Dominik Nitsche

Howard Swains
26 min readDec 23, 2020


Interview date: November 2018


(Credit: Rene Velli/Rational Intellectual Holdings Ltd.)

What’s the bullet-point list of steps to get to the $100K level?
If truth be told, when you play poker tournaments, you kind of start at the bottom. You work your way up. When you get good results you obviously have more money. When you have more money, you can play higher and to get to super high rollers you start to look at this and think, “Wow, these buy-ins are so much bigger.” Main events are €5,000 on the EPT and €2,000 on smaller tours so to make the step up to €100,000 there is obviously a really big increase to go there. There is no secret that once you get to that stage, you do take on partners to help you cover the buy-in because €100,000 is a lot of money. Maybe I only feel comfortable putting up half of it, or a third, depending on how high the tournament is. These days there really is no limit. It keeps getting higher and higher. We even had a million dollar tournament so you gotta take on partners because really when it comes to buy-ins it’s very, very hard to afford that. There’s really just no way to win the money anymore. It’s quite possible to win enough money yourself, playing €5,000 or €10,000s if you’re really good, but once it gets higher, you just need outside help to finance those. It’s big money for anyone.

Where do you start looking for investors?
The One Drop is a good example for this. It’s a lot of work. That’s what people don’t realise. The way I did it was I said, “OK, I think it’s going to be quite a good tournament, $1m buy-in, I’m quite a good player I think so when I play I’m going to be a profitable investment.” So instead of selling 1% for $10,000, which would be an even price, I would say I’ll give you 1% but it’s going to cost you $10,500. And then you go and ask people and say, “Do you want a piece?” And then it goes on and on and on. Obviously you don’t find 80 different people. There’s groups that takes up to 70 percent if you want to sell that. But it actually involves asking a lot of people sometimes and you just ask friends and poker communities. I’m connected enough that I didn’t have to go outside the poker community to get action sold.

That’s the way it works for the majority of tournaments. With the exception of One Drop, obviously, which is so big that you need to go outside of your usual contacts and hit up even more people to buy because it’s just that big. A million dollars is a lot of money for anyone, and there’s no single group as far as I know that can afford that. Once you get to a million you do start to sweat a little bit. “Oh no, can I really sell this?” You go through all this hassle of maybe selling 60 percent and then you’re still in for 400 grand in a tournament. You’ve got to be organised, you’ve got to be well prepared, and thankfully due to Twitter and other communication platforms it’s fairly easy to sell a couple of percent here and there and then hopefully get to a high enough number where you’d want to play. It’s no secret that I had quite a big piece left for myself in the end because it actually was kind of tough to sell. And maybe I would have liked to sell three or four percent more, but I just decided I’d keep it for myself because I didn’t know who to ask in the end, and I also didn’t care enough.

What does it feel like playing for $1m?
I could give you the answer that I don’t care and it was all the same, but it kind of wasn’t true at least not for the first 20 minutes. I was more nervous than I’ve ever been. But thankfully after the first break, or even after the first level, it’s all the same. But the first 15 to 20 minutes were kind of “Oh my god it’s a million dollars” kind of thing. It kind of felt like a big deal the whole tournament. The first 20 minutes were kind of surreal, but you get over it.

How do explain that to people who know nothing about poker?
What I usually say is that it’s a job like any other. Sometimes it’s not my own money, or not all of it is my money, or I’ll say it’s all relative. For a multi-millionaire, a 100K is not that much money, put it that way. That’s obviously not the case for me. 100K is a lot of money but it’s always the same game, first of all, and you’ve got to invest money to make money in poker. For me the way I make the most money is by investing more money. The higher the buy in is, the better it is for me as a professional because it means I win more money. The way money is earned in poker is: every time you play a tournament, you have something called a return on investment. You make x percent of the buy-in as your return on investment. So yes, while I do risk that money and it’s possible to lose, I also have a much higher up side. So it’s fine. That’s just the way it works in any business. You take on a risk, which is the buy-in, you better be prepared to lose it, and if you lose it, that’s OK. The world’s not going to change. I’m not going to be homeless on the street just because I lose this. And that’s basically the way you should approach any investment. Poker tournaments are a very risky investment, which you can compare to a high risk investment, but they’re also very high reward. That’s what a poker tournament is. So you should only be investing a very small percentage of your bankroll in any given tournament. Just because the buy-in is 100,000, it doesn’t really mean I invested 100,000. Maybe it means I invested half, put it that way.

