Jon “Apestyles” Van Fleet: $15.8 Million in Tournament Winnings and Online Poker Legend

Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 034

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Welcome to Chasing Poker Greatness. I’m your host the founder of Enhance Your Edge Brad Wilson and today’s guest is an absolute LEGEND of the online poker game, Jon “apestyles” Van Fleet.

Jon is currently #4 in lifetime online poker MTT tournament winnings with a cool $15.8 million.

$5 million+ of that coming from a RIDICULOUS 2 month venture playing $25k MTT’s on GGPoker last November and December (Which you are moments away from hearing all about).

And not only has Jon been crushing tournaments for almost 2 decades, he is also as generous as they come when it comes to helping other folks out and sharing valuable information that probably isn’t in his best interest.

When it comes to MTT poker coaches, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better dude to help you ascend through the poker ranking than Jon (You can check out his course, “The Blueprint” HERE).

In our conversation, you’ll also learn:

– Why structure is paramount to Apestyles success in life.

– Why the game of poker is an amazing example of a meritocracy that is more pure than almost any other life pursuit.

– How he uses PIO to generate heuristics and find patterns he can actually execute at the tables.

– And so much more!

So buckle up, strap in, and get ready for a plethora of GREATNESS BOMBS from world-class tournament CRUSHER Jon Van Fleet

Click any of the icons below, sit back, relax and enjoy my conversation with Jon Van Fleet on Chasing Poker Greatness.

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If this is your first time on the Chasing Poker Greatness website, be sure to check out our groundbreaking poker courses to help sharpen your strategy and profitably implement solid, data-proven solutions to your game today:

Transcription of Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 034: Jon “Apestyles” Van Fleet

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Brad: Well hello there, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to another episode of Chasing Poker Greatness. I’m your host, the founder of, Brad Wilson and today’s guest is an absolute legend of the online game. Jon “Apestyles” Van fleet. Jon is currently number four and lifetime online poker multi table tournament winnings with a cool $15.8 million with 5 million plus of that coming from a ridiculous two-month venture, playing 25k MTTs on GG poker last November and December, which you are moments away from hearing all about. And not only has Jon had been crushing tournaments for almost two decades, he is also as generous as they come when it comes to helping other folks out and sharing valuable information that probably isn’t in his own best self-interest. When it comes to multi table tournament coaches, you’ll also be hard pressed to find a better dude to help you ascend through the poker rankings than Jon. In our conversation, you’ll also learn why structure is paramount to Jon’s success in life, why the game of poker is an amazing example of a meritocracy, that is more pure than almost any other life pursuit, how he uses PIO solver to generate heuristics and find patterns he can actually execute as a human being at the poker tables, and so much more. So, strap in, get ready to rock and roll and consume a plethora of greatness bombs from World Class tournament Crusher, Jon “Apestyles” Van fleet.

Brad: Jon, nice having you on the show. I appreciate you time and energy. How are we doing, sir?

Jon: I had a wild couple months in poker. So, for the last six years or so, I had this kind of setup where I was going to coach during the week and just study with my friends, and then play during series on the weekends and when I felt like it. And that pretty much resulted in me well, for the most part, winning a lot. And also having this variance free income of poker coaching and the coaching really developed my game. And then yeah, in October, there started to be these big, big tournaments on, on GG network, these 25Ks and they were soft. They’re built around a couple whales and a couple VIPs. And I decided I want to give them a shot. Because I think that I’ve, I don’t think that that many players have worked as hard as I have. So, I sold a lot of my action. And, you know, I think I had a total like 25% of myself. And in November went on a huge upswing, like a $2 million upswing.

Brad: It’s pretty good in November.

Jon: In those 25ks. Yeah, it’s the best month I’ve ever had. I mean, on paper it for me, I didn’t actually make 2 million I made, you know, like half a million. Then I’m like, okay, you know, this, this, like, I’m giving away money here. I got to take more of myself. And then yeah, in December, I went on the 1.5 million downswings. Yeah. And, you know, it’s really funny because with poker, I’ve managed to kind of cut out the emotional aspects, like, as much as you can. So, I really focus on mental game, just staying, staying focused on decisions. When I have a bad day, I just look at my hands, move on, willing to try out new things. Man, for this kind of money, for the kind of money that I was playing for, I was starting to get tilted. You know, I was I could, I could tell that my emotions were affected. Now on the good side. It did make me really, really study hard, like every single hand that I lost because I was playing like two tables and I’m not used to that.

Brad: You generally play more.

Jon: Yeah, for sure. And I, so I had time to solve like every single hand that I lost on and, and really pay attention to the ICM, the payout structures of those tournaments.

Brad: What does that process look like for solving a hand?

Jon: PIO solver, like, what I essentially do is, is I ask a specific question like, oh, was this bet? A good, you know, was this, was this bet? A bet that the majority of my like that PIO would take most of the time? Or is this is, this hand more efficient as a check? And then I’ll put the bet sizes that we’re used in the hand to answer that question. But if I have another question, that’s like, what bet size is best on this, on this, on this street, I’ll put in multiple bet sizes. And you have to make sure that you put in bet sizes other than the one that you used, so that you don’t get like noise, like, like false information, because PIO has to be able to make big raises, things like that. But yeah, mainly, it’s about asking objective questions and trying to get answers to those questions.

Brad: And when you’re when you’re ranging, so like, PIO to me is a powerful, yet very dangerous tool. As far as software goes, because you make some false assumptions in a spot against a specific opponent that’s going, you know, whatever answer you get, like you said, it’s going to be a lot of noise. And the answer that it spits out is not going to be an optimal answer. So how do you navigate those waters of like determining a range and then node locking and moving forward from there?

Jon: Well, that’s what people don’t, don’t realize a lot of the times is that any of these solvers are also exploitation machines, because when you reach an equilibrium point, you’re actually maximum exploiting one another. So, when you, if you are to change any of the frequencies on either side, it’ll exploit maximally for you there. So, the problem that people have is just misinterpretation of feel, like they want to play exactly like PIO solver when I’m looking for general heuristics I’m looking for, for overall patterns that make sense to me, that I can translate into my human brain, and then try to execute a simplified version of those, those strategies. However, sometimes, I’m just playing poker, like, what I mean, what I mean by that is, I don’t I don’t discredit my 15 years of experience playing professionally, of, of hand reading in certain spots, and I don’t forget that I’m playing against the human.

Brad: Absolutely.

Jon: So, I think sometimes if you’re really, you know, getting too concerned with the minutiae, like, oh, I should bet this hand 20% of the time and check 80%. And what should my bet size be in blah, blah, blah, you’re thinking too much about the wrong stuff. You got to think more about, I mean, that’s important, for sure. But I think it’s more important to think about the composition of your range, the composition of your opponent’s range, what’s going to happen on future streets, what, what you expect to happen, what you want to happen, things like that. I think that sometimes people waste a lot of brainpower on things like bet size on the flop when you know, you can simplify. And

Brad: Yeah, for sure.

Jon: A couple bet sizes, the new spot.

Brad: Yeah, for sure. And what you said is like, straight in my wheelhouse. Don’t forget you’re playing against people, you’re always playing against people and that the human brain, you do have to simplify it, right? Like the human brain is not a solver. And people are very, people can be very predictable. So, by leaning on that predictability, and like you said, there are some spots in these 25k tournaments, these guys are most likely going to be predictable. And that 15 years of experience will often lead you to excellent decision making, compared to just plugging into a solver and then going from there. 

Jon: You know, I’m actually not entirely sure that this is correct. But when I went on that $2 million upswing, and at that point in time, I was the third or second biggest winner in the 25ks. I was kind of playing more my game, just my game, which is an export heavy game. And I got some feedback from a couple of my friends who were playing the games that they thought I was over aggressive in a few spots, because I’ve shown down some goofy stuff. And

Brad: Any example of a goofy, a goofy showdown?

Jon: A check raise bluffing a river with the wrong combos in one spot and like betting too much in blind versus blind scenarios, where in limp pots just because I think that even like really strong players have a tough time defending. There’s a lot of spots where the population over folds based on research that I’ve done, and the population of rigs over fold. And those are spots that I attack pretty aggressively until somebody shows me I can’t. So, a lot of my over aggressive play is what what’s got me where I am. But occasionally, I get caught with my pants down. And I look pretty dumb. But 

Brad: That’s the nature of the beast.

Jon: I stopped caring about that a long time ago, though. For me, it’s also the process of becoming an expert is about not having about making mistakes and learning from them. So, if I’m like, I’m not sure if this is going to work, but you know, if it’s an aggressive action, and I’m not 100% certain, I’m going to go for it most of the time, just because, you know, I’m going to learn from it either way. And a lot of the times people make more mistakes versus aggressive actions now versus calls, I’m actually more likely to, if I’m not super sure, I’m just going to muck it because the population under bluffs, especially when it comes to rivers. But when it comes to, you know, making a play that that makes sense to me, even if I’m not super sure if it’s part of my range. Yeah, I go for it. Like I said, so, after I got that feedback from my friends who were, who were buying action off of me, I did start using a randomizer more and start to play a bit more how I knew that PIO solver played. And honestly, I think I was running really bad in December. I don’t think that that, that might play was a huge part of that downswing. It’s pretty normal downswing for that, for that buy in level. But it is kind of funny that as soon as I really started trying to play like more correct or PIO solver wise, I went on this big downswing.

Brad: That’s pretty sick now that I think about it. Like 1.5 million downswing, that’s 60 tournaments. How often are these 20ks, 25ks running on GG poker? Like I’m the States, so I’m, I’m out of it.

Jon: Well, there’s a, there was a guy who he’s not playing anymore, but who was down around like 15, 20 million, and the games were kind of built around him. He started getting better by the end, though, but at, at one point, when they were first firing off, there was a day where he put 16 entries into one tournament, and he was just,

Brad: I can’t even do the math. It’s too much. 200k. 400k.

Jon: Yeah, he had to get first to win. I mean, to, to not, to get his money back. So there, they were just kind of built around him. And there were some days where like, 20 random the day is basically the biggest sitting goes like the Cygnus action. Other than like Macau at this point, right now, you know, they were just really big tournaments. And it took some adjusting, and I’m still not used to it. Like, oh, I just had a normal session, lost 10 buy ins, 250k. Just, yeah, they were going for a while and they were really good at first, in the, the rake increased. And the guy who was dropping a lot of money, he still wasn’t playing super good. But he, he wasn’t just not caring, you could tell that he was trying. And some of the other players that made those tournaments worth playing, stopped playing them. So there for now, I think they’re, they’re gone. But they were pretty epic. And the other thing that was really sorry, I’m just kind of rambling here. But the other thing that was really epic about these tournaments is that for a while, they were like, for me, they were like 3am to like 3pm. Or he would sometimes go for 18 hours. And that was really uncentering for me. I have to say like, like, those are the worst possible hours.

Brad: Yeah. Me too.

Jon: And I think that that actually kind of threw me off. Because, you know, in the past I’ve had, I’ve had issues with alcohol and drugs, things like that. And I don’t do that anymore, at all, but it definitely felt like I was on drugs. When I was staying up all night long. Trying to just drinking coffee, trying to play this guy. It felt like I was, yeah, I just did not feel like I usually feel. And so, I think that that might have contributed a little bit to that just being off balance plan those things. But it was wild.

