The other day, Jeff opened a thread on reddit, in which he invited users to ask him any questions. In it, he explained why he left poker, recalled bright episodes from his career and talked about which of the players he hates the most.
– I have not played poker for a hundred years, I decided to open this topic to have some fun. I've won seven figures in my career. I started playing online very early, then I traveled through the series and played the highest stakes online and offline for several years, including in Bobby's Room. Thanks to poker, I met a lot of bright characters, many of whom still play at the top level. I have many good and bad memories. Ready to answer any (almost) questions, go for it!
– What are you doing now?
I haven't played poker for several years. I graduated from college and got a regular job, which in the future can grow into a successful career. I'm thinking about continuing my studies and getting a master's degree.
– You are in your 30s, you broke the high limits, and then suddenly you quit everything, got a job and returned to your studies? Hard to believe.
– Yeah, that's right. I have a part-time job, I make $20 an hour. I live very modestly, this is enough not to get into debt. Almost all the poker money I have lost or spent.
All my youthful ambitions have long since vanished. I returned to my parents and help take care of my father and grandfather, both of whom have serious health problems. My dream is to buy a small house and have animals. I saved some money, so someday it will definitely happen. I spend most of my free time swimming. In Boston, we have a whole company, we swim in the open air almost all year round. All my hobbies and goals are now in no way connected with money, I get pleasure in completely different ways.
– Why did you quit poker?
– I climbed too high, I became uncomfortable at these limits. HUNL stopped giving me action. The field was getting worse, and my game stopped progressing due to various emotional and psychological problems. Motivation also started to be difficult, I couldn't bring myself to play $5/$10 and $10/$20 at all. And then Black Friday happened, which was the final nail in my poker coffin.
– What is your biggest MTT ride? What victory has influenced the development of your career the most?
– $280k offline and $150k online. It is difficult to say what influenced it the most. I started with freerolls and quickly won the $11 rebuy tournament on Stars. Then there was a $50k payout at the WCOOP. This victory definitely turned out to be very useful, without it, I would most likely go for backing.
– Haven't heard of 'Sheets' for a hundred years. What is he doing now?
– He became an exemplary family man. Although I wouldn't be too surprised if he still puts a couple of people in tournaments. He always liked it.
– Wow, ActionJeff! Your name used to be big in poker. You were the one who hit Bryn once? Or spat? Haha. I also remember that you played heads-up with SBRugby when he was at the top.
– Yes, I did spit on him once. Not the brightest moment in my career, but as it turned out, I just played ahead of the curve. At least some justification for this act.
I played with Brian a lot. A very good player, but he seemed predictable to me. By the way, I was offered a stake in the Cardrunners even before Brian rose to the top. But I refused. And a little later he accepted a similar offer and, it seems, perfectly used the opportunity that presented itself.
– How much of the money you won did you keep/invest?
– Not even close as much as I would like. I gave a very large amount to my parents, set aside $500k for “old age”, and quickly squandered the rest.
– Did you have money on UltimateBet during Black Friday?
– Not. I lost everything to the superusers, then they compensated me $30k. But I didn't play any more hands there.
– What is the saddest story that happened during your poker career?
– Death of Chad Batista. He had always been a nice guy, but grew up in a black neighborhood and was a fan of that culture, because of this, many had a negative attitude towards him. In poker, they constantly tried to throw him. A prime example is Bryn Kenny. He took shares from Chad and once tried to access his account, which contained a large sum after winning a tournament. Chad managed to prevent this, for which Bryn and his friends then took him to the Rio parking lot and beat him up. Although Chad weighed no more than 50 kilograms.
He had been drinking heavily in recent years. Went to Mexico to grind tournaments online, but gradually drank himself to death there. If I'm not mistaken, he died in Vegas. The last time we saw each other was about a year before. He was one of the nicest people I have ever known.
– Do you miss poker? Have you thought about going back and playing like an amateur?
– Sometimes I miss it. But it took a long time before I wanted to play again. In the last years of my playing career, poker did not bring me any pleasure, I myself also played worse and worse, my reputation deteriorated. I constantly smoked weed and drank, which negatively affected my life in all areas. For a long time, poker evoked exclusively negative associations in me, the mere thought of resuming a professional career disgusted me.
I was emotionally unprepared for the stakes that I had skyrocketed to, the grueling grind and the temptations that come with big money. But from time to time I think about entering the WSOP Main Event, and there is a possibility that this will happen.
– What are your three most difficult heads-up opponents?
– In HUNL, under no circumstances did I sit down to play with Ike Haxton and Scott Seiver. I didn’t play with Ivey either, but I was afraid of his personality, not the level of the game ( ed. – It was Jeff who opened the legendary theme Phil Ivey is the Stone Cold Nuts on 2 + 2, we translated the most interesting stories from there ). At the end of his career, I played one session with Doug Polk, but quickly left, it was unbearable.
– Because of his good game or behavior?
– Because of the game. But in the chat, he also constantly wrote some kind of nonsense, which did not add to the desire to play with him.
– The craziest poker session ever?
– One day I was playing several tables of NL $300/$600 with 'Urindanger' all night long. At some point, I had a profit of $1.5 million, but in the end I won or lost only a couple of buy-ins, I don’t remember exactly. In the end, he played badly. I remember that I almost finished at the peak, but I stayed because he asked me very politely not to leave, lol. I also remember how he said that the day would come and I would regret that I was so careless about money. Smart guy.
