Interview with Bertie 'bigstealer' Bayley: 'becoming sick at one thing is a really big mistake in the current ecosystem'

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Charles Hawk
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Interview with Bertie 'bigstealer' Bayley 

Charles Hawk: How did you become a poker pro? What did you do before discovering poker?

Bertie 'bigstealer' Bayley: Before university I had never played a hand of poker so I guess my first exposure was at the age of 18, I remember walking down the corridor towards my friend's room and seeing them outside the door with a makeshift table created and them sitting around it playing a game. I looked over to see what they were doing and when they explained it was poker I was originally dismissive. My dad's best man lost his family savings on horse racing betting and disappeared so our family naturally had a very negative attitude towards gambling. As I was there I saw someone debating a river call and before putting the chips in guessed their hand. He made the call and he had guessed correctly the exact hand. I was instantly hooked. I wanted to know how he could do that and from there every moment I wasn't studying at university (I have a degree in Geography with Economics and a Masters in Globalization, Space and Sport both from Loughborough University) or going out with friends I was watching GSN High Stakes Poker and trying to encourage my friends to play some poker! We all thought we were good but in reality we were awful. Inevitably we put some money online and I remember reading Negreanu's Power Hold'em (lolol) book and devising a very simple strategy from it using small ball poker.

Charles Hawk: Why did you choose this screen name?

Bertie 'bigstealer' Bayley: Essentially I'd figured out at this point (in 2009/2010) that people were never folding, people were still too curious so my simplified small ball strategy was designed to play more hands than the average player did in sngs (people were folding AQo utg etc in the first 2 levels and just crushing the ICM aspect) but essentially never bluff when putting a lot of chips in. This is how I came up with my screen name, I wanted people to believe I was bluffing way more than I was so I figured it was a good screen name. There's been a lot of times when people tank called river and said i can't fold to that screen name :D

Even lately jcarver had AKs and made a huge joke about me being called bigstealer when I 3b him as a bluff with a perfectly good hand in a balanced 3b strategy which resulted in me folding to his jam and he made a really big thing of saying 'if you're gonna resteal, you probably shouldnt chose the screen name bigstealer'. This was a couple of months ago, if people honestly think I'm gonna be super wide with a screen name it could still give me a lot of EV today that I didn't know I could get!!

Charles Hawk: Describe your learning path, how you gained your knowledge? Also how you managed to climb up the limits reaching stakes which allowed you to acummulate SNE 3 years in a row. What was the toughest to learn and implement?

Bertie 'bigstealer' Bayley: So I used this very simple strategy and used what I will call 'aggressive bankroll management' but what essentially was pretty risky.

I had $250 online and was playing the $6 6max turbos using this playing wider ranges low bluff frequency strategy and i heatered up to the $25 games using my 40BI bankroll in less than 1 month playing 4 tables at a time in sets, I wasn't even loading as I played. In these games I was making 10% ROI so around $20/hour playing maybe 25-30hrs a week. I was terrible but it was amazing as a student in my final year doing my masters.

After I left university I decided to let my parents know this is what I was going to try and do and save for a year out and do some travelling before moving to London the next year. I saved for travelling while the curve gradually caught up with me, I was mixing in higher stakes but was breaking even the games, I was very very unaware of variance and sample size at the time and confidence was low. After I finished travelling I approached two of the 6max turbo crushers at the time (both of whom have retired now from poker) md261 and Luceboy who made me so much better at ICM and table selection (we had a script that made sharkystrator looks like a toy it was so good). The script would instantly sharkscope and score a player ability better than sharkscope ability which puts too much weight on ABI. We could edit the script manually to allow for people who ran better than they should. All of this about 1 second faster than sharkystrator. This allowed me to play the best games and exploit the ICM leaks of so many players and catapulted my hourly into 3 figures. At this time I would 12-16 table but I remember trialling 22 tabling which was stressful. This script meant I never had to look at a lobby and it made attaining SNE in 2013 much easier. 2013 was 3 times better financially than any single one of the previous 3 years. It changed my perspective on what could be achieved in poker.

Then came the arrival of the 6 max hypers to pokerstars which improved sng players everywhere. People became really good at icm and the constant repition of spots meant players were forced to become balanced and less exploitable. I struggled for a while with this and in 2014 (my worst SNE year) I tried to transition to them. This was tough but managed to improve with the help of Gabriel Kollander ($$$indabank) and B3rtstare who turned me into a 3% EV winner at the hypers up to $500 with a very calm casual approach showing me spots to be balanced at to be exploitative. In 2015 my hourly was more than $300 in these games. I realise though, that at the end of the year hypers become basically unbeatable as people cram in tough games to get VPPs so in September 2015 I got some HU range construction advice from CogDis and taught myself spins which I hit very hard in October through December. In October when the games were easier I made 50 chips a game and then in november/december when there were insanely tough games I was one of the only regs to win pre rakeback in those months with 34 chips per game (27 is breakeven). In 2016 my chips per game returned to 49.7 chips per game.