Poker players from previous eras actually did end up on the streets sometimes. What do today’s players do to ensure they don’t end up there?
People did used to go broke, but the reason it doesn’t happen any more these days is that people have definitely learned from their mistakes. A lot of people have lost: they ran up their money, they won a lot of big stuff, they got very confident, but then they decided they would play all the big stuff, they lose and then they’re out of money, and they lose more, and it’s very easy to go broke if you have that confidence and that feeling that you always deserve to win. But as I said, a poker tournament is just a very risky investment. Once you realise that it doesn’t matter how good you are, you can always lose, once you realise that you also start to realise that it doesn’t make sense to put up 100,000 yourself. Because if you keep putting up 100,000 yourself, you will be out of money, which means no more profitable investments, which means your ability to make money has gone. Once you realise all of this, you come to the conclusion that hey, why would I risk 100,000?

A good rule of thumb — and this is something a lot of professional players follow — is to have at least 100 buy-ins in their poker bankroll. For example, if you play a $1,000 tournament, you should have at least $100,000 in your poker bankroll. The poker bankroll basically means that you should be ready to lose that money and you should be OK with it and you don’t mind if you lose half of it. So you have quite a high risk tolerance already, to lose 1% of your bankroll in a tournament. That’s already quite high. So you can’t really risk much more than that, because if you keep risking 10% of your bankroll on any given tournament, it doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter how good you are, you’re going to go broke.

It’s basically that poker players used to be more on the gambling side, they were trying to…within the money, they had all the confidence, they weren’t very much aware of how much bad luck there could be in poker tournaments. And nowadays all the people coming up, the young guys, they come from a good background, they studied, they’re all math guys. And it’s all people that are very aware of the risk, but they’re fine with the risk and they understand how much risk they can afford to take on. It’s very few people who come up that don’t have that background these days. That explains why less people go broke these days, and it explains why I never went broke as well.

You’re also a really good player, so how did you get your skills to this stage?
It doesn’t matter how good you are, if you don’t have any bankroll management, I would go broke. The simple reason for this is that I didn’t cash the $1m One Drop this year, and I didn’t cash three other high roller tournaments. And it’s no secret that if I put up all the money for all these tournaments myself, and I just lost a million right there and I lost five hundred here and there then I might be broke. There’s no secret there that it kind of doesn’t matter how good you are, if you don’t follow the bankroll management rules and you’re just playing, you’ll eventually go broke, because there’s always higher to play and it’s really easy to lose a lot of money really quickly. I just want to stress that: that it doesn’t matter if I’m a good player or not, it’s kind of more important that I don’t put a lot of my money in.

To the other part of the question, I got here through just a lot of hard work. When I started out, I was reading a lot of poker books and I was always trying to learn from players I admired as better players. Back then, the first player I looked up to was Dan Harrington because he wrote the books Harrington on Hold’em, so it was kind of easy for me to try and follow his style. It would always make sense to me, you would always look at the people who were better than you at something so you could learn from them. That always made a lot of sense to me. Video games growing up, you would watch professional video game players playing, you’d see what they do and you’d try to learn from them. Poker was nothing else for me. It was just that I had an outlet to learn from all these great players, from watching them on live streams, from reading their books and just learning that way, understanding how they think, putting that to use on the internet and then just playing, playing, playing.

