Bertrand "ElkY" has had a hot WSOP this year, culminating with his first bracelet and the completion of the coveted Triple Crown. We caught up with him to hear about his successes so far, as well as his upcoming kickboxing match against fellow poker pro Lex Veldhuis.

Go back to 2009 and there was no hotter live tournament player than Bertrand Grospellier, simply known as ElkY. He was one of the first players to transfer skills from a computer gaming background to online poker, and then onto the live scene.

He had achieved almost everything there was to achieve in the game: the first player to achieve Supernova Elite status on PokerStars came before he claimed EPT and WPT titles. There was only the WSOP left for him to crack and most expected this success to come in the 2009 or the 2010 series. It didn't come. Was his success just a flash in the pan? Would the French superstar be able to comeback from a relatively lean 2010? Yes he would.

ElkY came back with a bang in 2011, winning a SCOOP event for $112,500 and taking down the EPT Madrid High Roller events (€10k and €25k buy-ins) for $227,087 and $779,221 respectively. This was just a warm-up for Vegas though, where the Frenchman found success where it had eluded him before.

An astonishing series saw him complete poker's Triple Crown by claiming the $10,000 Seven Card Stud event for $331,639. He also had three more cashes and one more final table for over $800,000 in total cashes.

Looking for the Triple Crown since 2009

ElkY
ElkY and his WSOP bracelet
AdminPokerStrategy.com: You are only the 4th player ever and the 1st Frenchman to claim the Triple Crown. Tell us how it feels?

ElkY: It definitely feels like a huge accomplishment because it's been a goal of mine since 2009 and the World Series was the only series I didn't have any real success so far in.

I've been at the series for five years and I've been playing a lot of events, so it feels great to finally accomplish this feat, especially as I waited so long compared to the other successes. It tasted even sweeter! I won the EPT and WPT relatively early in my career, so yeah, it's one of the biggest goals I can mark off my list.


AdminPokerStrategy.com: You made a big splash at this year's WSOP, with four cashes totalling over $800k and two final tables, including the bracelet win. Apart from the bracelet win, was it important to you to put in a good overall performance after only experiencing marginal success previously at the series?

ElkY: It was very important and I also try to give my best and play my best but, of course, there is lots of variance in poker. There was less pressure going into the Main Event but I busted on Day 1 and if you see the table I had and the structure of the tournament, it's amazing, but it happens that way sometimes I guess.

AdminPokerStrategy.com: Was it important and did it help you having so much support by your fellow countrymen at your final tables?

ElkY: Oh yeah, definitely. My opponent (Steve Landfish in the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Championship) was not very experienced in those kinds of situations and he didn't have that many friends around. I always perform better when I'm under pressure and I love it. All of them supporting is very important to me and making them proud is just great.

Hard work and passion for the game is the key


ElkY
The ElkY stare
AdminPokerStrategy.com: 2011 has been a phenomenal year for you and a lot of people are saying that you are "back" after a relatively lean couple of years in terms of results. Is this how you are viewing your progress?

ElkY: Of course I'm really happy with the results. I'm not playing that much better than last year, it's just the variance in poker and you have to accept it. I had a great '08 and '09 but 2010 was not a great year, as I only went deep in the small events. But that made this year even better, since when you have a high period followed by a downswing, you realise how hard it is to win and to keep on winning.


AdminPokerStrategy.com: Did you appreciate this wave of success more than the last one then?

ElkY: Yes, for sure, because I probably worked harder for this wave. I have always had a lot of passion for the game and dedicated myself to it, but I had to work hard this time. The first wave came unexpectedly and so early on that I didn't have time to appreciate it like this time. So it's better in some way.


AdminPokerStrategy.com: Is there anything that you've changed technically about your game since 2008?

ElkY: Well I played more mixed games at this year's World Series, which definitely helped as I won my bracelet in Stud. Even though I prefer to play No Limit, I like to play those events and the fields are smaller, so it increases your chances to win a bracelet.

In a No Limit event there could be 2,000 runners and even though I may be one of the best players in the field, it's hard with all the variance. In Stud, there were only 200 players and even though I wasn't the best player (I hardly played it before), the odds were much more favourable. This year I played nearly all the events, whereas before I would go and relax if I busted from an event.

Training hard for the kickboxing match against Lex Veldhuis

ElkY vs Lex
The (kickboxing) match we're all waiting for:
ElkY versus Lex
AdminPokerStrategy.com: Away from poker, what else are you up to? Are you keeping balance in your life or is poker your sole focus?

ElkY: During the World Series, it was almost everything for me, as it was a crazy time and there were so many events. Since then, I've been training hard (kickboxing) as I have the upcoming fight with Lex [Veldhuis] and I try to be as prepared as I can.

When we made the bet, he probably had an edge as he's taller and has been doing it for more than me, but I really took it as a challenge and it's also a lot of fun. I love it because there's no variance and you can see yourself improving, whereas in poker you can do your best for two or three months but nothing happens. This is especially true for live poker.

Online it's different but in live play you can go a long time without anything happening. So away from that, it's good to have focus and see yourself improving at something. When trying to improve my poker game, it's really hard to quantify how much I've improved and when there's no result, it can be a little bit harder.


AdminPokerStrategy.com: Talking about the fight, remind us of the details.

ElkY: We've both put up €100,000 for this fight. It's taking place on November 20th in Marbella and it's for a French TV show.

Next goal: winning a second EPT title

ElkY
Can we see ElkY with an EPT trophy
again? Only time will tell
AdminPokerStrategy.com: The last couple of years you've had your girlfriend Cathy on tour with you. How has that been and how's it going?

ElkY: It's going pretty well but you know it's not easy everyday. She's not doing that well in poker and it's really hard if you don't love the game that much. It's not easy everyday and there is lots of travelling. Sometimes you can have different goals in life and it's hard to keep your career, especially live tournaments.

Online it would be much easier as you could sit around somewhere and have a much more stable life. Now though I'm travelling all the time but I'm still happy she's here to support me and it helps a lot because it also adds a stable element to my life.


AdminPokerStrategy.com: A couple of years back, you were thought of as being quite detached and surrounded yourself with an entourage of management and advisors, like Jacques Zaicik. Is that the case nowadays?

ElkY: I still have a manager and I am still close to Jacques, although he doesn't travel with me all the time. But for now and until the fight, I'm going to travel with my trainer as it helps a lot with preparing for the fight. I have improved a lot the last couple of years.

When I first started, I needed a lot of help and support but now I'm able to do a lot more things by myself. I'm much more aware of my goals and I'm able to make the necessary sacrifices.

If you really know what you want, it's easier to do it on your own but before I had no clear idea of what I wanted. As I grow older, I want to do lots of things by myself but it's always nice to have the support of the management around me. In poker, although there are lots of the same people around, it can be a lonely job.


AdminPokerStrategy.com: What is there left for you to achieve in poker? We want to know more about your plans and goals and how you will keep yourself motivated.

ElkY: Definitely winning a second EPT - it's a huge goal as it's never been done before. Everything I did before was a lot but I was never really the first to do anything. To be the first to win a second EPT title would be huge and it's a big goal of mine. I am always motivated to win and I really want to leave a mark in the world before I end my career.

AdminPokerStrategy.com: Thanks for your time ElkY and good luck in your search for a second EPT trophy!


One thing for sure is that we're not going to see the back of ElkY anytime soon. Not many people would bet against him being the first to claim that elusive second EPT title. The hunger in his eyes is clear to see and good luck to anyone trying to shift his focus. He seems settled once more and is happy with his game and his personal life. It's great being ElkY, it's not so great being at ElkY's table.

This interview was conducted by Marc Convey.