Questions and Answers

AskThePRO with Benn Skender

We would like to invite all our users to watch and participate in the next AskThePRO episode on TiltBook.com that will take place on Wednesday, 26.03.2014 at 20:00 CET!

You can start posting your questions right now and when the session begins, our hero will choose and answer your best and most interesting ones in a course of exactly one hour (during which you can still post more questions) at www.tiltbook.com/AskThePRO!

This week's special guest: Benn “risk2dupside” Skender


I worked as an equity analyst at an Australian investment bank in my 20s and did not discover poker until I was nearly 30. I was ready to leave the profession and decided I would try my hand at playing MTTs full-time; I had mates that were doing pretty well and I figured with a decent work ethic I could hopefully avoid having to go back to a corporate job. Four years and 30,000 MTTs later I am still here! Since late last year I have been playing cash games but I still play majors every week and work closely with a couple of stables coaching midstakes players.

Benn will be live on TiltBook to answer all your cool questions on Wednesday, 26.03.2014 at 20:00 CET at www.tiltbook.com/AskThePRO. And as always, remember the best question posted wins $20!

Sorry, you can't post questions at the moment.

Scarmaker: Hello Benn and thanks a lot for doing the AskThePRO! :) Reading your bio, you have not mentioned any specific bink so I am interested to know what was the best moment of your poker career so far? :)
March 24, 2014 17:13
It's not in the bio for a reason! Post Black Friday I've won a bunch of majors (Brawl, Pacific Mega Deep, Pacific 90r, Party Highroller, iPoker, OnGame, Microgaming) but most of those scores are under 30k, so while they make up some of the more enjoyable moments of my MTT career none of them are really that huge score every MTTer hopes for. I have come very close to some big binks but all of my MTT profits have come from chipping away at small and mid-sized scores like those.
 photo risk2dupside March 26, 2014 20:03
Scarmaker: Also, I do post this question everytime and I am very interested to read yor answer - what are the main leaks that other regs have that you think you have made the most money off?
March 24, 2014 17:13
Playing too many tables is the most significant one, most other leaks that occur in-game are a subset of that or other distractions like Skype. Lots of regs play as many tables as they can possibly handle due to the belief(s) that it maximises their hourly and/or is the best way to outrun variance, but I suspect for many of them that is not the case. There is also that compulsive gamer-type mentality that is prevalent among regs where in order to feel maximally stimulated they need to fill up the entire real estate of their screens with tables . Certainly I can't think of anyone I've coached that isn't playing at least a third less tables after they've seen how their actual play differs from how they think they play.
 photo risk2dupside March 26, 2014 20:06
mart4s: Hi Benn, funny question. Have you ever folded an Aces or Kings preflop? :D
March 24, 2014 17:24
Yup! PokerStars has some 3x-turbo satellites to live tournament events in Australia, often the payouts are one or two $2k seats and zero for everyone else. I've had at least a couple spots on the bubble with a lot of chips where I have a seat effectively locked up and calling a jam with say KK would not have increased my expectation significantly enough to justify it.
 photo risk2dupside March 26, 2014 20:09
MillerSTGT: Hi Benn, I´m reading "CityBoy" right now and wanted to ask, is it really true that analysts at investment banks get ridiculous raises in pay every year and hardcore bonuses? The dude in the book, which is based on a true story, said that he earned 25k pounds in his first year and a 50k pound bonus. And in his 4rd year he earned over 100k per year and a 500k bonus. Which seems to be so sick that I can imagine it is a really tough decision to leave a so well paying job to do something else. What was your major motivation to turn that down and switch to poker?
March 25, 2014 11:09
It is true that the best analysts get paid extremely well, and depending on your firm's pay structure much of that will be back-ended in the form of a bonus. It was a tough decision in that I was paid very well, loved analysing companies/industries, had survived two unprecedented layoffs at the firm I was working for and was offered a position in New York which would've been a big step up on the career path for me. However it was a 70-80 hour a week job condensed into five week days, and after taxes and the high personal, physical and financial overheads of having a job like that I didn't feel like I would be happiest continuing down that path. After some soul searching I decided that I could be happier with less income and more autonomy, and that my best skills were that I was highly motivated and could work long hours without supervision. So I decided that I could probably work in other industries I was passionate about where the median expectation was lower, but expect to do comparatively well. I was studying screen acting at NIDA as well as playing poker on the weekends, and liked them both enough to quit and see what could happen.