Obviously once I got to a higher point it was work that I had to do myself, but before I could get there I would need to build up knowledge that I would learn from books, from other players. Nowadays it’s just a lot of my own research, a lot of computer calculations, a lot of watching my competition play on TV tables, looking at what hands they’re playing, figuring out what they’re doing wrong, sitting at home in my little office writing down strategies that I can think of, playing around online, practicing new strategies and all that kind of stuff. But that came for me much later.

At this point in my career I don’t think I can go much further by copying anymore. Now I need to do my own research. And that’s obviously a lot more intensive work than just trying to copy someone as well as I can, saying Oh yeah, this guy knows more than me so I’m just going to follow what he says and that’s good enough, because he’s already a very good player and I’ll try to follow him as good as I can and that should get me close enough. But that doesn’t exist at the high roller level for me anymore, because I kind of worked up to a high enough level where my own research is the only way for me to get better these days.

That’s a lot of work
It’s a lot more work at the table. But if you’re smart about it and you break it down into tasks and you kind of think about what you want to work on every day, it’s also kind of like a game where you can practice your strategies, you can put them to use online, play against other players, test out where you go wrong, and all that stuff. It is a lot of work, and it’s nothing like just sitting down and playing. The people that just sit down and play at the table and don’t do anything else, those are the ones you see struggle, and those are the ones you most likely see lose unless they get lucky. The ones that you see on the TV, mostly the younger players that are not really fazed by the money, they kind of just sit there and try to play their game, they don’t get rattled by the circumstances, they don’t let anything affect them, those are the guys that spend hours and hours at home, preparing for this big moment. So when they get to this stage, they can bring their game.

Almost 90 to 95 percent of the actual work takes place away from the table. I put in all my work away from the table, just so I can play to the best of my ability at the table. The decisions I make at the table are basically just stuff I’ve learnt many, many months ago, years ago even, that I can now just do anytime of the day. If someone wakes me up in the middle of the night, I could give them the right answer. All the work has been done away from the table, and when I sit down at the table to play, I don’t really mind anymore. I can play as well as I always could. I don’t really need a lot of time to think about my decisions because it all kind of comes natural to me, because I’ve done the preparation away from the table in most situations. It’s not that I just put my money down and try to play, I’ve done the work before. When I sit down to play, I just try to make the decisions I always can and not give away live tells as well. Play well and have fun.

Is the studying common to all 30 SHR regs?
Some people think that way but don’t want to admit it. Some people might not think that way. It’s tough, I don’t want to say all because I can’t speak for everyone. But I would say for the majority of the young guys that’s how they approach the game. And, yep, maybe some people play that way and they don’t want to admit it because they have an image to uphold, or they like to act like a big-time balla, and say, “Oh no, I just play poker. The studying is not for me.” Who knows, maybe those guys do something too. You’re not behind them every step of the way. You don’t know how much work they do with the programs. You don’t know how much work I do with the programs. Maybe I’m just talking. You never know what anyone else does. You can get an idea when you play with them, but that takes hours and hours and hours, and I’ll just give you my best guess from playing with everyone: I think that yes, pretty much everyone comes from a strategy point where they have developed their strategy off the table. Pretty much no one just sits down and figures it out as they go along. That’s not a thing anymore.

How do the player “crews” look from the inside?
It depends. It’s no secret, my best friends are the German crew. We obviously do have a WhatsApp chat because we’re all good friends outside of poker. It’s not as much poker strategy in this chat actually as you would think actually, it’s mostly other things. That part is not really all that professional. A lot of the chat is basically passing time as we sit in a live poker tournament, which can sometimes go on for days and days. So you do kind of need some entertainment. Mostly through the tournament days it is a source of entertainment. It’s also a source of hand history reviews. We sometimes do discuss hands and it’s also a source where we do discuss ideas. But it usually doesn’t happen while we’re at tournaments. At tournaments, that’s when you go to play the game. So that’s already very expensive. It takes a lot of time to play tournaments. You play from morning to evening and then you just want to relax and not study.