Brad: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I’ve put my time in playing sessions until five or six in the morning and not, not going to sleep until the sun came up and absolutely hated it. Like I just always feel like a zombie for at least a day afterwards. And so, it’s just not conducive for me to good play, like I want to go to sleep, I want to wake up, and then I want to play my session, and then I want to go about my day. That’s typically how my schedule is. I wanted to, I do want to go back, though, to something that you said about being aggressive, and that when given the choice to be more aggressive, or less aggressive, you typically choose to be more aggressive, if you know you’re in your intuitions lead you down that direction, which is like, right in my wheelhouse, right? Like, this is something that I preach to, you know, students, to my audience to people all the time is that you take these aggressive actions, instead of passing them up, you get the opportunity to learn something, right? Like maybe you learn to exploit against your population that not many people are taking advantage of. And it just prints. So, like, take the aggressive action and like, okay, sometimes you look like a freaking idiot, and you splat on the pavement and like that’s part of poker and part of life. But like, when you take these risks, you do learn, and that contributes to growth overall.

Jon: Absolutely. And that’s kind of what I tell myself, I think that most, if not every expert, at any, in any field, is someone who has tried a lot of things and failed and learn from those. So, I’m still learning through trial and error. And there’s nothing like, for me, I have that motivation that when I lose doing something like that, I really want to look at it, question my thought processes, see if that they’re if they were valid or not, solve them talk with friends about them. And, you know, sometimes they’re not. Sometimes, sometimes I was way out of line, where I was thinking along the wrong lines, like, in the hand that I was talking about earlier in the 25k, the, the action went, I bet the flop, villain called the turn went check, check. And then on the river, I blocked the nuts, and I check raised all in with a nut blocker. But the villain would have had, would have bet the turn with the nuts. So, it would have been better for me to block. Like if I had if I had referred like a pair of some kind of bottom pair that those are the kinds of hands that want to check raise bluff, because

Brad: What was the makeup of the board? Like what? 

Jon: Well, this is, this is the in this case, it’s actually overly generals okay.

Brad: Okay.

Jon: Just because the idea is that a lot of the times when you check raise, or you raise rivers, blocking the nuts and blocking a pair, like doing both is what you want to do it with, typically, your best bluff catchers or your best bluff raises, or it pretty close, actually. And in this case, I was blocking the nuts. But when someone checks behind on the turn, they don’t have the nuts very often.

Brad: Right.

Jon: So, it’s better to block the majority of their calling, their bet calling range, which would be like river two pair, right.

Brad: It makes sense.

Jon: So yeah. The board itself? I actually don’t remember exactly. But I think that in a general sense, that’s going to be fairly true across most situations.

Brad: Also, in that spot, too, on a checked through turn, a lot of times, it’s hard to get two bets on the river. So, if you do have the nuts, then I would say typically, it’s a bet to prevent like a check back. So, going for a check raise might be a little overly ambitious. But

Jon: Yeah, yeah. I think, I think that, well, the idea is that check raise bluff should be rivered, like river bottom pair, which I like very rarely going to happen. So, you don’t, you don’t, that’s going to randomize for you. And yeah, for the most part, like you shouldn’t really be doing a whole lot of river check, raise bluffing, although, some players you can make, I mean, the population from what I’ve seen, after betting the river folds to raises about 65 to 70% of the time, especially versus random accounts. So, I do think there are a lot of opportunities for river bluff raises.

Brad: And this is your population, right? Like not a general.

Jon: This is reg population. Just a population in the big 109 actually is where I get this information. But, or

Brad: it’s pretty good price on a bluff.

Jon: Yeah. But I mean, but the thing is, you have to get to the river.

Brad: Right, right. Yeah.

Jon: So, there is like you have to like usually have called a couple streets or whatever, right? Yeah.

Brad: So why the decision to do more coaching versus playing? Was this, you know, why consciously did you opt to go that route?

Jon: Honestly, I’ve been through a lot of, a lot of ups and downs in my poker career. And a lot of them had to do with my issues with, with addiction. So, I, when Black Friday happened, I, I had been I’d quit everything, but then I don’t know going from country to country, trying to figure out where I was going to live. There’s a lot of uncertainty.

Brad: What was this, like, let’s set the stage here, like so Black Friday happens. And it just, you know, this is like the antagonists for the podcast, by the way, like, I think this is like the main villain is Black Friday, like, what was your bankroll like? What was your life situation before deciding on you know, what you’re going to do, where you’re going to move and what, what the play is going to be?

Jon: Like, I had not a whole lot, I think I had about, like, six figures to my name at that point. And I checked out Costa Rica first. And I went to a couple different places, and eventually ended up in Cabo with a bunch of my friends. And yeah, I didn’t, what, what has helped me with success in poker is having structure in my life, and I didn’t have structure. And you can walk into the to the drugstores there and get anything you want. So, I started taking a bunch of Adderall and taking a bunch of different drugs. And yeah, I kind of lost my mind. While, while I was out there and blew my whole role, then then some. And essentially, I went to, yeah, okay, this is, this is, this is actually, man, I hate telling this story, because it makes you look like such a DJ. But I’ve been staying up all night playing high stakes, heads up sit and goes, which aren’t even my game. And I’ve been up for a couple days. And my friends were like, they turned off the internet and took my computer. And I was like, hey, give me my computer back. And they were like, we’ll give it back to you, if you can tell us what day it is. And I got the month wrong. So, I was playing super high stakes, heads up sit and goes just completely, like insane. So, in 2013, I decided to go to a, like a Rehab Treatment Center, really reevaluate my life, got a lot of tools for that can actually translate to poker. I just, I just got a lot of spiritual tools and worked on myself a lot.

Brad: Like what?

Jon: By meditation, for the most part. Also, just really being congruent with like, the person that I want to be, and, and not being, also just trying to be as you know, just genuine, vulnerable, open, things like that. And I also felt a lot more connected to people. I love poker players, but they’re all very, yeah, like, they’re all they’re all very analytical, you know. And I felt from this experience, that I had a place where I could connect with people on a different level, and do service that way. So, you know, for the last six years, I haven’t drunk or anything like that. And, and for the most part, my, my graph has been straight up and my life has been really, really good since then. But yeah, the, the, I’ve been my own worst enemy a lot of times, and I’ve had a few of those punts, actually, on a, on a couple of days, and where I’ve, where I’ve just blown, you know, a lot of my own money and guys like me, who, who have kind of those addictive personalities don’t usually make it in poker. And the reason why I do make it, I’ve learned is or I have made is because I’ve set up a structure and a schedule, and I play that schedule, and I study. Anyway, you to answer your question, that was a very long answer to your question.

Brad: No. No. It’s great.

Jon: To answer the question, when I got out of treatment, I actually didn’t have very much money at all, none really. I was broke. And I knew that I had a skill set so, and I was going to take me a while. I actually I owed my buddy Stephen or Stevie444, Stephen Chidwick a lot, a lot of money. But he wasn’t pressed about it. He just wanted me to be good, you know, to get better. So, I was like, you know what, I’m going to plan my life around my coaching income and whatever happens in poker happens and I’m going to do my best to pay everyone back and just grind out of this. And I started off offering coaching at like 100 bucks an hour because I wasn’t really sure you know, my stock in the poker world and kind of plummeted and then I started crushing everything. And then I can eat it became excited about poker, again excited about learning, and join some study groups. And then from there, I just, my coaching business kept building, I learned a lot about coaching about how to teach, because that’s a separate skill. And my poker results were just out of this world, more than I could have expected. So, it was kind of a comeback story for me. But the lesson is really, that the comeback only could happen if I had some discipline around my mental health, my physical health, and had balanced in my life. And that is what I think was kind of missing, when, when it came to playing these 25k’s and things like that. Maybe some people can do that, you know, play, play super long sessions, stay up all night. But for me, I don’t think it’s a good idea.

Brad: Yeah, some people can, you know, like, I mean, you know, back in 2007, when I was grinding, mid stakes, cash games, I would berate myself for not being Nanonoco. Like, how, why, why does this dude play in 12 hours a day 10 tables, and he can function like a normal human being? And I can only go for, you know, max of six hours at six tables. And I think like, people are just built differently. And what you said is 100% accurate that a lot of people who have these mental game issues, the gambling and then pair that with addiction, no matter how good they are at poker, like your rock bottom is not, you know, that’s not representative of your poker playing ability, right?

Jon: No.

Brad: Like it, but I’ve seen, I’ve seen the same story played over and over and over again with people, especially, you know, one person that’s very, very close to me. And they didn’t make it. They you know, they just they’re more talented poker player than me and they couldn’t break through the addiction and then also some other mental game issues that like you said, I’ve been the guy that’s unplugged the computer and told somebody, hey, I’m going to grab this computer. I’m going to break it in the parking lot. Like or we can quit and we can, we can go get some breakfast, we can talk and then you know you can get your head screwed on right and play but like me breaking your computer is a plus EV play compared to what you,r you know, your current trajectory, right?

Jon: Yeah, my jerk friends didn’t like when they did that. I mean, they were actually they were really trying to help me but I was in the middle of a freaking huge pot. No, but that’s a good point what you’re saying. And, is that, that when it comes to betting on someone in poker, I would bet on somebody that is very nitty about their decisions, about where they decide to place their money and when they bet, how long their sessions are, over somebody who is reckless and has like, an enormous amount of skill. That person who’s nitty, who just making smart decisions, doesn’t need to be that good. They just need to be better than their opponents.

Brad: Right. What do you think the cause was behind the self-destructive behavior? Like, have you, I’m sure you’ve thought about like a root cause? And what do you what do you think that was?

Jon: That’s interesting. I, I think it’s, it’s first of all, I have a compulsive and obsessive nature when it comes to certain things, like certain things can kind of hook me, right. And when they’re positive, like, for instance, in the beginning with poker, I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t fully obsessed when I first started playing. And I think that that actually was good for my career.

Brad: Absolutely.

Jon: Because I put, it wasn’t even, it wasn’t even hard to put in work. I just, all I wanted to do is think about poker and get better. So, I think that it has to do with being tunnel, kind of it’s a mental tunnel vision that I can get a compulsive nature. I’m not really sure if there’s like some, some self-destructive part of me that wants to just burn it all down. Or if it’s just like, it is just having that nature, because everything I do, I do. Either like 100% or ever just don’t do it. So, I think there’s a there’s a lot of routes set up, but I think that when it comes down to it, I think that I just have addictive personality traits. And I have to I have to work on managing them. Because actually there were some wrenches that I made in these 25ks recently on the way on the way going down, that I didn’t, I shouldn’t have made that I thought were that were reckless. And I actually put myself in a worse financial position than I’ve been in a long time that I, that I’ve been grinding my way up here. Because even though I’m, I’m technically up half a million in these 25ks, I had more of myself on the way down on the way up. So, at some point, I probably should have just been like, you know what these are, these are too big. And they’re not as good as they were. So, I should just stop. But I was like, I could feel that I was in like a chasing mode, right?

Brad: Yeah.

Jon: But no, you know, I definitely thought, I have lots of thoughts on what it is. But it isn’t, there isn’t any real desire to just crash the print it all down, at least not on the surface. I don’t think.

