In the past two years, Alex Foxen has had such incredible success on the international poker circuit that he was crowned GPI Player of the Year 2018. Currently, he is still leading the GPI ranking. This is a very important honor to him, which he confided to our reporter Gaëlle Jaudon in this interview, as well as discussed his career and finest achievements.
Somuchpoker (SMP): First, for people who don’t really know you, can you just tell us a little bit about yourself and your career?
Alex Foxen (A.F): I got into poker when I was really young, like a lot of people, but I didn’t start playing seriously until I was 23 years old, after I graduated from university. I played online for a couple of years, and I made the transition to live poker in 2016. I worked my way up from there, starting with small tournaments like $200 to $500. I progressed whenever I could and played bigger whenever I could, and I’m continuing to do that now!
SMP: As you said, you transitioned in 2016, and you had a fast progression. In 2017, you still didn’t have any 6-figure live score, and in a year and a half you became the GPI number one. How do you explain that quick ascent?
A.F.: I think that a lot of that is just the way poker is. You can’t really see someone is working until results come. So I feel that I’ve been putting a lot of time and effort into the game and really dedicated my life to it for a few years, and I feel that the results that I’ve been having lately are kind of the result of that. And, also, it’s an attitude of always trying to be better. I think that a lot of people may move up slower in stakes or progress slower because they are happy with where they are or they’re not sure that they’re able to play at the next level, maybe irrationally, but I’ve always been confident that I could play the next level and play as high as possible. I always wanted to have the opportunity to prove that. I’ve been just taking every opportunity I can when some other people might be more timid about that. I always had confidence and wanted to play against the best.
SMP: You mentioned that people don’t see the work until the results come, so what was the toughest thing you had to work on?
A.F.: Honestly, I think that the mental and emotional aspects of the game were probably the ones I struggled the most with. I have a history in sports, so sometimes I would have some emotional responses to losing, sometimes versus a certain type of player, something like that. So, for me, especially early on, the biggest thing I had to work on was my mental game, my emotional responses to things. Because when you play a sport, for example, you can get really mad and play really hard, but in poker, if you play really hard, it’s not going to help you; you’ll just end up losing your chips. That’s definitely something I struggled with.
SMP: What helped you the most? You got a mental coach?
A.F.: Yeah, I still work with Eliot Roe. I think that it’s important to continue to work on things like that. From fitness and theoretical understanding to emotional response and mental game, it’s important to work on all of those elements consistently.
SMP: In your first very big score at the WPT Five Diamond Poker Classic, finishing second for $1,134,000$ at the end of 2017, you had a massive hand against Sean Perry and made a big call. What does that hand represent in your career? Was it a key moment for you?
A.F.: Yeah, I think you’re referring to the hand where I had K7 and he had 89. And, yeah, it was definitely a big moment. That whole experience of a huge final table was a big thing for me. I hadn’t had a major score. I hadn’t had a major spot to play, and until that point I’d had, some close calls, but nothing really like that. That was definitely something that was a big boost to my future potential, I think—not only from an element of people knowing who I was and maybe being more likely to buy my action, but also for my confidence level and bankroll.
SMP: You became a very familiar face in the high roller tournaments, played a lot of $25K and more, and even came in runner-up in the $300,000 Super High Roller Bowl for $2.16 million. Why did you decide to play so many big tournaments?
A.F.: As I said earlier, I always wanted to compete at the highest levels possible, and when I was beginning to play, I think that was one of the ways I studied the games, watching the high rollers—the EPT high rollers back then, because they were always streamed so well. I was watching that as a study tool, and I think most of the people who play poker seriously aspire to that. So I had to push my ability and my comfort as high as I could; I’m kind of always trying to play bigger and higher.
SMP: You cashed around $6.6 million in 2018 alone, winning 5 titles, and in 12 months you become a popular name in poker, when people had barely ever heard of you before. So how does it make you feel to be in the spotlight now?
A.F.: That’s…. I could probably do without that. It is what it is; I don’t really mind. It’s cool to have your accomplishments recognized, for sure; I appreciate that very much. Having any kind of spotlight when you’re sitting down at a poker table is usually not really ideal, but that’s the way it is. I definitely appreciate whatever recognition I have now.
