Calen "Big Wheel" McNeil is enjoying his time at his second World Series of Poker final table. The first being the final table last year in this same event, which by now you probably know he won. When you watch McNeil at the table, you can tell he is having the time of his life. We caught up with McNeil as the players were headed to break.
PokerNews: How does it feel to be back at the final table?
McNeil: Feels great. Omaha hi-low is one of my favorite games and I play it well. It feels great.
It looks like you have been having fun out there.
I always have fun. I enjoy playing and I enjoy the World Series. Making a final table is every poker player’s dream and for me to be back with a chance to win another bracelet in the same event is magic. Pure magic.
Tell me about the year since the win.
It just affirmed that what I was doing was right. I’m a business man. I own restaurants, but there was a three- or four-year period where I played pretty much full time and then stopped to concentrate on business again. I still played but creating that balance between work and poker really helped. It gave me a better quality of life and more success.
How was the road to the final table for you?
My style of play really fluctuates. My chip stack is all over the map. It goes up and down. I play pretty aggressive. I make some loose calls and some thin value bets. It works out for me but it’s very, very high variance.
Every time I got low, I managed to change gears and build it back. I don’t feel like I ran great but when I needed to run good, I did. I hit a one-outer for my tournament life yesterday and that was a key hand. Then I was back into the tournament and because it was a big enough pot, I was able to get back into the game. I didn’t really look back from there. I just sort of cruised the rest of the way.
What’s game plan for the rest of the evening?
I’m chip leader right now, I’ve got a decent stack but the blinds are getting up there. I have been here before so I am comfortable. I am not going to get into too many big pots. I am basically going to play ABC and see what happens.
I have really good memories of playing heads up against Can Kim Hua. I remember playing real short Omaha 8 or better, so I am prepared to just grind it out.
How do you like your chances?
I like my chances a lot. I have the same feeling as I had last year. I said a month before I played it that I knew I was going to win that event. Throughout the whole tournament last year I felt I was going to win. I got a text from a friend who I played O8 with in Toronto and he said he had a gut feeling I was gong to win on the day I bought my ticket. And I have been just trying to relive what I did last year and try to keep positive.
The fact of the matter is I’m healthy. Life’s good and this is a game. No matter what happens, win or lose, I am going to be fine with it. I will shake my opponent’s hand and move on. But part of me wants to go back-to-back really bad. I have a competitive nature and I am going to go for it.