Darren Elias: The Only 4-Time WPT Champ, $11.3 Million Online & Live Tourney Winnings, and Poker End Bos

Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 035

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Darren Elias on social media:

Yoooo, welcome my friend to another episode of the “Chasing Poker Greatness” podcast! I’m your host, founder of EnhanceYourEdge.com Brad Wilson and today’s guest is the only ever 4-time WPT champion, the one and only Darren Elias.

His career highlights include:

– The aforementioned FOUR WPT titles, including: the WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic, 2017 WPT Fallsview, season 16 WPT Tournament of Champions, and (Darren’s personal favorite win) the 2014 WPT Borgata Open.

– Winning the 2012 World Championship of Online Poker high roller event for a cool $574k.

– And a 2009 FTOPs gold medal for $126k.

Our conversation covers a TON of ground from how Darren got his start playing cards in a way that’s very near and dear to my own heart, playing Yahoo! Hearts, to his first tournament bink and subsequent bankroll explosion to over $500k.

There are too many greatness bombs to count headed your way, including:

– How human beings are driven by personal interests and incentives that skew their opinions.

– Darren’s thoughts on the re-entry vs. freezeout debate.

– Why AI is an existential, imminent threat to the present and future of online poker.

– Why Darren spends most of his time studying human behavior and analyzing patterns to improve his poker game.

– And much, much more!

So, without any further ado, I bring to you the great Darren Elias.

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Transcription of Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 035: Darren Elias

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Brad: Yoh, welcome my friend and welcome to another episode of chasing poker greatness. I’m your host, founder of enhanceyouredge.com, Brad Wilson. And today’s guest is the only human being to ever win four WPT titles. The one and only Darren Elias. Darren has over 7.5 million in career live cashes to go along with a pretty, pretty, pretty good 3.8 million in lifetime online career winnings. All of this despite being a self-professed low volume of player. His career highlights include the aforementioned four WPT titles, including the WPT Bobby Baldwin classic, 2017 WPT Falls View, Season 16 WPT tournament of champions and their ins personal favorite win, the 2014 WPT Borgata Open. In 2012, he also won a world championship of online at Poker High Roller event for a cool $547,000 as well as an F tops gold medal victory for another 126k. Our conversation today covers a ton of ground from how Darren got his start playing cards in a way that’s very near and dear to my own heart, battling in the Yahoo spades arena to his first tournament bank and subsequent bankroll explosion to over 500k. There are too many greatness bombs to count headed your way, including how human beings are driven by personal interests and incentives that skew their opinions, their ins thoughts on the reentry versus freeze out debate, why AI is an existential imminent threat to the present and future of online poker, why Darren spends most of his time studying human behavior and analyzing patterns to improve his poker game, and much, much more. So, without any further ado, I bring to you the great Deron Elias.



Brad: Darren, my man, how we doing?



Darren: Good, good. How are you?



Brad: I’m doing very well. Welcome to the show. I’m excited to have you.



Darren: Happy to be here.



Brad: I want to start out by asking you the story. How’d you get involved playing cards in the first place?



Darren: I started playing cards really young with my family like my grandmother, especially. We wouldn’t play poker necessarily, but we would play bridge, spades, and hearts. I played a lot of like hearts growing up. It’s like 100-year-old game. It’s like a four-person game?



Brad: Yeah, I spent my high school career playing spades every, every single day and hearts as well. So yeah, I’m very, very familiar with these.



Darren: So, you’re very familiar with these?



Brad: Yeah.



Darren: They’re fun games. So when I was like, 9-10, I would play those. And then I started playing like, hearts on the internet, like Yahoo hearts, like pretty competitively, where I was, like, ranked highly in the world when I was like 12 or 13. So then I kept playing that and then we were to high school moneymaker, won the main event. And we watched that on ESPN. So, we, naturally we started playing Texas Hold’em, like in high school like little home games. And I always did well, we didn’t play much money, but I always did well when the fight or Citadel or whatever, at some point deposit money on party poker in UB and played a little bit online. So, I started playing some small cash games online, did well. And then when I got to college, I started playing online tournaments, PokerStars, Paradise Poker. back then all the sites basically, I was playing a lot online and that’s when things kind of like, snowball and I started making real money. And then I had a real bank role and could play higher stakes. And that’s when it got more serious.



Brad: So, I haven’t had this come up yet because not many Yahoo spaders and Yahoo hearts players that I’ve run into on the show, but do you do you think that playing those games helped you transition to poker?



Darren: Definitely. I mean, I was comfortable with, with cards like playing cards. I, even in the live, live arena. I always like playing cards and definitely with hearts, hearts. It was big like I used to count cards, like you’re counting how many parts the guys’ left, counting spades there is some math involved, spades as well. I got a little frustrated with spades because the collusion like when you’re playing online like people are obviously cheating. So, I got really frustrated with, with spades, but um, I think, yeah, playing, playing cards going up definitely helped me and prepared me. Although poker is, it is a different beast in that there’s bluffing and more probability kind of things. But yeah, I’d say playing cards with my grandma growing up definitely prepped me.



Brad: Yeah, I think me too. Definitely helped, helped me feel comfortable just in the arena,



Darren: To be willing to sit there for hours and hours and play cards. Like I’ve been doing that for a long time. And that was, some people just don’t have the patience, you know?



Brad: Oh, for sure. Me too. I can actually attribute my entire poker career to spades because Yahoo spades of all things, because I met a friend who is around my age. He was my, my main spades partner. And we played every day. He was a few years older than me, and his mom was a poker dealer. And he got up, he got involved with poker, and started traveling and doing fairly well, and talking to me about it. And then that’s kind of what sucked me in. And I thought



Darren: I’ll try this thing. Make some real money. 



Brad: Yeah, well, yeah, I mean, he’s like, look, I’m, you know, you’re really awesome at spades. I know, you could do this poker thing, like I know it. So, I saved up, I saved up like 3k, moved to Florida, from Tennessee, to just give the poker thing a go, which is like, looking back, it’s like an insane.



Darren: That’s a big leap,



Brad: An insane thing to do. That had like probability of success very, very, very low. But somehow it just worked out.



Darren: I guess. I mean, live poker in Florida’s pretty soft, especially if we go back in time.



Brad: It was 2004. So



Darren: It might not been even legal back then, or the cash games elite. Remember, they had the $100 rule or whatever you could only buy in for?



Brad: Yeah. Yeah, it was the boats to nowhere. You go to like Cape Canaveral, get on a casino cruise. And it takes you in international waters. You battle for four hours, and they bring you back. That was my. that was my first poker experience.



Darren: I’ve been on a couple of November.



Brad: Yeah. So, when you say like, things started going well, like what was your bankroll like, when you know, you, you became fully involved?



Darren: Like high school, I would say I had like, hundreds of dollars when I was playing in high school, and I would play online. I probably had like 500 to $1,000, I guess. And then when I started playing online, I hit like the 10 ribeye on stars for like, 15,000, I guess. And once I had that the bankroll, it went from hundreds of dollars to hundreds of 1000s pretty quickly. And I was like, well roll to like overruled for the games I was playing. Because back then online games were, were pretty soft, and you could play big. I had my own action, and I was probably running well, too. So, I spun it from a couple 100 to probably half a million or something. My freshman sophomore years of college, and was in a good position from there.



Brad: Let’s talk about adversity, because I like hundreds to half a million dollars. That’s pretty fucking good. Right? Let’s talk about the bumps in the road. Like were there any bumps? What is it bad?



Darren: Yeah, I struggled playing online in like the cash games online. I wasn’t very good on UB back in the day. I played 25 cent no limit for a long time when I was like 16, 17, and tried to move up to the 50 cent no limit and got smashed and had to move back to 25 cent no limit. And then I kind of like gave up on that. So, I had trouble beating 50 cent no limit. That would be a big adversity when I was younger, but eventually I stopped playing online cash games and just focused on tournaments because I like the excitement of tournaments more like being deep in the tournament, that feeling. And I was with cash games. It was always like, the victory felt like incomplete like you have a great winning session. Okay, good. You quit like, it always feels like there’s more to be won or there’s more there. Where if you win a tournament, you enter a new beat everybody, win first place that’s like a complete victory to me. It was more satisfying, I guess playing tournaments and winning.



