Before the pandemic, Filipino pro Florencio Campomanes was tearing up the felt with a victory at the 2019 APPT Manila Main Event and 2020 Red Dragon Manila Main Event. Two years later, with games back on the live green, he picked up right where he left off, winning two High Roller events in Vietnam. In this interview, Campomanes sat down with Somuchpoker to discuss his poker life, the winning formula, and when it all came together.
Somuchpoker: Congratulations on winning another high roller event! Last time we interviewed you was when you won the 2019 APPT Manila Main Event where you said you were “officially retired”. So is this what you meant by retired? Crushing these high roller events?
Campomanes: I’ve always liked the high rollers, I never did well in low buy ins, and even when I wasn’t very good at all, I remember APT (Asian Poker Tour) was my first high roller and I placed second at every APT high roller since then until I won one. So I really like high rollers, I think I understand the dynamics of it more than other people. Even if I really retire, which obviously I am not now, I’ll still be playing high rollers.
Somuchpoker: What are these “dynamics” you mention in comparing High Roller events and Main Events? Is it the buy in, the tighter fields?
Campomanes: When I say high rollers, I’m not talking about the buy in, it’s more of the feel of the high rollers, the size of the field being relatively small, people know each other, and there are a couple of recreational players that have money to spend. At least here in Asia, we all know each other, we know all the tricks, that dynamic works well for me. That’s why even if I’ve binked two Main Events, I still think I do better in high rollers than Main Events overall.
At mains, it is very hard to adjust when you are at a table and you see one player you know, another player who’s taking shots, another player you’ve never seen, understanding the dynamics is harder to adjust to compared to people that you know exactly who they are, more or less what they are doing, with more similar dynamics in one table.
There’s also way less variance at high rollers. At Main Events you really need to get lucky on spots. In the past two high rollers, I was never all in. You can never be all in and do well at high rollers but not the case in Main Events.
Somuchpoker: Moving up to these high stakes takes time. What did it take to get to this stage in your career, what challenges have you overcome or are still facing?
Campomanes: One thing about me is I’ve been known to never bankroll manage. I always want to play the biggest game whether I can afford it or not, I’ve always been that way. Before the pandemic, tours were scheduled more or less once a month. Every time you don’t make money or every time you lose big, from that period to the next series it’s about rebuilding and preparing to buy in for the next events and all the expenses that come with it. The challenge is to be mentally tough going from one tour to another and having the positive energy even if you don’t win. I think that is my biggest challenge. It is all about mental toughness for me. Now that the pandemic is over and events are one after another, it’s more challenging because there is no time off. If I don’t do well and I only have a couple of days to get myself mentally tough again for the next one, that’s the challenge. I think that’s what’s difficult.
Somuchpoker: How about the flip side, what tools have helped you improve your game? Books, videos, table experience…
Campomanes: I’ve been studying real hard. There was a time when I was studying way more than I was playing. Anything there was online for free, I’ve done it, I’ve watched it, I’ve studied it, and also maybe half of the paid stuff. I’ve done that kind of work before and I also took coaching which fixed a big part of my game. Maybe a year or two before I won APPT, I think I was really complete “technical wise” then I just fixed the other stuff. Now I just refresh myself on what guys do. It is more of me watching them and giving my own interpretation unlike before when I was studying material from different players that I liked and then I’d try to create my own style out of it and connect them. That was around 3 to 4 years ago. Now it’s more of me dissecting what they do under my own bible. I think every player has their own bible.
I still study now. There is still something to be learned. That’s the sick thing about poker. If you are not ahead of the curve or at least there at the cusp, the gap between that and the good players is so big. If you are not at the cusp, you are way behind. For example if I don’t understand what Michael Addamo is doing, I will sit in front of my laptop until I get it because if they are doing something I don’t understand, that’s a problem for me.
Somuchpoker: Ever since that APPT victory you have been on a heater winning the Red Dragon in 2020 and then several high rollers. What is your winning formula?
Campomanes: I’ve always said that half the battle happens outside the table, even before you start playing. Obviously you’d have to be prepared mentally, you have to think you are going to win. Having all the positive energy coming into an event I think that’s half the battle. If you have doubts entering or you’re worried, or you’re thinking about other things before playing, you come defeated even before you start. I think players don’t take that as serious as they should. That’s really half the battle. Thinking you are going to win. I remember bragging about the Red Dragon even before it started that I’m not worried about other stuff, it’s already written in the stars that I would win it. That’s the insane amount of confidence I had entering, to a fault sometimes, but that’s what you have to have or else when you battle you’re already at a disadvantage. Even saying it, it’s harder to execute because I don’t get to do it all the time. I know when I am not 100%.
Somuchpoker: In social media, we’ve seen you use the phrase “the best is yet to come”, is this the moment you were referring to? These successes?
Campomanes: Yes and no. I think I made that phrase before because I think so highly of myself, I’ve always thought I was better than how I was performing. So I’d always say “the best is yet to come”. That’s where it came from.
Somuchpoker: After winning the WPT Prime Vietnam Super Stars Challenge $9K buy in, you mentioned that you bought a bunch of black shirts and have been wearing them for a reason. Why is that?
Campomanes: Haha yes. The schedule these days is insane so I bought a couple of shirts, all black ones, because I remember when I was tape-studying Michael Addamo, he wore black shirts all the time. So two reasons. One, so I don’t do the laundry as much, I’ve been using the same shirts for a couple of series, and next is to try to emulate Addamo’s run.
Somuchpoker: What are you most proud of throughout your poker career and what has kept you going?
Campomanes: I think I am most proud of how I conducted myself from the time I won the APPT Main Event from when I thought I was good enough to win. After is more of vindication or relief but how I conducted myself from before I won and when I thought I was good enough to win, that’s the closest I felt to pressure I put on myself and how I played through that is what I am proud of.
I almost gave up on cards because it was taking too much time and I was giving so much to it, but just having the fortitude to do it after many years and not win. Some guys win when they are not good and become better after they win but for some it takes them forever and then they win, like they are long overdue. I think I fall under that category. I can relate to players who are frustrated for not having won yet. I think that’s what I am most proud of because that stretch is what defines me and how I conducted myself.
Somuchpoker: So when did it click?
Campomanes: I think the click happened right after I won the APPT. When the monkey was off my back, literally because I’ve finally won a main, I think that’s when everything just flowed. When it happens once, you just try to emulate it. You try to repeat it, the thought process, the pace, inside the table, outside the table, you just repeat it so it becomes easier. That’s when it clicked. Like when I mentioned the preference for high rollers, it’s the same. I just know when I am really tight, when I need to step up the pace. If you’ve done it repeatedly, you just know it. When live games returned, one player said to me that it sucks for me that the pandemic happened because before that I was on a heater, but I didn’t feel that way. Even if there was a two-year halt, it already clicked for me, and I knew how to activate it.
Somuchpoker: Any plans of traveling to Europe or WSOP this year?
Campomanes: I will definitely play everything in Asia and see from there. No plans for WSOP but likely Barcelona in August.
Somuchpoker: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us and good luck on your next event!
*At the time of writing, Campomanes was attending the 2022 APPT Open Manila and reached three final tables.