Podcasts on the bitB Cash channel are released infrequently. What's strange is that both the hosts and the guests are strong regulars. The hero of the latest issue was Cameron "ishter11" Couch, and the questions were asked by D7o1d1s0 and Psek1. The video was given the loud title “The most profitable NL1k player on GG of all time and the LEGEND of medium-high limits.”
D7: We met when you were playing zoom200 and making your first attempts at zoom500. Naturally, your poker journey began long before that. Tell us about the beginning of your career.
ishter11: I became acquainted with poker in my penultimate year at university. We got together with friends and played SNGs with a buy-in of 10 Australian dollars. There were 10-15 people in the company. I immediately realized that poker was for me. It had everything I liked: strategy, competition, and psychology. Almost immediately I switched to online poker, registered on PokerStars, and went to play zoom25. I deposited all the pocket money that I had saved during six months of study and made a profit from that money.
Psek1: It’s not often that you meet a player who started with a fairly difficult limit and didn’t even lose his first deposit.
ishter11: This was 10 years ago when the level of the game was completely different. To give you an idea, I was playing with a continuation bet of 90 on the flop, 35 on the turn, and 40 on the river. I collected value with my entire range, and it worked.
D7: Did you know anything about bankroll management?
ishter11: Superficial. I deposited $600, that's 25 buy-ins, which doesn't seem too unreasonable. But if I had lost them, I definitely wouldn’t have stopped there.
D7: Have you tried tournaments, SNGs, and other formats?
ishter11: Sometimes I played spins, I was tempted by advertising that you could win a million there right away. But seriously, I didn’t grind anything except the cache.
D7: And did you start winning immediately?
ishter11: At first I played with a minimal win rate – 0.5-1bb/100, but received good rakeback. It worked out to about $10 an hour, which was not bad for a part-time job while studying. After receiving my diploma, I decided to take poker seriously. I told my parents that I would return home and live with them. He said that I needed to think about what to do next, but he already understood perfectly well that I would sit in my room and skate all the time.
Almost immediately I realized that I needed to reach a new level, but I couldn’t handle it on my own. I contacted George You-mad-br0, I was lucky that he was interested and agreed to become my coach and backer. Over the course of a year of working together, I went from zoom25 with a win rate of 3bb to shooting at zoom500.
D7: How did you find him?
ishter11: After 2+2, I found his advertising topic with training for a percentage of the profit.
D7: How did your parents react to the fact that you stayed at home and played poker rather than looking for a normal job?
ishter11: At first they were wary, but after six months I was earning money from poker comparable to the salary at a regular job, and they accepted it. True, for a long time my father did not believe that these were not candy wrappers. I showed him that my balance was growing steadily, and he kept asking: “Is this really real money? Can you really get them out?”
D7: Since we are talking about parents, tell a story that all your friends have already heard – about your difficult relationship with vegetables.
ishter11: Until I was 15-16 years old, I didn’t eat vegetables and fruits at all. To fix this, my father came up with a cunning strategy – he promised my brothers and I $1.5k a month if we ate vegetables every day. If you miss even one day, you get the full amount back. Moreover, the brothers ate them without any problems, but Dad decided that it would be strange to pay only me. Naturally, it worked, I regularly ate vegetables, although sometimes I managed to hide them in my pocket and then throw them from the balcony to the neighbors. Now I have matured and eat vegetables voluntarily, but I still don’t like fruits.
D7: I just wanted to ask how much you would agree to eat strawberries for.
ishter11: For a small one, but for a banana you would have to bargain. I definitely wouldn’t try it for $1k, maybe I would agree for $5k.
D7: How many years have you been grinding zoom500?
ishter11: More than four years, played 2.4 million hands there. I started adding these tables at the end of 2014, and already in 2015 this was my main limit, and I played it until 2019.
D7: Why so long? For many regulars, zoom500 was a stepping stone on the way to high stakes. You also played NL1k and even NL5k, but just a little. Didn't want to leave your comfort zone?
ishter11: Yes, most likely this is the main reason. For a poker player, I'm a bit of a coward, I'm afraid of losing, so I try not to take too many risks. Naturally, now that I have been playing for more than 10 years, it has become easier. It's not so much about losing money, but about the feeling you get when your opponents are clearly outplaying you. I never liked this feeling. I didn’t want to endure streaks, I was horrified to imagine how I would be forced to go down to lower limits.
I think due to my cautious approach I missed out on some anticipation, but on the other hand, on zoom500 I was comfortably making $250k a year without any financial or emotional swings. I was completely fine with this. I think that in any case, I would have ended up in the situation I am in now, but if I had chosen the high stakes, it would not have been so rosy.
Now I don’t think about shots at NL20k-40k at all, I don’t understand why I need extra variance? Although, I won’t hide, sometimes thoughts come to me that I could be in Linus’ place. We started at the same time and rose in parallel, but then his career took a much steeper turn. I quickly remind myself that it is impossible to be in someone else’s shoes. Linus is naturally more talented and works incomparably more on the game.
Psek1: If we compare your career with guys like ja.sam.gale and oSpiel, then by not wanting to take risks you, of course, missed out on some EV. But compared to the average NL500 reg, I think you are doing much better.
ishter11: That's it. Now my average limit is NL600-700, where I have played 5-7 million hands in recent years with a win rate of 5bb/100. At such a distance, there is simply no variance in the results. And we rarely remember the guys who successfully played zoom500, and then all lost at high stakes and no one else heard about them.