Brad: Yeah, it’s circular. You, you get that feeling the gratification of taking one down. When you, when you were spinning it up to half a mil. Playing, I assumed the action was good back then. Right, like on full tilt. And you be there were 200, 500, 1k tournaments. Every year.



Darren: Yeah, they had more sides to me at paradise poker. Like these sites don’t exist anymore. Like you play a $30 ribeye during the week and you could win 20-25,000 and back then the games were a lot different than they are now like nobody knew what they were doing. If you weren’t open limping a lot. You were pretty good player.



Brad: Yeah, way ahead of the curve.



Darren: Yeah. Like re stealing didn’t even exist back then. You know.



Brad: Right. And I know party poker too had just before UIGEA, they were pumping out the tournament’s every single night like 150, 200k guaranteed every day of the week and then Sunday, I think it was like a mil guaranteed or half a million, it was just an absurd amount of volume you could get in.



Darren: Yeah, and back then the, the sites were more favorable for players. It’s not like now where they’re like gouging. And it’s all these bounty tournaments and progressive things. Back then almost all the tournaments were either rebuys, or normal freeze outs, which I think is good for the best players. And the top of the crop player lies is going to take a lot of money out of the of the prize pools, which nowadays, they kind of try to prevent with how they run their tournaments and kind of introducing more luck and more sporadic distribution of the prize pool with all these different formats where back then it was kind of just like clean results and revise which I like.



Brad: Which is interesting, because I mean, now in the poker world, though there’s all this uproar over like the reentries are the reentry is good. Are their entries bad? Should they go away? Should they stay? What are your thoughts on that?



Darren: Mixed thoughts, I guess. I am for reentry in general. I think poker is a skill game and reentries give the best players the highest chance of winning. So that’s a good thing in that regard. And a lot of the people complaining the loudest about reentry are kind of the middle tier players who, it hurts them because the best players can keep reenter and maybe they aren’t rolled enough for it. Or they don’t like it. But I will say I don’t like when reentry is open too long. I don’t think you should be able to keep re firing and reentries at 20 big blinds, 15 big blinds, I don’t like that. I would say as long as it gets cut off at a reasonable length, like I think like 50-60 big blinds is probably where they should cut up, cut it off when you’re entering with that many chips, then it’s still good. Because if a guy wants to try to gamble, and just go all in a lot at 50 big blinds that he’s playing badly, you know. Like, he’s making some crazy plays.



Brad: Right.



Darren: We’re at 20 big blinds, you can kind of find enough spots where you’re not losing that much equity. And a well roll player is going to get a stack kind of cheaply. But it’s, it’s going to happen a lot more often at 20 a big one.



Brad: Right. So, there’s more incentive to keep re, reentering at about 20 bigs that that makes a lot of tough



Darren: That playing is bad to go all in. But that’s important.



Brad: Yeah, the mistakes. You could just jam, but jam 20 big blinds in and find a bunch of positive spots. But at 50 you kind of have to be more selective. That, that makes a ton of sense. And the meritocracy in poker, right? The best players having the chance to win the money is shockingly a controversial concept nowadays, I think. It kind of dumbfounds me that I see on Twitter, like all these posts on Twitter all the time about how do we make poker better for the recreational players and the hobby players and like I get that, right. Like you need these players in the game. It’s good for poker, it’s good overall. But let’s not forget that folks like yourself. And for cash games me who’s been playing 15 years like, professionals invest tons of time and energy into learning and growing and becoming one of the best players at what they do. And it just seems kind of silly to take that away. Like this is why people love poker in the first place. Right? Because it is a skill game. So, when we were trying to remove this skill, like that’s, that’s just kind of absurd to me.



Darren: It’s pretty false. A lot of what, a lot of the people do is they, they protect their own interests, like, like they’re, they’re arguing for whatever is good for themselves personally, and then disguise it as oh, it’s good for the rec players or the rec players want this, which isn’t always true. I think if, let’s hypothetically, instead of Bellagio, which is 10k and reentry blah, blah, blah. Let’s say it’s a $1 unlimited reentry tournament playing it’s very weak players, all the mediocre players would want unlimited reentry. They would want to have the biggest edge they could, but because they’re playing against players who are better than them at a higher price point, they don’t want that. So that’s kind of the crux of like where these guys are complaining. If the buy ingwas small and the fields were soft, they would want unlimited reentry. I don’t think that, they may not admit it, but they would want that added edge but because there’s better players in the field. They don’t really like that. And I know a lot of wrecks who love reentry. It makes a lot of sense. travel wise. like especially at the price points like the World Poker Tour for me or even a wreck to go to Oklahoma and play a $3500 freeze out is kind of risky because you fly. you drive from Dallas and then you could be out in two hands and then you’re gone. Like, it doesn’t make much sense to play that tournament where if you have unlimited reentry for two days, then it’s kind of a different, you can plan to be there three, four days, you know you’re going to be there day two. I think it allows people to travel, the more tournaments too.



Brad: I agree. And just that walk from the win star, from the hotel to the poker room is like a two-mile walk. Just that in and of itself, walking to the poker room, busting out



Darren: All those slot machines.



Brad: With dodging everybody on their motorized carts zooming in front of you. It is a rough walk. But yeah, for sure, like travel expenses add up. And it’s, you know, there’s a time investment as well. So, you want to maximize your time for the folks that are traveling. And the end, 



Darren: There is a place for freezeouts. And I think the poker community realizes that. There are a couple premier freezeout events like LAPC freezeout that works whose main events freezeout, and there should be a couple of these and I think that’s fine. I wouldn’t even mind trending towards like a single reentry or like single reentry per day. That eliminates the like really high buying counts by the top players, which I don’t mind cutting that out. But I think reentry in general gets attacked unfairly by the mediocre professionals.



Brad: Yeah, and you’re absolutely right. Like it’s, it’s human nature to protect our own self-interest. Right. I think that’s just basic human psychology. Alright, so let’s transition a little. What’s something about you that not a lot of people know?



Darren: I’m probably more like, nerdy or than people would, would expect, I guess people see me they wouldn’t expect it. But I, I wanted to work for NASA. Like when I was in college as a physics major, really into science. I’m, like sci fi, like, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and any kind of shit like that. I like, most people probably wouldn’t expect that, I guess, when they meet me. And I’m, if I have free time, and I’m like, studying something, it’s probably like science or astronomy, AI. I’m pretty interested in nowadays. So that I’m interested in these kinds of topics, I guess.



Brad: Yeah. I don’t know if that’s surprising. I think you know, you’re a smart guy. So, you want to learn, what are you thinking about? Like AI? NASA? What are some burning questions that is going on with you?



Darren: I’m curious, I’m really curious about like space exploration. Like, when we’re going to get to Mars, if we’re going to colonize Mars? How we’re going to expand from there, what the next step is, are we going to set up like, extra? Are we ever going to get outside the solar system? Are we going to send things to other stars or galaxies, like the big picture kind of things really interests me. And then AI, with what’s going to happen when we reach super intelligence or general AI. When that happens, maybe those two things are linked. Maybe we can use AI for space exploration, that kind of stuff.



Brad: I think they’re most likely linked. One of my favorite blogs is waitbutwhy.com. He goes into a lot about Elon Musk and the space exploration and I mean, Elon wants to spit send a million folks to Mars by like 2050. He said, the thing very recently, I’m a pro, like I’m 100% of pro AI person, like I see like disinformation, the potential atomic warfare, just all the things, climate change, that are going on in the world. And from my perspective, I see like, oh, humanity’s kind of drawing dead here, like we need to do something. And I think AI is an out.