 photo risk2dupside March 26, 2014 20:16
MartinsTT: Hi Benn, My question is : "If Pokerstars and FullTilt were girls. Which one would you marry?" (Sorry for my english)
March 25, 2014 11:45
I'd marry PokerStars, would be surprised if FullTilt ever settled down ;)
 photo risk2dupside March 26, 2014 20:20
SanderSmets: Hi ben: I didn't really know you, but i think i had a note on you before my computer crashed. Did you played the WBCOOP a year ago? You were very solid, now I understand why! :)
March 25, 2014 21:41
Yup, I did play the WBCOOP (series PokerStars runs exclusively for poker players who write a blog) last year. Good to see you are taking player notes, you never know when they will be useful! You can back them up to something like Dropbox so you never lose them.
 photo risk2dupside March 26, 2014 20:24
Seda16: Have you always wanted to play MTTs or you started to grind them some time later?
March 26, 2014 00:07
I think early on everyone I knew that played full-time was playing tournaments so that's what I had aspired to, even though up until that point I had played both tournaments and cash. I had started playing full-time with very little understanding of anything really, so it took me a really long time to form an independent view of what I wanted from the game and what kind of formats would suit me best. After probably three years I wanted to quit MTTs because I felt that a) the skills I had learned were not really transferable to other game formats which might be important if I wanted to play for a long time, b) the nature of the game format meant that my poker skills were not really advancing as quick as I'd have liked (this a polite way of saying I sucked at poker given how much time I spent playing tourneys!), and c) the linkage between skill and reward is the weakest out of all of the game formats. But by then I was doing well in them and the learning curve for other games was steep. So I started spending a lot of time away from the tables learning how to play poker better generally, and getting some advice and coaching from players that I knew were successful in other formats like sixmax and heads up.
 photo risk2dupside March 26, 2014 20:30
blender803: hello there!do you play live poker?if yes what`s your strategy against the opponents psychological speaking? i mean how do you observe your opponents?it`s easy for you to catch someone who is bluffing?thank you
March 26, 2014 09:34
Yup I play live poker occasionally, sometimes a couple of times a month and then not at all for a few months. Things you want to pick up quickly are a) how many hands is the player playing preflop, b) what is his typical raise/threebet/iso size, c) what kind of hands does he play aggressively/passively, d) what kind of hands does he call down with. Most live players are pretty bad at poker so usually bluffs are poorly thought out and thus easy to identify, but knowledge of the above will also help you determine the likelihood someone is bluffing. Over time you will pick up other things like timing and tilt which are relevant too.
 photo risk2dupside March 26, 2014 20:33
blender803: what was your worst bad beat?where you tilted after?how do you passed of?
March 26, 2014 09:35
I guess beats in MTTs are more about the prize equity involved, I have come really close to some big scores in series events where I've had all the chips on the FT and then nothing has worked, they don't make you feel too great but they all blur into one, I try to forget about them by the end of the day. In cash games I flat a 3bet 300bb effective at 200nl HU on Party with 98o and lost to JTdd on 9x9x8d9dQd, I won't forget that one in a hurry! I don't know if I was tilted as much as shocked, I remember just staring at the screen for like 20 minutes thinking wow ok tonight's gunna be like that huh... Whenever I feel frustrated or the game knocks my confidence a bit I usually stop playing as soon as possible and head outside to a cafe or out the back to water the garden; I grow a bunch of vegetables mostly because it gives me a reason to go and focus on something outdoors and is kind of meditative. Outside I just think of everyone pissed off in their day job and realise nothing is that bad, then I go back upstairs and start reviewing hands to build up my confidence and motivation again.
