Frank V. is an increasingly uncommon character in the poker world: a 37 year old veteran, married and living in Monterey, who makes his living in live games. Frank brings a wealth of experience and a different perspective to the poker scene.
CC: Tell me about how you started playing poker, as well as how long you’ve been playing.
Frank: I started playing five-card draw with my relatives at an early age, I've probably been playing poker for about 30 years, but I've been playing seriously for the past 11 years.
CC: How did you progress through different levels of the game?
Frank: It wasn't until I was in my teen years that I started to take poker more seriously, in terms of a money making standpoint. I had a few jobs here and there, but in getting together with friends, we'd play different variations of poker (7 card-stud/hold'em/other wild games), needless to say my buddies would, for the most part, be intoxicated so it wasn't too difficult beating them consistently.
CC: What and where do you play most frequently now?
Frank: The Monterey Card clubs and the Bellagio every summer.
CC: Tell us about how you came to play poker professionally.
Frank: I was an editor for a popular magazine, but it wasn't something I woke up excited for, or fell asleep thinking about like poker. I worked that gig about three years before resigning to play poker fulltime. In all honesty the first time I booked a $20,000 win playing live for about ten hours, I started to realize I could bank some serious cash if I just kept my head in the right frame of mind, and didn't dabble into the other vices of gambling that other players have struggled with.
CC: Are there any criteria that someone should use before playing poker for a living?
Frank: It depends on whether or not they're financially stable, if so - how much money they can afford to lose, if they've got a family, assuming someone is a young guy who has only his own welfare to look after, he's able to take more chances and maybe attack some weaker games with only about 10 to 20 max buy ins. But if we're talking about an older gentleman with more responsibilities to mind, I'd definitely suggest he has at least 50 buy-ins for the game of his choice, regardless if his skill level is higher than a player 20 years younger, the younger player can generally assume he will always have more money coming in should he go broke, whereas the older player isn't getting any younger and has a family to care for. I might not be the greatest resource on this, but to me, family security is the number one determining factor when choosing the stakes you play. For what it’s worth, I went broke many times, starting out, playing with all of my money at the table, and I believe it's something anybody whose wanting to be a professional player is going to have to endure. You can't always play behind the safety net if you want to start reeling the big fish.
CC: What percentage do you play live vs. online?
Frank: Probably about 70/30 in terms of time, but I do play online at least 5 days a week for a couple of hours.
CC: Can you summarize regarding the difference you see between live and online play?
Frank: At the limits I play live, people have no qualms about folding hands. It's also much easier to focus on the players at your table in a live-poker game, players commonly sit for quite a while and it's much easier to tune in to what everyone around you is doing. Online so many different players are coming in and out by the minute; it's hard to get a good feel for how they are playing on a particular day. There's a lot more skill in the games that I play live, a lot more hands are folded out of position, and there's a much more pleasant atmosphere in terms of etiquette.
CC: Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
Frank: A typical day for me is trying to double my buy-in. I'll buy in anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 a session, depending how well I am playing. There's also a special bigger game hosted which I won’t elaborate on, besides it wouldn't fall under the 'typical' category, but let’s just say that game made my wife love me even more. Just joking.
CC: Are you alone in your pursuit of poker, or do you have a support network?
Frank: I try not to make too many friends in poker because ultimately, when I'm playing, my objective is to make money. I really don't like playing against someone I consider to be a friend, but there are plenty of people I have respect for, and have respect for me. I try not to center my conversations, with people I'm friends with, around poker. Typically, I play for ten hours a day and relish the opportunity to discuss something outside of poker. I will say though, that when I was twenty-something and learning the finer points of the game, I did have a group of older friends who kind of helped keep my head on straight. Back then information wasn't so commonly passed around like it is today on the internet, you might discuss a hand that you played or what not, but you wouldn't really just sit for hours and discuss theory with random poker players like you're able to do on the online forums.
CC: What have been you greatest learning’s during your time playing fulltime?
Frank: Gambling is a pitfall when it's not controlled. Even poker is capable of sucking someone absolutely dry. Gambling can be a gateway device to other uglier vices which I don't need to elaborate on, and I've really learned the importance of completely abstaining from anything that is destructive to my poker playing. Also, a lot of poker players tend to out-think themselves - guys with fairly high IQ's outside of poker are doing themselves a disservice IMHO by complicating things that are truly simple. I've learned it's so much more profitable to play solid, instead of push marginal edges, sometimes your action can dry up but for the most part when the cards fall, if you've got decent holdings and you juice the pot up preflop, you'll get your piece of the pie if your post-flop skills are adequate.
CC: Are tourneys part of your regular play?
Frank: I've won a few tournaments at Bellagio and Atlantic City, but I've really got no desire to hit the WSOP circuit. Maybe ten years ago, but now I just feel I've reached the point of my career where I'm comfortable doing what I'm doing.
CC: Where have you seen the greatest improvements to your game?
Frank: Hand reading ability, playing the turn. Most common mistakes a poker player makes throughout the course of a hand is on the turn, so this is an area of my game I've spent months working on, and right now I'm feeling that my post-flop play is finer than it's been in five years when I started really crushing games.
CC: It sounds very glamorous to actually play poker professionally. What does it really mean to you?
Frank: It's really not an easy life, but I enjoy it and that's what makes it worth it. I'm also fortunate enough to be financially stable with my winnings over the years, so I'm in a position where a bad month here and there isn't devastating. Likewise, it's not an easy life being a police officer, but it offers some benefits poker does not, I think some people make playing poker professionally out to be worse than what it really is, it all depends on the person and their desires. Poker has fascinated me from an early age, the way the cards fit into my hands, my grandmother was huge into all forms of poker, and she taught me different techniques in shuffling and ways to avoid getting stuck in pots. My creative juices feel satisfied playing poker, and that's really why I can't ever see myself doing anything else.
CC: What does the future hold for you?
Frank: More poker. Sometimes I feel I could play for life times over and never get sick of it. I can only hope that the games continue to stay as soft as they are right now, but being that I still, to this day, spend hours adjusting my game; I'm not really worried about the games being tougher. I live in a pretty affluent area, and commonly the 'fish' will come tailored in $2,000 dollar suits to blow off steam, shirt buttons half undone, silk ties strapped loosely around their necks, streaks of gray permeating through their receding hairlines. These are the welcomed customers in the games, and despite the perception of most online poker players, these guys are the most respected players there are, because without them, paying your bills gets harder.
CC: What are your goals for 2006, if any?
Frank: Quit smoking, steam less, be nicer to my wife, and always spoil my kids. God bless and keep your priorities in check.