Adam is a 23 year old from Boston where he rents a place with a few friends. He started playing poker when he was 14, but didn't take it seriously until the summer of 2007, when he started short stacking 2NL full ring. By the fall he took a $275 roll and started playing the $23 husng turbos on Stars. A year later he had made well over $300,000 in profit, almost exclusively from heads up sngs. He's now earned almost a million dollars from poker lifetime.
Adam is a big sports fan, following basketball, football, baseball and boxing. He also used to run competitively. He's taken two different years off from school, and is now finishing up his junior year at Boston University. He plans on playing in both the triple draw and heads up events at the WSOP, where he'll be staying with some poker friends in a mansion. He recently became the first player on PokerStars to reach SupernovaElite status in 2009. You can find him playing in the PokerStars high stakes heads up sngs under the handle skilled_sox.
You started playing husngs regularly in October of 2007 and exactly one year from then you had already played about 14,000 husngs and were closing in on $300,000 in profit. But lets start from scratch. You mentioned you started at the $22 dollar level. What has enabled you to play this many games at such a high level of skill? What were some of the general things you learned that stuck with you?
I actually think due to my volume I play a lot of games below my ability. Since I have spare time and enjoy playing, I don’t really subscribe to needing to play my A game whenever I play. As long as I am playing better than whom I am playing against it is fine. It is hard to boil down poker to generalities, but one rather obvious thing is to always think about the best line and why it is best. I think a lot of somewhat successful midstakes players know how to play extremely “standard” poker, which will allow them to beat the stakes they play, but not to move up.
What sort of investments have you made with your poker money?
I don’t spend a ton of money, but I also haven’t invested too aggressively and playing poker is close to my sole source of income. I really enjoy playing, so I prefer to spend my time on that. Others don’t like playing so they look for ways to make money outside of grinding.
What is your take on the variance in heads up sngs? What sort of impact does it have on you? How does it change, if at all, the way you approach a session, player or buyin level?
Variance is tremendous, I think more than most people realize. I certainly think there are 1k+ stretches of games where I have run well or badly. Playing multiple buy in levels also dramatically increases variance. I think variance affects less established players a lot more. Assuming good roll management, the worst affect of down swings is to destroy people’s confidence. More established winners though have had enough downers and won for long enough that they don’t let variance affect them as profoundly.
What players have influenced your game?
The first two names are livb and jasonmac. Back when I was a 220 reg Jasonmac was the only really established reg to sit me. I knew he thought on a higher level than almost anyone I played, so that is when I first really considered breaking out of the ABC mold. By the time I played livb I was a high stakes winner, but we played a ton of games, and he forced me to break-out of my typical game which not too many players do. I still usually play a similar style, but I think those games vs livb helped me to learn to adjust when need be.
What sort of bankroll management do you practice? How does it differ from lower stakes players?
Unless I make a big cash-out I am basically always nicely rolled for 5ks. In terms of moving up I think having a lot of buy ins is important. In the past I was too eager to move up quickly; the games will always be there. I think once you are playing fairly high it is ok to take shots if and only if 1) losing won’t really affect your psyche 2) losing won’t affect your roll for what you typically play 3) you will play well and not be scared money. The difference between higher stakes players taking shots is that there are limited times you will see true fish sitting by themselves, while for low and mid stakes players the opportunities will always be there.
What is one piece of advice you feel is important to share with low and mid stakes players?
I know this isn’t an option for everyone, but if you have the time and are committed then I think volume is the biggest key. Playing a lot allows you to improve very rapidly, and really decreases variance in a certain sense. Friends of mine who don’t play a lot will talk about running bad for weeks or even months. I will run bad over the same number of games, but in terms of time it will be a short period, which I think is important for not getting down on poker.
What are some differences between 1k+ buyin pros and lower high stakes regulars?
It is certainly a case by case thing, but I do think there is some difference on average. A lot of the “fish” at 1ks-5ks are winners from other forms of poker who are pretty thinking. You also see decent SNG players taking shots. I think to be sitting 1st regularly at high stakes you need to be more comfortable vs pretty smart players (who obviously still have leaks.)
Who are some of the toughest players you've played?
Genius, he doesn’t make a ton of “big plays” but so solid, it's hard to see an edge.
Adonis/livb, he makes some mistakes but adepts well, puts on a lot of pressure.
Dario, to be honest I think he makes some mistakes, but I have had trouble playing well vs him.
Jovial Gent (bballer on ftp) is a slightly worse version of genius.
