Kristen Bicknell: #7 Ranked GPI Player in the World & $8.7 Million in Tourney Cashes
Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 061
Kristen Bicknell on social media:
Today’s guest is PartyPoker pro and the current #7 GPI ranked player in the world Kristen Bicknell.
Kristen has over $5,000,000 in live cashes to go along with $3.7 million in online earnings which is, as Larry David might say, “Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good”.
There was a hand Kristen played recently that I stumbled across on Twitter that shows you why she’s one of the best in the world:
With blinds at 15k/30k and a big blind ante of 30k, former CPG Guest Dara O’ Kearney min raises from UTG with KK sitting on a 2.9 million chip stack.
A loose passive rec that covers flats on the button, Kristen (Sitting on a 1.38 million chip stack) comes along from the SB, and the BB folds.
With 240k in the middle, the flop is Kd7h5c. Kristen checks, Dara checks, the rec bets 115k, Kristen calls, and Dara overcalls.
The turn is the 2d putting up a backdoor flush draw and with 585k in the pot, Kristen leads 220k into Dara and the rec.
Dara smooth calls with top set (the nuts) and the rec folds.
The river is the 7 of diamonds, completing the backdoor flush and pairing the board, Kristen bets 650k (leaving herself with 350k), Dara shoves, and Kristen folds getting 6.5-1 (Needing to be right only 13% of the time in order to profitably call).
Her hand, pocket 5’s for a full house.
I VERY MUCH wish we could have had the opportunity to discuss her thought process in the hand but, alas, I didn’t know of it’s existence until after we had finished recording.
However, I will give my thoughts and they’re fairly simple: Dara is simply NEVER bluffing here and Kristen doesn’t beat ANY of his value (K7, KK, or Quads).
The best hands Kristen beats are AA and AK, which are never shoving the river, and because Dara didn’t cbet the flop we can heavily discount his backdoor diamond draws (And, to be fair, he probably shouldn’t be shoving AdQd even if it is in his range).
So, the next time you get annoyed that folks aren’t folding enough in the games you play, try to at least be a little grateful that they aren’t Kristen Bicknell who is capable of correctly folding a full house getting 6.5-1 on the river.
In today’s episode, you’ll learn:
Why Kristen HATES selling her own action and would never want a full-time backer.
Why asking for help and being vulnerable takes you way farther in life than always trying to be a stone cold killer.
Kristen’s thoughts playing the final day of the Shooting Star Classic, the last tournament before we were all sent to our rooms without a key.
And MUCH more!
So get ready, strap in, and get prepared for the perpetually GREAT Kristen Bicknell.
Click any of the icons below to find the CPG pod on the platform of your choice. Then sit back, relax, and enjoy my conversation with Kristen Bicknell on the Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast.
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Brad: Welcome, welcome, welcome my friend to the chasing poker greatness podcast. As always, this is your host, Brad Wilson and today’s guest is party poker pro and current number seven GPI ranked player in the world, Kristin Bicknell. Before we jump into Kristen and I’s conversation, I wanted to take a second to remind you about enhanceyouredge.com/resources. If you love what I do here with Chasing Poker Greatness and want to support the show, you can head to enhanceyouredge.com/resources and click through any of the coach Brad approved products and services that are listed there. Kristen Bicknell has over $5 million in live cashes to go along with 3.7 million in online earnings, which is as Larry David might say, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good. There was a hand Kristen played recently that I stumbled across on Twitter that shows you why it’s obvious she’s one of the best in the world. With blinds at 15k, 30k and a big blind anti of 30k, former chasing poker greatness guest Dara O’Kearney min raises from under the gun with pocket kings sitting on a 2.9 million chips stack. A loose passive recreational player that covers him flats on the button, Kristin sitting on a 1.38 million chip stack comes along from the small blind and the big blind folds. With 240k in the middle the flop is king at seven, five rainbow with one diamond. Kristin checks, Dara checks his top set, the rec bets a 115k. Kristin calls and Dara over calls. The turn is the deuce of diamonds putting up a backdoor flush draw and with 585k in the pot, Kristen leads 220k into Dora and the wreck. Dara smooth calls once again with his top set and the wreck folds. The river is the seven of diamonds completing the backdoor flush and pairing the board. Kristen bet 650k, leaving herself with only 350. Dara shoves and Kristin folds, getting 6.5 to one on her money. She only needs to be right greater than 13% of the time in order to profitably call here. Her hand, pocket fives for a full house. While I very much wish we could have had the opportunity to discuss her exact thought process in this hand, alas, I didn’t know of its existence until we had finished recording. However, I’ll give my thoughts and they’re fairly simple. Dara is simply never bluffing here and Kristen doesn’t beat any of his value which are king seven, pocket kings and quads. The best hands Kristen beats are pocket aces and ace king which are never shoving the river. And because Dara didn’t see but the flop, we can also heavily discount his backdoored diamond draws. And to be fair, he probably shouldn’t be shoving ace queen of diamonds, even if that hand isn’t his range. So, the next time you get annoyed that folks aren’t fully enough in the games you play, try to at least be a little grateful that they aren’t Kristen Bicknell, who’s capable of correctly folding a full house getting 6.5 to one on the river. In today’s episode, you’ll learn why Kristen hates selling her own action and would never want a full-time backer, why asking for help and being vulnerable takes you way farther in life than always trying to be a stone-cold killer, Kristen’s thoughts playing the final day of the shooting star classic the last tournament before we were all sent to our rooms without a key and much more. So, get ready, strap in, and get prepared to hear from a human being with a poker mind like a diamond, Kristin Bicknell.
Brad: Kristen, how are we doing? Welcome to the podcast.
Kristen: Thank you. I’m doing good.
Brad: Doing very well. Hanging out in Canada?
Kristen: Yes, yeah. I’m kind of enjoying this break actually. I think I’ve been home for I guess five weeks now or something without traveling which I haven’t been able to say for the past few years. I’ve been you know traveling to tournament after tournament. And, yeah, it’s been a nice little break. And I’m lucky enough to have different sites to play on, being in Canada. So, poker online is kind of booming right now.
Brad: Way to rub that in my face, right?
Kristen: I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
Brad: That’s awesome though. Poker is booming. There just traffic everywhere is way up, sites are crashing left and right.
Brad: Little tournaments. It’s a, it’s an interesting time.
Brad: I want to, I wanted to start out by asking you your story. How’d you get involved playing cards in the first place?
Kristen: Sure. When I was, I think 17 or 18 years old, my first year of university, my roommates at the time, I knew nothing about poker. And they came and said, do you guys want to play poker? We’re having a little tournament tonight. And they were having friends over. And it was like, okay, sure. Never really actually, I don’t think I was really interested that evening to even play. And then as soon as we started playing, I was hooked. I, like fell in love with the game. We played all night until, I guess noon the next day. And then me and that group of people, we started playing poker, I don’t know, maybe three or four nights a week. And we got really competitive like the boys were fighting. And yeah, I just fell in love with the game. And I guess from there, I started playing local games. There was a little cash game like underground in the city that I went in play that.
Brad: What was it about poker that made you fall in love with the game?
Kristen: It’s a, it’s a good question that I’m not, I can’t really remember exactly what it was. I, I guess it was, you know, 14 or 15 years ago now. So, I’m trying to recall it.
Brad: What was the feeling, the feeling? Do you remember how you felt in that early time in your poker career when you were playing cards?
Kristen: I was just so excited. And so, I remember reading poker books, and I don’t remember who it was. But I remember listening to, I forget if it was a podcast, or it was like a coaching something. But I remember reading information about poker and just feeling like there was so much information to learn and, like, download in my brain and feeling really excited by it. I loved you know, the aspect of, of winning money. I’m not gonna lie, you know, when you’re a university student, and you maybe have you know, 500 bucks or something like that. And then, you know, playing a 1-2 game where I won, you know, maybe 1500 in one night or something like that. You know, the money was definitely a cool aspect to it. I think that, I guess the competitive nature of it. And like, also that psychology behind it is really cool. And understanding that okay, I just left you this hand. Now, what am I going to do this hand, would I bluff you again? That part of it’s just really cool. And there’s just so many aspects of poker.
Brad: for sure. It’s a, I mean, I remember the best day monetarily that I had in life before poker. I made like $250, working a Valentine’s day shift at Applebee’s. And I thought I was like, so happy, like on cloud nine. And then saved up my money, started playing cards, and just kind of straight away I ran very, very well, and was winning like 700 or 1200, like hit a high hand on the boat to nowhere for like an extra 500. And I’m like, oh, man,
Kristen: That’s awesome.
Brad: This is a thing like I, I was very fortunate and that I ran very well. But I was like you as well. Like when I learned about poker. Sitting at Applebee’s, I would read Supersystem like 45 minutes before every shift and after every shift. And I told everybody too, like I’m going to be a professional poker player. Like I was, I had that conviction back in like 2004. People like, they just laughed in my face, right?
Brad: No, you don’t understand. I’m going to make this work.
Brad: And somehow, somehow it worked out.
Kristen: Yeah. Yes, it’s awesome.
Brad: How did you go from, you know, playing in these home games, to being like a full time grinder? Like, what did that process look like?
Kristen: Kind of similar to your experience. I had times when people laughed in my face. So, you know that the summer after I, the first summer after university where I had just learned the game, I found a card room that I could play at being 18 I think I had to travel to the states to like one of these Indian Reservation rooms. And actually, it was there that I remember I had a poker book and I wrote like the results in the poker book every day. I was tracking my results. And then when I went back to school, couldn’t play live as much. I found online poker. And you know, started playing tournaments when I could and we kind of
Brad: What year is this?
Kristen: This was, I believe it must have been around ’04, ’05. And I graduated in ’04. So yeah, I think, I think around then. And played online when I could. Started playing more and more, you know, skipping more classes. I remember the first tournament, I won, I was supposed to be at class, but I had read the tournament, and then it was going really well. And I missed it. And it was like, well, I turned $11 into I think it was maybe 12,000 or something at the time. And it was like incredible. And I was like, this is amazing, like I, same thing that, that like, drive just hit me like I can do this. I can be a professional poker player. And then I found out about PokerStars Supernova elite system that was happening. And I don’t think I had any close, close friends that were doing it. But basically, what it was, is that you played eight hours a day for the entire year or something like that. But you put in a lot of volume in for each hand. Just for people who don’t know what it is. For each hand that you play, I’m assuming you do, you got points. And if you got enough points you’d get, it’s called supernova leap, where you could basically, by the end of the year, you’d have 130k, or something put in your pocket. So, I was making, so anyways, I set out the challenge to do this, where, you know, I ended up playing 1-2 and 2-4. I think it started at 50 cents to a dollar. And, you know, I’m making $100,000 in one year, just by sitting there for eight hours a day, playing honestly really tight nitty bad poker. But I did it and a lot of people like I struggled with the work ethic aspect of it and you know, putting in the long hours and you know, the grind of it. But I loved it. I every day, I was excited to play. I had my VP, like my point goal for the day. And I’d wake up and be like, okay, no need to play eight hours, get these many points per hour. And I loved it. And so, from there, I did that program for a few years. And then one thing kind of led to another, you know, played in cash games that opened doors where I met people who said, hey, why don’t you play this tournament, or things like that. And it was like, okay, let’s, you know, play a tournament, you know, the World Series of Poker was always fun and going to Vegas was fun. And, you know, I was fortunate enough to, like you said, like, at the beginning, I definitely ran well in my poker career I think.