Brad: I don’t think it’s anybody’s conscious desire to crash and burn, right? Yeah, it’s a, it’s tough. I mean, I think you spoke in the beginning of our conversation about, like, removing your emotions,

Jon: Yes.

Brad: Minimizing the emotional impact, and I spoke with Fador Holtz. I don’t know, a while ago, it’s been like a month, three weeks or a month, but I spoke to Fador. And actually no, I think I, I heard, in my research for Fador, he was talking about removing the emotions and how that can be, in a way, removing the magic from poker, because like part of the magic is, you know, especially in the beginning, you make a big score and you’re on cloud nine, right? It’s euphoric, super pumped. And when you remove the emotions, you’re targeting the negative emotions, right? Typically, you’re targeting the feelings of you know, self-hatred and all these other things. But what happens is you don’t feel the highs, and you don’t feel the lows. Do you feel that? Like, like, some of the magic of poker, when you’re minimizing your emotions goes away?

Jon: Maybe. But for me, it’s the only way to manage. So, the, I guess you could say that the magic came back for me recently. I was excited to play. I was just, because after winning like 2 million in one month, I was like, holy crap, this is easy, you know, and I’m just like, I’m going to be, I’m going to be like, like, got money soon. 

Brad: Yeah.

Jon: And the rush of playing these was something that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I don’t, I don’t

Brad: Intoxicating almost, right?

Jon: And the thing is, yeah, like, maybe that was magic. But the truth is that I actually do try to cut that out. And, of course, there’s always a little part of me that celebrating when I win and upset when I lose, but I tried to just focus on decisions. And the magic to me is the beauty of the game. The out thinking someone, playing the puzzle, that’s the magic. And the swings in the all in and like that, like the superintendence highs and lows, like I’m trying to avoid, because that’s the kind of stuff that gets me in trouble. So, I don’t know, I want to say that part of the reason why I think that I have such longevity because not many people that almost nobody that was around an online poker 15 years ago is still here. And winning. And I think part of that is that the high of winning doesn’t feel as bad, like, as good as it feels bad when you lose. Right. So that overall, it, kind of the feedback is rough. Secondly, I actually do think that putting myself, I’ve kind of backed myself against the wall a couple times in my poker career. And I do think that, that has forced me to stay hungry. And I kind of, I think I do kind of like the challenge sometimes of battling back because sometimes, you know, when you’re like, okay, when I get there, when I get there, that’s going to be so awesome. Then you get there and you’re like,

Brad: Yeah.

Jon: What do I do now? You know, so it’s kind of fun building back up again. And one of the things that’s maybe not so good in my life, but I’m, I’m working on it, but good for my poker, I believe, is that I view money as ammo. I don’t really view money so much as, as, like when I play a 25k I’m not like okay, I just registered a car. I just registered a car, you know, like, I don’t think like that. And I think that not putting a high value in money and not sweating money too much is useful. Don’t get me wrong, like being broke sucks. But like, for me, I yeah, I just money doesn’t have a good healthy lack of respect, or maybe an unhealthy lack of respect for money. So

Brad: Comes with the territory I think is, as a poker player.

Jon: You kind of have to.

Brad: Yeah.

Jon: Lose your mind.

Brad: I, That you’re right there. As far as longevity wise, there’s not a ton of people that have been around since 2000, you know, early 2000s that are still battling and playing on a regular basis. There is something. So, I’m thinking back to an interview, I believe it was Tim Ferriss, he was interviewing a guy. And something the guy did in college. And this ties in to battling back from broke, is he wouldn’t live in a tent in Europe, and eight cans of beans, like basically. And then he did odd jobs to exist, right. And like his thought process, while he did that for like, I don’t know, three months or six months was, if I lose everything, this is as work, this is as bad as it can get. Right. So, he realized this is you know, and it wasn’t that bad. And so, when he realized that it wasn’t that bad, that removed a lot of the fear that he had of taking risks in life. So, like, this is a kind of a hidden benefit to going broke, or getting back, backed into a corner and poker, if you have people that believe in you, it also gives, you know, empowers you to know, like, okay, I’m going to be okay, even if the world burns down.

Jon: Absolutely. I think that that’s, like, that’s an amazing story. I love it. And it ties into, I’m not a religious person, but the, like, the philosophy and religion that I most identify with would be Buddhism. And Buddha was a beggar. Right? He chose to not have any attachment to any, any items, you know, and he lived as a beggar and lived a happy, happy life that way. Right?

Brad: As the story goes, he was super wealthy, right? And gave away all of his wealth.

Jon: Yes, he did. He was he, he kind of ran away and became like, aesthetic for a little bit and then eventually became enlightened under the, I think, the Bodhi tree. But yeah, yeah, I don’t know how much of that story is, is, you know, tall tale and how much of it is, is, is truth. But I do find a lot of truth in the basic premises of Buddhism and non-attachment and just being, being very mindful and present in the moment. And that’s, that’s what, what kind of helped me too is that when I got out of treatments, like six years ago, I was like, crap, man, like, I’m, I’m broke as hell, like, I don’t know what to do. But you know, what, I got a roof over my head, I have food, and I have good people around me. And how do, I don’t need ,I don’t need anything else. Right? So that’s the other thing is just realizing that I don’t need too much to be happy. I need I need human connection, food and a bed. Everything else is a bonus.

Brad: Everything else is a bonus. And all we have is the present moment. For somebody, you know, like you I think that that chases that rabbit, you know, that’s leveling up and has internal goals that you’re striving for, like in the poker world, you know, it’s obvious, you start out at 100, you move up, if you’re an MTT player, and eventually, you know, the end goal is to play High Rollers or whatever your end goal is, right? It’s just easy to get lost in that chase, and feel like you’re a failure, even after having so much success that, you know, people would dream to have or poker players who are in a different spot would dream to have, right.

Jon: Yeah, I mean, I’m pretty stoked about my career. Little lack of humility moment. I believe it was, especially when I was up to a million, I believe that I’m like, literally the most profitable online tournament player of all time. I may not be anymore. Actually, probably not. Because there was one guy that was up like 3.6, just in the 25 case. But the point I’m trying to make is that yeah, I having that perspective of being like, okay, like, poor you, you’re in this wonderful city, Vancouver, you’ve done, you’ve been able to not have a real job for 15 years, you know, life is actually just okay, life, life is great, in fact. And I actually enter the second part of the question about the high rollers and being an emboss, I guess. That is, that was kind of my goal. But then I realized, then the high rollers a little too much like Fight Club. Everybody has their little groups where they’re studying with each other. There’s, there’s a lot of secrecy. Everyone is just like so focused in those, at those levels. I believe that I, that I, that I have the skill set to beat high rollers. I think that I’ve actually proven that playing these 25ks with, you know, one whale and the rest are just the best players in the world. But I’m not sure that I want that for my life. I don’t think, I think the swings are insane. And I think that, you know, the traveling from country to country for me would be very, again, unsettling. I’d like to have roots.

Brad: Disruptive. Yeah.

Jon: Yeah. So, for me, I think I’ve found a little like a thing that works. I believe that I have, I’ve been lucky enough to have friends that and, and study routine that puts me at a level where I think I can play against anyone in the world. But my routine is just essentially coaching, working to get better, playing when I feel like it. And that is what ends up winning a lot for me.

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 kickoff 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, opt in to the Poker Power Hour and get for free today, what you’ll have to pay for it later. Once again, to catch the poker power hour every single week, head to and join the email newsletter. Now, back to the show.

Brad: Okay, so for the audience listening at home, you, when you say you study your process for improving your game and talking to your friends, this is just a vitally important part of the process getting good feedback that’s trustworthy. If there’s somebody out there that’s looking for feedback on their game, what would you, what would you suggest they do to find a group that you know can help them just move up and up and up?

Jon: Well, you can go to my trading site, And I would recommend the blueprint course that I recently helped create. The idea of the course was that we simplified for me like 15 years of knowledge and putting together into, into very simple rules to be able to execute in poker. Now there’s, the problem with any rule is that it’s going to be overly general. But for the most part, the idea of the course is that, is that you have about 80 and 90% of what you need to beat almost any level. So, in that Max Value community, we have people who are helping each other with their game, I participate, etc. So that would be one thing. I mean, I’m definitely showing for myself here.

Brad: No, it’s fine. I mean everybody, everybody needs a way to think about poker and a process. And these little heuristics, like you said, in a lot of cases, I think the heuristics, no offense, are a lot of bullshit. But in some cases, having a process to logically think through hands, and put yourself in a position to make great decisions. I mean, that’s kind of what poker is, right? That’s at the heart of playing winning cards.

Jon: So yeah, basically, if you want to work with me, and work with my community right now, is a good place to start. The elevate programs, what I do, we have charts we have, we were all about goals, accountability, things like that. As far as like, how I came up, honestly, I think that I got really lucky. I think that if you’ve ever, if you’ve ever read the book, Outliers, it’s kind of like, I, the reason that I am where I am, is because I came up during the boom, I met the best players in the game just randomly through online sites. And I had an upswing early. I also met another guy who, who showed me how to really treat the game like a job. And I had that community. But back then, people were way more open about sharing information. And there was a lot less known, right, it was really just about, people were puzzling things together and figuring out that but there was nothing, there was nothing solved. Now, the game’s changed, but the game is harder in a way. And you can’t really just figure it out on your own without using solvers and having a group of people around you. People are a lot more secretive about what they do. Because it’s just the nature of everything, they don’t know what to do anymore. Yeah, everyone wants to keep their edge. And it goes against my philosophy, my whole life. I’ve just shared everything. And I kind of view myself as like this open note of communication. But the thing is, if I’m communicating, giving you information, you’re giving me information. Every direction, I’m still getting all this information. 

Brad: Absolutely.

Jon: So, I for me, I’m not naturally going to be the kind of person that holds things back. It just isn’t me. It’s been a bummer, because I’ve had an opportunity to join some study groups where there’s actually some solvers that are not available to the public. But I’m like, the rule is like, you can’t tell me what who’s the study group. Like,

Brad: Fight Club?

Jon: Yeah, I’m just not like that. So

Brad: Yeah, me neither

Jon: It just not who I want to be. I also don’t really agree with the idea of like, the privileged few keeping this information away from other people. I like the idea of, if you are willing to work hard, you can get it. Right.

Brad: Yeah, the Ivory Tower Philosophy.

Jon: What is that?

Brad: It’s just like, the Tower of Knowledge. They’re just hoarding everything for themselves, instead of sharing it, sharing it with anybody else. People may be surprised to hear that, you know, in high stakes,poker on two plus two, I mean, Tom Dwan, like all those guys used to post on a regular basis to just ask and like, give their thoughts. And, you know, it was an open conversation. I know two plus two is changed a lot in the last decade and your journey coming up through the game is, mirrors my own and a lot of ways. You know, I can remember like, it was yesterday playing on party poker, think it was 5-10, no limit and battling three handed and just like chatting. And one of the players, I get their AOL Instant Messenger, this is this date, they date it right there,

Jon: Yeah. Me too. Get their aim

Brad: Get, get their aim information. And, you know, it’s Vanessa Selbst. But of course, like nobody knows, you know, she’s not Vanessa 

Selbst at that time, she’s just a player that I’m battling against. And like a lot of the crushers, you had access to them, you know, everybody wanted to learn, everybody was friendly. It was an, it was a great community. And so, like you said, Outliers, I do believe and of course, I ran good in the beginning too, and in right place, right time, to find successful and to find success and be able to persist through the last 15 years or so.

