Hi, the general public heard about you after the podcast with Joe Ingram. Was it the first interview in your career?
– The first, up to this point the only one, and immediately in English. It took place thanks to Makeboifin, with whom we often communicate. Most recently, we saw each other live for the first time when we ended up on Koh Samui at the same time. He had been Joe's guest a little earlier and advised him to call me.
I think I squeezed the maximum out of myself, taking into account my level of English at that time. At first, it was hard. We phoned, started chatting – everything is fine. Suddenly he says – and this is not an interview yet, we are just warming up. This made me even more nervous and confused. But then he relaxed and got better. My goal has always been to learn English. But in Belarus, where I have lived all my life, this is very difficult to do. It is almost impossible to progress when you spend all your time in a Russian-speaking environment. A year ago, at the start of the war, I ended up in Thailand and stayed there. At first, I could not connect two words at all, I communicated mainly with Russian-speaking guys. But he gradually adapted, hired a tutor to improve just the spoken language and some kind of practice appeared.
– In the podcast, you mentioned that you went through the NL25-100 very quickly. Were you already working on the game or did it just start to work right away?
– From the very beginning I was lucky with the environment. My closest friend is Vision, his help from the early days of my career has been invaluable. I listened to him carefully, played a lot and everything was very easy. We are still friends, even now we are renting a villa in Thailand together.
– Did you meet before poker?
– Yes, we are both from Malinovka, which is a district in Minsk. We started talking when we played Warcraft and crossed paths in the "battlenet" and computer clubs. And we really became friends thanks to poker.
– How is he doing? He completely disappeared from the public space.
– Everything is fine. He plays NL1k on GG with an excellent win rate, I don't want to make it up, but it seems to be around 10bb/100. Nick without his consent will not disclose. Gathering his thoughts to go play higher. Just the other day, I was doing forays into NL2k and 5k.
– You quickly reached NL1k, but at this limit, you faced the first serious problems. Now, from the height of your experience, can you formulate what it was connected with?
– I had too high expectations from this limit, it seemed to me that something unusual was about to begin. Somewhere he went too far, somewhere he overestimated his opponents. The latter has always been a problem for me. I thought about everyone: “Since he plays higher, it means he is capable of something extraordinary.” I went to take a shot at NL1k as soon as there were excess bankrolls, and every time it was very painful. I don’t remember exactly, but I allocated a significant part of the bankroll for these shots. Conventionally, I had $30k, as soon as I got up to $40k I went to NL1k, lost $10k there, and returned to my NL200-400, and so it was repeated ad nausem.
– Recently Trueteller spoke about a similar approach to risks in an interview with Jungleman.
– Yeah, but only in his case it was probably about millions or even tens, everything is much more modest with me. In youth, everything is perceived differently. When you're 23 and taking a shot at 25% of your bankroll, I wouldn't even call it a big risk.
– Do you remember the players who gave you the most problems back then?
– In an interview with Joe, I recalled king10clubs, a truly unique player. In my opinion, no one else has dominated the field like that, he has an incredible capacity for work, and the results over a long distance were absolutely insane. I no longer remember the amount, but I myself could only dream of such a thing. I remember him more on an emotional level, rather than something specific. Maybe it's even some kind of injury, haha. You know, when someone constantly destroys you, it does not go unnoticed. And he played mid-stakes all his life – NL400-1k, maybe something has changed in recent years, I don't follow anymore. According to his skill, he was clearly capable of more, but, apparently, he did not want to leave his comfort zone.
I don’t know if Pasha [Vision] will like my words, but he has about the same approach. He's been beating mid-stakes with gigantic win rates all his life, and he's fine with it. The main thing is that he is happy. There are players for whom stability is paramount. Now I'm playing Omaha, I think we'll talk about my transition later. But the stress level there is much higher than in hold'em. I think 2x minimum. In general, the daily grind is a pain. And if you have found your niche and consistently earn decent money, why would you voluntarily increase this pain? I'm oversimplifying, but I think the general idea is clear.