It’s a lot of studying in the off days, when we have time in between the tournaments. Someone proposes an idea of something to work on, let’s talk about this. Let’s set a date, we all get together on Skype, we all add out thoughts. Everyone sits at home, we discuss the ideas. I’ve worked on something, check this out guys, this is pretty cool, have a look. Rainer does something, puts it in the group chat. We do share work that way but not really while we play tournaments. When we play tournaments it’s mostly just friends hanging out and not working on some sort of secret strategy in the first break of the main event. You can’t do that.

Final tables are different. If there’s a final table of a 100K, we do have a group chat discussing strategy and then on break I have someone from the group who I rely on to pass me that information and tell me what is important, tell me what to look out for and just basically be the coach. If someone, we’re all in a group chat together, everyone watches and then we just have a chat about what goes on, and then the person at the final table only gets the most important thing from the guy on the rail, watching. In that way the support does help quite a bit.

Have your skills improved because of this group?
You could say that, but also that doesn’t sound encouraging to the general public. There’s many places to learn no limit hold’em and starting out there’s certainly books and anything that can help. And if you want to make it to the top, the only better resource than people these days are computer programs that help you figure stuff out. You can always compare it with chess. A friend can teach you chess, or you can read a book on chess, but if you had a practice partner that tells you every step of the way where you go wrong, would you be learning much faster than just if a friend was telling you. It goes back to what I said earlier, when I said how did I learn. I learnt by copying a book that I was reading. But back then I had no way of knowing is the book actually telling me the truth. Is the book telling me a concept that this human being, who is obviously biased by his results, came up with. Maybe I’m just learning misinformation. Looking back now, years later, I can obviously say a couple of things I did back then from the book were wrong, or pretty much all of it was wrong. But back then it was good enough to win.

Obviously you would learn much faster if you had a computer on your side that can tell you these days what exactly is the right play or the wrong play. Another good example of this…chess, as I just said, is a good example. No human player can beat the perfect computer. Or the game Go, which they’ve released an interesting documentary on where the best human in the world couldn’t beat the Go computer, and then the Go computer, the most interesting thing was that he did things that no human ever did. It’s the same in poker. If you look at what a computer does when it plays poker, it does things a human doesn’t do. No human ever thinks of these plays because they’re just so far out of the ordinary.

It’s only just now we’re getting to a point where we’re trying to play more like the computers because the computers have shown us in other games what can be done. So now we also need to apply to poker because only [INDISTINCT] are possible. That’s when I said the way to study with a computer is obviously much better than to study with a human being, because a human being is not perfect. No one is a perfect poker player. But a computer is much closer to a perfect poker player than any human being could ever be.

Daniel Negreanu said everything changed about two years ago, and that made players better than him. Is that right?
Obviously, yes. One hundred percent. That’s exactly what I meant. Daniel, huge respect to him, great guy and everything. But he obviously understands. He’s not the kind of guy who’s going to go in and say, “I can beat anyone at any game of poker because I’m Daniel Negreanu.” He understands that these computers have overtaken him, unlike Phil Hellmuth who is still very convinced that he’s the best player in the world. Daniel realised that he’s not the best and he needs to work on his game, but then you look at the other end, with people like Phil Hellmuth, who don’t really believe in the computers, and well good luck to him in the future. Chess and Go are not that different from poker. Optimal strategies do exist, and if optimal strategies do exist, which is a proven fact, then it’s only natural that computers are better at those games than humans ever can be. Once you realise this, then you come to the conclusion Daniel comes to, “Actually I’m not that good. It’s just that everyone else is worse than me.” That’s actually exactly what I said in an interview many years ago, when I said that everyone is still really bad at poker, including myself, and to this day it continues to be very true.