Brad: That first year when you’re, when you are going for supernova elite, where are you breaking even or returning a profit, like on a monthly basis? Because like, don’t you realize all the money like right at the end when you make supernova elite?
Kristen: Yeah, you get a lot of money at the end, but you’d get a lot of money, money towards the end of each month. So, I think the first year I lost, it was kind of a minor amount. I think I lost eight or 10k on the tables. So, I ended up profiting like 120k or something like that. The second year, I did win. And then I think the third year I did it. I lost a little bit as well. But each month you would make a certain amount. So as soon as you’d hit a certain target, you could get, you could trade in your points for like a 10k bonus. I definitely had some, some challenges within that, that maybe we could talk about later. You know, at times when I didn’t clear my bonus in my, I had to play 24 tables to do this. So, I was 24 tabling for eight hours a day. And there was one point where I remember I had auto rebuy on. And it was like you don’t have enough funds to rebuy and I was like oh my god. Like it was just one of those like really huge down swings. I was 70% of the way, it was in September. And I was you know felt, it was probably one of the, the key moments that sticks out in my head is like, you know, the, the bottom of my poker career.
Brad: What do you do?
Kristen: So, I was lucky. I had a friend who sent me, you know, a few thousand dollars or whatever it was in order for me to kind of play through it, get the bonus. And then once I got the bonus, I paid him back. But I mean, I was probably 20 years old or something. It wasn’t easy. You know, right now I might be in a spot where it’s easy to get someone to loan me like 5k if I need it or something like that. But then it wasn’t, like that was a lot of money to us still. And you know, I started out this challenge on, I think I had a 10k or 8k bankroll. And I was playing 50 cents $1. So, I had moved up to 1-2, and I saw
Brad: That’s a lot of buy ins actually.
Kristen: Yeah, it is. So, so yeah, to play 24 tables of 1-2, the amount that you need in your account, right, is kind of
Brad: 2400 plus you’re reloading all the time. And
Brad: Going on down swings and all that sort of stuff.
Brad: Playing Super Nitty, those 24 tables was that, so was that your default style back then? Or were you just because I know like for, for me, at least, at some point, there’s diminishing returns and how many tables I play. And for me, the number is typically like six.
Brad: If I’ve tried to go to like 10 or 12 and I feel like I’m just playing catch up. I’m not, I’m not seeing the things that I, that I normally see that gives me an edge. So, were you dumbing down your game in order to play all of these tables cautiously?
Kristen: I think. Yeah, I think I had to have been. I think that I probably didn’t know nearly as much as I know now with poker. So, to me, it was probably somewhat of a, you know, autopiloting. I’ll just, you know, wait for the top 12% of hands kind of thing. You also got points for every hand that you folded. So, I kind of was aware that all I needed to do is really get the volume in and to get these hands in. Yeah.
Brad: That’s an interesting thing you get, you got rewarded for hands that you folded.
Kristen: Yeah, it was crazy. So eventually they changed the system. And that’s when people started, you know, going on outrage, because they realized a lot of people were kind of like exploiting the system of this. Like all of us were playing nine macs. And I think, you know, if you saw someone that V pipped more than like, 18%, they’re crazy. It was, there were so many of us. There’s people who short stacked it too. And you know, they literally played like 12-8, something like that. Like it was crazy.
Brad: I remember the short stackers playing ultra, ultra-nitty. I know that on UB, there was a guy who was playing like 12 hours a day, 12 tables a day, who was 100% a bot. Like were bots an issue on stars back then? Do you remember?
Kristen: That’s a good question. I think that there was definitely implications of that. And I know that I’ve gotten refunds, you know, them saying that there’s been, you know, whatever faulty play or whatever it is. But I feel like the sites aren’t, they don’t want to release that information if they don’t need to.
Kristen: Sara Lee. So, I yeah, I think there was definitely accusations and I definitely got refunds. So
Brad: Which is interesting. I like, there, there should be transparency to the pay grade.
Kristen: I agree. Absolutely.
Brad: The more transparent the better in my opinion.
Brad: The, it’s kind of a funny story. Little tangent, the bot that I was playing against. He got caught because he won. The thing is, the thing about the bots like this guy was he’s a losing player, right? Like the bot was losing, like maybe half a big blind 400 or something very small, making it up and rake back but also crushing any sort of promotion every month, right?
Brad: Like just, just like winning the free seed.
Kristen: The leaderboards, yeah.
Brad: Winning the leaderboard, just crushing all the promotions. And he actually want to see like a 10k. And his stupid little bot was playing was 12 tabling while he was playing in the 10k. And, like, this is how kind of
Brad: Wild westy it was back then. I told my VIP hosts like I back then we had VIP host. I just called Victor on the phone on ultimate bet. I’m like, hey, Victor, this guy. He’s like, no, no, I’ve met this guy in real life. I met this guy on the phone. He’s a real person. He’s not a bot. I’m like, no, like, like
Kristen: Someone’s behind the bot.
Brad: He’s not an actual robot gone rogue, please.
Kristen: Yeah, that would be funny.
Brad: That is the bot. Right. And I don’t think anything was done. I think they just like kept letting him.
Kristen: It’s crazy. Yeah.
Brad: Yeah. But yeah, that’s it. It was interesting how it was back in the day.
Brad: So, you know, you are doing well, you’re running well early on in your career, what would you think is like the first breakthrough that really, you know, made you say, I’m going to be elite, I’m going to be world class in this game?
Kristen: The first breakthrough with that, I think was honestly, I felt for many years that I was just kind of making enough to get by and maybe a little bit extra. And so never really building much of a bankroll, never really had huge connections in poker, you know, people who were playing at a higher level that I was friendly with, or anything like that. And I can’t remember exactly what year it was. But there was a summer where I spent more time in Vegas for the summer and started meeting people and having friends who were playing higher than me. And, you know, without a doubt, having, not necessarily only their encouragement, but opening the door of like, you know, I remember the first time that people offered to buy my action in the World Series main event. And it was like, such a sigh of relief, because I think for four years before that, it was like my dream to play the main event. And I never did. And I went to Vegas, and I played satellites. And even to be familiar, I wasn’t even aware of the selling action thing. You know, I was a cash game player. I didn’t really understand that people do that with tournaments. I knew there was backers and things like that, you know, but quite honestly, I was like a nobody in poker. So, who was, you know, people hadn’t heard of me. I didn’t really have those connections, that kind of thing. And then I remember playing cash games and meeting somebody who said to me, like, you’re not playing the main event, like what are you doing? Like, I’ll buy a piece, my friends will buy a piece, like let’s get you in there. And it was like, oh my god, it. It was really just like an incredible, I guess moment and eye-opening experience of, well, wow. Like maybe there’s so much more potential for me to explore. And so, I remember playing in that and then I think that same summer also. I’m doing well with cash games, I’m trying to think exactly. So there, there was that moment of sort of, you know, I got to play the, the World Series of Poker main event and that it made me a little bit more confident in, you know, the next world series to go and sell action and seeing that as you know, an option. At the same time, I started moving up in stakes in cash games. And I remember, one huge breakthrough for sure is, when I made the jump from 2-5 to 5-10. And as you know, as a cash game player, it’s a pretty big jump, you know, financially, the games are quite different. It’s funny, I would actually say 5-10 is softer than 2-5 its own way.
Brad: Because so like, this interesting thing happens in poker, where there’s barriers to entry at each stake. And for lots of people, they don’t have enough money to play 5-10, they’re not rolled for it. So, they stick with 2-5, the grinders that grind out, because you can make you know $40 an hour, if you’re one of the better players to 2-5, you get kind of lackadaisical, and you stay at 2-5, just grinding out your $40. But then the players that just you know, any recreational player with disposable income that wants to play 5-10 like, it’s like,
Brad: It’s always interesting to me how like, there are times where I’m playing like 20-40 no limit and games that are like, a million times better than like the 2-5 games across the room, right?
Kristen: Absolutely. And that was, that was a huge eye-opening experience. Because to me, I always thought, you know, 5-10 online was really tough. And you probably still is, but I remember not necessarily being intimidated to go play 5-10 live, but just thinking, you know that it, you know, I didn’t have the bankroll for it. And one thing in poker that I always have felt strong about is that I wanted to have my own bankroll. I didn’t want to be backed. So, for many years, because I was a little bit stubborn with that, I think, even, even though it worked out for me, I, I kind of, I feel like I kept myself at that 2-5 grinding stage, you know. You’re making $40 an hour, but you’re not really building a bankroll to then move up stakes. You’re kind of getting by, and so stuck in that. And anyways, I don’t remember exactly how it came about. But I remember having a summer where I grinded 5-10 Bellagio, like every day, eight, sometimes 20-30 hours a session and doing really, really well. I think I was averaging like over, I don’t know, $110 an hour or something.
Brad: Which is real good.
Kristen: Yeah. And it felt, it felt great because I was at a point, and that summer I also happened to bunk a tournament for a lot of money, which you know, which is great. And then I came went from the spot where I was like, great. Now I have a bankroll to really work with you know. I, so I really turned the corner from you know, having a bankroll that was only used to kind of pay bills and you know, sit at these smaller games to now I had a bankroll that I had more maneuver room. I could play well on K tournaments and things like that. Like you need the big bankroll to go play live tournaments, or you need some power to you know, sell action or whatever it might be. So yeah, that was definitely one of my, one of my really big points that opened. What it really did was open the door for me, because then along the way I made, you know, more connections, which, again, just sort of opened my eyes to oh, I can play a 10k and only take 20% of myself. I didn’t know I could do that.
Kristen: Things like that, things like that. I, you know, to me, it just seemed like, you know, playing 10k’s live was an option that I would have never had. And then I realized, oh, it’s actually doable.
Brad: So, I’m a cash player, I don’t play a ton of MTTs.
Brad: Is this pretty normal to sell action, but not specifically have a backer in the MTT world? And I guess your, your, as far as cash game goes and everything like that, you’re still own rolled and on your own.
Kristen: Yeah, and still same like with tournaments, I always try to be, to be honest. I don’t like the idea of selling action. I don’t like the idea of having a back or I think I like to be in charge in one way. I think that, I think it can be a dangerous trap of, you know, if I think I’m profitable in the game, I want 100% of those profits. I don’t want to then give some guy you know 50% when he’s done nothing except put money up. If I can get away to put that money up myself, I want to keep all those profits. I have noticed myself, you know, I only saw action once in a while for really high stuff right now. And I always feel bad. Like if it doesn’t go well, I feel I don’t want to lose someone else’s money. If I’m going to lose, I want to lose my own money. I know that that might seem counterintuitive for a lot of people, but I think it puts a pressure that I don’t really like, yeah.
Brad: For sure it does. And in my conversation with Ari Engle on this show, he talked about how like he’s been back three times, three or four times and the, his backers always dropped him every single time. And it’s like after every tournament, he feels compelled to, like, tell his backer how he busted.
Kristen: Yes. Yeah.
Brad: Tell his backer, like if you made a bad play, he would feel compelled to tell him like the worst play that he made. And, you know, for people that don’t really understand poker. Yes, there are backers who, you know that a lot of times they’re businessmen or, you know, people who are in business that are looking for an opportunity to make some money. They don’t understand the variance.
Brad: And they don’t understand that like, part of the reason that Ari’s great is his punch, right? Like it’s this ability to do some things that maybe not everybody understands but feel right in the moment.
Kristen: And won’t always work, and that’s okay.
Brad: Won’t always work. Right. But it’s hard to justify to somebody else when you’re playing with their money.
Brad: Just a weird, weird, dynamic.