Have you ever considered going down a similar path?
“Perhaps, deep down, I wanted to, but I just couldn’t do it. I would immediately lose interest in poker, I need constant growth, prospects. I don't even mean growth by limits. Now I have switched to a new discipline, this is also some kind of movement. In general, you can say that through poker I got to know myself. At some point, I discovered a very strong competitive spirit in myself, and at some animal, instinctive level. You could probably call it ego. This is also one of the reasons why I always need to go higher.
I even find it difficult to say exactly when this happened, I just once felt it in myself. But I remember very well the moment when it began to bother me. At the end of 2019, I started kickboxing from scratch. I did this in order to realize this animal component in the hall, and not at the poker table. And it was one of the best decisions in my life. The balance of competitive sports and poker was perfect for me. At the beginning of my career, I had a gaming approach to poker, it was just another computer game, then there was a period when making money came to the fore. And now I consider poker, rather, as a sports discipline.
– When I was preparing for an interview, I looked for your nickname on 2+2. You first appeared in the high-stakes games in 2016, and you immediately started at NL5-10k. Constantly played 3 and 4-max with Linus, Baron, Katya, Fish, Trueteller, and other top pros.
Yes, it's nice that you remembered. I think that was just the peak of my ego game. I won't say that I dreamed of becoming number 1, it's impossible in poker. But I definitely wanted some kind of recognition and approval from other regs. I didn’t select at all, I woke up, brushed my teeth, and sat down to grind. In the morning I played with Baron and Linus, then with Linus and Katya, and in the evening with Boyfin and GiveMeUP. According to EV, this idea was rather dubious, but it gave me a decent boost with in-game intelligence. They also recently recalled these matches with Makeboyfin.
But all this was like in a past life, now I choose the game very carefully, and I don’t play regulars at all. It is interesting for me to watch the game of the strongest, I try to notice some interesting tricks in them. But now, it's mostly heads-up Omaha. And my fight for the poker throne is in the past. I lost a lot to those regulars and took it very painfully. Looking ahead, I’ll say that when I moved to Omaha, I worked with a coach [Shuler] and immediately found backers in good expensive games. I still play the upper limits from backers, which is quite normal. Only a few can play on these bets. But before Omaha, I played exclusively on my own, and NL20k was clearly a little expensive for me. After the next segment, when I got to 10 buy-ins, I said to myself: “Enough!”.
– Did you somehow evaluate the expectation and your level in these regwars or did you just sit down and play?
Ego played. Then, when you cool down, you realize that these guys are much better than you. I remember at one point I just texted Linus on Skype: “I give up.” And finished with it.
– And decided to go to Omaha? When did this happen?
– Coincided with covid times. I was at a crossroads, I had just traded the second decade of my career and realized that I had hit my ceiling in hold'em. I knew I had to do something, but I didn't know what. I voiced some thoughts about changing discipline in Ingram's podcast. And the action in expensive Omaha just appeared on GG, and this outweighed. I found a coach, signed up for PLO Mastermind, started playing, and got hooked. It turned out well.
What is the ceiling in hold'em? How do you formulate it for yourself?
– I discussed this with Oshpil . He voiced the idea that it is very important to understand your place in the hold'em food chain. And I had problems with it. I tried to prove something in the regwars – it did not work out. I started playing with a bum hunter, showed a good win rate at NL5k, but all the performances at NL10-20k ended in failure. At some point, I froze and did not understand what to do. And the longer this went on, the more I convinced myself that in hold'em I was not waiting for an upward development, but, on the contrary, I was going lower. So Omaha turned up just in time.