 photo risk2dupside March 26, 2014 20:43
SanderSmets: how do you study poker? Do you have some tips? Because i don't really know how I can improve my game by studying...
March 26, 2014 12:58
Well there's lots of ways, the most obvious ones are reading forums, getting coaching and watching training videos. That doesn't always mean imitating the advice/styles of play that are recommended, but recognising that it reflects the current trends and then thinking about whether there are ways you may be able to exploit that. Other things can include reviewing hand histories where you weren't sure of the right decision, watching final tables of better players, reviewing your HUD stats and comparing them with your friends. Also just general navel-gazing about poker or your game; some of my biggest improvements have come from being brutally honest with myself about the things that I found difficult or didn't do as well as I'd like to, then actively going about working on them.
 photo risk2dupside March 26, 2014 20:47
Scarmaker: As a full time MTT player, how do you deal with quite long session you are forced to play as well as heavy swings that can easily occur in this kind of format? Also, if MTTs were not avalible for some weird reason anymore, what format would you be inclined to switch to and why? Thanks!
March 26, 2014 14:04
I think MTTers need to know what they are in for when they choose to play that format for a living; I would suggest everyone run some numbers in the Tournament Variance Calculator (http://pokerdope.com/tournament-variance-calculator/) and get a proper grasp on what is possible in terms of variance. Once you are aware of what the swings can look like it's really a matter of deciding how much variance you're prepared to accept and structuring your grind accordingly, so assessing things like your bankroll, whether to get backed, whether to sell action, what games will form the bulk of your grind, how many games you plan to grind in a month/year...all of that preparedness is absolutely necessary if you're going to play MTTs full-time. As for the length of sessions I think it really comes down to routine, if your routine is all over the place it's going to be very hard to get a good consistent grind going. Also understanding and accepting days that you're just not feeling it and finishing up early (or not playing at all).
 photo risk2dupside March 26, 2014 20:52
And I have already really made the switch to cash games for the most part so that probably answers your second question.
 photo risk2dupside March 26, 2014 20:52
blender803: what do you think about preflop game?how % do you think that preflop play influence your game?
March 26, 2014 14:25
That's too broad of a question to give a useful answer to I think. All I would say is that tourneys are often played out with effective stacks of 25 big blinds or less, and so you want to be doing a lot of thinking and studying about how to put those big blinds to best use in every scenario you think you might encounter.
 photo risk2dupside March 26, 2014 20:53
blender803: what do you think that is your "factor x" if i can say in poker?[something that makes yoy better:P]
March 26, 2014 19:55
Hmm, I guess everyone plays to their strengths, mine are work ethic and persistence for sure. I am not a born gamer who can quickly intuit the best exploits or approaches to the game, and I am really careful about shot-taking and have no natural degen in me, but I can definitely work as hard as the best of them and I think that counts for a lot particularly as the player pool strengthens in skill.
 photo risk2dupside March 26, 2014 20:55
blender803: *you sorry for mistake
March 26, 2014 19:55
sierinsh: Hello, first of all thank u for making ur time for this awesome poker community ;) I have few questions :) 1)I’m often sitting at a table where most of the players are competent to very good, but there is usually at least one player who has no idea what he’s doing. I know I’m supposed to go after this player and find ways to play pots against him, but that often gets me into trouble against the others. What’s the best way to isolate a bad player? 2) How many times have you gone completely broke over the course of your poker career? 3)When you decided to turn pro, what type of bankroll did you start out with? How much time/what stakes would you have to play in order to make a quality living? 4) What is the most dangerously deceiving starting hand for an amateur player in Texas Holdem? When I say dangerous, I mean most likely to make a stupid call when they have no business calling. Thank u for ur time ;)
March 26, 2014 20:01