Jon: I do think there was also the fact that it was the first time again, for me that I decided to quit drinking and doing everything, and I was in university with all this free time. And my friends, what they did, my other friends who didn’t drink, they wanted to play poker on the weekends. And it just, it just worked out. Plus, right before that, I was really into chess, and I learned how to study based on trying to get better at chess. So, there were just a lot of things that, that, that just kind of fell into place. But now, I really do believe that the game is tougher, and there’s, there’s definitely some problems with that. But hard work is rewarded. You know, I wouldn’t recommend anyone gets in the game now. But then we have some people at elevate, who are like, you know, 40 and 50-year-old professors, and people with regular jobs who are just good at working hard, who are just like crushing PIO solvers now. And it’s like, it’s really cool to see that if you’re just willing to put in work, memorize ranges to some spots, just keep going back to your community asking questions, posting, etc. You can compete at any level.


Brad: I agree 100%. And I actually, actually disagree in the sense that I think you can enter poker nowadays. And you can still find success, the barrier to entry is not so high the, that you’re incapable of being successful. And I used to be a little bit more in line with, with you know, your thinking as far as like entering the game. But then like, I’ve talked to Matt Staples, I’ve talked to a bunch of guys who are like entering poker in the last few years that are finding tons of success. And sometimes, you know, they do it a little bit smarter than, than you know, we probably did in the beginning as far as like generating multiple streams of income, getting sponsorship deals with stars or party poker, whatever, doing coaching on the side too. Because it’s this interesting trap that you fall into as a poker player as far as like, like coaching people. It takes a lot of time, a lot of energy, and a lot of effort to do it. And if you, if you’re crushing the games, you may feel less inclined to do it to, you know, you’ll minimize that responsibility. And you’ll focus more on playing. But like having that stream of income come in, regardless of your poker results is just so huge for mental game. And like you said, when you’re coaching people, it’s a different skill set, you have to learn how to teach. And that is also extremely rewarding from, you know, the puzzle aspect of figuring things out.

Jon: Well, you also, you know, all these darn students, they’re always questioning everything I say. So, I have to be able to back up what I say, with either information solvers, or solid logic. 

Brad: Absolutely.

Jon: So, having to do that has actually, I believe that teaching itself to be the ability to teach what you’re doing is a form of learning. And really what I’m doing when I’m coaching somebody, for sure, it’s about them, and I’m trying to relate to them on their level, and then bring them up. But a lot of the times when I’m working with a pro, it’s, it’s basically just two pros collaborating together. So, I feel like I get to study all the time during this coaching, which I get paid for it, which is sweet. But yeah, you know, again, being bringing up the stupid 25ks. When I was crushing them. I definitely was like, okay, coaching is off for a little bit. Sorry, everybody. But, you know, for me every single time that I tried to just do it, do what I used to do like, I mean, I, when I first came in, I was playing 50 to 80-hour weeks, right? It was no problem for me. But every time I tried to do that, like I’ll be crushing playing on the weekends, I’d be like, why don’t I just I just need to grind more. Every time I do that I actually go on a downswing recently, so I just realized, for me that it just, it creates this balance. And every week, I’m super excited to play because I have these new ideas that I’ve been working on bubble. Wow. So yeah, I think that having those, there is that whole idea that those that can’t do teach, but for me it actually I think I can do pretty darn well.

Brad: I think that’s a subjective saying that is not necessarily true. You have, you have your, your regimen, right, that makes sense that keeps you grounded, keeps you happy, keeps you balanced in life. And it’s always I think its human nature to test that routine, to sort of be like, oh, well, because of XYZ, I need to stop, I’m going to stay up all night and play these 25kss and I’m going to make $30 million next year, or whatever, whatever the little narrative story goes on in your head. And for me, I’m like you, I’m always at my best when I have a routine. And when I deviate from that, it always, almost always ends in me getting crushed, me feeling down mentally. It’s almost like, I’m super strong now. I can handle it. I got the tools. I’ve put in the work. I can do this shit. I’m different from the way I used to be. And then everything goes to hell in a handbasket. You’re like, oh, I was only operating so well, because of everything else. Yeah.

Jon: Yeah. I need that structure. I really do. And I think that also one thing that people forget, you don’t want to make all your decisions in isolation, you don’t want to, because a lot of the times, your brain isn’t, isn’t, or my brain isn’t always the most reliable character. So before playing certain events, before, you know, deciding my schedule, what I’m going to do in the life, and or even how I’m playing it, collaboration is really important. And that’s what coaching helps me with too. It helps keep me centered, helps keep me in, in the right frame of mind, reading things past people. Really important both in life and when it comes to playing poker, and that’s, yeah, one of the things that I think really kills people in poker is it does, it’s really tempting, when you’re grinding to just isolate yourself and grind all the time play these weird hours. And

Brad: I don’t think humans are meant, I don’t think humans are meant for that, that type of isolation, right? Like, and what’s weird is there’s some friction, at least in my case, for getting out of the isolation. Like, I get, you know, before this interview, right, I feel some nervousness. I’m like, oh, like, I got to do this interview. Is it going to be good? Like, like, how am I going to facilitate a good thing that the audience enjoys, etc., etc. Like, there’s a self-doubt is, and this thought like, it’d be easier if you know, we just didn’t do it, yada, yada, yada. And then I get done. And I feel like I’m on top of the world. Like I have so much energy. I feel so much happier. You’re so much better when I’m interacting with human beings. And the same is true with coaching sessions. When I interact with my students versus, you know, playing a four hour session or whatever it is, I feel so energized, like so much happier and in such a much better headspace than I do just sitting in front of my computer, playing cards, whether I you know, even, even on days where, you know, I win 10k it’s like, it’s it feels good, but not as good as the interactions that I have with people, which is kind of a strange thing.

Jon: Yeah, actually, I for a little bit, I contemplated completely getting out of poker, playing but not, but not. And I contemplated it because I was like, you know, it’s pretty self-serving. And it’s not like, yeah, maybe it’s not the most helpful career and for other people. So, I wanted to get into. I was thinking about doing addiction counseling for a little bit. And I worked at a treatment center. And you know what, that was cool and everything. But I’m kind of like you, I’m like an introverted extrovert, where social situations occasionally are uncomfortable.

Brad: Yeah.

Jon: And I had to do all this, I had to manage all this conflict. And every single time I had to talk myself up, like, okay, you got to go handle this. And it was way outside of my comfort zone. It was awesome. It was great. But I realized I really like poker.

Brad: Yeah.

Jon: I don’t think I want to get paid for that, you know, and it made me realize that I’ve got something pretty cool, cool going on here that I can, I can utilize what I learned with addiction counseling, as far as relating to somebody else and communicating with them in my coaching, but and I can use that for my connection with my job. And then I can continue playing. And I can also do all that service stuff, but as a volunteer, not to get paid.

Brad: And speaking of isolation, that that thought, I used to think that I was the only person that felt that way, as far as like not contributing to society, not helping people, poker, being predatory and just taking money from people and like, what am I giving back? And all these existential crises type questions. And then I did this podcast. And this comes up with almost everybody that’s been in the game for like, a decade. And they all seem to have this sort of existential thoughts, as far as do I, is this really what I’m doing with my life? What service am I providing, etc., etc. So, like, even getting out of your isolation and having some vulnerability and talking to people about these sorts of issues that you’re dealing with, to know that you’re not alone. I mean, that’s, that’s powerful, to know that you’re not weak to think this as a human being, that this is a natural part of the process. That’s very empowering. And I know, at least in my case, if I would have known that this is sort of common for people, professional poker players, it would have been a lot easier to get over it. And I would have gotten over it a lot quicker than I did.

Jon: I’ve definitely been in my head about that a lot. And that’s kind of where I was at. But then I realized that there were actually some things about poker. Well, first of all, you can do stuff like this, where you can be providing a service to other people. I think as long as you were, you’re ethical within poker, you’re not cheating in any way that that you’re that you’re respectful to other people, that there’s nothing wrong with it at all. In fact, as far as like, harming people goes, it’s actually hard to not harm people and almost

Brad: Yeah, yeah.

Jon: Because in capitalism, there’s essentially winners and losers in any, any industry, except for the helping industry is participating in harming other people in some way, shape, or form. And poker actually, in some ways, it’s pretty cool. Because there’s, there’s no real barrier to entry. It’s like pure capitalism in a way, because you just, if you start off and you work really hard, you should be able to climb to the top based on merit alone, not based on your upbringing, your race, etc. So, in some ways, poker is really cool that way. And it also allows me to not participate in what I never wanted, which is a nine to five job and all that kind of stuff. So, doing a deep analysis of poker, and oh, man, am I just like doing the super predatory thing that’s not helping anyone, blah, blah, blah. I actually ended up coming up being like, you know what, I like what I do, and, and I think that the way, you know, there’s just some ways that I have to go about doing it. But yeah, I poker actually came out looking pretty good when I really looked deep into it.

Brad: For sure. I’ll never forget the moment. My mom was in the room. I was probably I was 22 years old. And my friend that I came up was coming up in the game with said to my mom that, you know, he said, Brad never has to work again. Like Brad I can play poker forever, he never has to work again. And I remember that thought of like, holy shit, I never have to work, like thinking like, I might, I might actually be able to escape this nine to five thing that like, I had no idea what I wanted to do anyway, and I was sort of just floating around. And I get to play a card game with my life like that. I remember that being very uplifting, and a very freeing thought. And like, I think at some point, when you do it for so long, you kind of forget, you kind of, you kind of disconnect from like, the real world and how other people have to go about their jobs and that sort of thing. But at the end of the day, like you said, I had, every day I can wake up and be grateful that I had a dream that I was going to be a successful card player, a professional. People laughed at me when I told them because back in 2002, or 2003, that was not a thing that, you know, it’s not it’s not even mainstream now. Much less back then. But, you know, I did that I accomplished that. I’m proud of that. And I feel good knowing coming back to the gratitude that like, yeah, I can play cards, I can help people, I can release my podcast, I can coach people. And that’s a that’s a fulfilling mix for me, that’s a balanced life. As far as I’m concerned.

Jon: Even the guy that that really helped me like, he was a hardcore grinder, like a bonus, bonus kind of grinder, a bonus for

Brad: Yeah.

Jon: And when I was like, I’m going to be, I’m going to be there, I’m going to be those guys. Talking about being on the leaderboards, and then playing the big tournaments. He was like, I don’t know, man, I don’t know about doing that. Just, you know, like, those guys are really good. And I hate to be this. I don’t hate to be this guy. But you know what? Nothing inspires me more than somebody telling me I can’t do something. So, I appreciate that everyone that said, I like everyone that laughed at me and said, like, no, no, no, keep your day job. I appreciate it, thank you. Because it inspired me to actually prove them wrong. And if you have, if you have enough desire, if you have the passion to do something. I mean, on top of that passion, you need some, some, some structure. But if you have enough passion, and you’re willing to do anything it takes to get what you want. Within reason, you will, you will succeed.

