sometimes I like to go to the WSOPC because they have a whole series of tournaments where I can get points, play mixed games, and relax in the casino, and it’s usually in an area where there a lot of other casinos. Here, in Rozvadov, we’re a bit trapped, but certain casinos have poker rooms only. I don’t go to those because when I lose at a tournament, I want to have something else to do! I don’t want to be trapped and only play poker.
Somuchpoker: You’ve always travelled a lot, especially in the US. What are your favorite poker rooms?
Allen Kessler: I really like Black Rock Casino in Colorado. The Hard Rock in Florida is also a very nice place. I like Foxwoods, which nobody seems to like, but I really enjoy it. And, obviously, the Borgota in Atlantic City because I grew up in the area, and I used to play at the Taj Mahal before they lost their poker room.
Somuchpoker: What do you feel you have to fight for in poker?
Allen Kessler: Mainly, I feel like I have to fight for the respect of the other players until I win that first bracelet. I’ve come in second four times, but when you have a bracelet, it gives you some credentials. Even without it, I have around 300 cashes in my career. But, unless you win a bracelet, you don’t really have respect from your peers. So I need to finally win that bracelet. I had a lot of opportunities last year. I was a hand away at WSOPE. If I win a bracelet at the RIO, I might cut my schedule a lot because it would be mission accomplished.
Somuchpoker: You cashed in 7 different variations of poker at the WSOP, but as you said, you haven’t won a bracelet. Is winning a bracelet your biggest goal in poker?
Allen Kessler: Yeah, I cashed in seven variations in the same year, and I finished second in four different games too. I definitely want to win a bracelet. My second goal would be to win a WPT title, but I kind of faced back of playing those because I haven’t done well in WPT, and I have some issues with the structures and how the things were run. So, basically, I already won a WSOPC Main Event a few years ago. That was one of my goals. There are only 12 of those a year. The next two goals would be to win a WSOP title and a WPT, but mainly a bracelet. A WSOPE bracelet not so much, but certainly a WSOP bracelet at the RIO!
Somuchpoker: Besides poker, you like a lot casino gambling and video poker and slot machines, and you like to post some results on Twitter. It can be quite surprising. Is that still true? What do you love about that?
Allen Kessler: Yeah, I like to play video poker a lot. I like to play slots machines and different hold’em games also, like Ultimate, where you play against the dealer, but mostly slots machines. I just think it’s relaxing. You don’t have to think; you stay seated, and you just push a button.
Somuchpoker: You are very active on social media. You write a lot on Twitter, etc. What do you like about social media?
Allen Kessler: Oh, I have a huge following. I have around 30K followers on Twitter, my Facebook is sold out, and I just started Instagram and already have a few thousand on there. People like to hear what I have to say. Like Doyle Brunson follows me, Daniel Negreanu, Reiner Kempe, Jack Effel, etc. Really big names in poker follow me, and also the WSOP account. I can say what I have to say. Sometimes I post a survey, and I can get a few thousand responses.
Somuchpoker: Do you see a big difference between the American and European players?
Allen Kessler: Yeah, definitely, especially in PLO. Europeans are a lot more aggressive in PLO. And in the No Limit at the first stages of the Main Event WSOPE, you don’t see a hand without somebody three-betting. It slows down a lot once the limits get higher, but at the very beginning, it was raise-three-bet at every single hand. I’m not used to that. I’m used to people raising and people call; once in a while, there is a three-bet, but here in Europe at the first levels you basically have to decide if you’re going to call a three-bet. You have to get used to it, but after a whole month it’s fine.
Interview by Gaelle Jaudon