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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Interviews

The Round Table – Get to Know - Aaron Been

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He plays online as AaronBeen and SpanishKey in some of the biggest tournaments and cash games the online sites have to offer. He’s well known and respected amongst his fellow players and is one of the more opinionated players out there.

KL: How long have you been playing poker?

I learned how to play poker when I was a junior in high school (2003) but I didn’t play very often until the summer I graduated. I started playing online poker in 2005 after watching a friend.

KL: What do you usually play?

I usually play heads up cash games online. I play all the different sites so I can find the best games. I live in Vegas so I play most of the $10k tournaments in town but I don’t travel as much as I used to. I play live cash games occasionally but after playing online shorthanded action I get bored at a live nine handed table.

KL: Why have you been able to be successful at the game?

I dedicate a lot of time to learning about the game and I’m always thinking about ways to improve. I play some of my sessions with fewer tables so I can analyze the hands instead of just going on autopilot. I also watch higher stakes players and look to see what they are doing differently. I always try to understand the logic behind a play and if I can help it I never let the results of a hand influence my opinion.

KL: You hang out frequently with a group of poker players. Do you talk a lot of poker with them and do you think that improves your game?

Since I moved to Las Vegas I talk about poker every day. I think it has improved my game overall but it’s not always helpful. My friends and I can sit around all day reminiscing about big scores or bemoaning old beats and not get anything out of it. The most productive discussions I’ve had have been the ones that challenged my assumptions about the game.

KL: You have been known to be opinionated about your thoughts on other poker players. Why are you so hard on most players?

There’s a tendency in the poker media to glorify tournament poker. Glamorous professionals battling across the felt in a contest of skill and bravery is exciting news that can attract viewers and drive lucrative affiliate advertising. The reality is that it takes hundreds of thousands of hands for luck to even out in poker. The people that win the most during a brief snapshot (even the longest events are under a few thousand hands) are no more glamorous than lottery winners. Also entry fees add up so quickly these days that even some of the repeat tournament winners are broke or in debt.

I’m hard on players because I’m a very blunt person. Describing a poker player as good or bad is all relative and I think most of these guys are overrated through no fault of their own. Because I play so much heads up I’m constantly looking for my opponents’ leaks (if I can’t find any then I’ll find someone else to play) so I’m very critical of mistakes. When I’m talking to my friends I want to see them improve and play well and my honest opinion will help them more than being polite.

KL: Which players do you actually respect and why?

I respect anyone who is a very long term winner at poker. In the course of a million hands a poker player will go through some very tough patches. It takes more skill to persevere in the face of a really bad run and grind out a small profit than to win a large amount of money in a couple tournaments or a short stretch at nosebleed stakes. I give online players more credit than live players because they play so many hands. Some players whose games I admire right now include Scott Seiver, Isaac Haxton, Phil Galfond, Patrik Antonius, David Benefield, Cole South, Di and Hac Dang, and Tom Dwan.

KL: What qualities do you think it takes to make someone be a successful poker player?

The most successful poker players are all very naturally talented. They intuitively understand how to read hands and they out-level weaker opponents in psychological situations. There are many more players who have a lot of success and do well for themselves without this kind of innate talent. I’m not about to quit poker because I don’t have what it takes to be one of the best. I think a good work ethic and emotional stability are just as important as natural talent. It also helps to be open minded and generally good at learning. The poker world as a whole is constantly getting better and in order to beat the games poker players have to constantly improve. The low stakes games today are as hard as the games ten times as big were three years ago.

It’s also important to avoid “life-leaks” like drugs or non poker gambling. Because the swings are so big in poker it’s easy to lose track of the value of money. I know some excellent players who moved to Las Vegas and spent a lot of their bankrolls on nightlife or gambling on games of chance.

KL: If you could improve anything about your own game what would it be?

There are a ton of things I would like to improve about my game. I’ve got a long way to go before I’m a good live player. I’ve learned a lot from experience and from talking to my friends about reading people (mostly JC Alvarado) but at this point I can only read the very worst players. I’d like to get a reliable indication of strength or weakness from competitive tournament players and not just amateurs.

I also need to work on adjusting to exploit the (very few) people I am reading well. I would like to improve to the point that I am cold calling a much wider range pre-flop to take pots away. Right now I don’t do a good enough job at avoiding the good players and coming after the fish.

My biggest weakness heads up right now is probably my 100bb deep game. I think I often take the worst of it when the game gets very aggressive. I would like to have a better understanding of situations where my opponent and I are 3-betting and 4-betting constantly.

In addition to these areas I want to patch up I also hope to learn how to play more forms of poker. Some of the best live games running right now are HORSE or other mixed games and I don’t have the skills to even sit. Some of the best online action is in PLO and although I think I can compete at lower stakes I want to get a lot better at PLO too.

Like a wheel, the Round Table is a circle of adventures and victories, beats and stories, and life as it unfolds with a cast of characters that may, or may not, have joined you in your home on a local TV program. There's so much more to poker than what you see on TV. Although I won't use canvas, I will paint the full picture for you as I follow the lives of some of your favorite (and some unknown) players. The Round Table is an ongoing series of life, viewed full circle.

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