Darren: We can either like use it and accept it, or it’s kind of it’s going to be an awkward relationship otherwise, and I mean, AI nowadays is getting super strong and narrow and small fields that can do almost anything better than a human. Just this year, I was paid to play a poker AI which proved to be superhuman, like, basically played against the bot that was very, very good. And it had learned only by playing itself, it wasn’t shown anything. It was just a neural network where it, it learned from its own mistakes and played against itself and billions of times and, and got to be better or as good as the best player in the world



Brad: How did you do versus the bot?



Darren: It’s interesting because I played when it first started playing kind of, and it was really bad in the beginning, so it was still learning and I was smashing it and then he got better pretty quickly over like a week. It went from being really bad to breakeven, kind of against me in six max cash. It’s interesting, though, they use, they use a system that you play like 5000 hands and then they use some mathematical formula. They extrapolated as if you played 50,000 ends, and they take out locks so I think I won like 20 big blinds per 100 or something. But after the thing, it appears I got lucky and I actually I don’t really understand that stuff over my head, but um, it was it was strong. It was a very strong opponent. There’s something like very cold and scary about playing instant AI and losing. It’s not human and it’s, it’s a little strange. It’s a strange feeling.



Brad: Yeah, I can imagine. It’s, it’s pretty funny though. You, you play your five game hands. Your, you celebrate your 20 bigs per 100. They’re like, no, no, you just ran good. We extrapolated it and you broke. Actually, you got crushed. That’s funny. Do you have any fears about online poker in AI? Because I



Darren: Oh, absolutely. I think online poker is on its last legs, kind of because of AI, I think we’re not really far away from a bot that can deal with real time adjustments, kind of that that’s the, like, bots excel in set parameters. Like if you bots, no one plays heads up sit and goes anymore, heads up, turbo sin goes because it’s the same, it’s the same thing every time a bot can figure it out pretty quickly and be superhuman at it. What bots struggle with is something like a tournament where you put an eight handed with all these different stack sizes, it can’t really adjust for that on the fly. And you can’t, you can’t spend a bunch of time running one sim on a table that has 15 big blinds, 25 big blinds, 40 big blinds like that. It’s, every situation is different at a tournament, which is kind of why tournaments are the last place left kind of where there’s not that many superhuman bots, I don’t know if there’s a super human bot that could play tournaments. But if you look at high stakes cash games online nowadays, they’re probably riddled with bots. And I mean that these sites are spending millions of dollars to try to prevent them, but they’re still there. And if it’s not a bot, it can be somebody playing and using real time assistance, they can have a button next to them on a computer and they can check it as they’re playing with stuff like that out there. I think online poker is doomed to be honest.



Brad: Yeah, I, I mean, it’s, it’s obviously existential, the, there was a similar thing, I think in backgammon where shockingly, people used to gamble big online at backgammon, but then they you know, a bot comes out that just plays perfectly and crushes everybody and boom, online backgammon is done forever.



Darren: Yeah, chess, chess, similar thing like it. There’s no one playing online chess for money, because it’s a lot about like, how readily available the bot is to get for a person playing. Like right now, I think for poker, it’s probably, it’s not quite there yet that you could get a real time bot to help you play online. But within a couple years, I would guess that that software’s out there and people can use it.



Brad: Is it interesting that human nature circling back to the AI thing, and he just humans, effectively being doomed over, over the long term, at our current trajectory, trajectory? Like once the bots infiltrate the games, it’s game over, like, is it going to be bot versus bot, like, they’re not even going to get action, they’re creating a thing that kills what they’re trying to take advantage of. Which is ironic to me.



Darren: Just people using the bots to squeeze on money out of the game on the things I mean, to be optimistic or like romantic about it, I guess. We do get to see how the game should be played. Which I think there, there is something beautiful in that that we, as the bots learn and they get better, we get to see the final version of the game. I can do, I don’t have to watch it AlphaGo documentary about that bot that played go, pretty interesting. The best player in the world play this game against the bot and he’s just shocked and like, humbled by the how good the bot plays and the creativity and things like that. And we see that in poker too, where it now at the at the highest level on these 100ks, 250ks. Guys are basically mimicking how bots play. And the bots have found the red sizing’s the bots use these mixed strategies. And people are rolling dice during hands to randomize their decisions so they can mimic a bot, like we didn’t nobody knew about that five years ago. So, it is interesting to be educated by these bots, but they will take over online.



Brad: Yeah, that education comes with a dire, dire cost.



Darren: Yeah.



Brad: Probably about this. It’ll probably all coincide with online poker being legalized in the states just fine.



Darren: Just as we get it, it’s over.



Brad: Yeah, the final kick in the ass.



Darren: It is nice, I guess. If it’s legal in the States and someone’s botting like now that it’s regulated, and it’s in the US, I think you could like arrest the guy and take them to jail. Like that’s never really a threat when you’re playing on like party poker or something. But if a guy’s in Indiana and he’s using a bot to cheat people online, you could go put them in jail, I think which is a more of a deterrent than, than just taking your money.



Brad: Yeah, the downside is are these people like VPN-ing from like, some other country and then you have like, how do you extradite them and there there’s just a ton, a ton of issues. It’s very unfortunate and your thoughts mere my own, that yeah, online poker eventually becomes doomed. I don’t know, what sort of timeframe would you say?



Darren: I say five years. I’d say probably four to five years, it would be done. I’d be surprised if it lasts longer than that.



Brad: This is a very uplifting, podcast interview guys.



Darren: I don’t play much online anymore, so it doesn’t really affect me too much. But sorry though, if you’re a big online grinder. I don’t know.



Brad: I mean,



Darren: There will always be idiots on there playing who don’t know or don’t care. So, there will always be money there. Just the entire ecosystem will probably become people cheating, beating those people.



Brad: Do you think you could change the structures of the of the games to mess with the bots? Or do you think they would just learn so fast that it wouldn’t matter?



Darren: I think eventually, the bots would just become stronger at adjusting to the dynamics. But in any format, where the parameters are set from the beginning, are very easy for a bot to learn. It doesn’t matter what the parameters are, they can still learn it. I probably played a lot online. The last thing I played was probably like 2014, or 13, or something. And even back then, you couldn’t play hyper turbo sit and goes because, it was bots, it’s very easy for them to solve one on one format. So even back then you couldn’t play heads up. I can only imagine what it looks like now. Like, do they even have heads up sitting goes online, anymore? Do they run? Like I have, no, I would guess no. And if yes, at high stakes, you’re playing a bot?



Brad: Yeah, I don’t know if they run either. I mean, I live in Atlanta, Georgia. So, it’s like, there’s no online, there’s actually very minimal live poker. For me, it’s like a poker dead zone. So plus, we haven’t had anything like real and regulated for such a long time.



Darren: Right. So, live poker will always be there. And I don’t think bots will kill live poker.



Brad: Oh, for sure. Like live poker, just, I think live poker in general, although you get less volume, the skill level is so much less, even at whatever I mean, 2k 3k some 5k tournaments, like the skill level and a 5k tournament, sometimes is way less than six max, you know, 500NL online game.



Darren: For sure. Yeah, definitely.



Brad: Yeah.



Darren: And even with all the tools out there, the coaching, the software, the rotten ones videos, whatever you want. The, the process of like consuming that knowledge, like, internalizing it, getting in a live game and executing it properly is, is harder than people think. I’ve kind of realized that as I’ve done some coaching that like, it’s very easy for me to tell somebody where they went wrong, where they made a mistake and what they should do differently. That’s easy. The hard part is getting somebody to do that in the game repeatedly, like the actual execution of these, these theories or poker stuff that you learn online, and then getting in a live game and doing it, it is harder than people think. And people mess up. So, there’s always going to be human error, which makes the games good.



Brad: And lack of data, you know. Just collecting hand histories, reviewing a database and live like it’s arduous. It’s annoying, almost nobody does it. So, when you have a lack of data, you know, like somebody goes to you for coaching, it can be hard to even pinpoint where folks are going wrong or what their biggest leaks are, specifically because you can’t just do a database analysis and pull up some hands and show them exactly what’s happening.