Kristen: Yeah, I have one person who I’ve sold action to. And if he’s listening, I’m happy to say this, because I’ll say it to his face. But he is a recreational poker player. You know, he is wealthy. So, he anyways, he was buying pieces, and I go to like, collect money that I’ve lost. And he literally makes me feel bad. He’s like, you lose everything. And like, literally guilt tripping me. I was like, is this real? Like, how, like, he’s a poker player, too. Like he understands this. But he’s like, guilt tripping me that I’ve lost in, in four tournaments or something.
Kristen: And so now I’m like, I don’t want to sell action to people like that ever again.
Brad: Which is the expectation, right? Like you’re supposed to lose four tournaments in a row all the time.
Kristen: Yes. Yeah, exactly. So, and that’s a big thing. But anyways.
Brad: Yeah, they need managers. They just need, I’ll manage the money. You guys just stay away.
Brad: I’ll deal with all the people that you invest in.
Brad: Leave them alone and let them do the thing that makes them great.
Brad: That makes them you know, a favorite and all the fields, right?
Brad: We’re human beings. We’re fallible. Everybody makes mistakes. But like the great players, they learn from their mistakes. And they’re also, you know, if somebody does something that’s unconventional, that in their mind generates an edge or is an exploitative thing over the field, then of course, it’s going to be different than what everybody else does, right? Because
Brad: That’s what makes them in the upper echelon of poker players.
Kristen: Absolutely. Yep.
Brad: So okay, go back to your story.
Brad: So, you’re doing well, you have a great year at the WSOP, you start playing the 10Ks. What was like, what year was that, that you had that breakthrough WSOP?
Kristen: Yeah, that’s a good, 2000. It was when I won that bounty event. I won a bracelet. I think it was 2015. That sounds about right to me. It might have been ’16.
Brad: Wow. So that’s, that’s only five years ago.
Kristen: Yeah. Yeah. And so, you know, for many, many years, I was just grinding it out. You know, grinding out 1-2, 2-4 online, low stakes MTTs. And, you know, probably never really had a bankroll more than, you know, 40k, something like that. And winning that event, which I had sold action two is, well, I think I won, I don’t know, 300k or something like that. So, I think I pocketed maybe like 150k from that or more, but it was a nice bankroll to work with. And it gave me the tournament bug.
Kristen: So that kind of shifted my perspective. And this is all after Black Friday. So online poker wasn’t as you know, thriving as much and especially cash games online. So, I kind of
Brad: They’re still not.
Kristen: Yeah, exactly. So, you know, I was a PokerStars cash game player and no longer after then. And yeah, from there, you know, I get the tournament bug, and start slowly transitioning from being a cash game player to a tournament player.
Brad: If you had to do it again, in those 10 years that you were grinding with, like the, the 40k bankroll,
Brad: Never really making any breakthroughs or progress, what would you do differently?
Kristen: I think I would have reached out for more support to get in bigger games earlier. I think I
Brad: What do you mean by support?
Kristen: I think either you know, borrowing money from people or selling pieces, maybe being a little bit more motivated to go play in higher games. And then say selling a percent you know, if not waiting until I had the bankroll to play 5-10 on my own to go play it. Later, later on, I started playing in cash games where I would then sell pieces, but I remember just not really seeing it as an option or not knowing how to go about that. And I wish I would have had the confidence to do that because I definitely had the confidence to play in the games. I’ve never struggled with that. And I’ve never had you know, an issue playing high stakes, like the money thing. I don’t know what it is about me. But for some reason, I don’t really have fears around that. But I definitely had fears of asking for help. And not really, I still to this day hate selling action. I hate asking for help. I don’t know what it is. I just really hate that. And I wish I would have moved up earlier. Yeah, that would probably be one thing for sure.
Brad: Yeah, I think a lot of folks don’t realize that once you’re an established player. And once you have a network, it’s pretty much impossible to go broke, unless you are like a scumbag who just has stolen from a bunch of people and you’ve ruined your reputation period. Because a great poker player who goes broke, all the people in their networks see that as an opportunity to invest
Brad: To invest in someone. So like, you know, I think that folks that get stuck at 40, 50k bankroll are scared of moving up, scared of taking a shot. If you have a network, you can afford to take more shots, because you know, with one text or one phone call, like, I know for sure that I could well, I can’t get in any big live, live game right now. But like, I could get in a bunch of live games, just sending text to my network
Brad: And it’s such a big deal building that.
Kristen: Yes, yeah. And not, and not having any shame around that. I think that, you know, there’s a lot of emotions that can come up for some people asking for help. Or, you know, I’ve even had the experience recently where, you know, I might have, I was playing 10K’s on my own. And then I go to the spot where I need to start selling action again. And it kind of feels like, oh, I’m moving backwards. And this sucks. But I think, you know, as, as I’ve been in poker for many years, you have those ups and downs, and you have the times when it goes down and maybe you need some, you know, assistance in, in continuing to do that. But, yeah, I think just having the confidence to, to rely on that support system and understanding that it’s normal and natural. And you know, as a part of the game.
Brad: Yeah, it’s ebbs and flows. Look at it.
Brad: Graphs go up, and graphs go down. And that’s just the nature of the beast.
Brad: Speaking of, so, you did pretty well at the bay 101. Is it the shooting star main?
Brad: About that experience because I read an article that Matt Savage just wrote, and it seemed like a pretty crazy ordeal.
Kristen: It was crazy. Yeah, it’s definitely a tournament I’m never going to forget, that’s for sure. Because, you know, all the circumstances around it. So, this was, I’m trying to think the exact date. Is it May? May. Yeah. So, we, you know, we start hearing about this virus in January. And I remember being in Australia and, and kind of reading some conspiracy theories, reading some predictions and kind of understanding, there’s a really good chance this is going to be a really bad situation for the world. But you know, just try not to panic or do anything in America especially wasn’t panicked at all. You know, you saw
Brad: To put it, to put it lightly.
Kristen: Exactly, yes. Now, in other countries, you know, even in Australia, where I was, we were definitely getting headlines and understanding and even I don’t know if it’s the people I follow on Twitter necessarily, or my boyfriend follows on Twitter, but we were definitely started, at least educating myself and reading news enough to see that this was like serious. But you know, I didn’t cancel any poker trips or anything like that. And as Matt’s article said, from LAPC, which was right before Bay 101, everything just started in, you know, the panic started increasing so much every day, that it went from like, nothing was a problem to oh, my God, the casinos going to shut down. And people were like, pretty much having anxiety attacks in like, two weeks or something.
Brad: Yeah, it was, I think Timex had a post, he gave like 20 to 1 that the WSOP would not be canceled. And then two weeks later, it was like breakeven, and he’s like, oh, God, like,
Kristen: It’s crazy.
Brad: Things change very, very quickly.
Kristen: I did not think that that was going to be a possibility. And now it’s looking like, you know, who knows when we’ll have live poker again?
Brad: I have no idea.
Kristen: It would be a while. Yeah, because it will be a gathering of large people. So anyways, you know, I think it was day two of the event when the NBA closed down, and you had all these announcements. You know, the tournament was underway. I think Matt had said they started, they tried to speed up the levels or taking out some levels to make the tournament, be done with quicker. But then when we get back on day three, which was the final day with I think 10 players left, one of the players had a mask on sitting in the corner, and I guess he had some symptoms and wasn’t feeling well and wanted everybody to know. And at that point, you know, it just becomes this sort of
Brad: You wanted to play, right? For that article. I remember he said that you were
Brad: You wanted,
Kristen: I, I did want to, I did want to play. I still don’t necessarily regret my perspective on the situation, even looking backwards and understanding that maybe at the time, I didn’t realize how serious the situation is. However, I’ve never been in a casino that was like, so incredibly clean. So almost hyper paranoid about everything, like the rails were being sanitized during every break. You know, everyone has hand sanitizer, everyone’s doing all this stuff, and it was pretty empty. And at that point, with 10 players left, I personally felt like, you know, we’ve been exposed to this guy. If he has it, we’ve been exposed to him, you know, for the last three or four days, people are typically contagious, you know, there’s an incubation period. So, if he has this, he would have been contagious yesterday as well.
Kristen: You know, I kind of, I believe in being cautious and, you know, making logical decisions, but I don’t necessarily think we need to be panicked to leave six hours earlier. I don’t know what that six hours of playing in a spot where, of course, that player should leave, and we don’t need to be around him. But we could all be careful and play out the tournament in six hours, I think. Maybe. This is my opinion.
Kristen: I also came from a spot where, you know, I had a, I mean, for one thing, as a tournament player you, for myself, I live for those moments. Like, you know, money is one aspect of playing poker, but if you’re playing tournament poker, like it is so fun to make a final table, that just the pure enjoyment of that, you know, that’s when that’s what we prepare for and hope for. And it’s so rare that you make a final table. So, of course, I was excited to make, to be in that spot, you know, for the financial spot. And just the enjoyment of it. So, I thought that it was a little panicky to just decide to leave when we were so close to being done anyway.
Kristen: That was, that was my opinion. I understand that it might be a little bit naive or uneducated and you know, probably being more conservative is better. But
Brad: Well, again, this was like, a month ago.
Brad: A month ago, and things have definitely changed, like within the last month. So, there’s some context to be had.
Brad: And like you said, you know, you’re, you’re a competitor, you’re battler. And
Brad: People that play, Bay 101 is a 5k, right? They played play these big names. Obviously. It’s a WPT stop, you get to go be on TV.
Brad: It’s a big deal, right?
Brad: Like it’s a big deal for your career. And then also the excitement of like leveling up every time somebody bust, that whole experience is just super fun. And like, really, that’s why I mean, I don’t play tournaments, personally, I have. And I’ve made final tables and like, that’s it, right? Like this, this is the fruit of the labor. Nothing else is the labor.
Kristen: Exactly, exactly. It’s, yeah. So, in hindsight, you know, if, maybe if America would have taken it a little bit more seriously, if you know, if there was more awareness of it. You know, all those events should have been canceled to begin with. But it wasn’t, it started. And at this point, we’ve already played for, you know, whatever, over 20 hours or something like that.
Brad: Right. Yeah, it was definitely, things, things could have been handled better from the
Brad: People in charge of handling things, I guess. I can but
Kristen: Absolutely. Crazy experience of my life. And interesting that, you know, it was probably one of the last live tournaments for who knows how long, so.
Brad: For sure. Have they even played the LAPC main final table yet?
Kristen: I don’t think so. And I’m not sure if all that stuff’s being delayed or canceled or what they’re doing.
Brad: Just like in purgatory right now, waiting,
Brad: Waiting to see if they can ever get to play it out again.
Kristen: Yeah, it’s kind of crazy.
Brad: What do you think of joy in your career playing cards? What’s the first memory that comes to mind?
