Casey Jarzabek Interview

Casey Jarzabek Interview

Friday, 25 April 2014

BigDogPckt5s speaks up.

It's a dog eat dog world out there. Casey “BigDogPckt5s” Jarzabek has won every online major around, racking up title after title to give him over $5.5 million in online winnings. But he’s certainly not your typical young ‘internet kid’. We talk to Jarzabek about dream heaters, tilt-related injuries, and why appearances can be deceiving.

Hi Casey. So, some of our readers might not have heard of you or Tournament Poker Edge unless they play online. Can you tell us a bit about your background?

Sure. I was working in a factory about ten years ago, when I ended up breaking my leg playing a charity baseball game. I broke my foot in seven places and was stuck in bed, so I took up online poker just to pass the time and I made like $40,000 in my first week. The rest is pretty much history. I just started playing tournaments and I have millions and millions in cashes since then and never went back to work.

How did you make $40,000 in your first week?

Just grinding cash. I deposited $500 and made heaps and heaps of money. I will say, when I started playing online – online poker was literally brand new and everybody was horrid, including myself. I used to think I was good back then, but if I knew back then what I know now, I would have made even more money.

So this was around 2004/2005?

Yeah, right at the inception of Ultimate Bet. PokerStars wasn't even out yet. So I was playing on UB, PartyPoker and Paradise. Those were good times back then.

You're one of the few who have survived UIGEA and Black Friday, and you are still crushing. Looking back, how have you adjusted as time has gone by?

Right away after Black Friday hit, the MTT world changed completely. Americans were the best in the world when Black Friday happened, and [after the US players were banned] the games became really spewy, because there was an infusion of Europeans who – at that time – had spewy tendencies. Back then, I was known as super aggressive, so I let my image work for me and tightened my game right up. Any time I had a hand, I got action because of my reputation. People were always willing to put their chips in the middle.

Now a lot of Americans have moved to places such as Mexico so they can continue playing...

That's the problem now. All the super sick tournament players from America have relocated by this time, so you have the toughest Americans relocated and obviously, the Americans who aren't very good didn't relocate. So the games are as tough as can be right at this point. You won't be able to find a period in time where the games have been tougher.

I'm really hoping for regulation, because not only will we have the old fish back, but there will be an influx of people suddenly willing to play online, because it will finally be legal. So I'm really anxious for that day. But hopefully when they do regulate it, everyone will be able to play together and it won't be state by state.

You've won every single online Major. Are there any that stand out amongst them?

Yeah, just pre-Black Friday, I had a really epic Sunday. There was a multi-entry Warm-Up and another Major. I think the Warm-Up drew about 11,000 players. I ended up chopping that, and the same day I also got to the final two tables of another Major, which had about 15,000-20,000 runners. So, that was a pretty good Sunday.

Also, my first FTOPS that I won for over $250,000. I'll never forget that one, because that was a huge, huge score. When I won that I was pretty excited.

I used to tilt really hard, money was tight back then. I was running over that tournament, I had double the chips of anyone else and then I took a horrid beat with AA pre-flop. I thought I was going to be knocked out and I got up and I punched my fridge and ended up breaking my hand. I had to play the rest of the tournament with a broken hand. So I don't know if that helped me calm down and relax, because I didn't want to use the mouse. That was actually a real eye-opener to me, because I had to play differently as my hand was hurting so bad, as funny as that sounds.
When you win a tournament like FTOPS, you get your gold jersey avatar, but also shit loads of money.

What's more important to you; just the money, or does the title mean something too?

At the beginning, it was definitely great to have the money. When I won that first $250,000, I was doing okay, I wasn't broke or anything, but a quarter of a million infusion on your bankroll really helps. It just takes all the stress off and you can chill a little bit, so I guess it was all about the money. But now I like the titles. I like the fact that I have won as many majors as almost anybody – I think Doc Sands [David Sands] and me are Number 1 & 2 at the moment, I don't even know who's ahead. So I like having that obviously, I enjoy both. I enjoy the notoriety, and also the money, obviously.

Do you chase any rankings or leaderboards?

I did go for Online Player of the Year for two years. I finished top ten in Player of The Year by accident one year, and the next two years, I actually went for it, I ended up coming 3rd and 2nd. I've never really tried to get to the top of the Pocket Fives rankings – I think I got as high as 2nd or 3rd, but it's not something I ever strived for. But the two years that I went for Online Player of The Year were pretty much torture.

Is it similar to chasing Supernova or Supernova Elite?

It is, but you can never get Supernova Elite playing MTTs online – there just aren’t enough tournaments. But I was literally playing 60, 70, 80 hours a week trying to win those titles. So very similar.

To people who do chase leaderboards or bonus rewards such as Supernova, how much do you feel there needs to be a balance between putting in heaps of volume and keeping your edge?

I definitely think you can start killing your EV if you start playing too many tables. When I was going for Online Player of the Year, I was playing on as many tables as I could. I found that once I got down to 8 or 9 tables, I started doing a lot better. I used to take marginal spots, because I would think ‘hey, I'll either get a stack or I'll be in these 20 other tournaments!’ So, there is a point where it kills your EV, and it's different for everyone. You just have to get a feel for it. I'm comfortable with 8-10 tables, once I get over that, I start to hurt my own ROI.

Casey JarzabekCasey Jarzabek

You're obviously an online guy. How do you find playing live?

