Jay Farber Interview: A Businessman, Poker Enthusiast, and Ambassador for the Game
Not even a week after Jay Farber won second place in the 2013 World Series of Poker Main Event for $5,174,357, CardsChat caught up with him to talk about life, poker, money, and tattoos. We found him at Ivey's Room, the high-stakes poker parlor at the Aria in Las Vegas, playing $150/$300 mixed games with the likes of Jean-Robert Bellande, Shaun Deeb, and Ben Lamb. The game seemed friendly, and it was a juicy enough game that Farber didn't want to leave it to chat with us; rather, he invited us to sit next to him and talk as he played. It worked out surprisingly well.
CardsChat (CC): Tell me a little about your beginnings in poker.
Jay Farber (JF): I started playing poker with my buddies when I was a little kid. We used to play home games at the kitchen table.
CC: Is poker what brought you to Las Vegas, or was it your friends in the nightclub industry?
JF: A little of both. I was coming out to Vegas to party and play poker all the time, and I wanted to move out to play cash games, but I didn't want to do it without a job lined up. So I took a job as a promoter, and I was going to play poker in my free time. As I got more and more successful in the nightclub scene, though, I had to focus more on work than poker.
CC: What kinds of games did you play when you had time?
JF: Anything up to $25/$50 or $50/$100 if the game was good. I've been playing pretty high stakes cash for as long as I've been in Vegas.
CC: Is No Limit Hold'em your game of choice?
JF: Yeah, but I'll dabble in anything. Shaun (Deeb) and I have played mixed games for a long time, with Ben (Lamb). Shaun taught me everything I know about mixed games; I just haven't played that much because the lower stakes mixed aren't as fun. There are bigger No Limit games running, and that's more my specialty. We're all friends here in this game tonight, so we're just having a little fun.
CC: At this point, are you doing any club promoting at all?
JF: Yeah, I'm still going to be involved in the business, and we're working on expanding it a bit. I took on an assistant recently.
CC: You played the Main Event last year…
JF: And the year before, too.
CC: I read that you won your seat through a satellite this year.
JF: No, I bought in. I wasn't even staked. I sold pieces to my friends, not because I needed to but because I wanted them to have the sweat equity. I played a satellite because it was fun, but I didn't win my seat that way. I bought in with cash.
CC: At a certain point this year, did you think to yourself that this was different than in years past?
JF: I really didn't. Last year, I made it deep into Day 3, and this year, I just had chips every day through the event, but I wasn't really expecting anything. I was just playing poker.
CC: Did you think your skills were better than in years past?
CC: Did you feel that you had a certain amount of momentum on Day 7 in particular, momentum that you could have carried through if they kept playing through the final table?
JF: I definitely felt strong through the day. I still feel like everybody underestimated me throughout most of the play. I liked my seats at both tables and was really comfortable with where I was at. But the break didn't change much.
CC: I did hear that you took a lot of time during the break to train, research, etc.
JF: No. Ben (he asks Ben Lamb, who is also at the mixed game table during the interview), how much time did we spend researching and training before the final table?
Ben Lamb (BL): It was like 2,000 hours.
JF: Don't lie to her!
BL: My guess is about two hours. He got to the final table on his own.
JF: We did sit down and discussed a strategy, game plan, how to do certain things in certain situations for my stack size, but I was fully confident in my abilities and how everything was going to go. I really wanted people to think that I was going to play a lot different, that these guys were giving me some sort of insight.
CC: What made you think that you were the best player in that tournament?
JF: I never thought I was the best player at that table. I definitely felt like I was the best player going into heads-up play on Day 2 of the final table, but not on Day 1. I was by far the least accomplished player. JC Tran's a fantastic player, David Benefield has been playing nose-bleed cash games his entire life.
CC: What made you feel that you had the edge over Ryan (Riess)?
JF: I felt like he made some mistakes when we got short-handed, and I was really confident in my style of play.
CC: So what happened, then?
JF: He ran like God. He outplayed me in a couple spots, but every time we saw a flop, he was making top pair, and doing that in heads-up play is pretty good.
CC: How did you feel after you pulled off that bluff?
JF: It just affirmed that if I had gotten any cards, I was going to be able to beat the kid. I also felt that when he hero-called me with queen-high after that, I knew that if I could catch up to him, I was going to beat him.
CC: Your dad was in the audience. How does your family feel about poker and this year's events?
JF: My dad was really proud of me and really supportive of everything. I've been doing pretty well for myself out here on my own, so he realizes that this is something I'm really good at and was meant to be doing. He supports me 100 percent. It was really nice of him to be there; I was glad to have him there.
CC: What were your career goals before this summer ever took place?
JF: I was just really focused on playing poker on occasion, having mostly fallen out of it. Mostly nightlife, though. I'm pretty successful in the hosting side of it and make a very comfortable living doing that, so I was really enjoying where I was at in life. I was thinking about other options and maybe a career change to keep me busy, but I really love what I do. I have one of the best jobs in the world. I get to go out and have fun with people for a living.
CC: What's changed now?
JF: The doors that have opened since making the final table are just innumerable. I'm getting to travel all over the world to play poker, and I feel like I want to be a good ambassador for the game.
CC: What does that mean to you to be a good ambassador?
JF: It just means representing a side of poker that most people don't normally see. A lot of people think it's all tournament grinders and the poker superstars like Phil Ivey, and they're not really accessible people, whereas I feel like after the final table, people can sort of relate to me and feel like it's easier to get into the game. It's sort of like the Moneymaker effect to a lesser extent. A lot of people said I was like the people's champion, and that means a lot that people were pulling for me.
CC: What are your plans in poker?
JF: Right now, I don't have many plans. I'm going to Miami in December just for fun, and then in the New Year, I'll probably go to Australia for the Aussie Millions and relax there for about a month. A lot of plans depends on what 888poker wants me to do.
CC: So you're going forward with that sponsorship?
JF: Definitely. They're a great company, and they treat everyone really well. It's more of a community there, and they focus on the lifestyle aspect of poker, which is perfect for me.
CC: Have you had the chance to travel to the extent that you can now?
JF: I've been able to travel, like with my family when I was a kid, and I had some other opportunities in general. But it's been nothing like this, where I can travel to play poker.
CC: Have you made any big purchases since you finished the Main Event?
JF: Nothing really. I was on TMZ talking about buying a Ferrari and Aston Martin. I intend to be relatively smart with the money, though. I'm going to finance both of the cars. My dad deserves the Aston Martin. I'm going to get a house, too. And I'm not going to get the cars straight out; I'll finance them and sell after a couple years. I won't blow all of the money, for sure.
CC: You have a background in business administration. Is that going to come in handy?
JF: Yeah, and through this, I have a lot of very smart people I've become friends with, like Dan Shak. I've met a lot of successful businessmen through hosting and poker. And my father went to Harvard; he's a commercial real estate developer. With all of them in my corner, they're not going to let me go off the hinges and blow all of my money.
I'm going to enjoy it. I'm happy to be a part of poker now, and I feel like this has been a great opportunity and experience all the way around. It was great to earn the respect of a lot of poker players. I had a lot of them telling me that I played really well. Shaun told me I played one of the best final table he's ever seen, so that felt good. Coming from people I respect so much really means a lot. I would've loved to have won, though. (laughs)
CC: On a side note, a woman in the CardsChat forum wants to know if you ever regret any of the tattoos that you've gotten.
JF: No. Not at all.
Thanks to Jennifer Newell for the interview! (and me for sitting there lol)