Darren: Yeah, unless they’re playing online. It’s like one lot. One live hand history doesn’t tell you that much. And you have to kind of, when I do the coaching, I don’t enjoy it too much. But I try to find like common themes. If the guy’s making the same mistake in the same spot. Like that’s kind of the big stuff you want to focus on. But then as soon as you kind of get that worked out, something else will pop up. You know, it’s tough. It’s like a leaking boat.



Brad: Right. Long live live poker.



What is up my loyal chasing poker greatness listener? Coach Brad here and I just wanted to take a moment to ask you a simple question. How many times have you heard my guests and I speak passionately about the benefits of poker coaching? You get to expand your poker network, receive expert feedback you can rely on, and have your burning questions answered by a trusted mentor. Which brings me to the poker Power Hour, a series of 100% free, live one-hour poker webinars, master classes and hand history breakdowns that kick off each and every Wednesday evening at 8pm Eastern Standard Time. The poker Power Hour will be led by me, coach Brad, as well as some of your favorite chasing poker greatness guests. It will be your weekly guide for helping you plug your leaks, skyrocket your poker growth, expand your network of crushers, and inevitably win more money on the green felt. The poker power hour is premium content and live only. There will be no free replays or view on demand and the content will eventually be released as paid training only. So, head to enhanceyouredge.com, opt in to the poker power hour and get for free today what you’ll have to pay for later. Once again, to catch the poker power hour every single week, head to enhanceyouredge.com and join the email newsletter. Now, back to the show.



Brad: What would you say you got four WPT titles. What’s your most memorable one?



Darren: Definitely the first one I would say. I had final table that tournament before I Borgata. I got fifth I think a couple of years before and that was my first major live win, still my biggest score. I haven’t, I think it was like 848 or one more than that. I had my whole family there because it was, in like an hour from where I was living at the time. I was living in Philly I think, or Jersey and everyone was there. Outright win. Biggest score. First title, that, I will always remember that.



Brad: Yeah, I can imagine. What was going through your mind? Like when you, when you took it down.



Darren: I was pretty calm in the moment. It was like a weird dynamic. One guy had all the chips at the table. I collared him. And then so we both have like 100 big blinds and the other guys have the 20 and kind of, you know you’re going to be heads up against the guy probably get heads up. Big page on back then that I think the second was 500 versus like 850. We just played it. So it’s like an intense heads up match against a pretty good player where I ran well, and I mean, it’s, it’s alive heads up match. It’s like 50 hands. So funny how that works. And yeah, I think I cooler than the last hand and kind of knew what was coming. And my handheld news was awesome. It wasn’t like going nuts or anything. But it was like a calming like, I never feel like I want to say excited, I feel more relief When I win a poker tournament is like, relieved that I won like I’m going in expecting to win. It’s not always going to happen. I can play poorly or get unlucky. But I feel relief anytime I want to progress. I’m not like Simon,



Brad: Does that translate to other areas of your life as well, like sports or competitions that feeling of relief when you win?



Darren: I think so. I think the better you are at something, the more that relief feeling comes. If I, if I do something I’m not good at, and I, when I get like more excited about like basketball and I’m like winning. I’m like, celebrate, I’m happy because I suck at basketball. But if you spend a lot of time and try to get good at something, then you kind of have higher expectations. And I think that’s linked to that feeling of relief, especially in the WPT, right? I’m getting these final tables with a lot of like random players. I’m going to be pretty upset if I don’t do my best. And I’m, I shouldn’t be like patting myself on the back for winning. I should, I should be relieved that I won. Because that’s what I expected to happen.



Brad: When you fall short. What does that feel like? Do you feel, you know, how do you feel when you don’t take the tournament down and you feel like you should.



Darren: If its luck running bad, it really doesn’t bother me. If it’s myself. I could have played better I made mistakes. That’s the it really bothers me and it sticks with me. And I mean, I’ll be thinking about that stuff for months after the tournament is a missed opportunities are running through that hands in my head, could have done this, should have done that, that, that happens to me a lot huge. And I’m honestly, I’ve done that. A lot of times it final tables, I probably have one six, if I played better. I mean, that’s on me. I mean, I’ve, I’ve made mistakes three and four handed in these things. And they bothered me for months. But I think that’s like a quality a lot of good players have is that their mistakes, stick with them. And they kind of try to internalize what happened and not let it happen again. But yeah, it should bother you. I think if you get in a big spot and you don’t play your best.



Brad: Yeah, the pain of making a mistake is way worse than executing and doing what you’re supposed to do and winning. And you’re absolutely right. I would say like the top competitors, especially in most fields, if they make a mistake that’s going to, that’s going to stick with them. Like they’re going to dream about that mistake and how they can do better next time.



Darren: Yeah, and in poker, there’s so many in every hand. There’s so many branches and decision points and it’s easy and I think it’s okay to make small mistakes. It’s really the big ones. And on nowadays, it’s everything’s on live stream, everything’s amplified, and at the final stage of the tournament, it’s you’re playing for high stakes. I mean, these are hundreds of 1000s of dollars on these decisions. So, there is a monetary penalty.



Brad: Yeah, your first WPT title. You’re playing a heads up, heads up tournament for 350k. That’s, that’s pretty big. Let’s transition a little bit because I know you’ve had an experience this year that is not good. And I like to get into that, if you if you want to tell that story.



Darren: Sure, I was in, I was in Vegas, I just played the LAPC final table in Vegas. I think it was in March. Got third. Stan was staying to play a couple more events. They have like some events at the Wynn and my wife’s at home. I’m in a, I’m sleeping Vegas middle night. My phone goes off that the alarm in the house is going on. So, it’s like, I know it’s like 3am that home call my wife, what’s going on? Like, I don’t know, I think somebody tried to break in. So, what happened was this guy, he tried to, tried all the doors. He tried to like cut in through the window and break in, eventually broke into my car, got my garage door opener. Open the garage, tried to come in through the garage, the alarm went off and he ran away. So, this happened. I want to say it’s like March 15. Obviously, I’m freaked out. My wife is freaked out. I canceled the rest of my tournaments fly home. Then, over the next couple days, we’re kind of trying to piece together what happened. The garage door opener is missing in my car. So, this guy still has it and he’s still on the loose. We don’t know if he’s going to come back. So, spend a lot of effort, money, putting in cameras, everything, making security tighter. And then March 21st, I guess? Yeah, it was the day after my daughter’s second birthday. My wife and I are both out during the day. He comes back, my big babysitter’s home and my daughter, he comes to the front door with a gun. Two o’clock broad daylight afternoon comes to the front door. The gun tells the babysitter were there and keep his money. And she does. She didn’t know what I did. Or she had no clue. So, this 19-year-old girl that knows nothing. He looks around the house for money quickly, doesn’t find anything. Ends up putting my daughter in a bedroom by herself, locks the babysitter in a bathroom and then runs away. And it’s two o’clock in the afternoon. I live in a pretty normal neighborhood. There’s a lot of witnesses and stuff. People have cameras. People walking their dogs like he’s spotted going to be caught.



Brad: Was he wearing a mask or anything? a mask?



Darren: And when you hear more about his story, he was like desperate in a bad place with drugs. He owed money. Gambling, I think. But he had actually played poker Borgata a lot one too, and saw I had done well there, Googled my address. And for some reason was hell bent on robbing me. It made multiple trips to town.



Brad: Wow. That’s very scary.



Darren:  He gets caught a couple days later. And just now, last month, the final sentence and came and he got 13 years.



Brad: 13 years. That’s a long time. I guess. Did you hear his side? I guess at the testimony, did you go to the trial?



Darren: Yeah, I went to a lot of the court stuff and it’s kind of what I expected to hear. Like, he knew I was through poker. He was desperate. He was trying to, he owed money. He was trying to, he thought I’d have money sitting around the house, tried to steal it to help himself.



