Interview with PoorUser
What is your name and age?
Stephen Costello / 20
Where do you live?
East Longmeadow, MA USA - I go to college at Fairfield University in CT now with some friends at a townhouse though.
Were you born there? Where did you grow up?
I was born and grew up in East Longmeadow
How was your life as a kid and adolescent, were you involved in any type of gaming or gambling?
My life as a kid was pretty normal, no real complaints. I played some 5 card poker when I was really young with a few friends but only for fun. I made $5 a week for about 16 years so I really had no room to gamble though the idea never really occured to me.
How is your actual life like? What is your week schedule?
Right now it's probably the worst it's ever been schedulewise. I have no set sleep schedule it's always kind of moving in a circle because I pull 18 hour days. But usually I will wake up and play poker or videogames for an hour or two until dinner, order out for dinner, go play some intramural sport and come back and hang out with my housemates or friends for a while, then I'll go play poker or videogames until i fall asleep. Party on weekends and go to one class if it is monday or thursday. Its pretty pathetic and I'm looking to make some changes on it soon.
What do you do for a living at the moment?
I have no job even though I'm looking at a psychology internship for this summer. So that aside, I just play poker for an income.
What online games have you played and which do you play currently ?
Excluding poker, the only online game i really got into was Starcraft (represent) which I still play when i can. I played some others for fun but no where near the level of involvment as Starcraft.
How did you get into poker?
Like a lot of people from LP I had heard about it through people like Rekrul, Nazgul, Dudey etc whoever were playing. I was never really overly interested in the idea but my friend Evan gave me $10 on pokerstars to start out and was very nice to help me through the beginning. Around the same time I started going to college where my friends would play twice a week so I guess that kept poker in my mind a bit.
What is your poker nickname and why did you choose it?
Ah, Starcraft/Poker dual reference. I had the name on stars since the beginning so i outright sucked. In craft I thought playing poor eco style was pretty badass. In craft User just means player...not drug user like a few people have pointed out
What did you expect from poker?
Next to nothing. I get all nostalgic on myself all the time. I remember playing .01/.02 and watching the big 5/10 tables with Tillerman, TheBusDriver and Elky and thinking to myself how awesome that had to be. At the same time I was thinking to myself if i could even grind out .25/.50 on the side of my life that would be so great.
Do you think you are starting to outgrow your nickname?
No I don't think so. Maybe in the sense that I'm not so poor or a bad player anymore. It's grown on me though. I've thought about changing names to get off the radar but i think name switching is pretty bad manner.
What do you think someone NEEDS to start playing poker successfully?
Money that they can afford to lose and patience. Having good friends to constantly bug isn't a necessity but it helps so so much.
Is that something you are born with or is it achievable?
I think anybody can play poker successfully at a given limit. I imagine with good help anybody could be made to beat 1/2 if they were patient and did not tilt. It is obviously easier for some people than for others though
How often does it feel like working when you play?
Not too often. I don't focus as much as I should unless I'm playing 100/200 or 5k hu sngs. Often I'm watching a movie/cartoons or playing a videogame. I feel like I could be playing better but its a fine line that I feel if I overexhert myself I could burn out from poker.
What is your definition of being smart, and do you think being ‘smart’ is something you need for poker?
I think it's easiest just to subdivide smartness into street smarts and book smarts. I suppose in my mind I probably label some guy with a genius IQ in his basement that doesn't do much with his life smarter than a Havard grad who studies 8 hours a day to get a diploma. But then again I'm a bit biased there and I guess doing nothing with your life isn't very 'smart' anyways. Like I said before, I don't think you have to be smart to beat up to a given limit (which probably changes from person to person). I would guess the naturally smarter you are the easier it is to move up limits though. So yeah, like anything else, being smart helps.
How did you went up moving stakes? What problems did you have or advantages did you have doing so?
I think it was explained to me to move up at like 15 buyins. Biggest advantage I had was just having a lot of good friends to help me. People were nice enough to talk about HHs with me (all the time) or even play through sessions with me when I needed it (more in the earlier limits I think this helped out a lot). Biggest problem for me was I was a nasty tilter. I don't know why but whenever I got bad beated for a buyin I was up 3 limits higher (playing for a full buyin damnit not shortstacking). I don't know exactly how I got past it as it had been a reoccuring problem for a long time once I started to get serious about poker (100nl'ish). I guess when you see other people tilt in person it just kinda makes you realize how silly it is though.
When did your expectations started changing? How and why so?
I feel like almost everytime I moved up a limit I said to myself "Wow this is a lot of money...if I could just grind this limit out on the side for a few years it would be so awesome." As for the actual time when I said I'm going to make a ton of money playing poker, I don't really know. It was probably sometime last year after I won the 109 and heatered my way through 3/6 and 5/10 though I still wasn't so good. Maybe it was over the summer where I really started to realize I could walk over 5/10...meh.