Brad: And that self that or that doubt that is projected on to you is a reflection of how they feel, right? Like it’s never a reflection of you, your capabilities, it’s a reflection of they don’t think they’re good enough to beat those guys. Therefore, they project and say, you’re not able to, like that’s, that’s sort of the human psychology behind it. So, like it, don’t get discouraged you know. For the people listening, when people tell you, you can’t do it, or it’s not possible, etc. That’s just other people’s doubt, projected onto you.


Jon: You know, it is kind of funny. Yeah, I agree. I agree that the people are projecting their fears onto you, and they think they’re helping you out by giving you a safer, less dangerous course of action, because they can see all kinds of ways they can go disastrously for you. And to be fair, there are lots of ways that you can go.

Brad: For sure.

Jon: So, I’m not, I have no, nothing, but I’m not trying to hate on the people that were saying things like that they were just trying to help. They’re projecting their fears.

Brad: What you have to not be delusional too. Like, you, you have to have a very, you have to have clarity on your actual ability and your actual skill level and your actual desire, like, are you, you know, are you putting in this 60 to 80 hours? Are you working to improve? Do you have a community? These things need to be in place. I don’t want to like, give off the perception that like just anybody that saying, no, I don’t think you can do this across the board is bad. But for some people that are capable, that, that can do it. It could, it could be bad.

Jon: Well, yeah, I actually think and that’s, that’s, again, coming back to max value. That’s, that’s, that’s what I think is actually the predictor of poker success. You got that passion and that drive. And a lot of people have that, but they can use that just gambling their life way or whatever. What you need to do is you need to put a system structure into your learning, and you’re playing schedule and what you’re playing. And that’s hard to do. Because poker doesn’t impose any, any system on you. You can, there’s no schedule, you can just play whenever you want to. So, there’s this weird balance you have to have of, you know, being able to gamble, not care about money, but also having a system in place, having discipline and target. Pushing your, using your passion to get better all the time. You know, that’s, that’s what’s going to give you success in poker I believe.

Brad: As a coach, I do have I have a weird question that has somebody ever come to you with sort of outside, outsized dreams or expectations? And you’ve told them, no, like, basically give up on poker or, you know, it’s just not going to happen.

Jon: Yeah, I’ve also turned away a couple students. I’m not going to, of course, I won’t name names. But there was a guy where I wasn’t just, he just wasn’t improving. He kept coming back to me with the same mistakes every time. And in that case, I did say I don’t, I don’t know what I can do for you. You’re not, you’re not grasping what I’m what I’m asking you to do. I don’t think that this career is like, is good for you. I think that that there are a lot of people that poker isn’t going to be the best career for you, you know, a lot of, you need a lot of conflicting traits, to be honest. You need to be able to not care about money, but also not be crazy with your money. And in your regular life, you have to be able to play kind of weird hours sometimes, but also have discipline within your life. I think that there’s just a lot of, there are a lot of, you have to have conflicting recipes.

Brad: It’s hard to put together a recipe for what makes an elite poker player, right? It’s very difficult.

Jon: Well, I’ll give you an example. DBZ, this guy has, you know, millions. And is such a niche with money. He’s not like, he’s not like, not he’ll, he’ll pay the bill who, you know, he’s not like that. He just like, for himself. He doesn’t, he won’t purchase an app or anything like very, very frugal with his money. And for me, that’s hard to believe. Because I’m like an app. I’m like, oh, that’s like, that’s like the $55 trainer, that’s like a $5 rake, whatever, I don’t, I’ll pay that. Sure. I have a hard time with that. But for him, he’s managed to see the value of money and only make good investments when he’s playing. But also, not get too sweaty, you know, not, not get too upset about like, minus 20k days, minus 50k days. That’s hard to do.

Brad: It’s hard to compartmentalize the different, the different things. And the thing is, like, you know, you have a minus 20k day in poker, you had a chance, right? Like, that’s, that’s always the thing that I tell myself, you know, you have a bad day, I had a chance at least to win money. If I were to go and blow 10k on a car, I had no chance, or 20k or whatever it is, like the money’s just going to be devalued. So, like always keeping that in mind. Like Elliott Roe says, you know, you are the casino. It’s like, make good decisions, you will make money over time. So, like, that’s sort of the story that I tell myself on those bad days is like, okay, you had a bad day, you lost a lot of money. But you had a chance, right? You had a chance to win more. It just didn’t work out and we move on till tomorrow,

Jon: You were making plus EV red, you’re making plus EV registrations that would, that make you money in the long run, you got all the slansky bucks. And, and in a way, you kind of have to lose those to win because you have to keep playing and then eventually you will go on your upswing. So yeah, he’s got a he’s got like such a cheap car. I mean, it’s not a cheap car, but it’s like, you know, he’s, he can afford like, he can he can afford to live like a baller. But he doesn’t do any of that. And I really respect that. Because when I first started making money, like I was, I was, I thought it was a good rapper for a little bit.

Brad: Yeah, people look down on like, you see this again, you see the same story a lot of times. People go broke, like a poker player goes broke. And everybody thinks that that reflects on their direct skill at poker, when that can be absolutely not the case. They could just be very bad with life and money in general.

Jon: Yeah, that, that, now over time, I’ve learned my lessons. And but yeah, I’ve definitely, in my 15 years been close to broke, I think, like three times, mainly in the beginning, like these last, ever since this last upswing. I’ve been doing pretty well in my life and the coaching helps with that. But yeah, again, just being responsible. It’s boring. I remember. I remember when I, when I, when I watched the main event and I think moneymaker they asked him what he was going to do with his money. He was like, I’m just going to go back to work. And I was like, at that point in time, I was like, boring. Give me that money. I’ll show you how to spend it.

Brad: He said that. But he ended up not doing that. 

Jon: True. True. And it may not even it may not have even been moneymaker, it might have been Raymer. But someone said that, and I just remember thinking, no way. But you know, when I had a million dollar score recently, I didn’t touch it. I actually was just like, you know what, I’m going to and I coach the next day, because I was like, I’m just going to keep doing what works.

Brad: How much of that was you, did you have?

Jon: 65%

Brad: It’s a good day. It’s an okay day.

Jon: Yeah, not bad


Brad: No, no friction and going to coach the next day for however much it was.

Jon: No, it was fine to coach the next day, because I just was, it kind of blew my mind. I was just like, oh, I just, I just did that. Okay. I didn’t want to make the mistakes that I previously made. Which were, if you make 100,000 in a year in poker, you should treat it like, like you have a, you’d have like a 30 or $40,000 a year job. Because nothing is guaranteed in the next year or two. Right? So honestly, the best way to play is, is to, yeah, live within your means. And I also just realized, I like my life, I don’t need to change it too much. I mean, maybe I could upgrade the vehicle a little bit, but this and that, but if I want something, I get it. I eat good. You know, I don’t I don’t need to be live in all boggy. So, I didn’t really just, I didn’t change anything, because I was like, this is what got me here. So, I’m just going to keep doing that.

Brad: It’s a sign of maturity too, right? Like you under, you understand yourself better, and what’s not going to make you happy and what’s going to make you happy.

Jon: God damn, I’m like an old man now.

Brad: We all are. I remember going to casino and like being the youngest kid there 98% of the time. And I’ve played in some games in Vegas, where I’m the oldest person there. And it’s like, what the, what happened to my life.

Jon: Yeah, you know, it’s funny, though. Because like, I’m like a big bearded dude. So, I’m like, I look like a fish. So, people, people don’t know who I am. Sometimes if I’m at a table with nobody knows me. I’ll do something like 7x with jacks. And then like, everyone will fall in, they’ll show and be like, I hate fish hooks.

Brad: Yeah.

Jon: It’s funny because like in Montreal, there’s a big game, that that runs. It’s super political to get in. And this guy just assumed I was a fish. Because the way I looked or whatever, and they let me play in their big game. And then I had a couple of big days and he googled me and was like, you were no longer welcome here. Anyway,

Brad: At least you had a couple good days. At least you ran, ran good when it mattered.

Jon: Well, yeah, actually, you know, he let me stay there while I was losing. And then I had a couple big days. And he was like, oh, yeah.

Brad: Of course, they let you stay there when you’re losing. That’s hilarious stuff. You, you incognito Crusher.

Jon: Yeah, and I actually am older, than I mean, I’ve always been older than the majority of online players, because I was like 24 when I started.

Brad: Yeah.

Jon: And so like, all my friends have always been a little bit younger than me. There was a point in time when there were a lot of 18-year old in the game. It’s not like that anymore. A lot of those guys have grown. But I’m still older than my peers for sure. Yeah

Brad: What you like 40 now?

Jon: 38.

Brad: 38. 36.

Jon: Okay, old men unite.

Brad: Old Men unite. Good thing poker is not like an athletic career. We, we still cognitively I hope I you know, you still got it for sure. It’s up in the air whether or not I still got it. But

Jon: I don’t know, buddy. I burned some brain cells. But I read recently we found out that they grow back so I am.

Brad: That’s a, that’s a close call. When we, again when we were growing up back when we were like 15 they said they never came back.

Jon: I know.

Brad: Lucky us. 

Jon: Yep, yep.

Brad: Dodge the bullet.

Jon: Neuroplasticity.

Brad: Neuroplasticity.

Jon: But yeah, I now like, it’s funny because I remember a lot of people back in the day, were like, I’m not going to play poker for, for the rest of my life. And, you know, now I’m actually pretty comfortable with the idea I, I would love to be like, yeah, I’ve been in this game for 30 years and I’m still crushing these young whippersnappers.

Brad: I told my wife, like, no matter what happens, do not put anything poker related on my epitaph. Like nothing on my tombstone, poker related. I think that’s where I draw the line. 


Jon: No way. I’m not like, I have like some tattoos. I’m not going to get a poker tattoo.

Brad: Jon “Apestyles” Van Fleet just write their

Jon: Age styles across my, my stomach right next to where it says thug life. But yeah, I know. So, I one of my least favorite things in the world is when somebody who knows I play poker tries to relate to me using like a really terrible poker analogy. You know, like, when they’re like, okay, how can I put this to you? Let’s say you got the aces. Am I, I’m going to stop you right now man. Please talk to me in any way other than that, please.

Brad: Yeah.

Jon: You know. I mean, now, now, there are like, if you’re a poker player, you can make funny poker analogies, but not like an outside player doing that now.

Brad: Yeah, you got to be, you got to be in there. And never ever, ever invite somebody that’s really good at poker to like a very small home game thinking that they’re going to care at all. Like, those are those, are the most fun games to punt. And knows absolutely zero thought process.

Jon: I honestly, I have to admit, I’m just that guy. I say no, I just don’t go. Because it’s a lose, lose. You know,

Brad: Because it’s more, like it springs up around you, you know, like, you’re, you’re somewhere and then they’re like, oh, let’s play poker. I bet I can be Brad. And then they just find, you know, the chips manifests, come out of thin air and all of a sudden, we’re playing poker.

