Heads-Up with Steve Dannenmann
Ok, so our first impression of Steve Dannenmann was way off base. Wicked Chops will man up and admit that. Not only is he a fun, honest guy, but he’s also got wicked poker chops.
Dannenmann is the subject of our latest Heads-Up. If you liked him while watching the WSOP Main Event, you’ll really enjoy his candor (yes, candor) when answering our questions. He covers it all, from his poker background, to how the WSOP barely cracks his personal top 10 list of things he’s most proud of, to that infamous Lederer-bluff-phone-call. No holding back.
Here you go…
WCP: First off, some softball background questions. How long have you been playing poker? Who got you started playing? And what made you decide to enter the WSOP ME this year?
SD: I’ve been playing for almost 2 years. I first saw it on TV and signed up on Party Poker…but I lost my ass and stopped playing online and started reading books and having a live tournament style game with my friends. I entered the WSOP on a whim...figured I would try it once to experience what it was like and bring that experience home to my buddies.
WCP: Was the WSOP ME your first live casino tournament? With the crowds and media focus, did you find it overwhelming at first?
SD: I played in a $300 tournament about one year ago in Atlantic City, and the $1000 re-buy tournament at the WSOP this year. I did not do well, and a week later I entered the $1000 Bellagio tournament the day before the WSOP ME. I did well (although did not cash), but it was the first time I actually played really tight and went far. So I figured if I did well in this tournament than I could do well in the Main Event.
WCP: So did you have any goals going in?
SD: My first goal was to make it to the second day…second goal was to get on TV….and my third goal was to cash. The goal I had for final table was don't bust out first and when you do go out go out with big hand...AK or AQ or a big pair.
WCP: A lot was made early on about your Lederer-phone-call-incident...who'd you call? Did you have any idea that phone call was going to make broadcast, or were you watching coverage and thought something to the effect of, "Holy shit. That sucks!!!"
SD: I called my buddy Mark at the end of each level to give him an update for all my friends at home...not much time between levels to call everyone so he was the “relay person” at home. He was also the strategist that kept me calm and thinking clearly. Remember, I was probably the only person playing in the WSOP that had a game plan written down that I reviewed every hour so I wouldn’t make a mistake. I also called Mark at home to let him know what I had since I did not disrespect Howard by showing him the bluff. Since everyone at home was following the live blogging on Card Player, I wanted them to know what I had, especially since [8-6] is my favorite hand. As far as ESPN is concerned, that was the hand that made me famous...after the phone call all of the ESPN camera guys are staring at me when I look up and start laughing...that’s when they started following me around the poker tournament. If you pay attention to the broadcast and piece it out...ESPN is showing a regular guy from a home game playing against one of his favorite players, check raising him or bluffing him...and letting the audience know that an everyday guy can enter the event and do well.
They also show when Howard doubles up against me with his aces. I don't think ESPN was making me look bad, they were just setting me up for future broadcasts. They produce this after the tournament is over not during the tournament. Quite frankly many people have approached me and said I was a lot of fun to watch on TV...that I was an inspiration to them. Not once did you see me cheer because someone got knocked out or that I knocked out or when I won a pot. I did not jump up, shout “yes!!!” or say, “pass the sugar!” I was a good sport when I won and lost and that's what people and newcomers need to see on TV, not people acting unsportsmanlike.
And the other thing TV doesn’t show is when Joe [Hachem] and I went heads-up...before the first hand I walked over and shook his hand and said, “I hope you win, you are the better player, and you'll respect the title more than I will.” Also said that we’re going to get this over in 5 hands....well I was wrong, it was 6 hands before it was over! In fact, when I saw Joe the next time he remembered what I said word for word.
Editor's Note: For the full story behind the bluff incident, check this out.
WCP: As we learned from our readers and some other sites, you became the fan fave by the time ESPN's WSOP coverage wrapped. Everyone applauded your attitude and style of play. Are you pretty much recognized everywhere you go now?
SD: I am starting to get recognized. I was at Macy's the other day shopping and an older woman of say 50 said, "Are you that poker guy?" I said, “yes,” and she said she never saw me on TV, but read about me in the paper and that I had said something inspirational in the article that she clipped out and put it in her scrap book. That’s the person that I am...very motivated and self-confident.
WCP: I'm sure after splitting your $4.25M, a LOT of relatives you never knew you had have come out of the woodworks...what's the most unusual request for cash you've received?
SD: Not really, in fact no relatives....but had some strangers keep sending me letters for help. I basically said to them if you can dial a phone then there are jobs out their for you and go get one. No on gave me anything in life and I won’t give them anything. However, I do give a lot to charities that help disabled people and people who can’t help themselves, but lazy people get no pity from me.
WCP: It's been widely reported that you won't be quitting your day job. In fact, you've been very successful for awhile. Tell us about Financial Ace...