Kristen: Well, I remember one of the first things that got me going in poker, again, on a very minor scale, played the $3 rebuy to this to get a Sunday million ticket that was on Saturday. Got through. And then on Sunday, played the Sunday million and finished seventh place, or something like that. And I remember, I was at my parents’ house, and I was trying to explain to my dad, I was like, oh, my God, I won the seat to this tournament. And I was like, this tournament is, I think it was like, I don’t know, it was pretty big to win back then. This is when I first started. I can’t remember what first place was, but I was trying to explain to him like, I could actually win this much money in this tournament. And him being really skeptical, like, is this real money or like, they’re not going to let you cash this out? Or no, it’s not real. It’s not real. And I can’t remember exactly what I cashed for, I think around 20,000 or something. And I remember getting ordering a check and then the cheque coming in the mail. And, yeah, I mean, that has to be one of the best experiences, I think is of just joy of those checks coming in the mail, the physical checks, when, you know, you’ve never had more than whatever, you know, a couple $1,000 in your hands. And all of a sudden, like, you know, online poker can sometimes feel like a game and you’re clicking buttons, and then you’re seeing it in real life. And, you know, I just, those were, to me some of the best moments of, you know, just getting started and thinking, oh, can I just win enough to, you know, I remember I wanted like a dining room set for my, my dining room or things like that. And achieving those small little goals at the start were incredibly fulfilling. And shockingly enough, which still surprises me is that any achievement I have now doesn’t even compare. And that’s even like, you know, winning a few $100,000 it, it’s a different level for sure. And it certainly feels good. But those smaller moments definitely had more of just pure joy. Whereas now, it might be more of a feeling of relief, I think.
Kristen: Yeah. And then the other, yeah, the other thing that came to mind is just, you know, stacking when I sit at a table, like being a female, I feel always underestimated. And when I could tell that there was a guy who kind of had an ego war with me, or that really felt when, if I felt he underestimated me astray. Underestimated me now or you know, it was kind of targeting me at the table, like, especially at the beginning of my career, but stacking those guys feels really good.
Brad: Oh, I, I believe it.
Brad: Like, those are the best people to stack.
Brad: There are some people that I’ve played with, there is one odd guy and this, I was playing cards with Bruno Mars. And there is a weird guy who was like moving up in stakes just to sit at the table with him and was like, being ultra-creepy, like ultra-weird. Had like a napkin where he like, wrote a song and was like trying to get, get him to like, look at it. And he’s like, no, I can’t, I’m not going to take that thing. Like, you know, you could sue me and all like in the future, blah, blah. And I remember, like, I had aces, and the dude is playing like ultra-nitty. Like just ultra, ultra-nitty. And he’s got like, 7k, and I had him covered. And we just get into a raising war. And he ships it. I snap. He has kings. And he’s like, once or, he’s like, two times. Want to do two times? I’m like, no buddy. We’re going one time for it all. And I busted him and then he disappeared. That was a, that was a good, good pot.
Kristen: Yeah, that’s awesome.
Brad: It’s weird, because a lot of these people who are unpleasant, who are not fun to play with, who are antagonistic, who treat people poorly. They are the whales at the table. Right?
Brad: Like, we’ve had this conversation many times. And so, I think this is why they’ve been able to get away with how they act for long.
Kristen: Yeah. That’s true.
Brad: That, over the years, do you think it’s changed? Well, obviously you, I guess people recognize you now, right? Like you’re a quote unquote, a name in poker.
Brad: Do you get treated, do people underestimate you?
Kristen: Well, I think for one thing that I’ve noticed, which is kind of a shame, because obviously the lower limits are going to be an entry point for people into poker. But I definitely noticed that the higher I play, the more respect, respectful the atmosphere is.
Kristen: If I go sit in a 1-2 table, there’s, you know, it doesn’t matter. I’m sure that if I went today, I’d be disrespected. I mean,
Brad: 100 percent. There’s no doubt.
Kristen: Either the worst. Like those 1-2 tables are just horrible. And I swear, I’m like, the nicest person, especially to play poker like I, I don’t, I’m not super competitive verse people in nature, like I’m competitive with myself, but I don’t sit. Oftentimes, I feel bad stacking people. So, when I say that it feels good stacking someone, it means that they’ve been, they’ve been really asking for it.
Kristen: Because you know, anyone just sitting down if they’re neutral, I’m not going to feel like oh, I want to get this guy. That’s definitely not my nature. But anyways, yeah, I think as you move up limits, it becomes, the atmosphere is better. I’m not sure if it’s changed over the years, because I’ve changed the games that I’ve played a little bit. But
Brad: How do you reconcile that feeling bad about stalking people, when you’re literally paid to stack people?
Kristen: It’s so hard. I struggle with it so much. Like even, I’m constantly struggling with that because I’m friendly. And then I’ll, you know, feel like I, someone’s like my new friend or my friend and I’m, like, oh, my God. I’m like, this is a really good three bet spot. And I’m like, I just have to do it. I think what you just have to do is, I try to really understand that like, first of all, nobody wants you to like take it easy on them. You know, even if I sit at a table and someone’s like, oh, I’m a fan or something like that, that becomes hard too. I’m like, oh no. Like, you know, I can tell this person about that experience and that other, they’re really nice to me. I don’t want to bluff them. But just realizing that I don’t think anyone wants you to not play your game for some anyways, and just trying to also show that, you know, that’s the nature of poker is to be competitive and to be tough to play against. And you know that no one should take it personally. It’s, it’s quite funny, and just makes me want to share this that in ladies events, I actually feel like, for whatever reason, if that’s been the form of Poker, where it’s been, like, the catalyst that I’ve been at, or that people, you know, get offended that you tried bluffing them or something like that. And it’s like, that’s not poker, you know. We just need to play and I don’t know, I think just trying to understand I’m there to, you know, play my game, make money and to be a challenge. So, if I think that, you know, by not three betting this guy who’s really nice, I’m not very good at poker, it’s like, I’m not really doing him a service by just holding, you know. He, he needs to up his game.
Brad: Right. I mean, everybody knows what the deal is, right? When we sit down, we’re all going to competition. You don’t have to be an asshole to somebody right? When you’re as you’re check raising them with an air ball. But like, you know that you’re there to compete. You’re there to play. You don’t have to rub it in anybody’s face or make anybody feel bad. But like, yeah, you are there to play hard. I mean, that’s,
Brad: That’s the gig.
Brad: You know, like NFL football players. As soon as the game’s over, they shake hands, they hug each other. They talk like there’s this
Brad: Respect shown to one another through competition.
Kristen: Yes, exactly.
Brad: When you think about pain in your poker career, what’s the first memory that comes to mind?
Kristen: I think, as I was saying, before that moment, you know, I was doing supernova lee grinding. So, I have this target of points to get from January to December. And we’re in September, and the year has gone quite well. And then I think I just had a disastrous month, where, you know, I’m not able to then sit on all my tables, because my balance in my PokerStars account was too low. And I think that was a really painful experience that ended up actually being quite a beautiful learning experience for me, for many reasons. But especially because, you know, the first person I shared this with was willing to instantly help me. And I think sometimes it’s easy when you’re struggling in life, like wherever it might be, in poker, and, you know, anything. Seeing like it, like it kind of sounds cheesy, but even right now, you know, with this stuff going on in the world and seeing how many people are so willing to help other people. It’s quite beautiful. And I just had a moment of understanding, like, you know, it’s not all on me, like, it’s okay, it’s okay to receive help, it’s okay to ask for help. And so, it ended up being, you know, one of those times in life square, you’re, you’re in a lot of pain, but it ends up being like a beautiful learning lesson at the end. But I think more than anything, you know, the, the pain of being in a big tournament spot, and it going badly. When you know that, you know, if you’re in the tournament poker world, especially the live circuit, there’s, finishing first in a tournament gets, people are just so results oriented, that there really is so much value in, you know, winning your first high roller that you play or something like that, and knowing that not just for that one tournament, it’s important to win but like the benefits that come and getting unlucky in those spots really has hurt and does hurt. So, you know, unfortunately,
Brad: Any specific ones come to your mind?
Kristen: Sure. Well, one, I was just talking about this the other day, but it was one of my first 25Ks that I, it’s the first 25K final tabled. It was the Party Poker Barcelona stop. And one clip that gets aired a lot is I actually like made a really crazy fold to Adrian Mateos and I’ve wrote a blog piece about the folds. So, I felt like I played very well at the final table. But unfortunately, I got Jackson verse Reiner Campese 10s for all the chips with I think like seven left or eight left. And he had a 10 and it was just one of those spots that I think was kind of like could have been a, an interesting breakthrough moment for me because I was kind of new too, especially like playing high rollers. And yeah, to be in that spot that was seemingly, you know, it was like a million dollars for first and what we were talking about is the payouts were so flat. So, I think I may be made like five buy ins or something. Yeah, a huge payout and, and just what we were saying before is the credibility, you know, that, that a first place can get. People are all of a sudden, more excited to buy your action. People respect you more. You know, unfortunately, that isn’t necessarily, doesn’t necessarily show that much of a skilled, you know, differentiation. It I do think that when people win tournaments, it’s like an invaluable experience that really, you’re more likely to win one again and feel competent on a final table. But anyways, that’s one, one that comes to mind. Yeah.
Brad: I know like, back in the day in the, in the boom, when the WPT was just kicking off like Antonio Esfandiari, like he wins a 10k. And I think to myself, these people that ran really well, and these 10Ks right at the boom.
Brad: Ran better than anybody else, just in life in the world. Because being a, you know, a WPT champion meant so much back then, just for the benefits outside of poker, right?
Brad: You get sponsorships, you get all of this, these other opportunities to invest in full tilt poker
Kristen: It’s huge.
Brad: To be a part is just like, it’s worth so much more than simply the first million dollars, which is obviously a shitload of money, right?
Brad: I’m not discounting that. But like over the lifetime of career, it’s worth many multiples of that money.
Kristen: Absolutely. And yeah, I just, you know, I went through many years of kind of, you know, on different levels struggling like that, to get that respect, or to get those finishes that, you know, if I would have won one of my first tournaments that I played, you know, this was back when PokerStars was giving sponsorships out to everybody. And it was a much different landscape. I think, you know, probably people would have known about me years before, but I just never really got that opportunity.
Brad: Right. I mean, not many people do, right?
Brad: Not many people win the tournament. I mean, exactly. When I played sit and goes on party poker, I know, specifically, there were times where I’d played 25 to hundreds, and not win any of them. And I would think to myself, like, wow, multi table tournament players have to deal with this. Like they can make 25 final tables and not win one. Like it’s just brutal.
Kristen: There’s no more pain in poker than tournament in poker, honestly. It’s like, it’s crazy. There’s so many times that I contemplate, should I just go back to cash games, because this is crazy.
Brad: Anytime that I’ve considered transitioning and playing more tournaments, I think back to, I was playing Owen Crowe at Commerce, in LA in cash game, and he’s just like, man, tournament players, like he was getting staged. I think he’s in a stable, and he’s like, they’re just all miserable. They’re just all miserable human beings. Like playing in cash games is so much better. Everybody’s having fun. Like, it’s a light atmosphere. Tournaments are just heart wrenching.
Kristen: They are and it’s tense. And like, yeah,
Brad: And those guys too. You know, you get stuck 90k, 100k and makeup, and then you bing a tournament for like, 110. And then your backer just snap drops you it’s like, oh, my God.
Kristen: That’s the experience I don’t want to be in. Yeah.
Brad: Right, for sure. And I do want to bring up one thing, and we can edit this out if you’re not talking about it.
Brad: But I know like, as far as getting credibility, all of these things. There was that one tournament, Doug Bolt makes a video, right, of you and Alex, obviously making final three, which is a thing that’s going to happen eventually, as long as you’re playing in the same tournaments. Going through that hand. I mean, I watched it. One thing that I, that I thought got completely that was just completely missing was like your reaction as soon as Alex bet the river was like, whoa, like you have kings. I was like, like, as a poker player. I was like, wow, that’s a fucking great read. Like it was just like, instantaneously, you knew, right?
Brad: And nobody talked about that, of course, because of the weird dynamic that was going on.