So there’s still plenty of room for improvement?
Yes, absolutely. In anyone’s game. There’s so much room for anyone in any stage, and that’s especially true in tournaments because of all the changing factors. When we were talking about playing poker, from a playing the game perspective, now you’ve also got to add in there much room to improve when it comes to adjusting to the fact that there’s different prize money for different places in the tournament. So all your other strategies are (not?) 100 percent accurate so you’ve got to factor that in as well. There will always be room for improvement. You will never see a perfect poker player in our lifetime. You’re simply not allowed to use programs that give you the stuff I was talking about while you are playing. Much like chess, it’s a game that’s going to continue for a long time, and I don’t see it dying because of this.

Has this taken the fun out of it?
When I keep comparing it to chess and Go, I just want to say, “Are those games fun? Is chess fun?” For a lot of people, it is. The “anyone can win” thing we’re saying about poker, it’s actually just not true. It’s not true that anyone can win. The truth about poker is that the best player will win. Yes, anyone can get lucky on any given hand, and that’s fine and good, but if you’re playing against a professional for 10,000 hands, no you can’t, you can’t win. It’s the truth. Is it fun? Well that depends. Is chess fun for you? You can never win against Magnus Carlsen in a million years. You can still have fun playing against your friends. You can still get better and learn from books. The same is true of Go. You can always get better at strategic games. That’s where we’re approaching at the moment.

Poker is more like chess than it’s ever been. It’s getting closer and closer to chess, the way we study the game, the way we play the game. It’s getting closer and closer to chess, but it also has a gambling element to it. And that’s one thing that’s nice about it. Chess is 100 percent pure skill. You can’t beat any good chess player at any time, you’ve no chance. But in poker you can win a tournament based on luck. And that’s why poker is still profitable for me because a lot of people they either don’t realise there is this luck factor, and they think they’re good even though they just got lucky, or there’s amateurs in there who think, “Oh yeah, with luck I can gamble and I can beat the professionals.”

In this way it’s really good for the poker player that there is this luck factor because there’s people deceiving themselves by thinking they’re better than they actually are. But also there’s so much room for improvement.

It’s actually a fun strategy game where you can continue to get better and better and you always have the chance to measure yourself against the best. If you’re just a recreational player who is interested in getting better, you learn something, and you want to go try it out. If you lose, that’s OK, but at least you can always learn and get better. So from that perspective, I say yeah, poker may be not the best game for someone who just wants to gamble and have a laugh in that way. But it’s more of a game that’s very interesting for people that have a strategic mind and want to pick up something fun. It’s not quite as complicated as chess, so in that way it’s kind of a different game. It’s kind of sitting right between chess and a gambling game. It’s just fun. You can be with friends, but the idea of just having a laugh and playing the game — especially if you think of regular no limit hold’em — you’re going to lose your money very, very quickly if you’re just putting your money in to have a laugh. If you approach it from the other perspective, it can be a lot of fun if you want to get better. There’s plenty of people who play strategy games for fun.

Do you worry that the recs might leave?
To some extent, yes you do worry about this, because losing money is not fun in general. And yeah, you worry about it. It’s no secret that we as a group are all very worried that the high rollers won’t go on for long. I’ll go on and say it. It is kind of frustrating, because if you play no limit hold’em against someone who is really good, it’s very hard to beat them. People have gotten so good and it’s such a complicated game.

People should know what they’re getting themselves into. If they have a lot of money and can afford to lose the buy-in, and just enjoy the competition of playing with the best, and they would be bored playing smaller stuff, that’s OK with me too. There’s a lot of people at the higher stakes that have no illusion. They don’t think they can beat me in a game of poker. They’re very good players. They try their best. But they’re not on my level. There is no secret there. I don’t go out and lie to people and tell them they have a chance, realistically, a chance to beat me.