Brad: Yeah.



Darren: I was very regretful, remorseful. Like, I don’t like pity him because he did an awful thing to my family and, and we’re scarred and whatnot. But, he’s 24 years old and was in a bad place and made a bad, a really bad decision. And now he’s getting fully punished for it, where he’s not going to go to jail till he’s like 35.



Brad: For anybody listening here that maybe does keep large sums of money in their house, like what would you tell them? After this experience? Do you think there is anything that could have been done differently?



Darren: No, I mean, I, I guess the one thing I could have that I did afterwards, and people should be vigilant about is if you’re a well-known player to try to keep your personal information off the internet, which is pretty hard. I didn’t realize that if you just type in generalized address, my address would pop up. So, I’ve taken steps to try to erase that from the internet afterwards. But it’s pretty hard to do. And there’s a lot of these sites that kind of put your address out there without your permission and there’s always going to be state tax records if you own your house with your, with your name on the property. So, kind of trying to get rid of that stuff, I would say would be a step, in having security alarm, locking your doors. I don’t think most people poker players even leave big sums of money sitting around and once they do it’s in a safe or it’s in a safe deposit box somewhere like it’s not going to be easily steal able. So, I don’t think that kind of stuff I would do differently. I would just be, if you’re any one of a name, I would I would check to make sure there’s not too much stuff out there about where you live, stuff like that. 



Brad: Yeah, it’s, it’s pretty brutal. It’s, it’s obvious that, you know, as successful poker players not just going to have like, you know, coffee table with all of their tournament winnings in it, you open it and take all the money out. Right?



Darren: Yeah.



Brad: And, and if you are robbing somebody that you know, has a lot of money, and they do have it in the house in a safe. This is a, this is a dangerous proposition, I think, for the robber, because most likely, they’ve, there’s other measures in place, and I



Darren: You have a safe, maybe you have weapons. You know, it’s it could have gone a lot worse, honestly, like, I got pretty lucky. I’m a poker player, I run through possibilities, like simulations of how this happens. And there’s a lot of different ways it goes down. Like, I don’t know, if he tried to come when I wasn’t home. If I’m home, it’s a lot different in this situation. If I’m home alone, it’s different. If I’m home, my daughter’s home. It, who does he get to first? What room am I in?



Brad: Does he take you hostage? I mean,



Darren: My daughter hostage?



Brad: Yeah.



Darren: There’s a lot of different ways it could have gone. The police get here while he’s still in the house with my daughter in a bit. Like there’s a lot of things that could have happened differently.



Brad: Yeah.



Darren: So, I got lucky in that regard. But it’s still, it’s still really tough for my family, because I travel a lot, you know, and after this happens, my wife surely doesn’t want to be home alone. So, I mean, that’s, it’s going to stick with it for a while.



Brad: Of course, she doesn’t. And like in our pre-interview, I told you a similar thing happened to me. And what ended up happening was my friend’s little sister got robbed or got stood up at gunpoint, like and made to go through the house where, you know, the person thought I was there, but I was not there. So, it was my friend’s little sister that got held at gunpoint and like she, you know, she had PTSD for a long time. She didn’t want to be in a house, she would cry if she was by herself. And she was like 18, I think she was 18 or 19 years old when that went down. It’s, it’s just a brutal, brutal, brutal thing.



Darren: Yeah, similar to this babysitter. I mean, she’s 19 years old, and she’s got to carry this rest of her life now. And she did nothing to deserve that that’s just this guy’s it’s like, just flak from this guy’s bad decision where he, he was just thinking about himself getting the money and not the lives he’s affecting, and the danger and all that.



Brad: Yeah, it goes back to, you know, humans typically acting in their own self-interest without analyzing, you know, that’s the only variable that they look at. So, what do you think of joy? Let’s just change gears again to



Darren: Joy?



Brad: Joy, happiness in your poker career. What’s the first thing that comes to mind?



Darren: I mean, winning tournaments, I mean, I get, I get joy from just being in the zone and playing well for multiple days like that, that makes me happy, executing well. If I can play a day of poker and bag and I made one mistake, or zero mistakes, in my head, I feel pretty good about that. There’s always going to be stuff I could do better. So, I’m, I’m not saying I play perfect poker or anywhere near it. But, if I do the best of my ability in a day, that gives me joy, making the right decision. Obviously, winning a tournament is great. But more the execution and playing well kind of gives me gives me joy.



Brad: Yeah, the process, process versus results.



Darren: And there’s something, when you’re in one of those states, where you I’m sure you’ve had it, you’re playing live and things going well, you’re winning and make doing the right thing. That’s a good state of like flow or whatever to be in, I enjoy that.



Brad: Yeah. The world slows down and you’re just a state of calm, where you’re picking up all the bits of information and you’re processing them well, and you’re taking action on what you know, like that’s, I think that’s exactly what yeah, that’s the ideal state. What’s the most unexpected thing that’s come from your poker journey?



Darren: Probably all the travel, I guess. I wasn’t, I was never like a big traveler when I was younger. But when I started playing online, in college, I would play these satellites, these PokerStars satellites, and be 500,000 and go play EPT or Ozzy millions or some event in Europe. And I was 18-19 years old, and I would just go. I would play and I would go and I would skip class for two weeks and I would play I played mostly EPTs. And then I get to this point now where I like I’m 32 years old, 33 years old, and I never think of myself as like a traveler, but yeah, I’ve played on six continents bend the like 30 countries like that, I didn’t expect that, that I would become like a worldly traveler. That’s never been a goal or anything like that. But it is a side effect. I guess from playing these poker tournaments that you get to travel the world, you get to go to these places you wouldn’t go. I would never go visit Monte Carlo, Monaco and just for the hell of it, I don’t think but then there are four or five times for poker and it’s, it’s something that wouldn’t, wouldn’t have been in my life if not for poker.



Brad: Any favorite stop that comes to mind right off top of your head?



Darren: I like, I like Australia a lot. I almost went this year. Ozzy millions for sure. I went when I was 19 actually hadn’t been back. I like that one. Prague. I like a lot. Prague in December. It’s cold. But it was nice. And Montreal is probably one of my favorite cities as well, like Montreal.



Brad: Really? Montreal?



Darren: Yes, you go in the summer. It’s better. But the city beautiful people. It’s good.



Brad: It can be cold in the winter. I’ve heard? 



Darren: Absolutely.



Brad: They’re very, very cool.



Darren: The casino there to playground poker does a great job. If you ever get to play poker up there, I’d recommend it.



Brad: Nice. What is your process for regularly improving your game look like?



Darren: A lot of like self-review with hands I played where I get, I kind of work through it in my head and go down different avenues decision making, would this be better? Because I think with, I would say, in a lot of these software events, I use it exploitative strategy. So, kind of like getting in these hands and trying to figure out how people would react to certain things I do. And would be, would doing something differently get a different reaction? What would this person do? A lot of those types of thought processes were less of the playing with PIO solver and finding the right sizing and frequency less of that stuff and more specific hand review where, I try to make an effort really even when I play against weak players to kind of understand how they think. And a lot of top players I think don’t do that they kind of have their set strategy. And they know they’re going to beat this guy because they’re better than them. But they don’t actually put themselves in this weak player shoes and try to imagine what he’s doing at the table. So, I’m really trying to think like, what is this guy trying to accomplish? How did he, how was he playing? And then eventually, you can kind of figure out their strategy. And my goal is always to be, I’m able to tell you what he will do in a, in a spot with a certain hand. Like, that’s kind of my goal when I play against those weak players to be able to predict what they’ll do. And then once you know that, you can build an exploitative strategy around it.



Brad: When you have a hypothesis, you know, where you have a question like that, if I were to do X, how would this player respond? If I were to whatever it is, over bet the turn? How, what’s their reaction? How do you test that theory, and then sort of internalize the results? 



