The most recent PartyPoker Pokerfest Main Eventwas monumental for Andy Bonified Ward (pictured). The United Kingdom resident became a “bona fide” champ and walked away with $216,000. The $640 buy-in tournament was one of the richest held on PartyPoker in recent memory. We caught up with him to discuss his big breakthrough.

PocketFives: Thanks for joining us. Tell us about your run through the Pokerfest Main Event.

Andy Ward: It was standard for a while. I was playing some SCOOP and other tournaments, but when it got down to about 100 players on PartyPoker, I was one-tabling by that point. The average stack totaled around 25 big blinds for quite a while, so I was hovering around there, just playing basic technical 25 big blind poker.

Once we were down to around three tables, people started tightening up, especially the satellite qualifiers. I made the final table with the same 25 big blind stack and thought, “It’s mostly luck from here on, so I’ll just see if I get lucky.” I doubled up through a guy with J-J against 6-6 on a 9-7-5 flop and then won two massive flips. Heads-up, we were pretty even, but I picked up a lot of hands. He probably thought I was bullying, but I really had it pretty much all the time.

PocketFives: Do you have any specific plans for the money?

Andy Ward: I’ve always been careful with anything I’ve won. I invested in property and so about one-third of this will go to fully pay that off. The games aren’t getting any easier and I wouldn’t want to spend a lot and then find myself rolled short for anything I do want to play.

PocketFives: What’s your take on large-scale tournament series like the PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker(SCOOP) and Pokerfest?

Andy Ward: I’m not a massive fan of SCOOP because I think the tournaments go on too long. This is a bit of a bugbear of mine. I don’t think anyone should have to play 20 hours straight to win a tournament. If a tournament takes 12 hours or 20 hours, it doesn’t make that much difference to your edge in my opinion.

I know recreational players like to have a “bang for their buck” in terms of structure, but I think it’s fundamentally unhealthy to expect people to sit at a poker table for 20+ hours, especially when they have to make decisions for huge money at the end. So, with SCOOP, I only really play the ones that are split into two days. I hardly played any Pokerfest events, just the ones that were on Sundays.

PocketFives: How did you get started in poker?

Andy Ward: I started playing live poker in 1998. I read an article about tournaments in the Racing Post and thought it sounded like the most awesome thing ever. It was really unknown at the time. They couldn’t even advertise and no one knew about it outside the gambling world. I just fell headfirst into this subculture.

I used to drive 45 minutes three times a week to play £10 Rebuy Stud tournaments. So, I was a live player first just because there was no such thing as internet poker at that time.

PocketFives: Given that, what did your friends and family think of your immersion in poker originally?

Andy Ward: Almost without exception, they were fascinated by it, and the majority of them still are. It has been on TV more and it’s well known now. But back then, poker had an extra edge in a way because it was really underground as far as most people knew.

PocketFives: Last question for you, and we’ll ask about poker strategy. You mentioned a strategy with a stack of 25 big blinds. Can you tell us how you approach that situation?

Andy Ward: When you get down to 25 big blinds and below, you don’t have enough to chips to “play poker,” by which I mean take flops with speculative hands, call with the intention of bluffing later, and stuff like that. It becomes very much a pre-flop game where most pots are just raise and everyone folds, or raise, re-raise, and the first person decides to call or fold.

It’s a hugely important fundamental of tournament poker that most pros know inside out, so if the later stages had been all pros, no one would really have an edge. But, as there were satellite qualifiers and amateurs taking shots, they would make mistakes, generally by being too passive, not raising enough, or trying to call and see if they hit the flop, which you just don’t have enough chips to do profitably.

Visit WPT Poker, which makes its home on the same network as PartyPoker, for other ongoing promotions.