Born in France on February 8, 1981, Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier was formerly a StarCraft supremo, who placed second in the World Cyber Games in 2001 and placed first in the Euro Cyber Games in 2003. He transitioned to poker in 2005 right after the 2003 poker boom. His very first life-changing big win was from the January 2008 $7,800+200 buy-in PokerStars Caribbean Adventure - he took home a whopping $2,000,000 prize for dominating a player field of 1,136.
With his imaginative play accentuated by his creative hairstyle, ElkY has continued on his poker journey, amassing first-place wins left and right alongside other notable cashes. Prior to becoming a Team partypoker pro, he was initially a member of Team PokerStars, and he was the first person ever to reach "Supernova" and "Supernova Elite" statuses on the site - having earned 100,000 and 1,000,000 player points in 2 weeks, and 4.5 months, respectively. He traveled the world, competing in the world's most prestigious events along the way. Since gaming is in his blood, he returned to the eSports scene on November 2015, joining Team Liquid as a Hearthstone player.
Currently holding the no. 1 spot on the France All-Time Money List, the 38-year-old ElkY has no plans of retiring soon in his beloved game, as he still possesses the drive and determination of a fresh-faced youngster.
Now, let's get on with the interview (all questions by BankrollMob.com members).
Afimpa (Ukraine): You were one of the best StarCraft players in the world before becoming a very successful poker player. What's your secret to becoming so successful at two completely different types of games? What would you have done instead if you didn't succeed at e-sport and poker?
I do not think StarCraft and poker and completely different. They are both games of incomplete information, where the goal is to adapt to your opponent playstyle and current metagame in order to prevail. Also, as any competitive discipline practiced at high level, the ability to perform under pressure can't be understated. If i didn't succeed in being a professional gamer, I would have liked to become a veterinarian or engineer.
TheMachineQC (Canada): How important is it to have a good 3bet percentage in MTTs and what do you think is a good 3bet percentage to have in general to balance your ranges?
It is quite important to have a good balanced 3bet percentage, it will depend a lot on the games you are playing which one could be optimal, anywhere from 5 to 12% could work.
Serpang (Indonesia): Do you analyze your game regularly? What's your best advice to previously successful poker players who struggle these days due to tougher and tougher competition online and live poker?
Self reflection is very important in poker, of course, and being able to play regularly online helps tremendously with improving and analyzing your game. Unfortunately there isn't really any magic advice, besides hard work, and being intellectually honest with yourself. However i believe the physical and mental preparation can still be an overlooked aspect for a lot of players.
3pokeronly (New Zealand): You are listed on Wikipedia in eleven different languages; all are titled Bertrand Grospellier (or local equivalent characters) except the English site, which is titled "ElkY". Can you give us the real origins of the alias ElkY, it's meaning and does it make you somewhat proud to have the English entry titled ElkY on Wikipedia?
Of course, so it first was the name of a character in a Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying game, Elkantar, which I used to play video games on Kali back in the days. Quickly it got shortened to ElkY by my friends, and when I moved to Korea to play StarCraft professionally, it became my ID, as it was also impossible for most of them to pronounce my real name. When I first played poker, I also used the Screen Name ElkY with my picture, so everyone I met at live tournaments just called me ElkY, and it sticked. Got kinda lucky that it is short, sounds good and is easy to pronounce for pretty much anyone in the world.
Bowie1984 (Hungary): What is the biggest difference between being strictly an online player versus playing in the live circuit right now when most online poker sites are starting to seriously limit HUD usage?
Live is usually much softer than online, but you can't put the volume necessary to reduce variance. I think it is important to be a complete player and be able to practice both.
jeffaboy (Netherlands): Would you say it's still viable to aim for a career in professional poker these days if you aren't a pro already? What's the craziest prop bet you have ever been part of or have ever seen happen at your table, amongst friends or fellow players?
The game might be much tougher nowadays than it ever was, and also getting harder, but on the other hand, the content available online to learn is also the best ever, so it will take anyone a much shorter time to reach the top of the game, assuming they do the work. If you love the game, it can be a viable career, for sure. I think the craziest prop bet was probably the one between Bill Perkins and Antonio, where Antonio had to lunge to move around for few days, you can Google what happened and how he eventually got banned from a big main event.
Crankmuppet (Canada): Pros talk of how the game is constantly changing and give their opinions on how these changes have manifested over time. Could you give your opinion on the changes you might foresee in the next five years based on your knowledge of past trends and your "intuition" as to the direction poker is going in? On a different note, I would like to know if you side with the court ruling or with Phil Ivey's defense that edge-sorting was completely legitimate?
I think the trend regarding the direction poker is taking is pretty clear, and it is that the game is going towards a deeper and more and more mathematical approach, with some situations, especially preflop all ins, being "solved". However, there will be a human limitation in how many situations you can memorize.
Regarding the Phil Ivey case, my knowledge of the law and the case is way too limited to have an educated opinion.
Dule-vu (Croatia): You were the first player to reach both "Supernova" and "Supernova Elite" statuses at PokerStars. How come you, one of their biggest names, decided to leave in 2018? What's the main difference between PokerStars and your new sponsor partypoker?
The company I left in 2018 had almost nothing to do anymore with the one i proudly represented all these years, besides the name and software, unfortunately.
partypoker has the players best interests in mind, and is actively trying to promote the game, via a real experience and many innovatives take. They are ambitious and not afraid to take risks in order to better themselves and the industry, and i am honored to be part of their team.
We would like to thank ElkY as well as our loyal members for making this interview possible! / BRW Crew