Darren: It’s tough because you will end up like putting players into like baskets or categories, kind of. Because there’s even among weaker players there, here’s passive players as aggressive players. And then among that two, people don’t play the same all day, they vary. And part of it is emotional, especially weaker players, things are going well, they’re playing one way they lose a hand, things go another way. So, it’s tough. And there’s not all the data out there. It’s just every hand you’ve seen, there’s no more data than that. So, I would say paying attention to every hand is paramount when you’re building one of these hypotheses, like any showdown, any sizing, I get incredibly tilted if, if I’m like, turned around or something and a hand is going and I miss the flop sizing or something like that, that kind of pisses me off, because like any, any kind of sizing thing information there. And that’s data that goes to showdown and see I missed them. So, building, building data and like your hypothesis, and then once you, you always have to think like how confident am I in this? Like, if you’re not if you’re not fully confident, it may not be worth it to make this turn over bet bluff that you think he will fall due. Because it’s too risky. But sometimes things line up and you’re confident enough in it that you can, you can really make, you can make a wild explorer to play and that’s some of the prize Cygnus poker I play.



Brad: I love that and it’s paying attention, like seeing a see bet sizing and the thing is about people is typically people are predictable. They’re not your regular recreational player is not rolling dice to randomize their decisions. They’re going to be very predictable. So just seeing a sizing in a pot that you’re not in, just free information that’s sitting out there. A player see bets one half of the pot, the hand goes to showdown, and he’s got a marginal portion of his range. You can be fairly certain, the next time they see bet half pot, they’re probably going to have a marginal portion of the range and you get more, you get



Darren: You also draw inference that if he bets full pot, he has a strong part of



Brad: Exactly. 75%. Exactly. So just getting those little bits of data, little bits of information can tell you a ton, especially in weaker tournaments. And if you’re wondering



Darren: And live stuff too. And even live stuff tells something like that.



Brad: Oh, absolutely.



Darren: Yeah, I made a big bluff in the World Series main event, based on like a recreational player double checking his hole cards, like a third diamond came on the tourney, he double checked, and I was 100% confident it was sincere. They know a lot of people when they have a flush there, and they check it anyway and just do pee or whatever, oh, diamond check, I have a flush.



Brad: Right.



Darren: I was 100% confident he was doing it earnestly. He was checking to see the diamond. And I check raise the turn big and misses, the diamond does a call in the river and I overbet bluff all in. And in the World Series main event, like you don’t really want to be doing that against rec players like necessarily, but I was so confident in the fact that he didn’t have a flush, that I knew this was going to work.



Brad: And like all these little pieces of data, like they deduce the range of the people you’re playing against, like they give you information. And like physical tells, I did an interview with Fader Holz about a month ago, and Fader said something that I had never thought of, we talked about physical tells, because he’s a big physical tells guy like he studied them and thought about them a lot and human behavior. And in the super high rollers a lot of the best players, they take the same amount of time for each decision, so that there’s no timing tells or anything like that. But he said that you can tell when people think. Like, their face looks different when they’re thinking versus when they’re like running out the claiming reweighted. Right. And he mentioned like a prominent high stakes player that is fell into that exact category. And I never thought of that. And I thought, wow, like that is extremely smart, extremely smart physical tell just how the tension people hold in their face.



Darren: Yeah, or even eye movement, stuff like that, when a guy’s thinking he might look differently than when a guy just knows what he’s doing and is waiting to act.



Brad: Yeah, I think physical tells are probably the most underrated aspect of live poker, as far as like, people don’t put enough study time into thinking about human behavior, like they should.



Darren: Not to the, not to the general public, though. The average civilian thinks for like wizards, you know, read some guys. Like, you know, the perception out in the world. 



Brad: Right.



Darren: Everything is live tells, you know,



Brad: Yeah, he blinked twice and held his breath when he bet the river.



Darren: It’s funny how the, the public’s perception of what it actually is. Yeah, I would say not a lot of people spend much time studying that. I know, there’s been a couple courses and things like that. I’ve never, I’ve never actually seen any of them. But I know there’s some stuff out there. But it’s not something that people spend a lot of time on.



Brad: It’s human behavior. And it’s a high-pressure situation. And when you with high stakes, and when you add all those together, people go back to their default, like it’s really hard to act contrary, in a spot where there’s all this pressure, like it’s really hard to, you know, whatever the physical tell is, like glare at somebody, when you have the nuts, right, like just as a basic human behavior. So, tons of value thinking about live tells.



Darren: Yeah, and it’s tough. I mean, one of the things about solving tells or making plays off of them, it’s tough to generalize and say, this tell applies to everybody, especially with things like breathing and shaking. Like some people breathe heavily when they have a big hand. Some people breathe heavily when they’re bluffing, their hands shaking, like, what might be true for one player may not apply for another. So, I try to be pretty specific player to player when I have, when I’m looking for a lot of tell.



Brad: And it circles back to paying attention to everything that’s happening at your table every single hand. Because like you mentioned before, you know, there are plenty of ways people can lose money. Like, you can be very creative on the ways that you lose money playing poker. And if you put everybody that’s a losing player into the same bucket, and think that they’re all going to make the same mistakes, you’re just setting yourself up to get kicked in the nuts because you really have to hone in on what people are doing wrong. So, you can exploit that specific thing.



Darren: And I think most, most pro players, even good pro players would admit that they could pay more attention at the table. Nowadays, everybody’s on their phone, check on sports or whatever where I’m sure most pros would admit, oh yeah, if I paid more attention, I would make more money. And that’s always been something I’m kind of like not willing to budge on where I’m pretty vigilant about paying attention at all, all times, and I want to bring my best. And if I’m missing a little bit of edge because I was digging around on my phone, that bothers me. That tells me I want to, I want to be my best every time I play. So, I try to make an effort on that.



Brad: I would say that that shows and you know your results and your path in the poker world.

 

It’s time for balanced ranges. The game where you get to decide whether my chasing poker greatness guest is bluffing or telling the truth. Here’s how it works. I’m going to ask them at 10 rapid fire questions and they can either A, tell the truth. Or B, tried to run a bluff. If they fool you with a bluff, they get three points. If you think they’re bluffing, and they’re really telling the truth, they get two points. And if you read them like a book, they get bubkis. 24 hours after each new episode releases, I’ll be dropping Twitter polls where you get to cast your vote. Simply follow @enhanceyouredge to join the fun. One more time that’s @enhanceyouredge on Twitter. And now balanced ranges.



Brad: Darren, you ready to rock?



Darren: Yeah, let’s do it.



Brad: Number one, how many pull ups can you do in a row?



Darren: 15.



Brad: Invisibility or super strength?



Darren: Invisibility.



Brad: Texting or talking?



Darren: Talking.



Brad: Do you snore?



Darren: No.



Brad: What’s this fastest speed you’ve driven a car?



Darren: 150



Brad: Favorite season?



Darren: Fall.



Brad: Dawn or dusk?



Darren: Dawn.



Brad: Favorite ice cream flavor?



Darren: Mint chocolate chip.



Brad: Number nine. Your last Halloween costume?



Darren: Mummy.



Brad: The mummy?



Darren: Yeah.



Brad: All right. Final one. What type of milk do you put in your cereal?



Darren: Almond milk



Brad: Almond milk, for the win. All right. Thank you, sir. 

Imagine, so imagine there’s a carbon copy of you. They’re 20 years old. Just getting into the game. If you could sit down have a conversation with them. What wisdom would you share?



Darren: That my kid wouldn’t listen to anything that, let me start with that.



Brad: Yeah.