It’s just two things. First of all, in tournaments anyone can win. And the competition aspect. I think that’s very important. Because a lot of the recreational players I find playing super high rollers, they are very successful out of poker, they’re very smart guys, they’ve got the money to lose. They didn’t get the money because they got lucky, at least most of them didn’t. They have no illusions that they are going to buy in to this poker tournament, win the poker tournament, be the greatest poker player. It doesn’t happen. They’re smart guys. They have played the game for years. What they want to do is they want to compete, play a friendly strategy game with other smart people that can play the game well, and there’s a lot of interesting strategy going on. And that makes it very fun. It makes it a very fast-paced game, it makes it a very friendly and chatty game, and that’s all due to the nature of the game.

There’s this understanding, obviously, that this guy’s a pro, he’s won x million, he’s probably a better poker player than me. He’s probably going to beat me. But I work hard, I’m a smart guy, I also do some strategy, and obviously I hope my strategy measures up against the pros. Maybe I can beat him, can I run a bluff on him, can I make a good call on him. So I think high stakes poker is just very competitive, and it’s true there are some of the best players in the world, and it’s also the best amateurs in the world. I don’t think the people putting up 100,000 are putting it up to lose. There’s not very many of those. It’s all just very ambitious players.

For example, Dan Shak is a great player as well. He would win in any main event tournament. Or there is Cary Katz, a phenomenal player, I rate him even higher. Those guys, you could put them in any event, but when you talk to Cary, he’s: “Oh no, Main Event, boring.” There’s nothing for him. It’s too small, the people are too slow, he just prefers playing with us, who play fast, we joke around, we’re not too serious. We don’t do anything to ruin the game, and it’s enough money to make it interesting and fun. So in that way I think yes to one part that I am always worrying about how long are the high rollers going to be around for. But I also realise that a lot of the high roller recreational players are very different kind of people.

Is this why there are so many 100Ks at the moment?
It’s supply and demand. It’s very simple. If people want to play a tournament, someone has to put it on. If someone wants to play and you’re a live poker tournament provider, you better put on a tournament because you make a lot of rake out of it. It’s one thing that really annoys me: they always take three percent out of the prize pool. They always take this three percent out, where they think three percent is not much, so we can get away with it. But on a 100K tournament, that’s 3,000 rake per person. Tournaments that last maybe a day. That’s absolutely insane. Do you really need that much money to run a tournament? No you don’t. But if you’re an operator and you’re trying to make money, you better put these things on while the demand is high. That’s why they’re popping up everywhere. If the demand was to die down, I can’t complain because I get to play a profitable game, even though the takeout is crazy. As long as they put them on and as long as the recreational players come, I can come and play as well.

Right now we’re just trying to make the most of it. It gets even crazier, there’s a quarter million buy-in in three or four days, which I’m just flying out to, and I don’t even know what day. It’s some day next week. And then there’s another one, a $300,000 in Vegas, where they don’t take anything out of the prize pool, it’s a good TV show and that’s very nice, and that deserves a lot more recognition than it does. That’s nice, and I think as long as there’s demand for it, and as long as people want to play. I don’t know if it’s going to die down in a few months, or if it’s going to die down in five years, or anything in between. You don’t know the answers to that because you don’t know how long people are motivated to put up the money, and also everyone gets better and better. Every year you play against someone and they get better, or maybe they don’t play any more at all, and then there’s no one there to win money from. So that’s…it could all be over very soon, or it could go on for a few more years.

How tough is this job?
I can think of plenty of tougher jobs. It doesn’t require any manual labour, it does not require me to be away from my girlfriend for a long time, it’s thankfully a job that’s well paid enough for me, the way that I do it, it’s a job that I enjoy. It goes back to the strategy thing. I really enjoy strategy games, I used to play chess as a kid. Always strategy games. I would always be really into strategy, strategy, strategy. Beating another person. That’s always been something that’s so interesting to me. Both players compete, they play at the highest level. It’s so much work, yes, but it’s also very rewarding and fun when you are with people, other people, you get to hang out with your friends on the road and you get to play this game. You get to go to new places, you get to see the world, and I personally get to make a lot of money doing it. I don’t have any right to complain. Other people have way tougher jobs for way less money.