What stakes do you play currently? How do you feel playing in them?
Right now i play mainly 25/50 and 2k or 5k hu sngs depending on who is sitting or what time of day it is. Sometimes I sit at 100/200 but I dont have nearly enough money to play that as deep as I'd like to. I feel like I could still use a bit of improvement before sitting in that game anyways unless it's looking relatively soft.
What aspects of your play could you improve in?
After playing for such a long time it's hard to find any one specific thing that could be easily improved on because if it could hopefully the player would be able to fix it. Not in my case though. I'd rather not outright say in which areas I suck in but in general I need to encorporate a lot more no fear.
Would you encourage anyone to play poker, or would you rather stop someone from trying it basing on his personality?
Hard question. I encourage a lot of people to play and have helped a lot of people start but a few months later I wish I hadn't introduced some of them. It's a tough call to make I think, and of course there are some people who have angry/addictive personalities that should never get started. I dunno it's tough to not get people to play because if they have any discipline at all they can beat a respectable limit with the right help.
Can you maintain a good win-rate at the moment in poker? Tell us about how variance has worked out for you trough-out your poker life.
Yes I think I can maintain a good winrate at any limit except for maybe 100/200. I can't really remember distinct times where I've run badly. It just kinda happens and you accept it. I think a majority of people confuse running badly with playing badly though and there is an important distinction to make there...or if both are combined its the 'sickest worst run ever'. I know times in the past I thought I was running really bad when I was just sucking outright. My variance in general is pretty low despite my really LAG play. There is a lot of natural variance in HU which gets annoying but staying mostly around 9 max is a nice little antivariance safety net.
How does playing poker affect you as a person and human being outside of the online world?
Biggest side effect which is common with most people I guess is that I value money less. I'm not exactly a big spender and I dont buy a lot of crap but I dont have much of a problem with large grocery store or alcohol bills and I order out more than most of my friends. I think about poker fairly often and I find that I can talk about it to people for good amounts of time (though I can really only talk poker with a few in person friends). That aside, I find myself saying 'sick' a bit too much and 'cooler' whenever I get a pop quiz.
What does your family , friends, social circle have to say about the whole playing poker idea?
I try and keep my poker life on the downlow. In general, im trying to avoid being used or taken advantage of as much as possible. I go to a really superficial university so it would almost certainly attract the wrong kind of attention anyways. My housemates and some other poker players at the school know, but that's about it. My family has a pretty good idea about it now but I kept them out of the loop for a long time because they aren't very pro-poker, though they have come to accept it.
How is your recent experience with playing on 100/200 and how do you feel about the skill level there compared to 50/100 and 25/50?
So far 100/200 has been awesome. It's a really strong game. Even the easiest 100/200 games are very hard for me. I've only played 50/100 briefly on UB and I didn't feel the players were that great but it was a very small sample size. I feel like 25/50 is starting to soften up and a lot of the really tough players are either on break or have moved to other websites.
How do you compare yourself with the players in those limits?
I'm not sure I think I'd put myself in the middle maybe a tiny bit lower. I've been having a lot of success so far but I've done well to avoid some tough situations vs hard players. I don't really mind playing with the best players there though because I'm an idiot and I feel I can give a good game to anybody. I did the same thing when I moved up from 5/10 to 10/20 sitting 3 handed with Halling and Durrr a few times. A little on the -ev side but its a good time to learn. I don't really have the exact same situation at 100/200 because it's a lot of money but I still have the same idea in mind.
Who are the players you have the hardest time against?
I guess the person I have the most trouble against is Empire2000. I don't know why but I just see myself constantly folding to 5 high or bluffing into houses. He's aggressive and doesn't really take shit from me so I usually end up getting run over. I have a lot of respect for his game. There are other people up there too but i guess I do the worst vs Roman.
For how long do you plan to keep playing and why?
I will probably play so long as online poker is alive. The money is just too good to stop for now. I don't know at what frequency I will play but I will definately always be playing I think. If/when online poker dies, I don't see myself playing at casinos too often.
Do you think there are side effects to play poker , if so, can you avoid them? How do you calibrate this.
I think if you are in a university while playing poker seriously, balancing the two becomes near impossible. I know a minority of people who can balance it well but the majority of people I know have either "taken some time off from school" (permanently dropped out) or are just getting by gradewise. I don't really know how to fix it because I'm on the just getting by side of things. I guess playing less and studying more is the easy answer -_-.
What do you think beginners think or do that is preventing them from succeeding at poker?