Kristen: Yeah. No, I’m fine to talk about this. And we actually just talked about this recently, too. And it that’s one thing also in my reaction that wasn’t talked about is how uncomfortable situation it was for me and Alex, and how, like, in that moment, I was just like, what is happening? And like, oh, my God, and at that moment, I didn’t think at all that there was any, like accusations or that anything looked weird. It wasn’t until I fold and then Kale asked me, wow, you had aces. And I’m like, yeah, and I was thinking like, oh my god, I made a great fold. And then I realized, like, oh, he’s thinking that we’re doing something like we’re up to no good, which I would never do. Like we’re on a stream. So, when you’re like innocent in your mind, I was just thinking like, oh my God, what a tough spot. You know, and, and the reason it was such a tough spot was you know Kale, Kale stack was so small. If I was thinking on the river, I’m like, if I call here like, I’m going to be the shortest stack. And, you know, I didn’t have a ton of tournament experience at that time. And you know, me and Alex talk poker all the time, too, and I kind of I don’t know, tended to think that like, it was hard to find bluffs for him, whatever it was. But no, forget the initial question about that.
Brad: It was just about dealing with all the outrage I guess that.
Brad: It was way
Kristen: Oh, with the credibility and stuff. Yeah. I think that people who know me personally and know, Alex, personally know that, you know, for one thing that like neither of us would ever try to take advantage of that situation, like for many reasons,
Brad: You offer to chop, right?
Brad: You offer to equity chop with the guy and he declined it.
Kristen: Various times, too. And that, yeah, so for one thing, like just that if you knew us as people that we would never really like, look for that. And I think a lot of the outrage was definitely, I think, from people who don’t know us or kind of understand the situation. And even in that, it’s like, I kind of hated the criticism of oh, you folded a hand, you can’t fold or something like that. I was just talking to someone earlier today, where I made a crazy fold. We’re talking about it, Dara from the chip race. And, I mean, if, if I think someone’s not bluffing, I’m not going to call off my chips, because I have a really good hand like,
Kristen: I have the top of my range. Like, I just don’t subscribe to that.
Brad: Sure. And you can tell like watching the video, because I did watch the Doug Polk video. I watched the live footage, because I was just trying to get a sense of it. And I’m not a tournament player. But you could tell your reaction straightaway. As soon as you bet the river, it was like instantly, expletive. And you just knew right? You’re
Brad: Just knew the situation.
Brad: You knew that he’s, he just got it. He’s
Kristen: Very unlikely to bluff. Yeah.
Brad: He’s not messing around, right?
Brad: Yeah, I did want to ask about that.
Kristen: Yeah. So, I think for that it didn’t really change too much. What it did change that I’m kind of, what bothers me the most is that there’s definitely some players who I feel like, now watch us with a microscope. And it kind of is always awkward to play with him now. Because there’s, it’s like, even, you know, say I want to check in a spot. I’m like, oh, no, like, is that going to look weird if I check and need to bet, like, I think the same thing, like if I want to fold in a spot, I feel like oh, maybe I can’t fold this. Because that’s, you know, could look bad or something like that. So, I hate having to play under that filter, even though I know that, you know, we’re competing for each other. And, you know, it’s not necessarily that I want to, but we played the certain same tournament. So, you know, we have too.
Brad: Right, and that’s a happy mindset issue to have to deal with wondering about how something looks, its
Brad: And going against your instincts to do something just so that nothing quote unquote, looks shady. Right?
Brad: It’s a crappy dynamic to have to go through. I think
Brad: When I was, I mean, I don’t know. Maybe it’s different when like, but I’m battling my friends. I’m actually, I always felt incentivized to crush them. Like
Kristen: A lot of people feel that, yeah.
Brad: Like, we would go hard at each other. And again, going back to what you said about the ladies’ event, like we’re, we both understand, you know, me and my friends, we understand what the deal is, right? Like, we’re there to bust each other. I remember, a long time ago, me and a friend of mine, very close friend, we’re at the same table. It was a tournament. The players were getting down, it was maybe 50 or 60 left out of like a thousand, one of those $1,500 buy in fields. And we talked about it, you know, we’re just like, look, just play hard. Like, let’s try to bust each other and see what happens, right? And he slow, played aces and took like, 70% of my stack, like, straightaway. I was like, okay, like, I actually, you know, it’s I don’t know. It’s, we’re professionals, and you guys are professionals. So, you’re going to be pros, right? You’re going to
Brad: Treat each other just like you would any other human being that you battle against.
Kristen: Yeah. Absolutely.
Brad: What have been your biggest fears and obstacles that have stood in your path to greatness?
Kristen: I think being afraid of doing something because it looks bad. I think, yeah, especially even a few years ago, when you know, there’s more content about poker out focus on like PO and all this stuff, that there’s definitely been moments when I get in my own head and say call in a spot where everything in my body is saying folds. But I know that like if I told this hand history to you know, this person, that person, they would say call. I can’t fold this hand and not kind of trusting myself. It’s just, it’s such a huge obstacle. I see so many people stuck in this mindset these days. And I mean, in a way I don’t want to point it out because I think that’s kind of where my edge over other regs lies because, you know, they’re not willing to call me down with, with the wrong combo, or, you know, things like that.
Brad: It’s interesting because I, so I’ve had many discussions about, like the quote unquote field players, versus the quote unquote, analytical players. And an episode that hasn’t gone live yet, interviewed my friend, Adam Creek. He was telling me about the Myers Briggs test. He’s not a poker player. He’s an Olympian, high performance, coach type of human. And he was telling me about Myers Briggs. And he was saying that like, on one end of the spectrum, you have analytics, and this player at the extreme end is like close to autism, right? Where they just
Brad: They do not understand emotions, and interactions with humans. And then on this side, you have the intuitive people who are like the quote unquote, field players, who really can’t describe why they feel the way they do. They just feel it. And he said, if you get into an argument logically on the internet about who’s right and who’s wrong, the analytical person will win 100% of the time, right?
Kristen: Yeah. Yeah.
Brad: That doesn’t discount the fact that the intuitive side does exist and adapt players are playing at a high level. And sometimes intuitively, you think I just have to fold and
Brad: That’s okay. Right? Like, you don’t have to explain yourself to anybody. And maybe you can even reverse engineer or explain it yourself why you feel that way. You just do.
Kristen: Yeah. I mean, when I go back to when I first learned to poker, I did well right away. And one thing that, you know, when you’re first learning, they always say, like, pay attention and try to get people’s cards, right. Like, even if you’re not in the hand, try to guess what people have. It’s a good way to learn the game. And, you know, I’m certainly not arrogant in poker. But that’s one thing that I feel very good at, in I don’t know how to always say why I think they have this hand. And I might be better now than I used to be.
Brad: But how does it work in your head? Like, when you’re ranging people like, can you describe that process?
Kristen: I think, I mean, it’s, it’s can be quite complicated. And there’s probably so many subconscious things happening that we don’t know, especially live poker, right? Like, maybe for whatever reason that, you know, you someone’s eating, and then they raise, and for some reason, you can tell that they think it’s going to look strong, or it actually legitimately is. And there’s differences and subtle differences that like I can see that I, it’s hard to describe. But, I think for the most part, you know, if I’m on the river, and I’m trying to put someone on a range, it’s what did they do preflop? What do they do on the flop? What do they do on the turn and kind of just going with all the information that I have? And
Brad: I think like, I’ll give an example of how it works in my mind.
Brad: In my mind, it kind of works like guess who were like, I kind of see the grid, and I’m like checking, marking off all the little combos on the grid.
Brad: On the river. I was just curious as to like, how visually how you think about the ranges?
Kristen: Yeah. So, I think, I think something like that. And then, you know, there’s all sorts of information coming like, there’s, you know, what was their sizing on the flop? And, you know, if this player is, this player that I’ve put in box A, do they ever use the sizes of bluff? No, probably not. Okay, now, let’s go over here. So now his range is more narrow. And then, you know, what did you do on the turn? And then, you know, all of this sort of information that you’re given, you’re given. And I think that sometimes when people are, you know, too analytical and not understanding that, you know, Player A never does this, and they’re making assumptions that are incorrect to, to this box, right. And, you know, if you pay attention and understand that there’s tendencies for different players, and it’s really important to differentiate, who’s doing what.
Brad: It’s, you know, it’s the thing that creates an edge in poker, when you have people who are trying to implement, like a PIO strategy or something like that.
Brad: In a spot where dude is just never bluffing. Like, dude never, dude never has value or dude is never bluffing. If you’re paying attention. Yeah, and like, the biggest mistake that I see people make, like, I’ll see somebody run a sim. And it’s in the inputs, right? It’s like, your, your inputs are horrible. Like your, the assumptions you’re making are so bad, like, so of course, the answer you get is going to be awful.
Brad: Like, yeah, you can say never, you can say, okay, I’ve never folding kings preflop ever, right? Well, if you go on PIO, and you put the range of aces, it’ll tell you to fold.
Brad: Like that.
Kristen: And sometimes in live poker, we know that the range is just aces.
Brad: It just is.
Kristen: Yeah, it just is. And I think that, you know, unless you’re playing like those 100ks with the toughest people or the, you know, the 25ks with the toughest opponents, like the variables changed dramatically, and we’re given tons of information and I think it’s, it’s absolutely ridiculous to not use that information. You know, if I’m in a 5k main event or a 10k main event or something, there’s so much information and, and going towards, you know, the spectrum of players like instinctual versus analytical, I can tell you like I’ve literally had the experience. And I know Alex has said this as well. It’s like some days, you actually feel like you’re in people’s heads. Like, it’s, I don’t even know what that is or how to describe it. But I know that you know, good poker players have this,
Brad: It’s like a state of flow.
Kristen: Yeah. And it’s just this ability to like, I, like you literally just like, oh, they have this hand. And then they have that hand. It’s like, whoa, this is crazy. But it happens a lot. And I don’t, I don’t think we’re crazy. And thinking that it happens a lot. I think that there is some talent there. I don’t know if there’s a big part of it. That’s natural, if it’s learned, but I think it’s, it’s really, like that’s kind of the part of poker that I think so cool. And what I hate so much about this direction that poker is going in being overly analytical because there is this element that, that I hope will always stay a little bit.
Brad: I think it’s, I remember when somebody was explaining, like, I never bought into Pio, right from the get go. Something felt off to me about PIO, I know, like Nick Howard had a lot of problems with it. He suffered a lot with PIO, but like, when somebody tells me like, oh, this is a strategy that is resistant, what no matter what action your opponent takes, I would think why would I do that? Like, if somebody is using it against me, then what does it matter if everything that I do is exactly the same? Like then it makes no difference what I’m doing, it’s like taking, taking your opponent completely out of the equation, which is like, a really dumb thing to try to attempt in poker when it’s all about your opponent.
Kristen: Yep. As soon as I, there was a point when I was playing cash games, I wanted to improve my win rate, reached out to a coach who was obsessed with like, at that point, we were just saying balance, right? You want to be balanced here, you want to be balanced here. So, all of a sudden, instead of you know, I guess I was explicitly probably making large bets with my good hands or you know, things like that. I was then, you know, maybe we’ll have to bet the same with my good hands and bad hands. But it’s like, wait, but these guys told me he has like the second nuts, and I have the nuts and he’s not going to fold. So, I should just shove, like, I don’t need to bet 55% here because I would do that with a bluff, things like that. And my win rate, honestly, just like went in the tank. Because like I did so bad when I started playing from that kind of perspective.