In general, I haven’t really played a lot live. I usually do a couple of weeks of the year in Vegas, and then I usually hit one or two stops throughout the year. I think I've probably played about five $10ks in my life. I just played the Niagara Falls series, there were 3 tournies and I cashed in the $2,500 event. I find it much easier live, it's just where I am in Canada it's much harder to get there.

So being that you’re not the typical young online kid wearing headphones and a hoodie, do you often get mistaken for a recreational player?

Absolutely. I get that all the time. I’m in my forties, I have a beard, I don't look like a professional poker player. I'll see someone look at me funny after I've done something a bit next level and I'll see them walk over to one of their friends and ask, ‘hey, who's the guy in seat 3?’ and they'll reply ‘that's 'bigdogpckt5s', and then I can see their recognition.

Have you noticed any of your moves that do raise people's eyebrows?

It's obviously when cards get exposed. If I put in a cold four-bet and then showdown 5s7s, then people start realising that I’m doing stuff that most old guys my age aren’t doing. Then you start to see a bit of ‘I wonder if this guy is someone.’ I had the same situation where a guy ended up six-betting me and then showing 7-2o. The guy was an old, old Asian with a long grey pony tail, and I was like ‘who is this guy?!’ I still can't believe he made that move, I ended up folding Q-Q. It was pretty absurd.

There are a lot of older players who are now doing consistently well in live tournaments such as the EPT high rollers, but we're still not seeing many older guys crushing online. What is it about you that means you can still keep up with the young stars?

For me, when I first started playing MTTs online, I was really good friends with ‘Dipthrong’. He was friends with ‘DJK’, ‘Jymaster’ and ‘Pokerjamers’ – all of the young sickos! We used to grind Sundays and all be in the same chat-room. Whenever an interesting hand came up we would stick the hand history in the chat and discuss that amongst literally 15-20 sickos. So I was able to get that young player mentality, because I just happened to be in that group. So I feel like I'm a different type of older player, because I was brought up on the young guys’ style.

Do you think that recreational players who automatically dismiss the new style of poker that the young kids now have are being too stubborn to learn?

If they want to be serious about poker, the only way to do it is to do the work. You have to understand what your opponents are doing and why they are doing it, or you're just going to get exploited all the time. If you're playing just for fun and you don't want to put in the work, than obviously not, but if you want to be serious about winning and not just 'one time' something, then I suggest training sites and books and getting as much information as you can, because that's the key.

So, you had a sick 10 days last year...

Okay, well I had pretty much taken a six month sabbatical from poker, because after both of my Online Player of the Year runs, I was just really burnt out. So then my good friend ‘aznallin007’ suggested one day that, for fun, I should one-table the Super Tuesday. And I thought, ‘Y'know what, why not?’ So I played it, and ended up winning around $78,000. And it kind of got my juices flowing, it was awesome – I'd just taken six months off, come back and got a huge win! So I thought, maybe I'll play this Sunday. So then, I played the next Sunday and sure enough made a deep run in the Sunday Million and ended up chopping it. Which was the most amazing week, winning the biggest tournament online and then that happening in the Sunday Million was just amazing!

So, the next day was the Niagara Falls WPT, so I went to play live, and there was a $1,000, a $2,500 and a $5,000. I played the $1,000 and the $2,500 and played for about a total of two hours in both. I ended up just getting totally destroyed in both tournaments. That following Sunday was the $5,000. I ended up skipping that to play online, because my juices were flowing to play online and sure enough, I made another deep run in the Sunday Million. I had a buddy over with me and I said to him when I had like 50,000 chips, ‘well, another 5,000,000 chips and I'll be able to chop this again’, and sure enough, it happened again! So it was the most amazing ten days that I've ever had, and I don't think too many people can have such a good ten days playing tournaments. It was just absolutely incredible and pretty much straight after that I took another six months off, because I had just made so much money that I could relax again.

And you've made videos of these for Tournament Poker Edge?

Yeah, I've actually made videos for all three of those tournaments. The Super Tuesday, I did a hand history review with ‘Dipthrong’, who most online people will know as being a legend of the poker world. He reviewed that with me and I also did reviews for both my Sunday Millions as well.
I will say that in the first one I ran pretty good. I got the money in behind a few times and ended up getting home. But my second one, I really earned it. I won a lot of pots most people wouldn't and it was just a great, well played tourney.

So you're the Big Dog at Tournament Poker Edge?

I'm the majority owner and lead pro. I was there as one of the original six founders from our inception. It's pretty much my passion; I love TPE and I love the community, it's awesome.

I guess what stands out about Tournament Poker Edge is that it's one of the only purely tournament-focused training sites. But also it has one of the most vibrant communities online...

Our forums and chat-rooms are important to us. One of the differences you'll see on our site as opposed to other sites is that our pros have vested interests in the company, so we put time into the forums and chat-rooms. Whereas other sites just employ pros to make the videos and that's it; they’re never on the site. We've been able to form a good community; we throw parties every year, and we want to be a part of the family. It's more of a family than it is just a business.

Also, the niche of just being a tournament site. When you go to a training site and you want to just learn tournaments, you want to win the WSOP – you don't have to go through Sit and Go videos and PLO videos and cash game videos. We're tournaments, and we do tournaments only. So if you want to help your tournament game, I feel it's the premier site and that's why we do what we do.

Tags: Casey Jarzabek, BigDogPckt5s, Tournament Poker Edge