Now I am very glad that I decided to change the discipline. I remember an old Trueteller interview in which he said that he would not have been able to play poker for so many years if he had not started learning new games. I liked this idea. It's not that I went specifically to Omaha. More importantly, I started to learn something new. When I played hold'em, I could not answer the question: "What will I be doing in five years?" And now I have clear answers to all questions. I see myself in Omaha. I also play hold'em, but it's much worse now, I'm only bum hunting super fish at the most expensive stakes. It was also difficult for me to overcome internal stereotypes – if I leave hold'em, it will turn out that I wasted all my knowledge in vain, and I won't be able to return. Now I take it much easier.
I have already said that back in Minsk 5 years ago I went to the gym to practice kickboxing. After moving to Thailand, I began to practice Thai boxing. These are different disciplines, but they have a lot in common and are interchangeable. That is, developments in one may be useful in another. I feel the same about Hold'em and Omaha. They are much closer than anyone might think. At least for me it is. These are equity games and it doesn't matter how many cards you have in your hand. It is important how you see this equity, understand how it is formed pre-flop or post-flop, how it is built on other streets, how not to fall under domination, starting preflop, and so on. Roughly speaking, you see not the cards, but the percentages that you have to win. And if you understand how it all works, then there will be no problems.
– How much did working with a coach help you? What limits could you beat on your own?
– And we didn’t work together that much, only 10 hours. I needed to find out the direction in which to move, and then I would have managed it myself. And in this Schuller helped me a lot. And then I worked on my own and spent the lion's share of the time on preflop play. I continue to study it until now.
My goal is to play good games in all rooms. And on GG, because of the rake, there is preflop play, on Stars and ACR it is completely different. That is, from the very beginning you have to study as if two different games. If you add "rathole" tables to ACR, you will have to learn the game at a depth of 10BB, this is the third game. And I immediately started studying preflop for all rooms. To make it clear, I will give a specific example. For example, on GG there is no limp from SB because of the rake, but on Stars and ACR it is. There are a lot of such subtleties, it is easy to get confused about them. Therefore, I devoted all my time to pre-flop, but my understanding of hold'em was very useful to me. And I watched the game of the strongest regs all the time. I am good at copying the game of others, this is one of my strengths.
– Has the list of the strongest regulars changed a lot in the couple of years that you have been playing Omaha?
– I think no. Then Grazvis1, omaha4rollz, and EEE27 were considered the best, and they remain so now. Perhaps someone forgot.
– BERRI SWEET?
– I have not crossed paths with him at all and, I hope, I will not cross paths. All I heard about him is almost the strongest and most talented player in history. This perception does not add to the desire to play with him.
– In PLO, you probably play cheaper on average than at your peak in hold'em. Did it affect motivation?
– Absolutely not. Lately, I've even started to add PLO2k to ACR and I'm doing it quite calmly. The fact is that six months before that I played in the red with a huge shortfall. It was only in January that I finally managed to win something, so I added all the tables where there was action so as not to lose anticipation.
Last spring there was a PLO100k session with BIEDERMEIR. I then won 13 buy-ins or even more, everything was great.
And then until the end of the year, it was cut off, and I couldn’t win anything at all. This is another sobering moment for those who are thinking about making the transition from Hold'em to Omaha. Yes, there are enough insanely positive games here, it's great. But streaks in Omaha cannot be compared with anything.
I played all summer and autumn in the red. It was one of the toughest streaks of my entire career. But it seems to me that he hardened me well, and I only became stronger. If I had caught such a streak 4 years ago, I would have smashed all the mice and keyboards. And now there was not even a hint of it. I went to the gym every day, ate right, and played like a machine. There were moments when I could not restrain myself and yelled at the whole villa, but in general, I think that I passed this segment with dignity. Enthusiasm and desire to work did not disappear, but, on the contrary, only got stronger. Now I am in top physical and intellectual shape, I am sure that everything will be fine.
– You said that in hold'em you only play with straight fish. How many hands were played last year?
– Quite a few, probably 500 hands. But I am still in the company of hold'em players, participating in discussions. I myself don’t sit in solvers, but I communicate with people who constantly calculate something, so plus or minus I understand what is happening.