Jon: No, I mean, I’ve had that happen, for sure. I remember. They’re like, I got this, we got this great idea. We’re going to play poker. You know, he’s just like, that’s like, that’s like, you know, telling a carpenter, I got this great idea. Tonight, we’re going to

Brad: Build some shit.

Jon: Build some shit. Should it for me, it’s just like, okay, if I win, it’s like, not very much money. And my friends are like, ah, the pro took the money, you know. And if I lose, or like, we took that pro, I could beat that guy, you know. But so that’s actually what I guess I do. If I play those super low games. When I, back in the day, if I played them, I would just kind of not care at all. But I’ve trained myself where I can’t not Care Actually,

Brad: Really?

Jon: I have to just play good all the time, or play the best I can. I can play a little bit more aggressively at the end of the session when I’m like one tabling. But I, I have to try to play the best of my abilities. No matter what

Brad: I can, I can throw the game, I can throw it. And as I’ve gotten more mature, too, I’ve learned, like you said, your friends are happy when they beat you. Right? I’ve learned that. And this is through children, letting my children beat me at thing sometimes is like they feel so much happiness and joy and a sense of accomplishment that that kind of makes me happy too. So yeah, just whatever, give it to people. Give, give them that little bit of, bit of self-confidence that they crushed you or crushed me anyway.

Jon: Man, I am such a competitive person. If I had a kid, I’m not sure I could let them beat me.

Brad: You know what, let me, I’m going to call that bluff. I’m going to call that bluff. Because you can only beat your kid so many times at Tic Tac Toe before it’s like, okay, let’s, let’s, let’s give them a little hope here. Let’s give them an opening to take advantage of.

Jon: Okay, fair. You know what, like, I take it back. I’m pretty sure that I could do that. I used to say that I couldn’t. But I think that I would, for sure throw the game for a kid to let them have that feeling of winning. It’s just constantly crushing your kid over and over.

Brad: It’s almost sociopathic. I played, a friend of mine who’s like he’s sick at chess. Like I’m not a chess player. And checkers two, I didn’t realize there was so much skill in checkers ‘til I played him. And he literally beat me, like 50 times in a row at an airport and was like happy as a pig in shit to queue up for 51. Like he was like, I mean, I had one move where I had more checkers than him in that, in those entire 50 games. One play, like and he was, he was just so happy to crush me. Probably forever. He could have beat me 1000 times I think and would have had joy from it.

Jon: I relate. So like, when I play someone at chess like I’m like, probably around like 2000 rated which is like, you know, like 200 points less than a master, like a weak master. But yeah, when I played most people like I just don’t have any challenge. And that’s actually not fun for me. So, I’m like, hey, do you mind if I kind of tell you what you’re doing wrong? So, I can like, which is super annoying for them, I’m sure. Yeah, I try to do like, I try to help them though at least let them know what I’m doing. Not enough to where they’re going to ever beat me. But just enough to where like, I feel like, like, it’s not just me like stomping on someone over and over again. But yeah,

Brad: If you’re crushing somebody and you give them some feedback that directly relates to them beating you, you are the best coach in the world. Your coaching skills are off the charts.

Jon: I think I actually have done that. Before I made, I was with my buddies, because I wanted some chess action. I told anyone that if they can beat me at chess, I’ll give them $500 to a charity of their choice. And I actually did, this guy freaking finally beat me he can see he took me up on he just played me like every freaking every day. And he eventually got me. And I kind of did give him some Henson that game. But he’s no, he got me fair and square. It wasn’t it wasn’t. But yeah, I got, got. But yeah, you know, I, I’m not sure how good that competitive nature is. When it comes to a spiritual level. Like, because there’s ego, it’s nothing but ego. But that desire to be better, to succeed, and to be oh, quite frankly, like to crush other people is probably not healthy. And I don’t feel like I exhibit that in my regular life. But yeah, for some reason, when it comes to poker, and chess, I get pretty ruthless. Yeah,

Brad: I can say that I have matured over the years. And you’re right is purely ego driven. I told this story, I believe. I can’t remember if I was on another podcast or my own. But that friend of mine, that I that I, I grew up with that, you know, we push each other to improve. I remember a specific night, where he was cash poor, and went broke at a casino. And I let him borrow $1,000. And he was, we were playing in same cash game against each other. And I ran a massive bluff against him specifically, because I knew he only had $1,000 and couldn’t reload, and wouldn’t want to be in a big spot against me, who is one of the stronger players at the table. And the absolute, this shameful part about the whole thing, I can’t even say it is the point. It’s hard for me to even say. I showed him the bluff. Like I even, I couldn’t stop myself from showing in the bluff to like max torture, and he just snapped, got up. Oh, it was bad. 

Jon: Wow, wow, I would have been mad at you, I would have been mad at you, for sure.

Brad: I’m mad at myself thinking back on it like that is just next level douchebaggery. It’s just not good.

Jon: But you know, what else can you do? Like, I’ve made a lot of friends in the poker world. So, I’m playing against them all the time. I’m not going to soft plan.

Brad: Yeah, for sure. Of course not.

Jon: If I have some extra information about where they’re at, or whatever, I’m going to use that. And I actually tell, when I, when I’m coaching a high stakes player, I’m like, yo, your information is safe with me. I’m not going to tell anybody else. But I promise you, if I’m playing you and I know something about your game, I’m going to use it. I’m sorry.

Brad: How could you not right, you’re just going to selectively forget stuff. I mean,

Jon: I’m going to make, to see what’s the other option soft playing. That’s unethical. Right?

Brad: Yeah.

Jon: So, making the best move that you know, that you can make. At any given time is the right play. Right. So

Brad: I didn’t have to show him. I didn’t have to show him.

Jon: But you know, what if it costs him to get up from the table at that point, maybe it was a good thing for him.

Brad: It was a good thing for me because the game got better, temporarily. Not a good thing for my friendship, though.

Jon: Oh, yeah, bet, I bet not, not. But you know what, man, like, it’s a cutthroat game. And at the table, you kind of have to be a killer.

Brad: I was definitely a killer in my 20,s in my 20s. I wouldn’t do that today, though. I have to say, I wouldn’t go for the juggler. I would probably put a lot of pressure on them. But I wouldn’t show them just to tilt them and make them leave. I think that’s, that’s the point to where it got a little out of control for me.

Jon: Yeah, the show was unnecessary, but the bluff was not. Yeah, um, I’ve actually like, in live poker occasionally felt I lacked the Killer Instinct a little bit. Like, that I, online I just have. And I think that part of that is like I remember one time there was this like, this like sweet little lady at the table and her whole family was cheering her on like they were. And I was like, man, this woman must be like, awesome for her whole family to be standing and watching her play poker because poker for me even sitting down playing is kind of boring. So, I mean, if they’re all standing there watching her, I mean, wow, you know, and she was so nice. But she was terrible. And like, you know, just limping every hand. And there are a couple spots where I totally should have, I sewed with her with, I saw her with like, ace, ace rag, and, you know, just, and she was super transparent, where I just was like, I can’t. I’m going to let her and I was talking with her and having a good time with her. And, you know, I actually felt really crappy after that, at first because I was like, wow, I just was unprofessional there and let her you know, didn’t, didn’t totally attack her, which I could have, because we were having this friendly conversation, and she would have believed me and whatever. But, you know, later on that day, she came up to me, I saw her and I was like, are you still on? And she was like, uh, no, but I just wanted to thank you, because I was super scared to be playing with all those men. And in that big bind tournament, and I had such a good time talking to you and playing, it was all worth it. And I don’t know, that made me feel better, because I was like, you know what, that’s there were a couple plus EV spots I missed. So, I don’t know. I still think going back in time that I probably should have just made the professional play and pounced on her. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t

Brad: I disagree. I’m softer than you. I’m sorry. I’m softer than you, you want to be. Because you weren’t you were soft there. But like, I think that there is value in you know, she had a good time. And there is value in helping people with their experience. You did give up some EV. So, it’s like this trade off. So, I do say that, you know, you were serving somebody else. And there is something to be said for that.

Jon: Yeah, you know what, actually, this is something that I don’t do, but I do think it’s important. And all these freaking high roller players that take years just staring at each other, he should need to get like, stop, because part of your job as a live poker player, especially if you’re on TV and things like that, is to entertain the recreational players, entertain people who are watching. And gosh, I mean, the poker is good, but so slow. They’re also slow. And they don’t say anything in there. They do say something. It’s like hyper intellectual. I do think that a small part of your job, if you’re a live poker professional, is to keep the whales entertained in there.

Brad: I’ll go above and so I’m a cash game player. I don’t play many tournaments. And I think cash game players intuitively understand this. Better than tournament players, live tournament players is that I don’t think is a small part of your job. I think it’s a large part of your job to be entertaining to the folks that you’re battling against. So that they have a great experience. And they want to come back. I mean, they tell other people like it’s just part of the gig not sitting there like a wooden, you know, wooden statue in the one seat with your headphones on and a hoodie and never interacting and making the experience super boring and intimidating. Like you want to make people laugh, you want to create a good game, because that’s just good for business. And the longevity of poker.

Jon: I remember I had a very clear moment, where I was looking at like the 20-500-6 max table and it was just like a whole bunch of kids with headphones on doing chip tricks. Not talking to each other. It was, it was going on during the same time as like this, like limit Omaha eight tournament or something. And it was just like, loud people were drinking. It was just like, all for sure. Nonprofessional players, 

Brad: Right.

Jon: And I was like, I feel like there’s a reason why because it didn’t used to be quite like that. He used to be you know, I think that like all these you don’t want to lose to some, like, quiet like snotty kid. Like just, you feel it feels intimidating to be at those tables and also all the bum hunting that goes on online. I mean, I guess there’s no other way to do it, but it I’m sure it doesn’t feel good to feel like I am the, I am the prey here and say you’re all just coming after me.

Brad: It can’t feel good. It can’t feel good. And like there is no easy solution to that.

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 him 10 rapid fire questions and they can either A, tell the truth, or B, try 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: Alright, you’re ready for the balanced ranges.

Jon: I’m ready.

Brad: Let’s go. Invisibility or super strength?

Jon: Invisibility.

Brad: Your last Halloween costume?

Jon: I’m trying to think of when I actually dressed up in a costume. Oh, yeah, I was like Chiquita Banana.

Brad: A Chiquita Banana?

Jon: Fruit thing on my head and some coconut shells. Yeah.

Brad: Have you cried in the last six months?

Jon: Only at romantic comedies.

Brad: So, no, I have there been romantic comedies that came out in the last six months. I can’t think

Jon: Actually I, but I’m going to change that, it just, occasionally a movie will get me teary eyed a little bit but ,but not too much cry.

Brad: Okay, not too much crying. Favorite childhood TV show.

Jon: Dukes of Hazzard.

Brad: How old are you? What’s the fastest speed you’ve ever driven in a car?

Jon: I think yeah, I think we got past 200 one time.

Brad: 200 plus. Have you ever worn socks with sandals?

Jon: No.

Brad: Favorite ice cream flavor?

Jon: I’m going to say rocky road.

Brad: I’m going to say, is that a tell? A scale of one to ten, how good are you a wiffleball?

Jon: Are we talking about wiffleball like regular rules?

Brad: Yeah, regular, regular rules, wiffleball.

Jon: I’ll give myself an eight. I’ll give myself an eight.