Obviously some other good players, no one else jumps out at me.
What was the toughest buyin level to break into?
Both the 220s and the 550s I broke even at for a long time (no 330s when I 1st reached 550s). I def had to make some adjustments, it wasn’t just running bad. I guess moving up the 110s it was a bit difficult, but I didn’t make a ton of adjustments and just beat it for a lower roi than I did 55s.
What will the sharkscope leader board look like at end of 2009?
I obviously hope/think I will be there. People probably know I strongly dislike Ilovegod39, but I also don’t think much of his game and don’t expect him to be there. I know bballer plays other games as well, but if he puts in the volume he will likely have a big year at husng. I think I’ve only played purecash 2 or 3 times so I can’t really comment. Dibasio and Croixdawg don’t tend to play as high, so they likely won’t finish at the very top, but they are both very good players and hardcore grinders so I fully expect them to both be high on the leaderboard. Some people such as genius or imthefranchise on ftp are very good players, but I have no idea if they will put in volume. I suspect livb will have a nice finish on at least one of the sites. There will probably also be a high finisher that few people expect.
What happened to livb112? He seems to have been breakeven or losing over his last 6k games on FTP and last 2k games on Stars (before rakeback/fpps). Is this just standard variance, tilt or is there something more to it? Do you still talk to and/or play him?
From playing and talking with liv I am quite sure he is capable of beating high level husng. I haven’t seen too much of his play during his break even stretch, so I don’t know if its been bad play, variance or both. Some of his ftp results were when the games were softer, but he is a smart player and committed to winning again, which I am sure he will.
As its well known, liv can be quite antagonistic online, so we use to not get along at all, but we later became friends and do not play one another anymore.
Do you coach at all?
I think I have done a grand total of 4 hours of paid coaching. I’ve obviously talked a lot of strategy with people I know, but I have never really been too interested in doing a lot of formal paid coaching.
Do you plan on doing videos?
No I don’t have any plans to do videos. I’ve had interest/offers before, but there isn’t too much money in it. I also don’t want to give an in-depth insight into how I play. I could obviously make very abc videos, but if I were to make videos I would want them to be interesting and a little different, since I think I look at the game and play a little unusually.
Lets talk about your personal experiences with variance. A lot of players often ask questions in regards to variance, so maybe you can give some insight on your own experiences. I recall you having a rough stretch late last year before rebounding as strong as ever.
I’ve actually had quite a bit of variance. That stretch you refer to at 16k games was in Dec 08. I had absolutely crushed in October and November but December was my only losing month ever, and it was around a 6 fig loss. I was still completely rolled for 5ks, but after an initial run of terrible luck, I felt I was playing really bad, so I cashed out most of my roll and grinded lower stakes for a bit. Downers don’t really affect my confidence nearly as much as they use to, but I try and be really honest about my game and I thought I wasn’t playing well enough to beat solid players at 2ks and 5ks. By February I was playing much better and lots of high stakes action was running and I had very nice February and March.
Were you ever close to quitting poker?
In fall 07 I came close to quitting once. I had grinded from 22s and had about 5800 in my account. Based on skill and roll I shouldn’t have been playing over 100s, but I was playing 200s and 100s both and not playing well. I dropped from 5800 to 3100 in one night and cashed out 2100. With the 1k I left myself I started playing 22s and immediately lost 6 in a row. I was pretty down on poker and barely played for a week. This was before I really knew I was a winner so I could have easily seen giving up, but I came back to it a week later and grinded my way up.
Have you considered seriously playing cash games?
At the time I am not really planning on moving to cash on a regular basis. I am trying to use poker as more of a job and less of a pursuit, at least for the time being. If my attitude changes on that I might really try and make a run at cash, since SNGs offer me no growth in terms of buy in level, and far less growth in terms of improvement.
Do you hate FTP?
No, but I prefer stars. For one thing I get around 2.5x as much rakeback from stars. I have also not had success in a relatively small sample on FTP. I also obviously trust stars more in terms of security and service. I don’t hate FTP though and do play there sometimes. I am sure if I put in decent volume at SNGs there I would be a winner on FTP.
What are your thoughts on pre flop raising ranges at 50, 20 and 13bb effective stacks respectfully?
At 50 blinds I am usually opening any two cards. At 13 or 20, I still play a lot of hands but my range depends on who I am facing. Obviously I raise a really wide range vs people who fold or flat a lot, but I need to tighten up against players who like to 3-bet resteal.