A professional player hindsight post lockdown

A couple of days ago, we asked some of our users a couple of questions about their poker life during these extraordinary times. One of them kindly accepted to spend his personal time to answer all of them. Let’s dive in!

Just to set the context of this interview, what’s your living place and since when you are playing poker for a living?

I live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Been playing professionally for almost 10 years now.

Do you remember your last poker night before the outbreak?

Yes I remember my last night before the outbreak shut everything down. I was playing cash game at one of the local casinos in my city. I didn’t know it at the time that that particular session would be my last, but we all knew the shutdown was coming soon. I spent the last week up to that point just trying to grind in as many hours as I could at the tables. Monday night March 16th into the early Tuesday morning of the 17th was my last session….hours later it was officially announced that all casinos were shutting down.

Is your poker life back to normal?

Yes and no. The casino poker rooms in my local area have finally been given the green light to reopen. September 12th (Saturday) was day 1, so it’s been almost 2 weeks now. That said, it’s going to be awhile till things actually feel back to normal again. It’s all about adjusting to the new environment, accepting it for the time being and trying to adapt and roll with it as best as possible. This whole process for me has been like nothing I could have ever imagined as a poker player. It’s all about weathering the storm. If ever there was the test of a lifetime, where a large numbers of macro variables are out of ones control, this is it!

What did you do related to poker during the outbreak and lockdown?

So I actually did play underground private cash games for the first couple weeks of COVID (last half of March into the first week of April) but decided to take a step back. Many reasons: 

The unregulated nature of these games must always be considered. e.g. overall safety, over-raking, conflicts of interest with game hosts playing in the games they are accumulating revenue off of, collusion, and “free” booze making for poor decisions at the table and life. 

That said I took up streaming poker on twitch in the summer of 2019 pre-COVID. I had always split my time about 25% streaming and 75% live poker. But with COVID, after I left the private home games I decided to put 100% of my time and energy into my stream twitch.tv/richierichpoker, and channel that positive energy there! Looking back now, I’m glad I made this decision, it allowed me to productively and creatively grow my stream which is always a work in progress. But I’ve embraced it and actually see the streaming for myself as my future long term plan going forward. The transition will and has been gradual, but I’ve made great strides from when I first started which I’m proud of, and look forward to what the future has in store!

Did you return to your casino?

Looks like this question was answered above already. Entering day 14 with rooms reopened now, and 2nd full weekend with poker at the casinos! Weekends have and always will be prime time for poker. It’s even more important for me and any other professional to capitalize and not take for granted the weekends especially during COVID! Table selection, table selection, table selection!

What are you looking for when playing in a room now?

Traffic is number one! I need to be playing in the busiest room possible, busy room brings more players, more players means more tables, all translates into greater opportunities for action games, which again goes back to the ability to table select with an increased variety of games! In the long run it equates to more money in my pocket! 

8max vs 6max: I prefer 8max games. With the new dividers in place the traditional 9-10max games are on hold. 6max is a little frustrating when 1 or 2 players take a break and suddenly you are playing 4-5 handed, factor in the rake, and one casino in my area doesn’t even short rake ever, in an average game this makes it near unbeatable! 

Short rake is necessary, for 5-6 players or less, any poker room that doesn’t do this will be hard pressed to get my business. I find it insulting, and shows they don’t care about the players! 

Bad Beats, although not required, it’s nice to know there is the ability to win a promotion from time to time. I actually got one small table share for $1300 upon the first week returning. Every little bit helps, and it’s always even more appreciated when received when least expected!

How does it feel to play against players surrounded by protective windows? Is it changing the way you detect their tells? 

So this is definitely a learning curve and adjustment for me! Tells are definitely tougher to spot, but more so with the plexiglass I find myself having to really be conscious of what’s going on at the table! Specifically for example, player stack sizes! With the plexiglass it’ll often give off reflections or glares, so sometimes it’ll look like a player has more and/or less chips in front of them than they actually do, which can be deceiving and could prove costly if day dreaming. Same thing goes with the button. The button could be in seat 2, but a reflective glare shows it in seat 7. Kind of trippy, but all the more reason to pay attention at all times! Another factor is that players have to wear masks at the tables. There have been a few times now since returning that players I’ve played against in the past, I didn’t even realize who the individual was until later in the session! With visual distortion caused by the plexiglass, a player wearing a ball cap and a mask…sometimes it’s as if I’m playing in the dark as to who my opponent is until they actually open their mouth and speak! Lastly, as for tells, based on everything I’ve mentioned, you can imagine how much harder it would be to pick up on visual tells now! I mostly observe tells in the form of betting patterns, always have to some extent, and even more so now!

Your hopes and thoughts for our beloved game?

This is truly a time never experienced or witnessed ever in the history of poker and life in general. It’s going to hurt a lot for the time being. Best advice I give and tell myself is to hope for the best but prepare for the worst! The scary part is that it might actually get worse before it gets better. Truth of the matter is no one really knows, but a lot of damage has been done in the last 6 months, that has and will leave a ripple for some time yet. To any professional poker player out there, create a budget for yourself if you haven’t already. It’s really important. Money saved is money made! The game ultimately will rebound and make a comeback, however as far as any definite timeline as to when things will actually return to normal is uncertain. Poker is my passion and livelihood, whatever it takes to get through these times, just got to do it, and know that if one can get through this, going forward most other speed bumps from time to time should be a walk in the park!

Did the the skill level of the games you are playing has changed ? if so, is it easier or harder?

The skill level of players overall are improving, making table selection very important. That said though, the live cash games will always be softer than online cash games. Since I stream online, MTTs + cash games, I’ve decided to focus my energies during the weekdays for streaming online, and reserve the weekends for live cash at the casinos. I feel this will be the most optimal approach for myself!

Thank you very much for the time you spend on this interview!

Welcome, and thanks!