A lot of beginners embrace and glorify hands they win and blame the other person or pokerstars for hands they lose. Simply, just because you push over a raise with a FD and hit it doesn't make it the correct play. Many people are not honest with themselves about their own play either because of their ego or they simply don't know they are doing something so greatly wrong (good friends help here). Other obvious thing is tilting.
Do you think there is a certain point where the Poker skill level at a table is so high, that variance will just increase so much it would be just better to avoid that game?
Not really. I think there will always be dominating players in poker who just long term smash the limit they play. Obviously the % of these players greatly decrease at higher (or the highest) limit. Poker is just so complex it's hard for me to believe the right person couldn't beat the toughest game.
So having all of this said, what stands you out from all other successful poker players?
I guess my style is a lot LAGier than most peoples play. I play 37/23 at 9 max which im pretty sure is unique to long term high limit play. I just like a lot of hands. That aside, I also give action to anybody if I feel like playing (except Roman...for now).
How is your live-poker life? (explain which do you prefer, online or live and why)
I play a sweet .25/.50 $50 cap game at my university every now and then. Sometimes I show up at this casino in NY during tournaments and play 5/5 or 10/20 there if it is running but I am mainly there to meet up with friends. I also went to WPT Atlantis which was a lot of fun but I didn't do nearly so well as other players from this site did...though technically i did -.-V . I prefer online in general because if I'm playing 9 max at a limit I feel very confident in I can watch movies, talk to friends, play videogames or make food while playing since I have wireless in my townhouse. Sometimes though I get the need to play live and thats cool too.
Are you the kind of player who is adventurous and would like to play as higher the table as possible and with top players, or would you rather just stick with the easier tables and make cash?
I think there is a little novelty in playing with the best. I think it's also one of the best ways to improve your game. I'm not really the spokesperson for game selection or anything. In terms of being adventerous br wise well...I believe in taking disciplined shots .
Can you give an insightful advice about bankroll management and another one for titlting.
For BR management, looking back at history I'm probably not the person to ask. I think I went up at 12 buyins for most limits back in my day and moved back down once i lost maybe 4 buyins. The other time I went to rebuild not so long ago I felt I was much better than the competition and followed around the same BR rules. In general though I think maybe 20 buyins for 9 max is good, 35 for 6 max. I guess style matters. Catyoul's BR guide is also really cool.
For tilting, I dont know. I was pretty bad and believed that I would never get over it. After seeing a few people tilt in person it just kindof went away and I'm not really sure why. Also I find now it's very hard to tilt while playing with a lot of buyins. I recommend people either learn early to play through tilting and find some way to beat it or else just instantly stop when it happens. Even at 25/50 it's not uncommon to see regulars tilting from time to time and thats somewhat pathetic.
Is there someone you coach on poker?
I help a lot of people. Lots of people send me HHs and I have no problem giving my opinion on them though I think people would be better off asking more standard players. Even so, I am certainly looking to give back to people starting out with poker the same luxries I had while I was starting. In terms of like total outright coaching, there are a few people I have put a lot of time in. Most of them are tilty idiots but I still have hope for three of them.
How do you think someone should learn poker?
Reading books is probably a good basis but I have not read one yet. I just played a lot of hands and seriously had my friends helping me at every step of the way.
From the hand histories we see from you, we get an image of a LAG player with sometimes very strong reads, How true is this and how does it work out for you?
Since I relied on my friends input so much, my game is so strongly influenced by multiple people's styles. It is probably why I play as weird as I do. I remember there was a time when Travis told me to follow my gut while playing and that has helped me out a lot. I dont know if there is a way to really train your gut instinct or anything but I remember a period of time where I outright called everything. I tried to pay very close attention to timing, bet sizing. bet numbers and betting lines in general. I think this helped to develop my instincts a lot. That being said, if i feel like I have the best hand, I will be calling. I despise people who say 'I have the best hand but I'm going to lay it down'. Just seems up there with some of the stupidest things I've ever heard in poker.
Do you play any other Poker games as Omaha/Stud/Razz? If you do or not, do you think it helps for your Hold’em? Why?
Yeah I play every game pretty well except for Omaha Hi. I don't think any of them really help my NLHE game and if there was a game it would be Omaha Hi which I'm not so good at. Back in the day whenever I was going through a bad run or a bad time I would just take up a different game of poker. People who play stud on stars are really really bad.
Would you like to say anything to the Liquidpoker.net Community =]?
Yes, you guys rock and I never miss an opportunity to shamelessly plug for our site. Also a little shoutout to Victor/Joy/Lex, Eivind/Ania --; , Olet, Evan, Johnny(SCL --;;!!!), Kyle, Th35 and my whole msn/aim list. Thats about it since I never got an SC interview (df;lkasjflkasj;fksj).
Goodluck at poker and thank you very much, it was pretty entertaining!!