Interview with Esther Taylor-Brady: “I Was Playing to Win”

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On January 31 Esther Taylor-Brady, know as E-Tay, was at the six-handed final table of the World Poker Tour Borgata. We caught up with E-Tay to hear more about her final table experience and to get her take on some of the hands she played.

It’s been more than a week now since you final tabled WPT Borgata. Has it sunk in yet that you actually made it to a WPT final table?
Still kinda feels like a dream!

How did you feel stepping into the light and all the TV cameras on the day of the final table? And you looked great by the way!
Oh my gosh, thank you so much. The lights and cameras were fun, but they didn’t really affect me at all.

Did you feel an added pressure knowing you had a chance to make history if you could win this event and become the first female WPT champion in an open international event? And how was your mindset going into the final table?
I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself. I would classify myself as overly competitive, the idea of making history only made me want it that much more. I was playing to win and I always have a high expectation to make as few mistakes as possible, and to think about every decision and why I’m doing it. I know what a rare opportunity this is, and I wanted to make the most of it. My strategy going in was to be mindful of ICM, but also go for the kill!

Did you discuss strategy, the other players, the table draw etc. with other players?
I always discuss strategy with Matt [poker husband Matt Brady]. We have probably analyzed over 100,000 hands together. We are close friends with Kyle Bowker, an amazing tournament player, and so I discussed some things with him as well.

On Day 4 – playing down to the final six – you were at one point down to only around 10 big blinds? Can you tell us a little about what happened and how you were able to fight back and give yourself a chance to reach the final table?
Well I got out of line in a blind battle, where I 3-bet a straight and flush draw and went from about 40 blinds down to about 17.  The very next hand I 3-bet 77 on the button vs Eugene Todd’s hijack open and he moved in and I opted to fold. Todd was a pretty tight player and I thought at best I was flipping, and I like to fight and stay in there and give myself a shot. I moved all in 3 times in a row to increase my stack, and finally won a big showdown with KsJs vs AQ.

The commentators of the live stream (Jamie Kerstetter, Tony Dunst and Scott Baumstein) said on a couple of occasions that you were a rather tight player. But to me you seemed pretty aggressive throughout the event. You were involved in some pre-flop raising wars with a lot of 3-, 4- and 5-betting going on, and it seemed to me, that you were not going to let anybody push you around. How do you see your style of play?
Well, I’ll start by saying, I have a lot of respect for those three players, although I have very little experience playing with them, so I’m not sure where they get their classification from.  If you ask players from day 1 to day 4 what my style of play is, I can almost guarantee, that you will get answers all across the board. My style of play is based on my table’s perception of me. If I have players who classify me as tight, I will play accordingly and vice versa.

You had played with all the players at the FT on Day 4. Coming into the FT, did you have a feel for each player and how to take advantage of their specific playing style? And who did you fear the most?
Yes, I was pretty confident I understood how each player operated. I have respect for all the players, but Justin Liberto was the one I was most concerned with, although he came into the final table short and he was on my right.

Three hands from the FT
At the FT you were involved in a huge hand, where you called Justin Liberto’s 4-bet all in with Ad7d. Liberto had a pair of nines in the hole and doubled up. Give us your take on the hand
Justin had about 12-14 blinds I believe to start the hand, and when he opened the button he’s good enough to open any two here, even with a short stack. If it was a different player, I probably would have just folded my hand, but I made a decision that I thought I had the best hand, and once I 3-bet I was going with it. Unfortunately he had me crushed, and I doubled up a very dangerous player.

After the first break you were involved in a rather big hand vs. Mermelstein and Cunix. You raised from the CO with A8 and both players called. The flop was: 10 8 5 (rainbow). Cunix checked and you bet 360,000 with your pair of eights. Mermelstein called, Cunix checked-raised [with a pair of tens] and you folded. Give us your thoughts on the hand
I really didn’t like folding that hand. After Aaron [Mermelstein] flatted the button I thought I was in good shape, but then Shaun [Cunix] raised pretty big. I didn’t think he had a draw because previous history showed he liked to lead those kind of hands, so I really just thought he had me beat so I folded. Plus there was a slight chance that Aaron could be trapping, but unlikely.

Your last hand at the FT went something like this: Pfeifer raised from the CO to 260,000. Cunix called and you shoved holding 8d9d. What were your thought process at the time? And I’m curious to know what you think about your play looking back at it now?
Pfeifer had a very obvious bet sizing tell, and Shaun had just lost two really big hands in a row, and I know his mentality is to get those chips back right away, and so his flat on the button was weak to me, and I recognized a good spot to pick up chips. If i got called, I knew I wouldn’t be in bad shape. Looking back, I think in that moment with the two obvious scenarios I would have done the same thing, but also I could preserve my chips and find a better spot.

Future & Family
You finished in 5th place after an amazing ride and collected a nice pay check of $174k. Has the experience made you more inclined to play big buyin tournaments in the future?
I don’t think much will change. I’ve always played the big ones at Borgata, and I will probably play a few more WSOP events and WPT events this year.

You are mostly a mixed games cash player. What is your best game?
Stud Hi/Lo and Omaha Hi/Lo I have the most experience in. But I love NL tournaments, for mainly the reasoning that you can do anything you want in them. I dislike when players use the word “standard” or say it’s such a “standard spot”, because I don’t think it is. I think there are so many different elements and levels to the game, and you can only get better and better.

You are married with one kid. How do you combine having a family with the sometime unstable and exhausting life as a poker player?
We try our hardest to keep life grounded for our daughter Kayla. She has a vey normal, activity full 5-year old life. We treat poker as a job and nothing else. For my part I play cash mixed games twice a week at Parx consistently and I’ll play the bigger NL tournaments held at Borgata or Parx.

Photo: Esther Taylor-Brady just before the WPT Borgata final table. Private photo.

 

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