I think the toughest thing to learn was 6max hypers, this changed how everyone was playing. People used to fold hands like J6s vs a CO open from the BB before hypers, it was crazy and I found that a big big change. Now it's second nature but that combined with being forced to being incredible accurate while short stacking was a very tough transition. Not only that but you have to get used to some horrible swings so it really toughens you as a person. I am definitely more emotionally ruthless as a result of hypers.

Charles Hawk: Tell me about your day-to-day life. How your standart week looks like?

Bertie 'bigstealer' Bayley: Usually I roll out of bed quite early, I value my lifestyle very highly. I have many real life friends that I completely disassociate from poker so keeping evenings free is important to me. I like to play (if I play) in the mornings and I really like to exercise at my local crossfit here in Clapham. There is a community of cash poker players in this part of London so rubbing shoulders with them is both fun and interesting and even though we don't talk huge amounts of strategy I've learnt snippets of information from it just as im sure they've learnt a bit from me when discussing short stack/icm play when they ask questions about it.

I will work out 3 or 4 times a week and maybe go out once a week be it on a date or out with friends.

I try and eat out once a day for breakfast or lunch to remind myself of the freedom that poker brings you which I believe is crucial to add perspective especially if you have a morning where you've lost $10k or so :D

My weekends tend to be Saturday and Monday just because the Sunday grind is something I do quite often as the value of the MTTs I believe is still quite high despite Pokerstars' best efforts to destroy them and every other format.

Charles Hawk: Let's talk about changes after Amaya bought PS. How it affected you and your colleagues? What are your thoughts/How you feel about online poker future?

Bertie 'bigstealer' Bayley: Yeah Amaya really screwed us in terms of $ earned per year from playing poker but honestly being released from SNE was very liberating for me as a player and a person. In 2016 I made a goal of going abroad once a month (this was a goal I always wanted to achieve from my early poker days when I used to real azntracker's blog...(azntracker was this insane SNE back in the day who used 40 table the HS 6m turbos and made 3mil VPPs a year minimum wayyyy before hypers were a thing)). So I set that goal and travelled a hell of a lot last year. I actually failed the goal by not going abroad in March last year but I split with my ex gf, Alicja, end of February/start of March and whilst it was amicable it took a bit of an emotional toll on me. When I'm in that situation I'm someone who finds it important to regain routine which means working out, eating well and grinding solidly. My confidence in real life comes from being very settled/happy with how my life is so returning to routine was important to me.

When Amaya 'announced' their changes (so retarded how they released it by accident) I feared for my lifestyle both from a financial and a routine standpoint. SNE forced me to get up early and work like my real life friends do and forced me to grind a certain number of hours and achieve close to my potential. Without that VPP pressure I was worried I'd lack motivation.

My focus turned to getting better at poker basically around 50% theory 50% exploitative tactics. I'm nowhere near theoretically perfect but I think my understanding of the directions I should be going in relative to the field help me a lot.

Charles Hawk: What do you think about Amaya's future plans such as merging poker with board-games like "Power up": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_92nmA6TUY ?

Bertie 'bigstealer' Bayley: I think online poker, on pokerstars at least, was dying a slow death but it's accelerating with every announcement they make. The changes are achieving what they want to achieve, they are getting regs to leave the site and that is creating very polarized player pools. There will still be guys out there making a tonne in every stake of every format but the number of big winners will fall dramatically. Basically I feel like stars were worried that pros have gotten too good because fish were losing their money 40% quicker than 2 years ago. That was inevitable but of course we weren't going to see that coming as pros. We were always going to try and improve so we can max out our EV vs the field while recreationals were going to keep a relatively stagnant level of ability. Fish do learn from pros (they sometimes mimic their sizings/strategies) but they don't understand why they are doing things, they just see someone they admire do it and then try and do it themselves. This was always going to create an ecosystem that was doomed to fail.

I think what partypoker and 888 are offering is really positive in the short run for those grinders who want good rakeback/tournament guarantees. I prefer 888's software slightly but obviously Party offer much better RB. I've read/heard that the Party software is going to get much better very soon though. I think that if they can attract recreationals to Party (and they are giving great guarantees and creating really good live events which should help) then they could be the biggest/best site for a few years but realistically any lasting future of online poker is heavily reliant on breaking into the Asian markets one way or another.

I have never played Power Up and honestly I'm someone who dives into these new things quite slowly as I sometimes have a mental block attitude of 'if I'm winning in this format, why on earth would I change/try something new?' This can be fine but also limits your potential, especially with such low rakeback. Stars claims to making these changes 'to help the recreational' and in a way they are but the low rakeback heightens the need to bumhunt massively which is why I basically stopped studying 6m hypers full time and maybe did 33% of the work in them that I did before. I just decided to become reasonably good at a few things (including spins, hypers, zoom, MTTs) than really focus on becoming sick at one thing (I think that's a really big mistake in the current ecosystem personally).

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2nd part of the interview will be published next week.

I am always looking for new interview opportunities with HUSNG and Spin Reg's who play $30s and higher. Please PM me here or on 2p2 (Charles Hawk).