– The most questionable person, who did you cross paths with in poker?
– Tried to avoid them. But Bryn Kenney always seemed cloudy to me, and now the whole world has learned about it. There are a lot of people in poker who don't inspire any confidence, but I can't think of anyone else who, at the slightest opportunity, tried to profit in some way.
– Any funny stories from Bobby's room? Did you play with Sigmund?
– I played there quite a bit, there was not enough time to collect funny stories. Thanks to Kenny Tran, I got into a fabulous closed game, but I won a lot and the second time I was not invited. It happened at the very end of my high stakes career.
Left because Viffer started talking nasty things about me. At that moment I was winning $200k playing 100% of myself. In one hand, the river got him paid, and he commented on this with the words: “In any game, you need fish.” I think Kenny Tran was furious. Then he told me: "You played not at all like before." Although we've only met at the tables once in the $40k WSOP event.
That session was the first time I played with Brandon Adams. Never played with a smarter person, he just exuded intelligence. He is one of those people about whom your first thought is: "Damn, how smart he is." Moreover, he couldn't hide it, there was something special in his look, game, and even in the way he sorted out the chips.
Never played live with Sigmund. But one day in Monte Carlo I played some $40k SNGs with a group of Scandinavian players and one Japanese billionaire. Forgot his name, it seems, Kagawa ( ed. – Masa Kagawa was subsequently arrested as the head of a criminal group engaged in spamming and distributing malware for Android devices ). When we finished and started paying, he took out a suitcase, which turned out to be full of money. He pulled out several hundred thousand euros, which were a drop in the ocean in the total mass of banknotes, and handed them to Johnny Lodden with a smile. The loss of a rather large amount, it seems, he did not even notice.
– Did you play against Cole South?
– Yes, we met online quite often. He always played very aggressively, on any street you could play against him for a stack. It was difficult to play with him, but not as difficult as, for example, with Dwan.
– Do you have any idea how much the game has moved forward since you stopped playing?
– I am aware that there are solvers, if that is what you are talking about. The last time I actively played was in the summer of 2014 and I talked a lot with players who continued to play plus limits up to NL2k in American online, so I have an idea how they were already working on the game at that time.
– Key skills for a successful player?
– Intelligence, creativity, passion, stability and patience.
– Do you think playing NL1k/NL2k at PartyPoker in 2005-2007 was easier than it is today at NL5?
– I doubt. There were very strong players in that game. I would compare lineups to what we saw on the High Stakes Poker show – a couple of very strong regulars, a few good players and a couple of fish. Even then the strongest players were distinguished not only by good technical play, but also by creativity.
The biggest winner there was BldSwtrs, he definitely won several million. When I switched to cash, I bought his database base. He won $800k on $5/$10 and $10/$20 in about a year, I don't remember the number of hands, but he just destroyed his opponents. Analyzing his base gave a huge boost to my game, I learned a lot about both the technical side of poker and how you can manipulate opponents depending on the dynamics. He was an amazing player.
– What is your biggest downswing? How did you deal with it?
– Played short sessions and went down the stakes. If I noticed that I was starting to do outright nonsense, I immediately left and took a break from the game.
Aside from the nosebleed streak, the biggest downswing was $25/$50 on Stars when I lost $250k. Analysis of the database showed that I played badly myself. But the lineups in that game were pretty heavy by 2010 standards.
After that crazy session against Urindanger, I cashed out my entire bankroll from Full Tilt. I left about $300k, I gave the rest to my parents, I was afraid that I would lose everything quickly.
– How did you manage to calmly go from a life of playing five- and six-figure sums in one hand, to a job for $20 an hour? It's incredibly hard psychologically.
– The transition was quite long, but psychologically I took it quite calmly. The thing is, even if I were getting $50+ an hour now, it would still be a penny compared to the earnings of those times. I am calm about my future, in this regard I was lucky. Otherwise, I probably would have continued to play. I am sure that I can easily increase my income if necessary.
– What is your most pleasant poker memory?
– The summer of 2009, when my friends and I rented a huge grind house. We went to great restaurants and supported each other in everything. I personally watched my closest friend Leo Wolpert win a bracelet in a $10k heads-up tournament.
– Did poker bring you more benefit or harm?
– I doubt poker has done me any good. He gave me many interesting acquaintances and experience that I could get only here. But there was more harm, first of all, to my mental health. It took a long time to recover.
– Are you afraid to play with anyone?
– Online, the scariest people for me were Durrrr and Scott Seiver. I think that at that time Scott was the strongest player in NLHE, and Hoss_TBF ( ed. – Matt Gavrilenko ) was the most versatile player.
– How did you work on the game?
– I watched the game of the strongest, analyzed their databases for hours, talked with the regulars and played millions of hands. I tried not to allow thoughtless play, I tried to think creatively in any hand.
– In what way were you stronger than your rivals? In what did they give up?
– I realized the importance of using frequencies before anyone else. Preflop, I played much tighter than my opponents, but I used it very well. Ike once told me that this was the strongest part of my game. Unfortunately, one day I let him do something unforgivable that ruined our friendship. And I was inferior to my opponents in preflop strategies and in my unwillingness to learn GTO.