– Tell us about your first steps in poker.

– They were made a long time ago, probably after the army, when I returned and started with micro-limits: NL2, NL5, NL10, reaching NL16. Without theoretical training, I understood preflop ranges, and postflop I played like a fool. It was only important to make combinations. However, variance did not spare this strategy. At some point I screwed up, at another, I suffered a blow, and my bankroll was lost.There were some pennies left. I played a little more at NL2, then scored. There were problems of an emotional and depressive nature. Played 50-50 on Stars, played spins as soon as they appeared, reached $7 tournaments. Again, everything is done by instinct and in a tight style. If there are fish, I think any micro-limits can be broken through by almost any strategy.

PokerStars starting out holding online poker games back in 2001 and now the company is worth over 6 billion dollars. They sponsor a slew of tournaments like the European Poker Tour, UK and Ireland Poker Tour, plus a handful of others. Over the years, PokerStars has remained on top of the online poker industry. They’ve expanded to offer fantastic online casino games and sports betting.

– When did progress in the game begin? How quickly did you manage to climb the limits?

– The main development in poker began when interest in streaming appeared. I started streaming micro-limit Omaha, played from PLO2 to PLO25, and sometimes even hit PLO50. There were people who noticed my mistakes and gave advice. They taught me how to work preflop, I sorted out all the matrices and took notes. This is where my main progress began. The growth in limits was not fast. It took a long time to play micro-limits, the most difficult limit was always PLO25. But as soon as I figured out preflop, the growth in limits began literally within 3-6 months. I played PLO10 and PLO25 with a good understanding of preflop, just GTO, no adjustments.

At the end of 2020 I played PLO10-PLO25, and at the beginning of 2022 I played PLO100.

– How did you manage to reach high limits? What helped?

– I started playing at high limits only in GreenLine. Although it seems to me that the very concept of “high limits” has been subject to inflation: now 10k and above are considered high, and what was previously considered high, for example, 5k, is now more likely to be average. Most of the game has shifted to 1k, 2k, 3k, so I would call my limits medium.

I developed an interesting relationship with my first coach, Sergei SooStronk. He is considered a very unpleasant opponent in Euro rooms and professes an aggressive style. Sergei had a unique approach, which at first I could not understand because I was fixated on GTO. But I was playing against real people, not machines, and understanding how a machine operates, rather than just copying its decisions, turned out to be more important.

Progress began after I was shown how to properly search for exploits. I have a good understanding of GTO, so finding good solutions when I see my opponent's deviations is not difficult. It is important to rely on the deviations of specific opponents or clearings, based on the advice of the machine, but not blindly follow them.

– What is the most difficult thing for you in poker?

– Study of player pool trends. It's easy to understand one specific opponent, but the tendencies of the field have always been abstract for me. My ideas often do not coincide with those of my colleagues. Many people think that the field is phony, but I am sure that no one pays for value, and this is infuriating.

– How has your attitude towards money changed as your limits have increased?

– It has changed a lot. I had a poor childhood, so when money began to appear, it was mostly spent on the banal purchase of necessary things. For example, buying a computer for $1,000 or a phone for $500-$600 was a serious step; such amounts at that time constituted a significant part of the budget.

Now my attitude towards money is different. I began to value money in the context of larger amounts. For example, if you look at real estate prices in Astana, apartments cost about $1,200 per square meter. To have an apartment of 70 square meters, you need to spend about 85 thousand dollars, and if you calculate the cost of a house with 200 apartments, the amount reaches 17 million dollars.

When you think about who makes that kind of money – developers, realtors, or investors – you begin to understand that in poker you also need to strive for higher limits. The goal should be to continually raise rates and improve your financial position.

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– How did poker appear in your life? What did you dream about at that time?

– Poker has always been with me. We started playing as little kids and watched Poker After Dark and the National Heads Up Poker Championship. My first dream was to make money playing games; I thought I would be a professional eSports player. However, due to a lack of targeted training, I did not achieve success.