Brad: Oh my god, I tried it too, right. It’s like, oh, I don’t think this guy’s ever folding. But I do need to have bluffs here. I don’t always be value betting. Right. So, then I would bluff and like gets snapped. And I’m like, I wonder how much money that has cost me over the years just thinking I need to have gloves, but he’s never folding, but I need to be balanced. Okay.
Brad: I’ll throw a 75% pot size bet then they snap it off. And I just feel like an idiot.
Kristen: Yeah, exactly. And I think that’s, that’s what we’re saying the obstacles is that I experience of getting out of all of that sort of knowledge that I learned coming from a good place, but maybe isn’t very practical.
Brad: Right. Well I mean
Brad: You got to do you, right.
Brad: And like, exploited a play and poker is everything. And it is
Kristen: So, agree.
Brad: What everybody should
Kristen: I love that.
Brad: What everybody should aspire to do. And, you know, I’ve said it many times on this show that like, even if you look in PIO, like exploitative play is just having more information against your opponent and like, using it to take advantage of their deficiencies. I mean, this is how you maximize win rate. But I mean, I’m grateful for the you know, the quote, unquote, pile revolution, because it just means pokers going to be good for a while.
Kristen: I know, funnily enough, it’s true.
Brad: What is your process look like, for regularly improving your game?
Kristen: I think I come from a background of kind of believing the putting in hours really does a lot. I think that if you’re playing and you’re playing in a way where you’re analyzing what’s happening, and you’re actively learning while playing, I believe in that a lot. I think, as we kind of said, I, it sounds like we’re on the same page with PIO and all that stuff. I think, I think if I was trying to do that, I would be wasting a lot of time. I love talking hand histories with people. I think that I learned a lot that way. I think, yeah, speaking with people who can help you think about spots in a better way and kind of put logic like wait, why do we want to bet the size on this board? Oh, well, wait a second. We don’t have very many bluffs, maybe we don’t need to bet big here. We can you know, things like that. I love discussions like that. Yeah, so I think, I think just playing and talking to friends seeing what they’re doing, like success leaves clues, right? So, watching the players who are better than me and trying to learn what they’re doing that works and what they’re doing that doesn’t. I think one thing I just have to say is, you know in poker, we can never really think that we know everything. You can always get better and you have to always get better.
Brad: Right. It’s a, it’s the dance, you know. It’s a line that we have to walk to be assertive, reassured enough to pull the trigger and make decisions that we genuinely in our heart, believe in, and even defend decisions that we make that maybe our friends criticize, or somebody criticizes, but also be open to the fact that yeah, we could have, we could have messed it up, we could have done better. You know, everything, every argument that we make, I think in poker for a decision has to be defended.
Brad: It’s findable by us and like, as long as you can defend it, then okay, you move on. But like, you can’t just get in this mode of hubris, where you think you know, everything and you’re not receptive and everybody is wrong.
Brad: It’s like, this is obviously something that happens. And like, you know, I’m, I’m sure when I was much younger, I was, for one of the probably one of the prime people that was like, no, you’re an idiot. I’m right.
Brad: And you’re wrong.
Kristen: Yeah. And
Kristen: That’s what we’ll see in the players who you know, now who’ve been playing for 20 years, or 30 years. And if they’re too stubborn to, you know, make changes to their game and adapt their mindset towards certain spots, then, you know, unfortunately, they’re just not going to beat the games anymore. So
Brad: They’re done. And you can see this. You can actually see this play out, if you play a lot of live poker, you see, the guys who are 60 years old, that used to play cash games, and used to crush cash games. And then just one year they woke up, went to the casino, and they weren’t able to beat poker, by just playing super nitty and getting paid off all the time. And they, they didn’t adapt, they didn’t learn. And this is going to continue on in the future for the folks that you know, played five years ago and
Brad: Got success. You don’t keep working five years down the road.
Brad: You made me that guy.
Kristen: Exactly. And you know, they’re the guy sitting in criticizing me for three betting them with five, six suited, and then I just stack their aces. And it’s like, well, why don’t you see what I did in that hand that worked? And what was so good about that? And why don’t you try putting some old nit with aces in a tough spot in that same spot and sack him? It’s like, yeah, so I just call it active learning. I don’t know exactly how we would put it. But
Brad: It’s, it’s a good phrase.
Brad: It’s funny that, you know, like you said, you watch players that are better than you, you try to reverse engineer what they’re thinking through each action that they make, and like this information is there, right? Like, if you’re at a low, lower skill level, and somebody at a higher skill level crushes you in a pot, where you have no idea what they did,
Brad: It’s an opportunity to reverse engineer what they did and learn and not get mad and assume they made a mistake.
Kristen: Yes, exactly. And even, you know, if I’m going to handle in line, and someone does something really creative versus me, I make sure I noticed that and then maybe incorporate that into my game. I’m like, oh, wow, he just spent one big line on the turn to check back the river. And I literally, like, get no value off this hand. Like, you know, I need to think about that spot of how can I, you know, then exploit him trying to exploit me next time? And then how can I put this into my game to do that to other players? Because that worked really well.
Brad: Right. Like, you know, just another weapon in your arsenal.
Kristen: Exactly. So, I think that for me, that’s, that’s what I strongly believe in.
Brad: If you could gift all poker players one book to read, what would that book be and why?
Kristen: One of the, my favorite books that not only kind of inspired me with poker, and just life in general, it’s, The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. I found it just to be a really good book about mindset. And I guess, I think being tough in life, which is really important in poker, giving it your all, which again, is, is important in poker, and not just show
Brad: What do you mean by being tough?
Kristen: I think, you know, show, you know, let’s say, take the World Series of Poker. You show up every day, fields are so big, you probably have no success. That’s, that’s most people’s summer, right? And I mean, just continuing to show up being positive, focusing on the things that are important, or that you have control of, instead of just complaining about bad beats or things like that, you know. I’ve never experienced this, but some people have bad sessions, and they want to leave, things like playing through those hard times. And, you know, whatever it is that you’re struggling, poker brings out challenges in everybody. And they’re always different for everybody I think. You know, some people fall into categories again, you know, I hate booking losing sessions. So, I’ve got you know, I have the tendency to play when I’m tired and, you know, sacrifice my win rate, things like that.
Brad: It’s funny you say that. I have a, I have this theory that I had this maybe a month ago where I was playing a session and like, I’m, I’m, I, I’m a high intensity player. So, 1000 hands a day of cash game and I feel that’s like that’s my goal every day. 1000 hands for tabling. If I get stuck right away, like say I lose four or five buy ins, like, I can rip through that 1000 in like four hours and feel fine. Like I’m not on tilt.
Kristen: Oh, great, okay.
Brad: I just have like adrenaline.
Brad: It’s like I noticed this extra adrenaline and this extra energy
Kristen: Drive. Yeah.
Brad: That’s not normally there, right. And like, it’s counterintuitive to every poker book, everything that you read about playing when you’re stuck, but I just had this and I would feel bad about it right from like, most of my career, I would feel bad about using this energy. And then I just realized, like, why am I feeling bad about this? Like, this is
Brad: This is a gift, right? Like
Kristen: It is.
Brad: I know I’m not tilting, I’m not angry. I just had this adrenaline that’s giving me this type of
Kristen: Addictive drive
Brad: Energy for extra-long session.
Kristen: That’s awesome. Yeah. Whatever your challenge is like facing it, and, you know, being able to, you know, not everybody in poker is but you’re, like we said, the ups and downs, the ups and downs. It’s how you handle the downs that get you back up quicker, you know, and like, get through it quick. Don’t, don’t dwell it out and don’t make it worse.
Brad: And you never know what you’re, you can never find your limit, unless you go through the suffering that gets you there. Right. If you’re always have if you’re averse to the pain and the struggle and you walk away and you quit.
Brad: You never push yourself, you never find your limit, which to me is doing yourself a disservice. Right? Like,
Kristen: Absolutely. Because we’re all capable of more than we think we’re capable of. And it’s a matter of pushing ourselves finding that limit.
Kristen: And there’s nothing more fulfilling than going out of your comfort zone and maybe succeeding, maybe not. But there’s something fulfilled that at least for me, I think that that’s kind of what life is about. Right? Trying to progress and
Kristen: Yeah, exactly. I love, that’s what I love about poker the most I think, you know, it’s, yeah,
Kristen: The ability to see, yeah, the ability to see growth, I always felt like, it’s crazy that some people go to work, and they show up. It doesn’t matter how you do. You know, you can be a barista at Starbucks, you can be a really nice, great one, or you can be like, you know, kind of a shitty person to people and, and not do a very good job. And you make the exact same amount of money. And that always bothered me of like, how is that possible? You know, my parents owned a business and I would hear them maybe like, complain about people, or some people are so good. And it’s like, shouldn’t people get rewarded for doing a good job, like and get paid more. And I really loved that with poker. I truly believed and still believe that, you know, if you are working hard in poker and working smart at poker, unfortunately, there’s all those people, like we just said, the misguided people who think they’re studying a lot, and that’s going to get them to success. And it’s not. And I hate, you know, I hate saying that, but I don’t think it is.
Brad: It’s definitely not.
Kristen: No. And but there’s such this false belief of it. It’s, it’s like mind blowing.
Brad: It’s dogmatic. I mean,
Kristen: Yeah, the people who, who tell me like, you need to be studying 50% what you play on, it’s like, well, I’m having like, success enough how I am. And this has been, like, 12 years, I think I’m okay.
Kristen: You know, maybe, and then I’m sitting there thinking you need to play more and get some volume. And, you know, it’s one thing to think you know, about, you know, how to handle a certain spot, but I don’t know how they can be experienced to do it. And performing in the moment is a whole different skill set.
Brad: It’s an interesting thing that I can say, I have probably studied, much less than most people like in a conventional way of studying. Now, early on when, like, if it’s discussing hand histories with friends, like I never even considered that studying, right?
Brad: Like, that’s just fun. This is like what I this is what I want to do. This is what like, lights me up, right?
Brad: Like, I love that. But like just doing deep dive database. Diving into pot PIO. I have used PIO like, I’ve ran some Sims and looked at it. It’s just not really, you know, just playing and learning and thinking deeply about spots that confuse me. And that’s like a thing. If I get confused, or I’m uncertain, like, I’ll carry that with me. And I’ll think about it before I go to bed at night, and then try to figure out some sort of solution on how to get better the next day, like
Kristen: I’m totally with you. There’s just pride and in doing your best. I, which is a weird thing. Like, I don’t know why it just popped into my head. But like, even when I worked at Applebee’s, I still wanted to be the best server that I could be like, I don’t know what like maybe it’s just something in me. When I was a cashier at a grocery store. Like I wanted to scan everybody’s items faster than everybody else. Like I don’t know. I always wanted to be the best that I can.
Kristen: Absolutely. I say this all the time. I say if I was a barista at Starbucks, I’d be the best one. I had a job where I was a hostess and I remember I had to clean the bathrooms and I was always like, the bathrooms are the cleanest. Like, why would you want to do anything half ass you know and not give it your all.
Brad: Yeah, I, I’d be curious to note that’s just like something some people are born with, or
Kristen: Maybe your parents installed.
Kristen: No. No.
Kristen: Oh, that’s interesting.
Brad: No chance.
Brad: I think, I don’t, maybe from like a competitive, competitive sports like as a kid playing baseball growing up and playing all stars traveling round. I know that there was a lot of think like, as weird as it sounds like as a 10 or 11-year-old like this was kind of my identity, right? Like I was
Kristen: That’s awesome.
