When you’re trying to hide more than tells – Disabilities in Poker
-You may have not heard of Mike Wiseman but this local pro has been crushing the Vancouver cash game scene since 2008. Until recently he has mainly been focusing on cash games all over Canada and Las Vegas. He has started to take his skills into the tournament world and has shown signs of success, he made a deep run and placed 21st out 256 players at the Venetian Deep stacks last year in November. He has cashed in some local tournaments and is starting to develop his tournament skill. Another thing you may not know about Mike is that he has a speech impediment that he has been dealing with all of his life. He still has to fight little battles on the felt that any regular poker player would not think twice about. His Stutter has also made him a better player and a more cautious one, in poker patience pays off and when you’re dealing with a stutter; you need all the patience you can muster.
How did you get into poker? When did you first start playing?
“I got into poker in 2007 because I was looking for a hobby or activity where I could make a second income without having to talk a lot. What better activity then poker? When one of my close friends introduced me to the game, I instantly fell in love. I try to become a better player after every session and learn from the mistakes I make. You can always keep learning that is what makes this game so great.”
How has your speech impediment affected your poker game?
“Most of the betting in poker is verbal, so you have to be very careful about what you say when you are placing a bet. I have to tweak my betting routine so it is non-verbal. Most players can verbalize their bet and move their chips across the line without worrying about string bets. I don’t have the luxury of doing that so I have to be very careful when I make my bets. Another situation most players don’t have to worry about is their chip denominations when they start a tournament. When I played in a Venetian Deep Stack event last year in Las Vegas, I asked one of the tournament directors if I could get a good variety of chip denominations at the beginning of the tournament. The reason is because I would have a very difficult time verbalizing my bets when the action is on me. When most players throw in a 5000 chip and say “1750” they don’t even think about it, for me that would take forever. Not to mention all of the eyes on me and everyone would be mad I am stealing precious blind level time trying to speak. My stutter could give really observant players a read on me, which could be crucial to make the money in a tournament. If I have a wide variety of chips to begin with, I won’t run into that problem. Instead of having just one $5000 chip, I split the chips into denominations of 2 $1000, 2 $500 and 20 $100 chips. By doing this it makes my tournament experience so much easier and stress free because I can just put the chips in and not say a word to place my bet.”
“Poker is a social activity, when I am sitting down at a cash game at a local casino I would like to have the freedom of making friendly conversation with the players sitting beside me. My stutter sometimes hinders me in making “table buddies” which can cost me money. The more liked you are at a poker table, the more money you make! That is a fact! Nobody wants to pay off the mute grinder in seat 10 with his headphones on who has not said one word to the table.”
“Even the simple things for your regular poker player can be difficult for me. When I want to order food or a drink when the server comes by, people stare at me if I have a hard time saying what I want. It can get embarrassing.”
Has your Stutter had any positive effects on your poker game?
“My stutter has made me a better player though, it is not all negative. I would say my game is more methodical and patient due to my speech. I have to take my time and think things through before I make a bet or a call. I never rush anything. I tend to analyze hands deeper than most people do”
Who do you credit for helping your development? Who are you favorite poker players?
Brad Booth helped me when I first started playing poker; he gave me a lot of advice and helped me improve my game. I am saddened about the recent events in Brad’s life, I am happy that he came clean in that video he posted online. That is not enough though, he needs to do right and pay back what he owes to people. He owes it to himself and the poker community; his actions have to speak louder than his words. I really hope he can turn his life around; we all need to learn from his mistakes and make sure we are making the right choices in life. Another player who I respect is Daniel Negreanu. I really love his recent video blog’s, he is being so honest and just speaking his mind. Not only is he a talent but he such a great Canadian ambassador for poker and a world class player”
What do you think of the Vancouver Poker scene?
“I am proud to be from Vancouver, there is so much well-known local talent, players such as Brad Booth and Matt Jarvis are some of the elite players. Matt won his 1st WSOP Bracelet last year and is just crushing tournaments. Ashkan Razavi just won his 1st WSOP bracelet this year in event #9 at the 2012 WSOP, this is a guy that has put in so much work and deserves what he has accomplished. Not many people knew about him but now they will know what he is capable of. There are many other local players who are not as well-known that I respect like Jonas Mackoff, Chris Back, John Agelakis, Mark-Daniel Hughes, Jip Roc and Adam Young. These guys are grinding it out every day and just working hard to achieve their goals. Edgewater Casino is where I learned the ropes and I must say that room is probably one of the toughest rooms in the country. Vancouver should be proud of the poker players that it produces; we are truly a force to be reckoned with!”