I don’t want to say that it’s easy and that anyone should aspire to do this. It’s just something that for me makes sense at the time to do. I just enjoy it as a strategy thing. I never had ambitions to become a poker player, so I don’t want to say it was tough getting here, because for me it was just a game. I was just playing, learning about the strategy, and eventually I was good enough to make a lot of money out of it. Is it tough? Sure, I see the work that I do, I see a lot of the work that other people do and I see the misconceptions, I see where they go wrong. I look at this and I say, yeah, it’s kind of easy to go wrong that way. But if you don’t make those mistakes, if you cut those mistakes from your life, from your poker, you’re already on a much better path towards success. So it is hard work, but once you have it all figured out, it kind of starts falling into place. All the pieces fit together, it kind of all makes sense. And that helps, for sure. It makes it easier for me.

Why do people withdraw after going on a streak?
I don’t know. I’ve not been on quite that streak. It’s just a thing…Fedor, he really liked the strategy aspect of the game, he’s a super smart guy, he just wanted to do other things, quite simple. Fedor has made enough money to live a life of financial freedom, he just wants to do whatever he wants. Same as Dan Colman. I think he said in a couple of interviews that he never really liked the game of poker, especially tournament poker, so it’s natural for him not to continue playing. It’s just the fact that they’ve made a lot of money, so much money that they’re safe for life. I don’t know if Justin has stopped playing so much. I don’t think that’s quite true. I think I saw him at a couple of stops. He’s taking it a bit slower, he’s not going to Europe as much, and fair enough. The guy’s had a tremendous run, he’s travelled a lot, and if he doesn’t feel the need to go to Europe to make any more money, fair play to him. That’s one of the nice things about poker, you get to afford to sometimes miss a tournament or two here and there. I don’t go to every tournament either, I just don’t publicly announce it or feel the need to call it taking it easy. I just play whatever I feel I need to play or I want to play. I don’t think anyone is taking it particularly slow. Saying that Justin is taking it slow is just crazy. You could say Fedor is retired, sure. He doesn’t play anywhere near as much as he used to. And he only plays the higher buy-ins. The reason for him is that he wanted to start his own company, Primed, and he did, and it takes up a lot of his free time. And obviously he still likes poker, he likes coming to these stops, but he doesn’t have the time to go to a small tournament. He can’t got travelling so much anymore because he has his company. He can only play a 100K or higher, and then he comes. He enjoys spending time with us, his friends, hanging out, having dinner, catching up, all of these things. But he just doesn’t have the time anymore because of other stuff, because he values his time at the company more than making x amount of money at a 10,000 tournament where he’s probably bored. And that’s fair enough as well. We like to move on to other things. It’s the same thing as the recreational players, where some get bored in the smaller buy-ins. It’s probably the same for Fedor and it’s quite honestly the same for me as well. I don’t enjoy playing the smaller stuff anymore for a number of reasons.

Are there sometimes contracts drawn up between stakers and players
I’ve never heard that. No. In the poker staking world, at least for me, is that I send someone a text message and say, “Hello I’m playing this tournament, would you like a piece?” Or sometimes, even less formalised, I’ll say, “I’m playing this tournament, this is your piece, good luck.” All the communication it works through one or two text messages, offering action and the other guy confirms the action and that’s it. No such thing as contracts exist in our group. It’s a very honourable system. The way I sold action when I played the one drop, I sold half to my partner. I just messaged him before the event and said, “You have 50 percent, getting in now.” He responded with “OK.” He responded after I sat down in the tournament and said “OK”. All of our tournament interactions go like this. I say, “You have this much”, done. There’s no contract. It’s a group of former poker players.


SELECTED OTHER INTERVIEWS: Adrian Mateos, Charlie Carrel, Daniel Negreanu, Erik Seidel, Fedor Holz, Jason Koon, Justin Bonomo, Stephen Chidwick and Winfred Yu.