Brad: A ball player and I was great. And my whole family like thinking back on it now it’s kind of odd, but like my mom and dad were divorced. And like both entire sides of the family would come to like every single one of my games, which is like 30, 30 people.
Brad: And so, I remember just feeling really good about that. And maybe that has some sort of impact down the line. I really have no idea.
Kristen: Yeah, it’s interesting.
Brad: If you could wave a magic wand, change one thing about poker, what would it be?
Kristen: I think, I’m just going to go with this one. Because it was something I was talking about earlier today. And it’s on my mind is that people are so critical of each other. And there’s, like this sort of cliques and nasty environment or this urge that some players have to say to another like to say that someone else sucks, like, like, oh, you know, Stevie Chidwick. I just saw him on this final table. And he did this and he sucks. Oh, wait, but wait a second. He’s like, you know, been the number one player in the world forever. And this kind of attitude of that, of like wanting other people to suck and like, just poor sportsmanship. I hate that.
Brad: It’s ego.
Brad: It’s ego. And for the most part, it’s just jealousy.
Kristen: Yes, yes. And I really hate that. I, yeah, I’m trying to think if there’s anything else.
Brad: What’s funny is like, I didn’t realize this was a thing in poker, because forever playing cash games, I didn’t really see that very much in the cash game world. And that also playing online, like on an anonymous site, before I got on Twitter, because I had to get on Twitter to promote my podcasts and like, reach out to people.
Brad: When I got on Twitter, that was what I realized, like, oh, people are kind of nasty in the poker world. But
Kristen: Yeah, and unfortunately, especially in the tournament world, you know, there’s the element of luck, obviously, in tournament is quite high. And then people see, people get, you know, big scores. And it seems like there’s a lot of jealousy and all these negative feelings, especially around tournament poker, because it’s like, oh, wait a second, I’ve been grinding tournaments for years and years, and this person comes and thinks this and thinks that and, you know, unfortunately, even with what I think about, you know, we talked earlier about the situation with me and Alex. I think a lot of that even could stem from, you know, a lot of people hating that because there’s an aspect of jealousy around that a little bit. You know.
Brad: It’s like a scarcity mindset versus an abundance mindset. Like,
Brad: In my mind, it’s like, okay, so we’re in this quarantine situation, like, 20 new poker podcast could pop up, because nobody has anything to do with their lives right now. But for me, it’s like, if that happens, if like, Doyle starts a podcast, all this does is grow the market for podcasts, and more people can potentially find mine. Right? Like,
Brad: You always want to have an abundant mindset where like, yeah, your friends do well, why be jealous of them? Like,
Brad: This is, this is good for both of you down the road.
Brad: If you go broke, now your friend has money and can invest in you. So, like, you should be cheering them on. You should be genuinely happy for all these human beings that are having success. Just because
Kristen: Exactly. Yeah.
Kristen: And just having respect for your competitors as well. You know, if there’s, if there’s a player who’s showing up, and maybe he’s not the best player, like we you don’t need, you’re not above him as a person. Like, that’s one thing I think I’ve always, you know, I grew up learning, like, just because I might have more money than someone, I’m not better than them as a human being and like, what makes you better is being nice, you know, versus being like, oh, I’m better. I’m better at poker than you. And that makes me a better person. And, you know, I, there’s so much of that that exists.
Brad: It’s because people have their whole identity wrapped up in their skill level in poker.
Brad: It’s pretty rare to, for high stakes players to go after people like that. I think it’s more prevalent than like the lower the lower stakes getting pissed at people for playing poorly or whatever. But like,
Brad: I’ve just, I’ve always had this like, thought in my head that like, I’m the, I’m the person who’s lowest on the totem pole here. Like I’m a poker player. I’m playing against somebody with discretionary income that can drop 10k and not bat an eye. Like that’s the person I want to be. Like, I aspire to be them.
Kristen: Yeah, grinding it out. And yeah.
Brad: Right. But yeah, just because you’re better at a game than somebody else doesn’t mean very much.
Brad: Other than you’re likely to make money. Playing said game.
Kristen: Exactly, exactly.
Brad: If you could erect a billboard that every poker players got to drive past on the way to the casino, what does it say?
Kristen: No one wants to hear your bad beat stories. I think that that’s probably the, the more and more I play poker, the less I care about hearing bad viewed stories. It’s just like, it’s so frustrating. And what we were talking about, about, you know, growing as a poker player, it’s such a huge setback if you’re going to view the game that way.
Brad: Right. And like, it’s funny, because Sean Snyder’s been sharing a bunch of mixed game hands on Twitter. I’ve been reading them every night. I love most of them. And then one of them is like yesterday, and I know he’s making a joke, but he’s like, my biggest, my worst day of online poker, I lost 100 bets and 10 buy ins, had aces versus, had kings vs aces five times, and like, immediately, I could just feel me on the inside go like, no, I don’t want to finish reading this.
Brad: Like, I don’t care. I just felt like kind of gross, about, like a bad beat. And don’t get me wrong, like sometimes, you know, you take a bad beat. But it’s interesting. And it’s worth exploring. And it’s worth talking about it because there’s learning that can happen from
Brad: That beat.
Brad: What is just like, oh, I got an aces. And they had the kings and they fought the king. It’s like, okay, like,
Kristen: Yeah, and that’s the one thing like, you know, the people who are transitioning from recreational to pro or like, even some pros, like, don’t get your head wrapped up in those huge pots. Like, even when there’s some people I kind of like coach and say something like, oh, you know, like, I went deep in this, but this hand happened or like, how should I have played this hand? I’m like, don’t worry about the big pots. Like all of these hands, like the queens versus king and all this kind of stuff. It plays itself in poker, and you’re not going to, like ever make a huge error. Like, don’t waste your energy here. Like it’s the other pots. It’s all the small stuff.
Brad: Yeah. For some reason, I’ve always just framed it in my head is like, I get kings versus aces. And I will get aces versus kings.
Brad: And like, it all evens out in the long run. So, there’s no use spending any energy in, in thinking about it. I did have something to say by the way, this is like forever ago in the conversation, but you were talking about when you ask for money in supernova elite, and I had the thought that like, I think it’s hard for people to be vulnerable, especially in poker, because you feel like there’s so much judgment.
Brad: Everybody will judge you for going broke or for not being able to afford to, like you said, playing the 10ks. But like vulnerability, that space of being vulnerable, is actually, it’s the strongest position you can be in. Because you don’t have to worry about anybody finding anything out about you. You don’t have to hide anything. You know, you’re just able to be open. And this is your situation. And like, I think that you actually, you know, busting, getting close to busting your account was like such a huge boon to your career. Because if you’re not forced into that situation, you’re probably not going to ever do it. Right.
Kristen: Yeah. Well, let’s be honest here, like I could have, there’s definitely a part of me that was like, okay, I’m going to give up, like, I’m not going to do this anymore. Maybe poker isn’t for me. Maybe, you know, maybe I’m not good enough. And all of that stuff. And as you were saying, with the people who are good at poker and tying their identity, I mean, to some extent, if you’re taking poker like I was, and it sounds like you were that it’s, it’s almost like your life. Like, I was eat, sleep, breathe poker. That there is like, you know, it is a big part of my identity. So, for me to then, you know, admit that I’ve failed or that, that things are going wrong, it’s hard to do. And it’s, you know, it doesn’t feel nice. You do have to be vulnerable to be like, oh, well, maybe it’s okay that I failed this moment. And somebody sees that, you know, I have talent or that I’m good enough to work out of it. But yeah, there was definitely, you know, all of those doubts in my head of like, maybe I am crazy doing this. And like you said that people laughed in your face that you’re going to be a professional poker player. And it’s like, you know, typically, I tended to always, like laugh in their face back. Like, I’m going to do it. Prove me.
Brad: Me too.
Kristen: Yeah, but you have those moments where you’re like, damn, maybe, maybe they’re right.
Brad: I did not want to go. Like, I did not want to fail especially early on and go back home with like, my tail between my legs. That was, felt like not an option. And looking, looking back at what I did in the beginning, I think like, God, I would never suggest anybody ever attempt that. Because like, the failure rate is close to 100%.
Brad: I don’t know how I made it out alive.
Brad: Just, I guess naturally have a higher skill level than the competition at the time in 2004.
Brad: Which live limit poker is not saying very much back in the day. But yeah, I mean, nobody wants to be a failure. But like, I think even your situation about selling action and 10ks right. It’s like, if you really think about it, everything that you have in your life, everything I have in my life is all directly, has all directly come from poker. This computer that I’m talking to you on right now, comes from me playing poker, right? Like
Kristen: Yeah, it’s amazing.
Brad: So, if you, like you can, you can even go broke right now, and still have all of these amazing things that have come from poker and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad poker player. Right?
Brad: Like, some people are just really horrible with money.
Brad: That’s just a separate thing entirely.
Kristen: And common. Yeah. But it’s true that you have to be vulnerable. I mean, even now, like, you know, there’s some 25ks coming up, and I need to sell action. And there’s a part of me that like, hates doing it. And I guess, you know, I definitely know that there’s some people who are going to say no, and it kind of hurts in a, in a way, you know, you’re like, oh, my God, like, I you know what?
Brad: They don’t believe in me.
Kristen: Yes, exactly. And, yeah, you just have to be vulnerable to even just take that and accept that’s okay. It is what it is and, and use it to motivate me for the future.
Brad: You’re going to get told no a lot in life. And
Brad: And that’s just if you’re afraid of being told no, then you’re never going to get told yes.
Kristen: Exactly. Exactly.
Brad: What’s your current big goal as related to poker?
Kristen: I would say to, there’s, I guess, not that I have, like a distinct goal, but I have many goals within that. I would, I’ll just name a few. I guess. I think that, you know, the plan for me for the next you know, few years was definitely play as much live as I can, in events that I like and have success there. I guess I, I would love to be you know, I want to be successful in general overall, but it would be a cool thing to like, get the female, like most successful female, like on money earnings, so
Brad: You’re not there yet?
Kristen: No. Vanessa Selbst has like tons. She had a, felt like her poker career was kind of short, but maybe it was, I don’t know.
Brad: No, I, so, I met Vanessa on party poker back in like 2004.
Brad: We played but weird. It’s funny how like, things were so different back then. We’re playing against each other like 5-10 three handed and we just like we’re typing in the chat, and shared aim information.
Brad: AOL Instant Messenger. And like, so she’s been she was, she was around for like, I think 11 years. I think she quit in 2005. But it could have been a little later than that.
Brad: Not exactly sure.
Kristen: I just saw her recently at one of the WPTs. But anyways, I would love to take her spot over of that.
Brad: How far away are you?
Kristen: Oh, I feel like she’s at like 11. And I’m at 5 million or something like that.
Brad: That’s a big gap.
