The World Series of Poker is in full swing. This is the time of year when locals who make their living grinding it out in cash games descend upon the Rio in hopes of finding a "soft game". Legend has it that cash games are weak during the WSOP, and I sat down with Don to find out if that myth is true. Is the Rio the softest game in town during the summer months? Is the Amazon Room really full of drunk tourists looking to have a good time and lose their money? Or is the Rio full of local sharks trying to replenish the bank roll?
So, how did Don become interested in poker? "I played basketball in college and was a ranked chess player when I was younger so poker fills the competitiveness that I've always had and it also stimulates my mind in the way chess did. I started playing poker after the Moneymaker boom like most of us and I've read probably fifty different books to teach myself. Now as a blogger, I've met a group of guys that I play with and discuss hands with as I'm always looking to get better."
I recall being sick to my stomach, filled with fear and also very excited the first time I sat down and played in a live game. How about you? "Well, the first time I ever played live I was extremely nervous. I fumbled with my chips and I'm sure I was sweating and giving off tells. It actually took me a few times to watch people play cash games before I could feel comfortable enough to sit at the game."
Now that you've been living in Vegas for a while and you have been in quite a few poker rooms, where do you play the most? "The Venetian is my favorite poker room. It's by far the best room with the best staff and their $2/5 game has a $1000 max buy-in so it's helped me get comfortable playing a higher buy-in game as I prepare to move up the ladder."
Don was quite a fixture over at the Rio during the first few weeks of the WSOP. How does playing at the Rio compare to playing in other poker rooms around town? "I started playing at the Rio at the beginning of the WSOP but have since moved back to the strip. The Rio games are hit and miss and the players are either very good or very bad. The one thing I'm seeing at Rio is there are a lot of tournament players playing cash and they all want to gamble. Bad beats are the norm and the games are very high variance."
So, does he have any dreams of chasing that bracelet? "I have zero interest in playing a WSOP event. For the most part they are complete donk fests and I'm 95% a cash game player. I do take shots at local MTTs like Venetian and Caesars that are more realistic to go deep and make a decent score. The world is full of tournament players looking for their shot at fame and fortune by hitting the lottery in a WSOP event but in my opinion the real pros are the cash game grinders here in Vegas that nobody hears anything about."
I've heard the horror stories about successful online players quitting their jobs and moving to Vegas to chase the poker dream. Don is one of the few success stories, he's living the dream and making it happen. He's been making a living strictly from playing poker for a year and a half now and he's still going strong.
What is the most important lesson you have learned through playing? "Trying to stay humble and act professionally particularly when taking a bad beat. I have to remember that the horrible players who sometimes suck out pay the bills and that I don't, under any circumstances, want to run them off a table by berating them."
Give me one piece of advice to pass on to anyone out there thinking about playing poker for a living. "Make sure you are mentally tough and that you are NEVER good enough to stop studying and learning. The swings can be very tough and even if you are getting your money in ahead when you go on bad runs it can really affect the mind. Also I'm a risk taker and I would tell anyone debating whether to play pro or work to give pro a shot. You can always go get a job and there is nothing worse in life IMO than saying ‘What if...'"