Brad: What type of milk do you put in your cereal?

Jon: 2%.

Brad: How many pull ups can you do in a row?

Jon: Not sure if I can even do one.

Brad: All right. There you go. So, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve taken us off course I think or maybe we’re on course. But I’ve, haven’t gotten around to the lightning round. We probably ought to jump into the lightning round before. You know this is turns into a five-hour epic thing because I could I could honestly talk about stuff like this forever. I do love talking about it. It’s a joy to me.

Jon: Yeah, I’m a rambley mofo. So yeah, I like to talk about stuff too. I love talking. Actually, as a coach, what I’ve had to learn to do is streamline, streamline a little bit, be more efficient with, with how I teach, because occasionally I will go off a little bit too much into the, into the minor details. 

Brad: Yeah.

Jon: And that’s unnecessary a lot of times. You need to get it, get across the major points. Move on. Next thing

Brad: I equated to my students as they’re, it’s, they’re trying to drink water from a firehose, sometimes, because it’s just get on one tangent. And you know, the reality is you have an hour together, typically, sometimes it goes over, but typically an hour. And that one hour can be very concentrated on like one hand or one spot, if you’re not careful. And yeah, me too. Me too.

Jon: I try to pick two topics and go super deep into them a lot of the times. I find like I’ll do a database review, find two leaks, and then go really into those.

Brad: Yeah.

Jon: Write up a report on those least given assignment, come back to it, check in with it, and then do new topics and next week. That’s why I try to have structure within my coaching. And

Brad: Give them are recording too. So, they can, they can go back and watch it, I think.

Jon: And the blueprint course that we just made is really about the main points, like the essentially the idea of the course is that we would give rules that were at least like 80 to 90% true. Because essentially, the way that Rob described it, there’s actually like they did a study where they gave sports betting experts, four pieces of information to their choice, and got the results from that. And the sports betting experts did better than you know better than, they did better than breaking even I don’t know they did better than they’re supposed to, of course. And then they did a second version of this where they were given eight pieces of information or something like that. I could be totally quoting this wrong. But it’s, the points remain the same. And the results didn’t change.

Brad: Right.

Jon: So, the fundamentals are what are most important. And that’s what we tried to boil down, the blueprint course, the being and then you join elevate for the specifics and for when to deviate from the rules, but you have to know the rules before you can break the rules.

Brad: Exactly. And at some point, there’s just diminishing returns, like on the things, on the information that you’re using, you reach the diminishing returns, and it’s not valuable anymore. You know, for the sports bettors to have 20 pieces of information versus the original for.

Jon: Totally. Everyone always wants to talk about river bluff, like river calls and it’s like, and like, the nature of them is that they’re indifferent. And yeah, they’re interesting, because you have to look back through the hand and all that but, but really just to validate your blockers, and like, it’s not, those hands don’t come up as much as like, what your three bet range looks like what your reshelve range looks like, like, like, the spots that come up all the time, if you’re doing those wrong, those are going to add up, you know, it’s not always wants to, like go into like the minutiae of the river spots, because they feel those are the painful ones. You’re like, ah, do I call, do I fold, I don’t know, you know, that’s emotional, though. That’s not it.

Brad: And they’re big. They’re, they’re by nature, they’re bigger pots, then three, betting somebody pre. But like, from a frequency standpoint, always work on the high frequency spots that come up over and over and over again, that’s going to give you know, that’s going to give you the benefit, or that that’s going to give you the rewards and maximize your time and your energy that you’re investing in is studying. And a lot of times the river spots just kind of intuitively make sense because you have a lot of different pieces of the puzzle that you’re putting together.

Jon: So lightning round

Brad: Lightning round, okay. When you think about joy, in your career, helping poker players, what’s the first memory that comes to mind?

Jon: Honestly, it’s, there have been so many that just when people whenever, whenever, whenever someone just comes back and is like, yeah, I use this here and I just won this. And you know, that happens quite a lot. The only problem is sometimes I’ve actually like I helped a couple guys get up in the game, and then they bust me from like, really high buy in tournaments. But no, you know, there’s, there’s, it’s really just when students come back. There is an overall feeling of satisfaction and joy. There’s not like one super proud moment. And the reason why that is, is because I can’t ever really take full credit for anyone’s win or big moment. It is really cool. Like, like, sometimes with poker, there’s this thing that happens where you know, your if your friends are winning, you feel like they actually kind of crappy. But there’s some guys that I came up with who I always feel good when they’re crushing. And, you know, for a long time, as Stephen Chidwick was like my best friend and say, you know, really Elio and a few of these guys, I get really stoked when those guys win just because we’ve shared so much with each other. And we came up together and it’s cool to know that you know, I’m, I’m out here holding the online game down and they’re out there crushing the high rollers.

Brad: It’s a way to be supportive of your friends, and all that stuff comes back tenfold, especially in times of struggle, right? Like something happens. And these relationships are super valuable. It’s just always better to root for your friends and the people that you care about, I think in any endeavor.

Jon: Yeah, the only thing is sometimes it does hurt when like right next to you, your buddies crushing in like you’re, you’re like just twiddling your role. We’re, you know, worried about what’s happening, what’s going to happen next. And it’s not that you don’t want your friend to win, but I’ve been in a spot where it just is a reflection on where I’m at.

Brad: Right.

Jon: You know, and so I get that, but it’s totally better to just live vicariously and, and, and just route your friends on and be stoked for them. 

Brad: For sure.

Jon: You don’t want to be a bitter Betty.

Brad: And going back to what you said about not taking credit for your students. I think as a coach, you know, the coach is the guide. The student is the hero in that journey. So, you’re absolutely right, like just guiding people to do their best and then that’s their success, right? They earned it.

Jon: I also have another answer to that. Now I think about it.

Brad: Okay.

Jon: Being the head coach at poker. And being the one that brought in PIO solver and brought in poker and brought in the way I look at the game to this table. Just seeing them all talk in my language is cool. And seeing one guy talk to another guy using the terminology that I use that I believe came from me makes me that that’s cool to see for me. Seeing I had that kind of impact, it gets spread down. But then there’s that freaking flipside where I’m like, dammit, I’m making the game tougher.

Brad: I mean, it’s going to get tougher, I think whether we go for it or not, whether we share our wisdom, it’s still going to get tougher. That’s just the nature of poker.

Jon: Super weird. Like, I’ll discover something or think I discovered something. And I’ll start implementing it and teach a few people. And then I’ll see other people doing it, who I didn’t teach. And I’m like, what’s going on here? Like, is this? You know, did I am I having a direct influence on the game? But actually, what I think happens is, you know, calculus was discovered by two people at the same time. So, I think that people are going to learn at the sit, like, people are going to learn the same things with different processes using the using the tools that we’re using.

Brad: But especially in a data in a data driven game like Poker, where,

Jon: Yeah.

Brad: People can get your data and they can, you know, they can start analyzing and seeing what it is that you’re doing, especially if you’re successful and getting crushing.

Jon: Yeah, I’ve wondered if it is me having a direct effect sometimes. But I don’t want to. I think that that’s probably a little bit too big.

Brad: Too egocentric?

Jon: Yeah.

Brad: It’s definitely possible, though. It’s not, you know, it’s not, it’s not a 0% that, you know, because, especially like you said, you’re going straight up, right. When you’re crushing it, people want to emulate and model and see what’s this guy doing differently than I can implement into my game. So, it’s not a stretch to say that, you know, people can be data mining, they can be downloading and, and analyzing,

Jon: For sure, for sure.

Brad: When you think about pain in your poker career, what’s the first memory that comes to mind?

Jon: Yeah, way back in the day, when I had done what I’d done, which is staying up, yeah, taking, taking Adderall. And because I thought it would help my game, but I actually ended up just playing these super long sessions. And then realizing that I borrowed more money than I had, was, and then waking up, like, what am I going to do? And I just, I felt that was a really bad spot for me to be in.

Brad: What was the thought, thoughts going on in your mind, in that time?

Jon: A part of me wanted to just kind of escape from it. And another part of me was just like, thinking about what I needed sell, like what? You know, but it was just, just a lot of them. Oh, yeah, I had them. I shouldn’t use this one. But there’s another one too, but they’re both very similar. Maybe you can edit out the last bit, I don’t know.

Brad: Sure.

Jon: But when I was drinking and playing, I got blackout drunk one time. And I had 80,000 in my full tilt account. And the next morning, I woke up, and I went to go look at my play poker, whatever, play the tournament schedule, and I had $0 in my full tilt account. And I’m like, oh, crap, I’ve been hacked. But then, like, I loaded my hand histories in the poker tracker. And I had played 100, 200 against one of the biggest winners on full tilt, and like, called down with, like, bottom pair, and like a huge, huge three bet pot. Just you know, like, 0% chance of winning in this matchup. And yeah, I quit drinking. After that for a good bit, at least it, it felt miserable, especially being hung over on top of everything. And just like, oh, man, it was, I just felt really, really stupid. And I didn’t know what I was going to do next boss in poker. Yeah, that’s probably the most painful.

Brad: How’d you get out of that? Just work.

Jon: Again, just getting, getting clean, getting sober and focusing on the things I could control, working out. Just putting my effort towards being a better poker player. And just not thinking about what I can’t change, just moving forward. And you know, luckily, I, you know, came back from that, and then some, you know, that was, that was 2008. So, yeah, at that point in time, it felt like the world had come, you know, was collapsing around me. And I was, I was totally screwed. Because that was pretty much everything for me. It was at that point in time, and it was just hard not to beat myself up and just be like, you were such an idiot. Like, what, what were you doing? But yeah, that’s always been the thing though, like those little moments have kind of sharpened me as a human being because I have that choice of either laying down and quitting or doing whatever or being like, okay, it’s time to get your shit together in time to start focusing on just optimizing yourself being a better person, being more healthy and steady.

Brad: Yeah, you don’t make it in this game for 15 years by not being resilient in the face of ease, you know, massive adversity, sometimes self-induced massive adversity like that. But you have to be resilient. Right? Like, that’s just the nature of the beast.

Jon: Yeah, I mean, you don’t have to be like me, please don’t. I mean, some are, some are just sicker than others. But like,

Brad: I’m not, I’m not saying that that’s a positive experience for you by any stretch, but it’s just like, even without getting blackout drunk in busting your account. Things happen in poker that require you to get back up, like it will kick your ass no matter who you are. That’s just the nature. So, you have to have this built-in resilience to be successful over a long period of time.

Jon: Absolutely. Maybe, maybe I am also like, a little bit masochistic. I’m a glutton for punishment. I don’t know, you know, but like, you absolutely do have to be able to reset yourself and be like that happened. I can either well at it, and be like, oh, that guy is such an idiot, or whatever, like during the day, or you can go back to playing your best game, focusing on decisions, just moving forward one step at a time living in the moment.

Brad: Yeah, absolutely. Imagine there’s a carbon copy of yourself 21 years old who’s getting into poker. If you could sit that kid down. Give him some advice, what would it be?