Darren: 20-year-old me didn’t want to hear anything from anybody. But if I would listen, I guess, I would say to tell play more in that like I was, I’ve never been like a greedy player in the sense that like I’ve quit good games. And I’ve never been a volume player where like somebody’s like, oh, I have this good game, like I’m going to play every day all day. 20-hour sessions, like, I was never like that, where I played pretty low volume. And in retrospect, now 13 years later, the games are a lot tougher online is almost gone. I would tell myself play more, play, play more online. Try to play higher, faster, play more, you’re in these good cash games, these good big cash games, don’t just book your win and pick up. That’s what I’ve always been like that in cash games where I’ve quit good games where I’m getting a little tired. I’ve played eight hours, I’m winning. I pick up. I’m not like, I know nowadays, people are greedy. And I say greedy, but efficient players. They just won’t quit. They’ll just play 30 hours. If it’s a good game, you know, I never had that in me. So, I guess I would tell myself to be a little greedier. And I think if I could have done that, maybe, maybe I’d be in a better financial position right now. I would guess I would have made more money. Although for me, I did always bother me if my play started to decline in the session. Like that would tilt me to the point where I wouldn’t be able to play. So, like, I know it’s like quality versus quantity. You could play more if I played more at a 90% level, I would make more money. But playing at that 90% level bothered me so much that I kind of couldn’t do it. And that was always my issue with, with playing a lot. Like I’ve always been kind of a low volume. Even now. I played about 50 tournaments a year. When I played online, I played 3000 or 4000 tournaments in my whole career on PokerStars, which is like, we’ll play that in a month. So, I’ve never been a high-volume player. So, I guess I would tell myself to play more.



Brad: So, when you’re spinning it up to 500k, like well, what did your daily look like, like in the glory days?



Darren: I played 100 ribeye, 50 ribeye, but I probably play five or six tournaments. I was always like, I wasn’t a multi table guy. I would play two or three tournaments at a time, four maybe on a Sunday, I’d play a couple more. But if you were to look at my results, like source code, or something, I’m like a high buy in, high ROI, low volume.



Brad: How do you, where does this amount like sheer amount of focus come from that allows you to, you know, play two tournaments, be fully involved, 100% focus, where in the live setting focus on every single hand is that blessing, do you work at that?



Darren: I would say it’s natural, I have like, whatever the opposite of like ADD is, I have that. Where, I can sit and do a very long attention span, like even as a child I always have. So, I guess it comes from that. I see it now with my daughter. Like it’s crazy. She’s two years old. And she’ll sit down and play a game for an hour or an hour and a half. And then kids run around crazy. And she’s like, very focused. And it’s cool to see that. And I’ve always kind of had that, where I have no problem sitting, doing something difficult for long periods of time. And I enjoy it if it’s pay off at the end or there’s it doesn’t have to be monetary, but I’m some sort of like reward at the end. I get and I get very obsessed with things where like, I don’t like to dabble in, like hobbies and whatnot. Like if I do something I’m kind of like all in and I want to be the best at it. And I’m going to obsess about it nonstop until I’m very good at it. So, I have that as well.



Brad: That’s a blessing. Very great blessing.



Darren: Blessing and a curse though. They’re like, I can’t I can’t play video games. You know. I can’t, I can’t dabble and play a video game. Oh, like you won’t see me for six months. You know, I can’t like play a little bit.



Brad: Yeah, your call in or not. Are you, are you all in on anything right now other than poker?



Darren: I’m trying to get all in on golf. But it’s not. It’s not quite there yet, where I was trying to book some bets where I had never played golf before last year to kind of get really good in a year. And people didn’t want to bet me so but that didn’t happen. I’m not quite all in, but I’m getting there.



Brad: Yeah, you, you’ve had too good of results in other areas of your life to, for people to book action against you.



Darren: That’s kind of what happened in the negotiations. People were concerned about things I’ve done in the past that I could probably do this.



Brad: Not the worst thing. Not, not the worst thing. Probably be worse if you just got tons of action piled up against you.



Darren: I win, but I don’t think I can do this. 



Brad: Who am I? Why do they think this about me? What’s something people would be surprised to learn you’re horrible at?



Darren: Let’s see. Directions. I guess I can’t, I can’t get anywhere without GPS. I’m really bad directionally both like driving. And if I walked in, I’m trying to get around like a shopping mall or something like I’ll go in a store, walk out, go the wrong way. And just never be seen again. I’m at a loss.



Brad: I’m exactly the same.



Darren: Once, I was in high school once and I ended up in Ireland and Pennsylvania ended up in New York, calling my parents from a gas station payphone 50 miles away in a different state. Yeah, I don’t know. Like,



Brad: I don’t know what it is. But in any area, like in video games, I have a friend who, we were at commerce casino and we were driving around LA. And like, if I get to an area that’s even remotely unfamiliar, I’m done. Like I, the world spins, I have no idea where I came from, or which way is east or west and he like knows the exact direct route back after like, 20 minutes of driving. It’s like a fucking superpower with no GPS. I’m like, who are you, man?



Darren: It’s amazing people that are good at it. Even my wife, like we were in my hometown where I grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania, like driving around like she’d been there two days and she’s like, no, no turn here. I’m like, I grew up here, but she knew better than I did.



Brad: Yeah.



Darren: It’s amazing. I don’t understand that. I don’t have that. Um, you have to like know your strengths to know your weaknesses. I guess I thank God for GPS and phones and stuff or I’d be dead.



Brad: Oh, yeah, me too. I remember the days before GPS and phones and it was not, not a good thing for me to be out on the roads. And I’m sure your wife is familiar with your deficiency of directions.



Darren: She tells me all about my deficiencies. So, Robert asked what am I good at?



Brad: If you, if you had a magic wand, and could change one thing about poker, what would you change?



Darren: It’s tough. Initially I think like lower the luck aspect of it where like you get more of close to your equity. But then again, you want to, I want to give the weaker players a chance to win. I guess if I did that it would kind of kill the game. So that would be, that would be a poor decision with my manager. I guess, somehow make, I mean, now it’s easy. I will make cash games public again, of course, bam, no private games, that’s easy. But also, the like game selecting and like bomb hunting with, with live cash games and in online cash games, I would make that disappear somehow where I don’t like the cash game ecosystem where pros prey on weaker wrecks and they don’t play against other pros and it’s kind of predatory. I don’t like that aspect of poker, and I love to get rid of that. And nowadays, it’s just getting worse with these privatized games.



Brad: You think the privatized games make things worse, in life, live poker? I would think they would make them better by shutting out the pros they didn’t want in, how does it make them worse?



Darren: Well, you have to think about the guys who are running the games are kind of the worst of these, of these pros, where these are the guys who are willing to be friend and like swindle rec players into these games. And then they block out any pro they don’t want in any pro they bring in, they have their action. So, it kind of just gives one or two people big control, big power. And they’re really taking advantage of these rec players. And the guys were willing to do this usually aren’t good guys. So, it kind of makes it worse, where if it’s a public game, at least it’s fair. I mean, either way, these rec players are going to lose most time. I don’t think they’re necessarily losing more money in the private games. But it’s, at least it’s fair to everybody if it’s public.



Brad: What’s the selling point to like a rec player to go play a private game like better people? Better environment?



Darren: Yeah, better environment, they get to pick where and when they play, which is nice, they have a guaranteed seat to be, oh, show up at two, you have your seat and you do play against the same group of guys, which I think is enjoyable for, for wrecks in cash games, even when I play live cash games. It’s fun, it’s more fun when you play against the same people kind of day in day out. Same jokes, talking about hands you play a couple days ago, that kind of thing. And the one I guess, positive aspect of the private game is they really block out the nitty pro, but he the Rex don’t like playing with that guy, and he’s not in the game.



Brad: Right.



Darren: So that is, that is one aspect where if you have pros in there, they’re going to be good action players, which is more fun than playing against. They’re probably going to lose more of those guys. But, that’s, that’s more fun than playing into the nitty pro who’s waiting for a set to try this.



Brad: Right. Like, it actually is more fun in general. I would imagine, especially to like the recreational players, even if it’s action that they don’t want. Like, even if it’s action where they’re taking the worst of it, even like, you know, I think about a player like Garrett.



Darren: Yeah, that’s a good example.