SD: I worked hard for 16 years to build my business...some people would say that coming in second in the WSOP or first would be their top achievement in life. It falls in the top 10 for me, 8-10 probably. Remember, it was just a poker tournament. I didn’t save a life, save a town from burning down, or give life to a child. I came in second in a poker tournament. Someone had to win, place and come in third regardless of how many people there were.
My top achievements in life probably are starting my business, getting a college degree, staying out of trouble, getting my CPA certificate, treating people with respect, making my parents proud of me, being a good friend to friends and being a great CPA and financial advisor to my clients. Those are achievements in life...don’t get me wrong what I did was an incredible feat but there are things more important to me. If I busted out of the tournament on that hand with Lederer, I would not be disappointed. I had the opportunity to play in the tournament unlike most people who spent $10k on food, schooling, or rent or other necessities in life. I am very fortunate in life that I can play in a tournament at that cost.
Financial Ace is just a name that my agent and I gave myself. I love my job and what I do and get great satisfaction out of helping people with their finances, which helps keep couples together and families working, because as you know, the number one reason people divorce is because of money. So helping people with their finances helps kids from having step-dads and step-moms. Also, I approached the WSOP like a business venture. I started with a certain amount of chips, played only hands that made money and did not gamble the farm away if I did not have the nuts.
Anyway, so Financial Ace...the name maybe catchy or maybe queer, who knows....
WCP: How many major events do you plan on playing next year?
SD: I hope to get an Internet sponsorship or a big company sponsorship to help me out. I’m not going to blow through my money on tournaments. I can get just as much satisfaction out of playing poker in a $300 tournament instead of $10,000...$10k is still $10k and you still have to work hard to make $10k. I may invest some of the earnings from the winnings to play in three-to-four tournaments...maybe win a seat through some satellite tournaments.
WCP: Any of your home gamers planning on making the leap into some tournaments
with you next year?
SD: Yes, everyone is excited...they all have the talent to go as far as I did. In fact, I am not the 4th best player in my home game any more...probably more like 6th or 7th out of 15 players.
WCP: Many amateur WSOP ME finalists get a bad wrap, as viewers (jealous viewers) think mostly luck was involved (for example, Aaron Kanter and Tiffany Williamsen this year being the two that most stand out). With that in mind, did you feel somewhat vindicated or even more credible as a poker player by finishing 5th in the TOC in a field of truly top pros?
SD: Yes...it was important to make the final table at the TOC. I did not think I had a chance having to go through 114 professionals. It was a tough field. My goal was to make it to the 2nd day. I did get lucky at the TOC once with an AQ vs. AK. I caught a flush on the river to win. I felt my accomplishment at the TOC was better than the WSOP for that same reason though, thinking that maybe at the WSOP I was a fluke. But now I believe my style of play can keep up with the big boys. But I also know my game needs a lot of work and I am very excited about working on it. At the WSOP I never came from behind except at the final table twice. I always played big hands and tried not to confront the large stacks.
By the way, I think Aaron Kanter is a good player. We see what TV portrays, not other moves he made. In fact, I never got involved in a hand with Aaron because I thought he was really good....but what do I know...
SD: I like to fish, go crabbing (big thing in Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay), go to concerts and theatres, travel to Europe and the islands, watch educational TV shows, garden, build things or work on things around the house (electrical, plumbing, homeowner things). Last summer I put patio pavers around my new pool...42,000 pounds of bricks. Yes, 42,000 lbs of bricks! Most of them had to be cut with a concrete saw. Tough job but makes a man out of you and saves you money. I like to throw parties a lot, drink micro beers, love to barbeque and cook, like to get into woodworking (probably this summer, fixing up the garage as a workshop).
SD: Me! I've always wanted to act and thought I would be a good actor but never took the time to try...but if I had to choose, maybe Ben Affleck.
WCP: What are your thoughts on poker legalization in the US? Should it be legalized? Do you think it will?
SD: Should probably be legal so they could tax it or get some kind of cut...hell they tax everything else. Should allow home poker games as long as there’s no cut....Maryland has horrible legislation.
WCP: You got any nicknames?
SD: No nicknames. (Editor's Note to WCP Readers: Let’s come up with a new one for him)
WCP: Finally...give us your dream six-person table to play with...can be living, dead, or fictitious.
SD: Daniel Negreanu, my buddy Mark Schaech (the guy I was on phone with entire time), Mike Matusow, Phil Hellmuth, the guy from Everybody Loves Raymond (Brad Garrett), and Josh Arieh. All I would do is trash talk and stir up shit the entire time. I love to talk trash talk at the table and bust on people that can take it and dish it out. It would be really cool....maybe someday it will happen. I did not do it at the WSOP because of the cameras and disrespecting people. Some people just can’t take it.
WCP: Thanks a ton Steve for taking the time to talk with us. WCP readers, check out Steve’s Web site, http://www.financialace.com/. Steve will be updating it over the next month or so with more content that will describe how to help new players do well in tournaments--and how to live a balanced life. And of course, if you need financial consulting, you now know who to call. It's pretty clear the guy knows how to build a big stack...