Jon: Stop playing the 25ks in December. I’m not sure 21-year-old me was listening to anybody. But like, not too much, because I like where I’m at as a human being right now. And they would actually be advice, tips about being myself about, about being okay, with being an open book, and how that’s actually served me in my life. Because there’s a point in time when I was very closed off and not like that, right? There. There’s a lot of advice I give myself about how to handle adversity, and how to conduct myself in the world that I didn’t used to have. As far as avoiding those stupid, stupid spots where I mean, I’d be so much richer if I, if I didn’t just punt money, like four times. But I’m not even sure that I could have avoided those spots. Because I mean,

Brad: Whether you even want to.

Jon: I mean, it’s, yeah, I learned its time.

Brad: Right. Right. That’s the most messed up thing about, we don’t know what would have happened on any different trajectory other than the one that got us to where we are. So, it’s tough.

Jon: Yeah, exactly. However, at this point in time, I would just say, just a tip, take December off in 2019.

Brad: Take December off. It’s funny, I asked that question to Jungleman. And he’s like, he had like immediate advice that he would give a carbon copy. But then he’s like, no, that they’re not going to listen to that I need to give the exploitative advice to my younger self. So that they would listen to it.

Jon: Oh, wait, actually, you know what? Damn man, I actually just sort of been like, okay, you need to start raising a whole bunch here. These poker charts, here are these gazillion spots that the population is over folding. Try this check raise. Oh, yeah, turn docking, do that.

Brad: Okay, docking do that.

Jon: I mean, we’ll know like, like, I would just have because there’s so many spots population was playing very poorly. Under defending the big blind, overflowing the three bets. overflowing the seabed, see betting too much. Just so many different spots. People were playing bad. They, they weren’t even shoving correctly at all. They were just, they were like infinite spots that I could, I could have taken advantage of and made even more money than I did.

Brad: Yeah.

Jon: So yeah, that’s, that’s what I would actually do. I was thinking more along like sage advice, you know?

Brad: Yeah, like wisdom specific.

Jon: Yeah.

Brad: He said he would tell himself to diversify and put money on multiple sites instead of focusing on one so that he could make more money. But if you could gift all poker players one book, what would it be and why? This could also be a poker piece of poker related content that you feel is worthy as well.

Jon: You know, I’m not going to say that the traditional like poker super analytical books. I’m going to say, Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat Zinn. And as far, as if that was the answer to this book, this question is like what do I think is my, like the best poker book? Right now, I really like Michael Acevedo’s book that I had a lot to do with as far as he’s informed. He’s organizing a ton of information from solvers. And there’s tons of charts its great as a reference book. But it’s pretty dense. Some books that really helped me out along the way. And this is not the question you asked me. It’s the question I’m answering. I really liked Along the Way, Matthew John, this book, Will Tipton’s book. You know, the first book I ever read was actually Phil Hellmuth’s book.

Brad: But does it Play Poker Like The Pros, I think.

Jon: Yeah. Where I learned about the elephant, the calling station and then the jackal who was like the wild player. Then there is like, the something who’s the rock? I forgot who that what that animal was. And then there’s the eagle, who’s above all other players like Phil Hellmuth. It’s pretty much reserved for only Phil Hellmuth. But yeah, that was that was the first poker book I read. The first book that really gave me a lot of insight. I think were some of the Sklansky books. And yeah, I did not really fully answer your question. The answer that I gave though

Brad: I think the Jon Kabat Zinn. Yeah, I liked the Buddhist book. Again, it didn’t have to be 100% poker related. First poker book that I actually read that resonated with me was Super System. And it was more of giving me a license to be aggressive, like just talking about aggression. And poker was like, mind altering, life altering for me,

Jon: I straight up lost money when I started trying to play like that book, because it was,

Brad: Oh, I didn’t play like the book. But it was more like, just the concept of like, aggression is good. And like when I internalized that and applied it at the tables, that was fun for me, because again, like you said, the pokers like a puzzle and the pieces come together, and aggression, you can learn a lot from aggression that you otherwise wouldn’t learn.

Jon: I agree. I just remember my story about Supersystem is that I just remember Doyle Brunson and I would read it and kind of like a Doyle Brunson voice in my head. And I remember just being like, and I’ll go all in with the gut shot. You know, I’ll put them to the test. And so, I played these live poker games. I got a gut shot. Okay, I’m going to format all in with this, because Doyle Brunson says so. I got it, did not work well for me.

Brad: play the rush. I waited two hands in a row. I got to play the next five hands. I’m not folding until I lose a hand. More Super System wisdom there.

Jon: Yes, yes. But no, I mean that. The truth is that the ideal tournament player in my mind, is I hate the I hate the word small ball. But like someone who’s attacking constantly attacking hard to win pots off of. But when the money gets in calling, they tend to have it or at least are making they’re making smart decisions that way. Attacking aggressive player is the toughest kind of player to play against, I think,

Brad: For sure. Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s tricky. It’s hard. There’s a lot of unknowns. Alright, next question. If you could erect a billboard leading into either the casino or somebody’s poker room where they play cards, what would that billboard say? That they have to drive past or walk pass on their way to the to the felt.

Jon: What’s my, what’s my goal here? Am I trying to get people to come in?

Brad: You need sage advice, just something that people you know, message for folks to internalize.

Jon: You got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them. You know, I, man, you actually you got me stumped on this one. It’s so, what you’re basically saying is like, what’s the message to all poker players? There’s more to life than this.

Brad: Yeah, that’s a good one. Actually, that’s a that’s a good one. Because as, as poker players, a lot of times we get our self-worth from our results on, on the felt. And that can be very, very damaging to your personal life, very damaging to your mental health, to say, you know, on days where you win your sky high and I’m a winner. In days, you lose saying I’m a loser. Very, very damaging.

Jon: Absolutely. A lot of my, like my concept of myself has to do with who I am as a poker player. And I’ve gotten away from that in the last few years where most of my friends don’t play poker. Some, some of my friends don’t even really know, the scope at which I play poker. I mean, I’m certainly not telling, you know, my friends who are working for 15-20 an hour about my million dollar down swings and stuff.

Brad: Yeah.

Jon: Well, what I’m going to hear from them is, well, you should acquit, well, sure. But

Brad: You ever thought about just not playing poker?

Jon: So, I actually, you know, now have a lot of friends who, who my friends for me, for my personality for what I what I give in that way. And not because I’m some, you know, high stakes poker player that can give them something. So, I, I’ve moved away from really identifying with myself as a poker player, although it’s still a big part of who I am. And I had, I had a losing year in 2016, where I was still me, I was having a good time, I felt good about myself, you know, for the most part, but underneath it all, I was losing and I could feel that I was just a little bit in the worst mood all the time. Like it was it was there.

Brad: Yeah. It’s hard to lose for a year and stay even keel for any human being.

Jon: Yeah, just working and working and losing, you know, it’s not fun.


Brad: Yeah, that’s, that’s got to be very, very, very brutal. What’s, you’ve mentioned your site, what’s a project you’re working on that’s near and dear to your heart?

Jon: Near and dear to my heart. The project that I’m working on right now is essentially figuring out population frequencies and then in almost every spot and then figuring out like max exploits, and then figuring out min exploits so that I’m not too exploitable. It’s a pretty, pretty big project.

Brad: That sounds very big.

Jon: Yeah. And there’s, there’s another one with, with, you know, essentially trying to come up with the dream machine. As far as that’s a 

Brad: What’s a dream machine?

Jon: Essentially is like a, a spreadsheet or program of some kind that can answer any poker question. Like, within certain constraints. It’s, it’s not, not happened yet. I haven’t seen one. I believe someone says one exists, but I don’t I don’t think so. Not for tournaments. As far as, as far as life projects go, like what’s, you just made me realize I need to get a life project. I mean, mainly I’m just doing service work and work working with addicts is what I do for the most part. Some random goals I have, I just want to get back into music do. I actually want to get like a scuba diving certificate. I’m just little stuff like that. But I don’t I don’t have any I just got done the big project, you know, and I don’t have any other big things on the horizon. I’ve got my, my got little interests here in there, like, you know, string theory kind of stuff or M theory. And finance a little bit, but I find it pretty dry. That’s pretty much it.

Brad: Nice. I mean, still got a lot on your plate. All the students, all the, the course, interacting with the community helping folks and playing cards. That’s

Jon: What about you? What’s a project that you have that’s really near and dear to your heart, other than this podcast?

Brad: Oh, you killed it. It’s this podcast. No, I’m, for me, I’m working daily on a course called Home Game Hero. That’s specifically helping folks crush their local home game. That’s, that’s the problem. That’s the project that takes up the most amount of my time on a daily basis. 

Jon: Yeah, I guess what happened with me is that it was the blueprint. It was, it was making the blueprint is this animated course, that was scripted that took a long time to do. So, there’s, there’s kind of a void where that was. And that’s a reminder, I usually have a big project. You know, I co-wrote those books. And there’s usually something big on the horizon. But right now, I’ve mainly just been working on, yeah, I mean, like these huge, exploitive things versus the population, lots of poker stuff, just going in even deeper into my poker stuff. But that question made me realize that my life, I would like a bigger project in my, in my regular life. Other than just like personal fitness.

Brad: Yes, stuff is, it’s a nature of, the nature of goals. A friend of mine is a gold medalist and he, I’ve done a lot of research on Olympians and people that have a massive project and then they complete it. And then they kind of spiral a little bit because they don’t have that focus. They don’t have that drive, the thing that they’re working towards anymore. It’s like oh, I won my gold medal, now what? Which is I mean, high achievers’ man. I think that’s a, that’s a real issue.

Jon: I think that I actually brought that up pretty much earlier.

Brad: Yeah, for sure.

Jon: I think I said, but yeah, that happens, that happens a lot. Like I accomplished a lot of the goals that I set out to make. And I remember not feeling as good as I thought I would. But this actually helped me one time solving my, I had what I think are anxiety issues. And when I was writing the book, Volume Two, I was stuck in a lot of spots. And I just didn’t want to write it. So anytime that I was having a good time relaxing. It was like my brain would be like, why are you relaxing? You got this book to stress out about. And I just felt like I could never really just relax or feel, feel, feel good. Because in the back of my mind, I had this book, then I finished it. And I didn’t feel that much better. And I realized that my brain just likes to worry about something, to cling on to something to feel stressed about. And that actually helped me let go of that anxiety because I realized it’s just in there. It’s like a, it’s a tool that you can use sure. But it’s not something that is indicative of anything real.

Brad: Whether it’s even going to get resolved based on some sort of accomplishment.

Jon: Exactly. I was expecting this huge weight to be lifted and then it was just like, oh, well.

Brad: What the hell happened? But yeah, I again, part of the human condition, I think, and this this is it, man final question. It’s been an absolute pleasure. I’ve loved talking to you. Where can the chasing the poker greatness audience find you on the inter webs?

Jon: You can find me on Twitter, apestyles. You can find me on, two plus two. My Skype is HStilesJonVanFleet That’s m-a-x-dash-value, And I yeah, I mean, I’m available for coaching from any of those spots. And also, hopefully you check out the blueprint, the course that I spent all that time on. And yeah, I’m pretty available. pretty reasonable.

Brad: You were the man sir, thank you very much for your time and your energy and love having you on and look forward to having you on again sometime in the near future.

Jon: Thank you. It was fun.

Thanks for reading this transcript of Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 034: Jon “Apestyles” Van Fleet

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