SMP: Did it change the way people play against you and maybe also your game?
A.F.: Yeah, I think people play a bit differently; it’s understandable. They maybe have respect for the way that I play, so they’re a little bit less likely to enterprise when I’m here, which is good, so most of the time I do actually like people knowing who I am. Usually, they’re going to be more passive.
SMP: Being GPI number one is a huge goal for many pro players. What does that ranking mean for you?
A.F.: It definitely meant and means a lot to me. I worked really hard to get to it, and I think that to end at the top ranking of whatever you do is always a cool accomplishment. So to me it has always been my goal to be the best at whatever it is that I do. It really meant a lot to me, and I’m really proud of it. Hopefully, I can hang on to it a little bit longer.
SMP: Some people also say those types of rankings are useless and don’t really mean anything. GPI rankings have always faced some criticisms regarding the advantage of playing a lot of high rollers. What can you say about that?
A.F.: Yeah, I think there is definitely some validity to those comments. I don’t think that number one GPI necessarily means that you’re the best tournament player in the world. It just means that you have the best results during a particular period, which, as everyone who plays poker knows, there is an element of luck to that. But I think actually that the current system of GPI is weighted very well. I don’t think that it favors high rollers as much as people seem to think. For me, all my biggest results, as far as points are concerned, are main events and smaller buy-ins. Winning a high roller doesn’t give you that many points for the ranking, but winning a main event does. So I think that the ranking system is pretty fair, but, of course, I recognize and agree with the fact that number one GPI doesn’t mean the best player.
SMP: Since your beginnings, how has the way you work and your game evolved and changed?
A.F.: The way that I’ve worked really hasn’t change that much. I just always try to improve whatever it is that I can by whatever means are available to me. So I like to think that my game has changed a lot over time and will continue to do so. I’m just going to try to constantly change, in fact.
SMP: And do you focus on tournaments and live poker today?
A.F.: Yeah. I play online if it’s available to me, when I’m in Canada, or when I can play on online sites, I will, but it’s more like an in between. I play online between live tournament stops.
SMP: The really cool fact about you is that you’re dating Kristen Bicknell, who is the female number one GPI; that’s quite impressive. You even won the $5K Venetian last summer, and she finished second. How do you organize your life around poker together, and what does your life look like?
A.F.: We’re all over. We both have a lot of passion for the game, and we both really enjoy it, so it makes things really easy as far as I’m concerned. It’s never one of us trying to convince the other to go to a stop; it’s just kind of assumed that we’re going to go to the next event together. We both have a strong drive to play, and that makes things easy. We both play the same tournaments, at the same buy-ins, and it’s really easy to select what stop will be the best for us right now, and then we both go. Now we’re going to play the LAPC, then we go to Brazil for the Party Poker, etc. It’s really nice. We just pick where we want to go, and we’re always going to the same spots together.
SMP: I guess you’re obviously also working on your game together. So, on which aspects of the game do you think she’s better than you, and vice versa, on which aspects are you better?
A.F.: I think it’s interesting because I think our games were a lot more different when we started dating, and they’ve become a little more similar since then. I think there are a lot of things that I’ve taken from her game, and I’ve seen some things that she’s taken from me. We definitely learn from each other and are constantly bouncing ideas around and testing each other more than anything else. When you have someone who holds you accountable for your ideas, if you say something stupid, they will let you know that it doesn’t make any sense. It helps you to grow and think better. I think that we have both improved a lot over this time, and we’re really helping each other by talking hands and experiencing each other’s spots through our conversations.
SMP: She has a sponsorship with Party Poker. Would you also be interested in having a sponsorship yourself?
A.F.: That’s kind of hard to answer. I have an affiliation with Chip Leader Coaching, which is Chance Kornuth’s company that he started; it’s my closest thing to that now. And it’s not something that I’m particularly pursuing. I’m not saying that I’m not open to it or against it, but I haven’t pursued anything in that regard.
SMP: What are your life goals today?
