ON THE BUTTON: With poker pro Erik Cajelais

December 18, 2012, Chris  

Erik Cajelais is a 30-year-old pro from Montreal. His first major cash came in 2006 when he won the $5K Five Diamond World Poker Classic for $430,730. Then he nearly missed a World Series of Poker bracelet in 2007, finishing second in the $5K pot-limit Omaha event for $483,755. He has career tournament earnings of more than $2.8 million. Our Mike Owens caught up with Cajelais to discuss his start in poker and goals for 2013.

How did you get started in poker and how did you progress to where you are now? I started playing when I was around 15 years old with my brother. After that, his friends and my friends started playing also. I started playing organized tourneys at 18 in bars with a $25 or $50 buy-in, then maybe two years later we found an underground poker club in Montreal that ran $50 rebuys, $100 rebuys, or $300 freezeouts with 20-30 players and cash games. Then I began playing bigger cash games in different underground games in Montreal and all over the world. I started to play tourneys in the U.S. in 2005. But it was really in 2006 that I got really good in a few months’ period. I went from having all my money in my pocket or on the table to playing to become a millionaire and being ranked on top of some of the player ranking lists among players that I admired for years.

What are some of your favorite stops on the circuit? The first one I can think of is Barcelona. I love everything about that city.

What would you say is your best game? PLO. That’s the one I enjoy the most and almost the only game I’ve been playing in cash games for years.

How often are you playing cash games? This year I’ve been pretty much only playing tournaments. Now I’m going to be home and play only cash games until WPT Montreal. It really depends how I feel and how well I do in either one. When I’m hot in tourneys, I try to play as much as possible and same goes for cash games.
Can you take us back to when you didn’t play poker for a living? Before poker, my brother and I were finding ways to make money since a very young age. My first real job was in golf, to then being a busboy, a bartender in restaurants and bars until I was 20 or 21. Then I started to play poker full time.

Who do you look up to in the poker world? Both as a person and as a player, I have to go with Phil Ivey. I started following poker the year Chris Moneymaker won the main event, got hooked on the game and I’ve been an Ivey fan since that.

What advice do you have for aspiring pros? I think the most important thing is to choose the right game for your bankroll and not to play too big or too small. Try to stay at the table when you’re winning because it’s much easier to play good when you’re winning and you usually play with the players who are stuck that don’t normally play very good.

Away from poker what interests you? I love to spend time at home with my family and friends, travel and live life as it goes. As for hobbies, I’m a big fan of the UFC, football and golf.

Pick one: Cincinnati Kid, Rounders or Maverick. Rounders, by far. This movie is one of the reasons poker is so big today and it affected my life in a very positive way.

What are your goals for 2013? My goals are to win a major tournament. It’s been such a long time. I’m not sure if I’m going to play more tourneys or cash games, but I will be around.