Psek1: Tell me what you remember about the top regs you met while playing zoom500 – ja.sam.gale, oSpiel, Linus?
ishter11: DavyJones922 always seemed to me the most difficult. For many years I had the highest win rate and distance on Zoom, but not for a second did I consider myself the strongest there. Davy and Oshpiel were clearly stronger, but they never caused me fear. I hardly remember Ja.sam.gale; it seems he didn’t play Zoom that often. I played a lot with TaxHere, which is now also much more expensive. The only one who really irritated me was nagoya2005. Surely experienced regulars remember him; I simply hated crossing paths with him at the tables.
D7: You've been playing poker for many years, you've seen a lot of ups and downs. Have you managed to maintain your love for poker?
ishter11: Love is too strong a word. Poker definitely makes me happy, especially when things are going well. I like this lifestyle. I think coaching also helps keep me interested in poker because it adds a social element to my life. To be honest, if I had entered the WSOP main, I would have played less online and switched to live poker, playing for fun. But for now, I’m far from my financial goals, so I don’t plan to finish.
There was one period in my entire career when I was close to despair. A few years ago, zoom500 on Stars finally died, and I couldn’t make a deposit from England to other rooms. I tried switching to WPN, but there was simply no game there during my work hours. We were lucky that during Covid there was a lot of party play, with absolutely incredible conditions at NL500-1k thanks to rake races. But even there everything died very quickly.
In the end, I found salvation on GG, although there were some difficulties here too. Every year it becomes more and more difficult to make deposits from England. I wrote to GG support asking that they allow me to deposit at least $20-30k to play at NL1k. They replied that such amounts were out of the question, but as an exception they allowed me to deposit $10k into the site if I showed them an account in my name that contained more than $100k. I had to start with 10 buy-ins, but I immediately started getting good at it and quickly grew to a comfortable $30k. This was two years ago. At the same time, I started working more on my game, as I felt that the field was gradually catching up with me. All this also helped restore confidence and interest in poker.
Psek1: Do you remember what financial goals you set for yourself when you first started playing zoom500? And how have they changed over time?
ishter11: Of course, they have changed. I reached my first serious mark – $100k in profit – after 1.5 years of my professional career. I felt like the coolest guy in the world, bought myself a watch for $3.5k, and thought that I had already achieved everything. And now even $1 million doesn’t seem like such a serious amount.
D7: You live in London – one of the most expensive cities in the world. Why don't you choose something more modest?
ishter11: I didn't even have much of a choice. Australia banned online poker in 2016, and I had relatives and some poker friends living in London, so I wasn't considering other places to move to. It is very convenient here, it is easy to get anywhere in Europe. I value quality of life too much, so I have to put up with the prices. Somewhere in Thailand, I would definitely feel less comfortable.
D7: Which part of your career was the most profitable for you in terms of expectation – zoom on Stars, party, or GG?
ishter11: I think this is my biggest expectation right now. My average limit is just above $1k and with rakeback I can make good money. I’ll put Party in second place; the rakeback conditions there were simply insane. I mixed NL500 and 1k, played a huge distance, and showed 8bb/100 with rakeback. True, that year had a deplorable effect on my psychological state. I lived alone and practically never left my computer.
D7: What is your rakeback on GG?
ishter11: It's hard to say. I think I’m definitely among the leaders in terms of rake; the amount will be close to $500k per year. Therefore, I have a maximum rakeback of 60%, but there is also a PVI coefficient, which is different for everyone. For $4k in rake per day, I get $600 rakeback, plus there are leaderboards and jackpots. True, the dispersion there is also huge. I received a little over $100k in jackpots and invested around $60k, that is, I am moving around $50k in BBJ EV. One of my friends, a reg, played a million hands and never participated in a hand with a bad beat jackpot, that is, he misses $200-300k.
Psek1: I have big questions about this PVI system.
ishter11: My win rate has not changed at all for a long time, most likely I just reached the minimum. But I know one player, I won’t name him, he played millions of hands at NL1k with a loss rate of 7-8bb/100, but due to the maximum PVI, he remains in the black. But as soon as you start winning, your odds will immediately be cut.
Psek1: On GG it is almost impossible to show a positive win rate before rakeback. How do you like the field level compared to what it was in zoom500?
ishter11: I started playing on GG two years ago when the field was much weaker than now. The average level of regulars has increased a lot lately, but this had almost no effect on my personal expectations because I also began to work harder on my game to maintain my advantage. The main difference from Stars is that on GG the field is more polar. There are either very strong regulars left or outright amateurs. Previously, the spectrum of players was very wide – strong regs, weak regs, fish, and whales.
D7: How do you assess the prospects of online poker?
ishter11: I have already said that according to expectations, now is the best time for me, it would be strange to argue that everything is bad online. But if it weren't for GG, everything would be completely sad. They have done a lot of good things for online poker. They may not always take the best approach to the regulars, but overall they have provided a lot of action and they do a lot to promote a positive attitude towards poker. What is the Game of Gold show worth?
I started playing in 2014, and even then I heard that the game was dying. But since then I've only had one bad year where I thought about retiring from my poker career. If you are willing to work hard and surround yourself with people who can support you both game-wise and emotionally, then you will definitely succeed in poker. An advantage can still be gained and this will not change in the next few years.
D7: Yes, I remember very well how poker was buried when Americans were banned from playing, then when public solvers appeared. But many years have passed, and some might even say that such a good game has never existed. Name the top 5 NL1k regs on GG. You can't do it yourself!
ishter11: All players who play a lot without selecting earn my respect. J0hn McClean, Unbroken23, who is relatively new and fights for every pot, sometimes even goes overboard. It's very unpleasant to play with him. Hector Rodriguez, Peter Kovac, my buddy Naoufel Smires, George Froggatt, MR Builder. I've probably forgotten many.
D7: Last question – how do you estimate your EV for the upcoming 2024?
ishter11: I think something in the region of $300k-400k.