Interview with the 2017 MBP Hope Cup Main Event champion John Tech

Filipino pro John Tech conquered the biggest event that rocked Macau last week, the 2017 Macau Billionaire Poker Summer Showdown Hope Cup Main Event. The event boasted of a HKD 20M guarantee which was impressively attained with a massive turnout of 826 entries, most of them hailing from mainland China. With each one ponying up the HKD 28,000 entry fee the prize pool amounted to HKD 20,190,744 with Tech earning HKD 3,023,000 for his victory. This is now his largest-ever live payout. If this were tennis, this event would certainly qualify as a grand slam.

John Tech - Macau Billionaire Poker
John Tech – Macau Billionaire Poker

On Tech’s return to Manila, Somuchpoker was able to grab some time with the champion and hear all about his latest and greatest achievement.

Somuchpoker: You just won the Macau Billionaire Poker Hope Cup Main Event topping a huge field of 826 entries for over HKD 3M, which is nearly US$400,000. Congratulations! What’s going through your mind? How do you feel?

John Tech: (with a huge smile) I still feel like I am dreaming. It was a very big event and a very big cashout. I really feel like I am dreaming.

SMP: Can you tell us a bit more about the tournament? How did you build this victory? I recall you were chip leader entering the final table.

JT: Actually they didn’t redraw the seats on Day 3, Day 4, and Day 5 so by Day 3 and Day 4 I already knew who was aggressive, the style of each player, and I memorized their game. It helped me. They also had a good structure. It’s like the APT structure, deep, very good. I could play calmly, wait for hands. I didn’t need to play aggressive to win a pot. And I didn’t need to gamble a lot.

SMP: Any key hands that you remember?

JT: My turning point hand was when I went all in behind in Day 4. The button player raised on my big blind, I had around 18 big blinds and I shoved. He tanked so I was thinking that I was probably ahead but when he called, he showed ace-king and I had ace-queen. Luckily, I paired my queen on the flop and from there I doubled up and never looked back. That was the only time I risked my tournament life while behind.

SMP: How about at the final table?

JT: We had a set up hand. I had 4M chips, the other guy had around 3.8M, it was a battle of the blinds. I raised, he re-raised, I called. I had Ac-10c. The flop came A-Q-x with two clubs. I checked, he bet, I called. The turn was Kc so I had my nut flush. I checked then he shoved all in. I snap-called. He had J-10 nuts straight. There was another hand too where someone shoved and I had the nuts. We were down to three players. One player shoved with top pair and a king high flush draw. I had the Ac-5c nut flush. He was drawing dead. I busted him out. I just felt so lucky that every time I had the nuts, someone pushed all in on me.

SMP: This score arrives after a long period without notable results. Your last five-figure score was in October of 2015. How did you manage to go through this period? 

JT: It was very hard because I didn’t cash big. I would win some money but for poker players, it is considered not profitable. It is too small. So I grinded the cash games. My bread and butter is really on tournaments but if you think about it, all the money is in the cash games.

John Tech Manila Megastack 6 - Photo Chris Liobrojo Courtesy of PokerStars
John Tech Manila Megastack 6 – Photo Chris Librojo Courtesy of PokerStars

SMP: How will this big victory impact you in terms of your future goals?

JT: Actually I am feeling very relaxed right now (laughs). I am thinking about lying low in poker and maybe put up a business. I don’t know exactly because we are still talking about it, me and my mom. In terms of playing, I may just play the big events with a good structure. I won’t play the turbos. I will choose what events to play, those with more value.

SMP: So between the APT events, PokerStars Festivals, WPT, there are so many options for you today. How will you start selecting the event that you attend?

JT: Well, that will depend on my boss. They actually want me to go to the Aussie Millions next year. I am still thinking about it. But I will be attending the Macau Poker Cup at the end of the month. I’ve been there a couple of times but I haven’t reached the final table yet. For other events, I really want a good structure, the ones that have a slower pace where you don’t have to gamble so much. There are some events that are turbo with only 10-15 bbs average per player at the final table and you can’t play, you just gamble. Not that. I want a good structure.

SMP: How is this different from your previous choices?

JT: Before I played any game, all the tournaments that I could play. Now, I am eyeing the big tournaments, especially that I have a stable backer right now. And I am hoping to hit the big one, a much bigger one than the Macau Billionaire Poker Cup. Maybe the Aussie Millions.

SMP: So you are eyeing bigger and bigger fields? The Macau Billionaire Poker Cup was quite a big one, how do you comprehend having just won over all those players?

JT: Actually, I didn’t think of the numbers or how many players there were. I was just playing on a day-to-day basis. I focused on making it to Day 2, then Day 3, Day 4, and with a good stack. I am just hoping and praying that I have a decent stack going into the next day. In this event, the payout was very big so I was laddering, especially at the final table. If you saw how I played in the final table, I played differently. I usually play aggressive. Here, I played calmly, very relaxed, and very neat. (laughs) I also don’t want to gamble with the Chinese players. Only when we were down to four players is when I opened up.

SMP: With this score you are closing in on US$1M in live tournaments cumulative earnings. You are now 2nd in the Philippines All Time Money List behind Noli Francisco. Are you looking to surpass him? Is this now one of your goals?  

 JT: Not really. I don’t bother with the All Time Money List. Two years ago I was hoping to win a WSOP bracelet but right now, I don’t know, I’ve changed. I’m all for the money for my future and my family.

SMP: With this victory a lot of young Filipino players are now admiring you. What advice would you give to a young player looking to make his mark in the live poker circuit?

JT: First, be confident with yourself. Another is bankroll. If you have a small bankroll but you are playing a big tournament, it won’t help much because you will be playing so scared. It’s different, you won’t get to play your game. Also, find a good backer.

SMP: How do combine family life with playing the poker circuit? Poker as a profession is very different compared to day-to-day jobs. Are there any challenges and how do you work through them?

 JT: I am just so blessed that I have a partner that believes in me and believes in my work so she gives me my time. She takes care of the kids. My kids help me too. After I come from a bad bust out, they comfort me. They make me feel so happy. They give me a lot of support. The longest time I’ve been separated from my family was in 2014 roughly around three months when I went to the US for vacation, to visit my mom who lives there, and I played in the WSOP. But there are really no challenges because they support what I do. When I am home, I spend all my time with my family.

SMP: You just had a new addition to the family recently, congratulations!

 JT: Thank you, yes, first born boy. I chose his name, Josef Zachary. It was the first time I chose my kid’s name.

SMP: That’s wonderful! Thank you again Jojo for taking the time to sit down with me and congratulations on your big win in Macau.

Interview by Triccia David

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Tricia David

Tricia David has long experience as a recreational poker player and has been covering poker events since 2010 for numerous outfits in Asia. She spent one year working part time with Poker Portal Asia then became editor and lead writer for all event coverage of the Philippine Poker Tour (PPT). Under the PPT, she overlooked content for their website, and produced live updates on all their events. In addition, she served as the live and online events website content writer for the Asian Poker Tour. Currently, she does live events reporting in Asia for online news site Somuchpoker and is also one of their news contributors.

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