I started in poker the same way – I played, hoping that the skill would come by itself. However, one person cannot have a comprehensive experience, one must learn and communicate with others. If I had understood this from the beginning, I might have achieved success in eSports, but nevertheless, I am where I am now. And that's great.

– What life lessons have you learned from poker?

– They are mainly related to dispersion. Understanding that it is normal to have a 2-3 month downswing at mid to high stakes has been an important aspect of my development. When I played at the micro-stakes, where I played up to 100 thousand hands a month, negative months were rare. Now, with 25-30 thousand distributions, a minus month is a common occurrence.

It is important to understand that variance affects all aspects of life. Events of recent years, such as the pandemic and [*****], have clearly demonstrated this. You cannot blame fate for failures or unfavorable circumstances. You need to remain sane and calm, even if sometimes your emotions get the better of you. In difficult situations, I try to get out of them with minimal losses for my psychological state.

Poker Variance Calculator Guide for Beginner Users

– How has your lifestyle changed after you became a poker pro?

– It changed not so much from the moment I became a regular, but when I reached a certain financial level. Any person who makes money playing poker can be considered a professional, even if it is at micro-limits. Changes occurred when I achieved financial stability and savings appeared. I have a safety net, it is distributed in banks, cryptocurrencies, and cash.

When you have a financial cushion, making everyday decisions becomes easier. If we don’t feel like cooking, we go to a cafe or order food to be taken home. If something breaks or needs cleaning done, I call a specialist. Everyone should do what they know how to do. I play poker and earn money from it, so it is advisable to solve other issues with the help of professionals.

– How do your loved ones feel about poker?

– I built relationships with my loved ones based on the fact that I am a professional. When I met my wife, I immediately said that I play poker. Her reaction was unexpectedly calm, because most often my profession causes bewilderment and questions in people. If the answers do not dispel fears and doubts, communication is reduced to zero.

I have always had a stable relationship with my father. Now he is disabled and needs special conditions, I try to help him remotely with money. I help with repairs, construction, etc. When I started and earned a little money, he might have had questions, but now, I hope, there are no complaints.

My wife and I started dating 7 years ago when I was earning little – 300-400 dollars a month. She was with me in very difficult times and always supported me. I have never hidden my work, despite advice not to talk about it. Unlike those who hide their hobbies, I have always been open about my profession.

We all have to have "the talk" at some point and explain poker to someone. Here are some of the most classic responses you'll hear.


– What do you mainly spend your money on?

– We spend mainly on food and we live quite modestly relative to the limits that I play. I don’t hide the fact that I spend about 2,000 euros a month, including housing, clothes and cats. We pamper them, and it costs over a hundred dollars a month for two cats, including groomers and so on. This is a small expense. I understand that I could spend more, but a year ago my wife and I lived on $1,000 a month, and three years ago we lived on $500 a month.

Now it’s psychologically difficult for me to cross this line and start spending 3-4 thousand dollars a month. Perhaps this will be associated with moving to a more comfortable environment within Kazakhstan or to another country, to Eastern Europe, where $3,000 can maintain the same standard of living.

– What do you value most in poker and what irritates you?

– Many poker players' answer to this question is “freedom”. Of course, this is nonsense. The poker world is a fiercely competitive world. While you are resting or dealing with everyday issues that you could delegate, your opponents are studying Solver, GTO, your faces, selecting the field, catching fish and making money.

Poker is a school of life where you understand that to achieve success you need to put your all into it, put it on a pedestal and strive to be better.

– What skills have you acquired through poker or, perhaps, on the contrary, have you lost?

Communication skills! Coaching, streaming, and blogging helped me.

There are also disadvantages. I get distracted all the time by thinking about poker while talking and thinking about something else while playing poker. In general, my concentration and attention have decreased, because poker is a very resource-intensive thing. It seems that it has become more difficult to concentrate.