A.F.: Oh…I can hardly tell you what my goals are for the next 6 months! Really, I want to keep playing for a bit, establishing a comfortable financial situation for my family and maybe a future generation, and hopefully have a positive impact on the world and the way other people experience it. That’s something that would mean a lot to me. I hope to have enough money to be philanthropic at some point in the future, to try to make a difference.
SMP: You’re also an investor in BlockDrop, a crypto legal tech firm and “quasar mining group.”
A.F.: Yeah, that’s what my overall approach toward life is, I guess, using some of the money I made through poker to invest in other things. Those are some of the companies that I thought were a good investment. You know, I’m a strong believer in bitcoin and crypto, so being involved in those type of industries is, I think, a good way to hopefully make some more money for the future.
SMP: As we said, you had amazing years in 2017 and 2018. What was the most powerful moment for you?
A.F.: There were a lot! I think the $50K in Macao was probably the biggest tournament to me as far as the biggest turning point. I had success at the Five Diamond a couple months before, and I won the LAPC $25K a month after that, and a $50K is another step up in the buy-ins. I won a satellite to the tournament so I had a lot of my action, and it was a really difficult final table. I was with Isaac Haxton, Patrick Antonius, Christoph Vogelsang, Rainer Kempe, Brian Hast, etc.—a lot of really good players. To come here and win that in such a tough field felt really good; it inspired a lot more confidence to play all those events and move forward. That was when I felt I had actually established myself in the high roller community. To some extent, anyone can get lucky and win one 25K or a 10k main event or finish second, but to be a high roller regular and to be viewed that way by some investors and other players, that was a big turning point for me to feel that way.
SMP: About that, would you say it’s really difficult to gain respect in the super high rollers field? To be recognized by others?
A.F.: Definitely. I think there tends to be a lot of arrogance in some of the super high rollers fields. When discussing other’s games, most people don’t respect others very much in general, other than the other high rollers player, basically. So being a new face in those fields is actually pretty tough, because there is just very little respect from all of them for anyone who is not a regular player in those tournaments. Earning that respect is something that means a lot in my opinion.
SMP: What kind of player are you at the poker table? How would you describe yourself?
A.F.: I’m definitely very intense. I’m focused on the game very much, and I take it very seriously. To me it’s like a sport more than a game, and I have a background in sports. So that’s something that I bring from sports to poker—the intensity and the focus and kind of some relentlessness that I would want to have in sports and that I try to bring to poker. Some people might not like playing against me that way, but it’s fine. Nobody likes to play against the best at whatever it is, because they’re all always very intense. I think I perform the best when I’m at a higher level of intensity, so that’s my approach.
SMP: You always look very quiet, and you’re not a very talkative player. Is that right?
A.F.: Well, it depends on the environment. If it’s day 1 of a main event and I have a lots of friends at the table, I might be more talkative, but when it’s a final table, or we’re approaching the final table, or it’s a high roller, I’m definitely going to be more quiet because there is a lot to think about.
SMP: What do you really want to improve now in your game?
A.F.: Hm, maybe, I would say have a little bit more control, maybe take some spots to make folds where I can avoid losing some chips, maybe make turn calls that might not show profits just because I likely have the best hand. Ultimately, just being a bit more in control and folding more often.
SMP: What are the next big events for you?
A.F.: LAPC is next. I decided to skip the Triton Super high roller series in Jeju because lately I’ve been back and forth a lot between Asia and Australia, and LAPC is very good, so I’m just going to play that. After that, I’ll be going to the Party Poker stop in Rio, Brazil, and those are the two big ones coming up.
SMP: What would be your best advice for people transitioning from online to live?
A.F.: Get used to being around people. I think that a lot of people are uncomfortable at a table with 8 strangers, so I think just embracing that and getting as much practice as you can is really important to feel comfortable. Talking to a stranger will help you feel more comfortable playing cards against him. That’s definitely something that I felt awkward about when moving from online to live. It’s just 8 people that you’ve never met before, and now you’re all siting together around that table, looking at each other, and there is some awkwardness to it. But getting over that and feeling more comfortable is important, so just spending some time at the table is everything, I think.
Interview by Gaelle Jaudon