– In training, what approach has prevailed throughout your career – communication with friends or independent work?
– I am a representative of the pre-solver school. It was always interesting for me to discuss something with friends, and then complete the strategy in my head. In solvers, by the way, I do not work at all. In Omaha, I probably watched five spots, on how to play 3-bet pots. Hold'em is the same. Enough communication with people who understand this. I just remember very well the moment when solvers first appeared, and how it affected my game. I won’t say that they broke it, but I began to mindlessly copy decisions that should not be done.
I will try to explain my attitude to solvers figuratively. Imagine that we are putting together a puzzle and starting from the edges. These edges are my basic understanding of the principles of the solver, and I already assemble the center myself. Perhaps at some points, my strategy is crooked and contains errors, but the main thing is that it is built in my head, and I understand what I am doing. This is much better than mindless copying.
– In your hold'em years, you managed to participate in the famous session with Idaniel78. Was there something similar in Omaha?
– Yes, there was an even bigger fish on GG – Sr12. It is curious that he started with Omaha, of course, I immediately marked him. But he quickly went to hold'em, and I missed this moment. There he had already fully opened up, and it became simply impossible to get to his table.
More often it happens the other way around – a person first loses in two cards and goes to win back in four. However, some people like hold'em because they can go all-in right away, rather than playing pot-bets. Perhaps Sr12 is one of those. In Omaha, weak players' loss rates, of course, are much higher.
Of the memorable players, there was also Ludumann on GG. I think it's some kind of offline reg. He played, of course, in the red, but not bad enough. Even took into account blockers, bluffed.
– Now you only play with select, is there a lack of action because of this?
– No, there are a lot of games. And on the wave of studying PLO, I also managed to dive into the 5-card game, but it didn’t turn out very well. I have already said that hold'em and PLO are very close disciplines for me. It seemed to me that PLO-5 would be even closer, and I went there with my work from PLO. But the game turned out to be completely different, the pre-flop is completely different, andthe post-flop is also quite different. Nothing worked at all. And only a couple of months ago I found the strength to admit that I play badly. Now I work with a trainer.
I think it's easier to go from Hold'em to 5 Card Omaha than from PLO. You start from scratch and avoid false PLO concepts and other misconceptions. But the 5-card action is gaining momentum, this game is interesting for fans. A player has appeared on GG in recent months who plays only PLO-5, and he has losses in the region of 200-300bb/100. So I admitted to myself at the right time that I was playing badly and turned to the coach.
Moving to PLO helped me get through the crisis. I am experiencing my second poker youth, interest in the game has returned, enthusiasm has appeared, and a desire to be creative. And PLO-5 became a cold shower that washed away all the enthusiasm and smile from the face. But I think I can handle it too, another challenge. I talk to guys who play short deck. They say that in these games the dispersion is comparable, maybe even more in PLO-5. And these games are definitely not for everyone, they are very difficult to understand, they have giant streaks, and the solutions are very close. I'm not even completely sure that PLO-5 is right for me. But I can’t leave anymore, I invested too much in it with my stupid actions. Well, there are enough fish here for now.
– Is there enough action in Omaha for ACR?
– Yes, and I underestimated this room for a long time. They recently added PLO-5 tables so there's even more action.
– Of course, you are aware that Linus plays there under the nickname borntotilt?
– Yes, and under it, everyone jumps into Omaha, which is quite funny. I look at it from the outside, let the guys figure it out themselves. Once I had already “understood” him so much that I had to write on Skype later.
Do he and Makeboifin seem to be playing a lot of Omaha lately?
– Yes, but they are primarily interested in heads-up. Markus and I are also discussing Omaha, I'm sure that after a while he will tear everyone apart here too. In general, I have admiration for all the guys who specialize in heads-up, they definitely have iron balls. It would be incredibly difficult for me to control myself in this discipline, so I almost never played heads-up.