Brad: Going to give all the action in the world, right. But a lot of most of the time, it’s not the action that you want. He’s fun for the game. But he’s obviously going to be making great decisions, putting people in tough spots. And one of the biggest winners in any game is a



Darren: It’s going to be a three day with super connectors. 300 big blinds deep like do you want that? And then the answer, I guess, for rec players is yes. But yeah, he’s a good example of like a guy who is action can get in those games, and does a good job entertaining the rec players. I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t put him in with the bad guys of the privatized games. But he’s a good example of like an action player.



Brad: Oh, yeah, for sure. And, like, I’ve played against Garrett, a bunch at commerce in LA. And I’ve told the story on this podcast, I think. But there was one time where he threw about me. Every time I opened for about four hours in a row, on my direct left at a full live game. So, it was like, just it was really good for everybody else. Probably not so good for me and Garrett. And,



Darren: Kind of send a message, I guess.



Brad: Yeah, I doubled up twice, like we’re playing 20-40 no limit and I beat him specifically, I think I was up like 11k and he was just like, no, you’re not like, this is not happening. And just like, even somebody open one time and I was like, ah, I’m going to three bet them like what’s he going to do about that? He just flats like, he just flats on the button. I’m like, fuck this guy. Like he’s going to, he just wants to be involved against me. Not a good feeling when somebody wants to be involved against you every single hand.



Darren: They know what they’re doing. That’s not a good player. That’s not good, especially if they’re on your left. I mean, I played with Garrett a couple weeks ago in LA live of the bike and yeah, he’s, he’s an example of a guy who can get in good games, is personable, gives a lot of action, but, but also plays well and wins a lot of money.



Brad: Yeah, and I think that’s like the prototype of who you aspire to be as a high stakes poker player.



Darren: But I will tell you the guys running these private games are not like Garret.



Brad: Oh, yeah, like you said



Darren: When scrambler and meteor and probably not as good. 



Brad: Humans act in their own self-interest, right? Just the fact that they’re locking the game out and will only invite pros that they have action of, I think that just that in and of itself speaks to who they are as human beings.



Darren: Yep, definitely group may agree.



Brad: A couple more questions and we’ll get you out of here. If you could erect a billboard that every poker player had to drive past on the way to the casino before they play cards every day, what would it say?



Darren: Don’t complain at all. There’s just too much complaining and bitching about stuff. Like it’s just negative energy wasted wherever these people would spend, spend that energy trying to get better or focus, they would be a lot better than texting their friends about how terrible someone plays or how bad they run or blah, blah, blah, like just to show up to do job.



Brad: 100,000% there like, I’ve never seen a top pro complain consistently about how bad they run and how bad players are like they just take care of their own business and think positively like, you know, yeah, 100%.
Yeah.



Darren: The latter bothers me even complaining about how bad people are is really the one that bothers me the most, because, because most time that’s like weak or pros or mediocre pros, like you’d have to realize, mediocre pro, you wouldn’t exist if this guy you’re complaining about wasn’t here. See, you’re literally complaining about a guy who’s giving you a livelihood. Like you want to go play against a bunch of top pros. Like, you wouldn’t be complaining then but you’d be getting smashed. And like, do you want to do that? Like, why are you complaining that this guy plays poorly, just because he made you lose one hand like it’s very short sighted. And people don’t get the big picture were complaining about a guy that you need to be there. It’s ridiculous.



Brad: And even sometimes it can be deceptive. Because sometimes people complain about people that own them. And they never take a second to think, why did this happen? Right? Like, where it’s not an obvious recreational player and they play a big pot. And they’re like, ah, this guy plays so bad. Like, look what he did blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and I’m just sitting there thinking like, yeah, he fucking on your face, man. Like, you’re not looking at the spot right?



Darren: But a world class player instead of the wreck clarity that allows the direct player you don’t think he’s capable. And that’s something that can happen like wreck players get lucky every once in a while, and take a really good line. I mean, that’s going to happen just by probability, you know?



Brad: Exactly. When you discount it you like I’m a big fan of learning from experiences. So, when you have an experience, learn from it and say, did I do something wrong? What information were they working with? What did they see me do? Like what led to this event that caused this player to own me? Like, did I mess up? That’s always my first thought is did I do something wrong? And if I did something wrong, how do I not do that in the future?



Darren: Yeah, and it’s a knee jerk reaction. Oh, stupid fish or whatever got me anyway, I get it. But then as long as you make it as long as A, you don’t say that out loud, B, you like make it to the next step of analyzing your play and what happened, then you’re okay, but just some people don’t make it past that, a lot of people don’t make it past that first knee jerk. 



Brad: Yeah, with that. So, I would say most people don’t. And that’s probably you know, that most people don’t. And that’s probably indicative of where they’re going to end up in their poker career over the long term. What’s a project you’re working on right now that’s near and dear to your heart, then it doesn’t have to be poker related?



Darren: Project but just I’m raising my daughter, being with my daughter right now. It’s kind of like consuming everything like seeing when I’m home just seeing her learn things and spending time with her is really near and dear to my heart obviously. It’s nice kind of traveling and then I get excited to come home and be with the family like that’s something that I’m having children like really, really makes evident and like I can’t, even this summer like when I play the World Series I, I was there a two week stint and then like a three week stint and that was almost too much for me to be away where back in my younger days I might stay out there the whole time stay two months but now like I can’t be away from her that long. So just being able to see her and like watch, I compared to AI was watching her learn things watching a human child learn things is amazing. The minute things and they watch and they learn. I’m trying to teach her chess right now which is pretty hilarious. But anything like that with with her is, is my main projects. I guess.



Brad: There’s no more valuable project than our children, right? We’re making sure we, we do a good job as fathers and mothers to raise them in a good way.



Darren: Yeah. And it’s something that’s really tough to understand. I think without having kids yourself. Like before I had kids, I didn’t really get it. And now, now that she’s not that she’s grown up, but now she’s like a real person, and she’s almost three, it’s like, I’m starting to see it.



Brad: And not to put any extra pressure or anything on you. But I’m learning about like the psychology, the Elliott Roe stuff, all the mental game aspect of life, these things that happened in the two to three years old age tend to stick with us as human beings. Like there’s two versions of us like the baby version of us, that is becomes irrationally fear of things that we learned at that age. And then the adult version, don’t always mesh well. So, you know, you got all these little biases that you’re creating in these fears, that you’re teaching your kid that just stay with them for the rest of their, their life.



Darren: I’m interested to see like how that develops as she gets older, and I’m kind of, like, implanting these biases on her and stuff from poker where, like, I’m always skeptical of people. And, like, she’s going to be like, elementary school and think she’s getting scammed. Like, she’s, I’m interested to see how these things play out, because I know I’m going to end up giving her some of these biases.



Brad: Oh, for sure. You can’t help it right? You just, as long as



Darren: You see the worst in people and I don’t give people credit for things. It kind of comes from being in the poker community, you know.



Brad: It can be, I think there, there are on the flip side, you know, there’s a negativity bias in play where we kind of, kind of, obviously, you know, the story that you told earlier is one massive example of just not a good person in the poker community. But on the flip side, you know, they’re really great guys that



Darren: Yeah. I’ve met some of my best friends through poker, and there’s very good people out there. It’s just a matter of weeding through the rest of it.



Brad: And probably something that can only be done through time. You, you learn your lessons and take your lumps at least I did. I did not make great decisions early on in my poker career as far as like the people, you know.



Darren: Yeah.



Brad: All right. Final question. Love to have you on the show today, man. Where can the chasing poker greatness audience find you on the inter webs?



Darren: Twitter is my name on Twitter, and oldmoneyD on Instagram. I don’t post that much. But if I go deep in a tournament or something, I’ll probably let people know. I will be at Borgata tomorrow. So, we got to go to Borgata this weekend. So yeah, I’m excited.



Brad: Nice. Awesome, man. I appreciate your time and energy, loved having this talk. And grateful to share it with the, with the chasing poker greatness audience.



Darren: Thanks, man. Happy to be here.

Thanks for reading this transcript of Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 035: Darren Elias

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