– How do you find motivation for development and what goals do you set for yourself?

– The first motivation is financial goals. I'm one of those people who have an idea of ​​how much money they need to stop working. American studies call the amount 40 million dollars. It seems like a lot, but in reality, becoming the owner of two multi-story buildings is not such an impossible dream. I understand that having earned that amount, I might have stopped. Now I have such a goal, dream, fantasy. A few years ago I dreamed of 100 thousand dollars. Now this goal has been achieved, but I don’t stop. It is important to set a long-term goal and always keep it in mind.

The second motivation is the current environment. In addition to motivation for development, there is a moment of escapism here. Playing poker allows me to forget about what is happening. When [*****] started, I skated more than 100 thousand hands in two weeks. I sat down in the morning and played because I understood that I could not influence the situation. But if I sat and just read the news, my life would get even worse. Poker helped take my mind off negative thoughts.

I always thought Hold'em was boring. Now I am studying five cards, repeating something from four. I understand that at some point I will have to learn six card and hold'em, because fish at high limits can move from one game to another. My motivation is to play at the highest limits. I would like to play at stakes higher than 10k and I am confident that I can handle it mentally. However, the current bankroll does not allow this, because you can lose 10-20 stacks and fall into permatilty. So now I'm aiming to be comfortable at 5k.

– How do you cope with tilt and stress?

– I was lucky in this regard. If I’m stressed, I have animals, food, some kind of sport. I can go to a cafe or restaurant with my wife, have a good time, go to a concert. You can do anything that brings at least some pleasure and quick dopamine. Talking and playing with animals also helps.

I don't have tilt as such. I just stop playing, don't sit down at the table and don't change my strategy to a more passive or aggressive one, as many do. I just don't sit at tables. It’s not even fear, but a feeling of doom with which you don’t want to do anything. Fighting this is difficult and useless. Sometimes watching a good movie helps. I recommend everyone to watch inspiring films that can be watched in a bad mood or when sick. Tilt is a kind of disease.

– What does it take to successfully play at high limits?

– The winner is not the one who spends more time at the table, but the one who spends more time in the solver and in the lobby. In the solver you study the strategy, monitor the lobby, and when a fish appears, you sit down and play.

I have a clear schedule. I try to get up early in the morning, at 6-7 o’clock local time, sometimes it turns out a little later – at 8-9, but mostly it’s 7-8 am. Then I definitely sit down to play, usually play for about four hours, and continue only if I see a good fish or am in an upswing.

What matters here is not how you do the theory or spend time on the game, but the total amount of time you devote. I recommend setting aside approximately 150 hours per month, and distributing the time depending on your current condition. If now there is an upswing and an excellent dollar per hour rate, then studying theory can even be harmful. But in the downswing, it makes sense to play for a couple of hours in the morning, and devote the rest of the time to studying your hands, analyzing situations in which questions arose, communicating with colleagues and improving your psychological state.

It is not the percentage distribution of time that is important, but the total volume. I now get about 170-180 hours, I would like to increase it to 200.

– What were the most significant successes and failures in your poker career?

– I describe the main achievements in my blog . The two months before last, February and March, were the most successful in my career. At one point I was close to making a six-figure profit in a month. The most successful day is about 21 thousand dollars, the most successful month is about 70 thousand. I don’t think so for sure, because over a short distance it’s not that important. Now two months are going around zero, maybe even in a slight minus, purely for rakeback.

I encountered the biggest losses in the early stages of my career. Twice I lost 150 buy-ins. Once it was minus 10 in EV, minus 150 in fact, the second time minus 50 in EV, minus 150 in fact. All this happened at limits from PLO2 to PLO10. Later there were no such serious blows, although every negative session is unpleasant.