1) If the other players are similarly competent, you need to appreciate that the EV that is attainable from the weaker player is generally going to be shared between you and the other players at the table (obviously position and stuff is somewhat relevant in terms of who gets the biggest share). With that in mind I wouldn't go overboard trying to iso the weaker player, but just look to widen my ranges slightly so that I don't get exploited myself.
 photo risk2dupside March 26, 2014 20:57
2) Never. I think it's important to recognise that when times are lean, staying in the game is more important than trying to maximise your EV, and when times are good it's important to take some calculated shots and put yourself in as many good spots as possible. The ability to retain money from playing poker is a completely different skill to earning it, and you're going to want to have a handle on your bankroll management and spending habits for sure.
 photo risk2dupside March 26, 2014 20:58
3) haha I think I allocated like 300 buyins or something really silly, I was playing pretty low though as I didn't really need the income and was really just trying to get some game experience under my belt. Not long after I ended up getting backed to play higher which was the best decision at the time. I think if you're playing MTTs full-time you really have to be prepared to log some pretty significant hours, I definitely think putting in at least four or five solid sessions a week is mandatory. As for what stakes it really depends on what your financial goals are, whether you're splitting profits with a backer and your appetite for swings; if you're decent, have your own bankroll and are prepared to put in the volume you can definitely play fairly low and do well I think.
 photo risk2dupside March 26, 2014 21:01
4) Not sure, I guess the weaker offsuit Aces are going to get you into plenty of kicker troubles if you can't fold top pair...I suspect amateur players probably botch playing suited connectors a fair bit too. For the most part I think amateur players should start off playing very tight and then loosen up as their postflop skills and reads improve.
 photo risk2dupside March 26, 2014 21:02
Andre: Hi Benn, good to have you here. Bit of a odd question for you. Hypothetically speaking, lets say live and online poker got banned in all countries tomorrow. What career path will you follow then? Best of luck at the tables.
March 26, 2014 20:36
You really stumped me here! I honestly don't know, I would have a bit of time up my sleeve to decide and would probably spend the first month in my office playing guitar and surfing the internet for things to get excited about. It's funny, I have a lot of academic qualifications and corporate experience and I still feel like poker has taught me the most about how to approach getting better at something...it makes me realise how lazy and self-entitled a lot of people are in desk jobs in that they feel like their prior qualifications justifies their income perpetually, and that they never need to consider how they create value, what their edge is over their peers/competitors and have a framework for actively sustaining that edge. Hmm I went off on a tangent there but yeah I guess I'd be engaged in some form of competitive meritocracy, idk maybe start my own business?
 photo risk2dupside March 26, 2014 21:09
razzthecop: I have a question... This month my EV is like 900, and my wins are about like 600, so should i take in calcul the EV ore the real money. Do I play bad or this month is sick? please answer.:D
March 26, 2014 20:39
You can't buy beers with EV mate :) Best of luck making it up next month!
 photo risk2dupside March 26, 2014 21:04
maded1: Hi Benn, I’m playing small buy in MTTs. Can you give any advice for player like me what kind of strategy to use at small stakes, should I study MTT strategy as more as I can and what about bankroll management, should it be aggressive or conservative? Sorry for my grammar… Best of luck.
March 26, 2014 20:55
Almost all of it depends on whether you're currently playing for income. Assuming you're not I would spend a heap of time studying/reviewing your play, and just play something relatively low variance like SNGs/MTT SNGs so that variance doesn't discourage you...lots of the small buyin MTTs have huge fields and you're going to want a lot of practice at playing the endgame so smaller field stuff is going to be best.
 photo risk2dupside March 26, 2014 21:07
risk2dupside: Boom! That flew by, cheers for your time and gl at the tables! pz
March 26, 2014 21:11
Scarmaker: Thanks Benn for a great AskThePRO and thanks everyone for posting your questions! :) This week's winner of $20 is maded1, congratz! :)
March 28, 2014 16:29

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