Kristen: Yeah, it is. So that’s why I need those, those 25k final tables to go good. Yeah, so I mean, that’s not, it feels like kind of a silly goal to me at the same time. But I think that, to some extent, it would be cool to leave some sort of legacy in that way. And I think that I am definitely driven to play live poker and play in these events, too. If there’s any chance that it opens the path of like, another female feeling like, poker is a possibility for her or, or, you know, also proving that women can compete at a level that’s, you know, the same as men and, you know, can, can do well, at the highest levels. I, I just really aspire to change that mentality. Because it’s something that, you know, I never really complain about, like sexist things in in poker in general, really, because I do believe strongly that, you know, men are men and women are women. And some of the stuff that women complain about, I think is like, kind of silly. Like, if some guy calls me pretty, like, I’m just going to say, thank you, I’m happy for a compliment. I’m not going to be like, oh, my God, I’m playing poker. And you said, I’m pretty like, that, you know, I, like come on. Like, that’s something a little sensitive, I think. And that doesn’t need to be something to be upset about. But what does upset me is, you know, if I sit down, and it’s just assumed that you know, I’m a female, and we’re, we’re less than, we’re stupid, you know, can’t be good at poker. I understand that, you know, poker definitely attracts more men than women. But that doesn’t mean that, you know, there can’t be a certain percentage of women that happened to be quite good at poker. And I just think that, you know, if, it is, it is a motivation for me to play in these live games and have that kind of exposure because I think that it is important for someone to do that and pave the path like even for myself, you know, seeing when I first started watching poker on TV, and Jennifer Harmon was on. She was someone who kind of inspired me like, I feel like I kind of relate to her and a little, in a way that you know, she’s, you know, not an intimidating person to look at and, you know, kind of like the sweet girl but like can play poker. And you know, even Vanessa Selbst, like seeing her battle out there is inspiring, and yeah, I think it would kind of give my poker career some purpose, as well, you know, to think that, I don’t know that. If I’m helping to open that door a little bit, I think that that’s the way that I see myself doing that is just by having the success and yeah, showing that someone can do that. So, I would love to just like do really well in the high roller events. If I, if I was out there to just make money, I would just play cash games and have an easy life. But I think that, to me that challenges is one I want to take on.
Brad: Yeah, and we need emotional goals. Emotional goals drive us.
Brad: Goals for money don’t really drive us, they don’t motivate us.
Kristen: Yeah, absolutely.
Brad: What would you say to, you know, imagine there’s a 19-year-old version of yourself who’s about to enter the poker world, phenom coming up, what was something would you share with that human?
Kristen: I think I would say, calm down, you there’s pokers still going to be there in 10 years. We don’t need to play like 40-hour sessions. And so yes, I think that I, there was probably some periods where I was too focused on poker, and should have, like, you know, I would feel so anxious to play when I woke up that I couldn’t even like, call myself to go to the gym. And even though that’s something very important to me. So it was like, I was just so, so anxious to play, I don’t know how to explain it. And I think just understanding like,
Brad: Obsessed. You
Kristen: I was, yeah, I was obsessed. And it was like book a loss. Sometimes it’s okay. And yeah, just believe in yourself, and make sure to surround myself with positive people. Because for some parts of poker, I’ve been around people who weren’t necessarily as supportive. And I can tell you that when my poker career results went really high, it was when the people around me were, you know, helping me just like, you know, the emotional support from people who are behind you is like, so invaluable, versus somebody who you know, might be, even if they’re not attempting to hold you back.
Brad: Yeah, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. And I genuinely believe that, if you spend time, you know, there are people who are amazing at poker, who are very bad to be around. Like, you do not want to spend tons of time around them. And like, you just have to be very picky when it comes to that very close network of people you surround yourself with.
Kristen: Absolutely. I actually, I don’t know if it was your, no, it was, I was listening to I think it was Jennifer Shahad, Shahabi. I don’t know how to say her last name. And she was saying that there was a study that if you tell someone, I’m not going to say it correctly, something along the lines of, if you tell somebody, especially women, like a women aren’t good at poker, or women aren’t good at chess, right, before they go perform their performance is less than if you cut, you know, you’re giving them like positive reinforcement. And I know for myself, that’s huge. Like, I’ve been in spots on final tables where people would question a play I made during a final table. And I’m like, don’t do that, again, like because then all of a sudden, I’m like, out of my flow state, and I’m questioning myself and I’m not having confidence in my decisions. And so, if you have someone who’s, you know, some people are better at taking criticism than others, but for me, I need, I need like the, I need some criticism, but I need some positivity along with it. I don’t like when people are just like, this is bad. And you see that a lot in poker, you say a hand to a person and they’re like, that’s bad. It’s like why? It’s like, it’s just bad. And it’s like, okay, can you, you know?
Brad: Yeah, this has been, this is why I’ve never been compelled to like go to two plus two and jump up and post stuff. Because like, I guess I just, I’m a questioner, right. Like, I question everything. And when somebody is like, oh, no, that’s fine. That’s standard. I’m like, why is that standard? That’s not good enough for me. Like my, my expectations for a thing are so much higher than standard. Like, let’s actually go deep, and try to play above the rim here instead of just being like, average, right? Firstly, the feedback that that I’ve read, like back in the day used to be great. Like, Vanessa was on there, Tom Dwan was on there posting hands like physical all these crushers are all on like in high stakes, no limit, giving feedback on hands and stuff and like, then it’s a very valuable asset. But like nowadays, I do not think message boards are really, I think they do more harm than good.
Kristen: Absolutely. Yeah.
Brad: You have any projects you’re working on that are near and dear to your heart?
Kristen: Well, beyond just grinding poker, I think on a personal level, I definitely am always working really hard, kind of like on fitness stuff. But I did start a blog on party poker that’ll be like a weekly segment focusing on health and lifestyle things. So actually, it’s just like my second week coming up tomorrow. So, I’m just probably my favorite topics to talk about are poker, and then like nutrition, lifestyle, anything to kind of improve yourself. And so, I’m kind of doing a, I think it’s called, like Kristen’s Corner on the party poker blog and Twitter, trying to focus on I guess, sharing information that I’ve gathered throughout the years, and at the same time, continuing to like research, research, all those things. Because I noticed that that’s what I was doing. You know, I was playing poker for 12 hours a day, and then listening to Joe Rogan podcasts about, you know, this, that and everything. And, yeah.
Brad: It’s always been silly to me that the easiest thing to like, improve your cognitive ability is going to be like food, your nutrition, and your fitness. And like, it’s something that can improve that makes you money, without even having to think about poker and like, why do people put it on the back burner?
Kristen: Oh, it’s crazy. It just changes your life. You know, I actually, at one point, when I was started doing okay at poker, I went and got a personal trainer, and I probably spent like 30% of my, my, the cash that I had on this personal trainer or something. But it changed my life like it just in so many ways. And I yeah,
Brad: I suppose, so, Dara came on my podcast. We talked and he was like a marathoner. And he was saying that he had, like, his secret weapon was like, deep in tournaments. He felt clear than everybody else. He felt like he had more energy. And I’m like, well, yeah, like you’re a marathoner, right, like, you’ve built your body to be able to focus for 10 hours straight, whereas somebody who doesn’t, in like the most, the hot, highest value spots of the tournament deep, when you need your brain to be functioning at a high level,
Brad: There’s fails them, because they haven’t put in that time. And it’s like,
Kristen: Even like going to lift weights or doing a tough workout, I feel like that challenge that you give your body and your mind in those moments, really does translate to poker. You know, in those sessions, that you might not feel good or whatever, like, in so many ways, but if you just strengthen yourself and you know, not only on a physical standpoint, you know, getting through those last reps that burn and understanding like, pain is just kind of like it’s almost fake, in a way, you know.
Brad: It is. Your, your brain lies to you and like us as, as, like I think about, I try to be aware of things that are happening. You know, try meditation, just try to be aware of like, my emotions, what my mind is telling me. And like, I realized, when I’m, you know, 30 minutes into a workout, my brain is telling me like, you’ve done enough, like, you know, you could go home, like, your body’s tired, but then I can still go the other 30 minutes. My body makes it through and like, I just, I’ve had to learn like, oh, your brain is lying to you.
Brad: You never find your limit unless you just say brain, you’re a fucking liar. Like, my body’s fine. Like, you don’t feel like going to the gym. When I go to the gym, my body’s fine. So, it’s my, my brain that’s lying to me. So, like, overcoming that is just a huge optic, obstacle that can, you know, be monumental to your success.
Kristen: Absolutely. And the way you feel once you did go past that, you know it’s, it’s, again, what you were saying, like going out of your comfort zone in poker and in life in general. It’s, that’s where growth happens. And that’s where I think like real fulfillment as well.
Brad: I agree.
Brad: But again, we’re the people that want to be like the best baristas in the world.
Kristen: Yes. I will be if I ever have to work at Starbucks, I swear I’m going to be the best barista.
Brad: So, I got two more questions.
Brad: In 15 years, what are your accomplishments going to be in the poker world?
Kristen: Okay, and let’s hope I win the main event once, that would be fun. That’s kind of a silly one because I think it’s pretty hard to achieve but I think what I was saying before about the Vanessa Selbts, of beating her on the all-time money list would be cool. Yeah, winning. Well, hopefully winning like multiple, multiple, like high roller events, maybe some main events in there. I would love to win a main event. That’s like a big one. I haven’t yet. It definitely feels like something I’d like to achieve. I think, just hopefully still being around in poker. I can’t imagine I won’t be unless you know the world changes drastically. But
Brad: You’re, you right now, you’re kind of within striking distance of I see the man back there in the corner.
Brad: Grinding his session out. Your boyfriend, Alex Fox, and you’re, you’re number five in the GPI. Like you, you could legit go on a, go on a tear and get right.
Kristen: Oh, I would love to be number one. That’s actually a good, a good achievement. Yes, I would like to beat him out of that. Number one spot. That would be a pretty cool achievement.
Brad: You’re right there. I like your chances are that way, way more than winning the main event.
Kristen: Yes. Thank you. And I would actually take that over the main event too.
Brad: You should. I think
Kristen: For sure.
Brad: Poker players like that’s, that should be the aim. Right, consistency.
Brad: For a long period of time.
Kristen: I’ve always said I don’t want to win the lottery. I want to work hard and like, you know, do well, but you don’t want it all in one thing. I’ve never wanted to win the lottery, yeah.
Brad: Me neither. Like I want to work hard. And because like that’s the fruit of the labor. Right? That’s where the fulfillment, the sense of accomplishment comes from earning it.
Kristen: Yeah. And I love the, I like, I like, I love the process. I love the hard work. I love, you know, I’m in the sauna. And it’s like really, really challenging to stay in. And I love that feeling. I love the feeling of working through a workout. And even if poker, it’s just yeah, that’s what’s so cool about it.
Brad: And I think that mindset is probably one of the things that have, have made you great in the field.
Kristen: 100%. Yeah.
Brad: Kristen it’s been awesome. Final question. Where can the chasing poker greatness audience find you?
Kristen: Mostly on Twitter, I would say. It’s where I’m most active on social media. I do have I guess, an Instagram page as well. But yeah, follow me on Twitter. And I have a party poker blog that’s, that I’ll be posting more regularly and I’m very open to any feedback or any topics that when anybody wants to discuss, they can just tweet at me and let me know I’d really appreciate that actually. Because I, you know, as you might know, it’s I’m open to putting content out there but I’m not really sure what people want. So, it would be interesting to hear you know what people want to see if anyone would be so kind to share that with me. And yeah, I’m always playing online on party poker these days, so they can follow me there. I’m krissyb24.
Brad: Nice. Tweet at Kristen. Let her know what do you want her to create.
Kristen: Please. Yeah.
Brad: Thank you very much for your time and your energy. I’m very grateful. Let’s do this again when you knock off Alex at number one.
Kristen: Awesome. Deal. I’m in. Thanks for having me on. It was a nice conversation.
Brad: My pleasure.
Thank you so much for listening to this episode of chasing poker greatness. If you have yet to subscribe to the show, please take a second to do so on Apple podcasts or wherever your favorite place to listen to podcasts may be. For more content from me, Coach Brad, please visit our YouTube channel at youtube.com/enhanceyouredge and I’ll see you next time.
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