Last month I paid 20 thousand for the session. I got hooked on PLO5k, the guy was in God Mode, and I gave him two stacks. Sometimes we were unlucky, but we played four cards and felt comfortable. The regs at the table were the same as those found in PLO400 and PLO1k, and I didn’t feel nervous that I was playing against some very skilled guys. Next time I'll be lucky, I hope the number of games at this limit will increase.

Overall, things have been going pretty well for me lately. During my time in the GreenLine fund (2 years), I surpassed the $300,000 profit mark. Without the fund, it would have been much more difficult for me. I have grown a lot both as a player and as a coach.

– What is the importance of training, community, and how do you feel about criticism of your game?

– Communication with professional players made it clear that you need to study everything and study hard. If you do sports or yoga, try to do the exercises better and benefit from each session.

Of the professional players, I am most interested in playing with students and people from the foundation. Especially when they post giveaways and ask questions. Sometimes these hands have been played against me, which is always fun. I was very lucky at Greenline with coaches and a great community. I try to communicate with players from different disciplines, trying to take useful ideas and thoughts from everyone.

Criticism of my game from other players happens. Sometimes you want to spit in the face, then hit him on the head, trample him under your feet. But in the end, it's how you act that matters. Once you receive criticism, you need to analyze it. If you understand that a person is wrong, ignore his words. If the person is right, start listening to him. This is how coaching works. Sometimes I comment rather rudely on my students’ handouts, but that’s my method.

– Who do you look up to and what qualities, in your opinion, are necessary for high stakes? What does it take to stay competitive?

– I look up to players who play above me. However, you need to outdo yourself. If you have achieved something, you should strive even higher.

Poker is a competition, but if we talk about the financial side, then poker is a game with a fish, and you only need to beat him. The best advice that applies to any field: you need to study. No matter how talented you consider yourself, smart, extraordinary, extraordinary, and so on. Some things are not intuitive, and sometimes even counterintuitive.

High stakes require hard work and responsibility, especially the latter. I can imagine a person who works 100 hours a month, but approaches every minute of his working time very responsibly, with full awareness of what is happening. And there are people who roll back 200-250 hours, but do it semi-automatically.

Responsibility to yourself and to what you do is important for competitiveness. Then comes hard work and engagement. Poker is first and foremost an interest; for some, it has become a hobby that they develop. Anyone who enjoys the game and continues to play at any limits has a chance of success.

– How do you see the future of poker and what advice would you give to beginning players?

– Professional poker has always been like the Viking campaigns: they came, they saw, they conquered... and then they left. Now there are people who want to “protect” the poker world from its natural inhabitant – the regular. Let's see how this turns out. But I think that we will adapt, mimic and continue to do what we love, but from a different angle.

To beginner players: if you are interested, continue, if not, quit.

– Is there anything you would change about your poker career? Goals for the coming years?

– Any changes in the past can lead to unimaginable changes – the butterfly effect. I would, of course, like to start earlier. The sooner you start, the better. And this applies to both play and study. If you devote more time to studying, you will grow faster in terms of limits.

Professional goals for the coming years are to play as high quality and as high as possible. Ideally, start mastering 6 card Omaha and possibly Holdem. Now I have enough play in four-card and five-card Omaha, but I want to try PL10k. At PL5k I didn’t really feel the money, I lost two stacks – it’s okay, it happens. Sad and offensive, but not beyond measure.

– When do you think it’s time to quit poker?

– It's individual. If you feel that it’s time, you’re bored, you’re not making money, or you feel that you can earn more and more interestingly in another area – then it’s time.

– What are your dreams outside of poker and what would you like to do in the future?

Outside of poker, I have a dream, still in the fantasy category. I would like to engage in venture investments, gain expertise in technological aspects and work with tech companies. This is closer to 50 years or more. It's a labor-intensive job, but there will be other factors at work. There will also be dispersion: some companies will succeed, and some will not. There will be less physiological stress than in poker, where you sit for 8 hours a day at the monitor. There will be problems there too, but I clearly see myself in this.

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