1. How and when did you start playing poker?
I started playing as a child, for pennies at first, then for other small change. I played a lot more in college. The group of guys I played with in college eventually evolved into the Tiltboys.
2. When did you first start to play poker seriously, and what was your bankroll when you first began?
I started playing seriously after my first tournament, in 1996. My first WSOP was in 1999. At that point, my company had been bought out and I had a pretty substantial bankroll.
3. Who has been your biggest influence in poker?
Chris Ferguson has been a tremendous influence. He and I became good friends after making a final table together in 2000. I finished 3rd in the $2,500 stud and he won the event for his first bracelet. He then went on to win the main event. We have had many good conversations about poker strategy and he has been an inspiration for improving my game.
4. With your winning a WSOP event how would you rank yourself in the grand scheme of the poker world and do you think winning this has gained you new respect at the tables that wasn't there before?
I think it has gained me some respect, but since I don’t play cash games, or even all of the big tournaments, I don’t consider myself in the top tier of professional players. However, I do play a lot of events, especially at the WSOP, and I have a strong record of final tables and cashes, which I think does earn me some respect.
5. Despite several strong Hold 'em finishes and final tables do you feel that you lose any respect as a Hold 'em player by only having an Omaha bracelet?
I don’t think so. I think my NL Hold’em record speaks for itself. I have more NL cashes than for any other game, and I have now made two WSOP final tables in NL Hold’em, including a 3rd place, behind Erik Seidel and Cyndy Violette.
6. What do you think about the poker boom, and what do you think about online poker in general, is it good or bad for poker?
I think the poker boom is good for poker, but poker has always been a very popular game in America. However, now it is just getting more exposure and more active participation. I think online poker is great for poker, and great for poker players. You can learn and improve so much faster online. Online is also so much more convenient than travelling to a casino to play, and your expenses are much less as well. Your table selection is much better, you can play multiple tables at once, etc. You can also practice specific skills, like shorthanded or heads up play, that are much more difficult to practice live.
7. Do you find it harder to play Omaha poker online because of the quick decisions you have to make,compare to live play where you have much more time than online?
I don’t tend to take a lot of time to make my decisions, online or offline. I actually prefer online because I get impatient in live play. I have played in live speed poker tournaments and even there some times I feel like it is too slow!
8. What do you think the differences are in what makes a good Omaha player versus a good Hold'em player?
Omaha is a slightly more mathematical game, and you need to be aware of all the draw potentials and their odds. I usually play limit Omaha Hi/Lo and in that game, the skill set is very different from NL Hold’em. Bluffing is much less of a factor (especially in the lower limits), and the game is somewhat more direct.
9. What are your highest and lowest points of your poker career?
The highest point of my career so far was winning my bracelet at the 2002 WSOP. The lowest point was 2001, where I didn’t cash at all at the WSOP.
10. We posed the question of the absolute dream WSOP Main Event Final Table to watch, or play in, for our Cardschat forum members. What would be your choices, if you could pick a dream final table to play with/watch, for the final 9 players of the Main Event at the WSOP, who would the final 9 of your fantasy final table be and what would be your the reasons for wanting to play with them or see them play?
I would love for it to be me, and 8 random donkeys, so that I could win the main event! The most entertaining to watch would be a mix of personalities like Phil Hellmuth, Mike Matusow, Sean Sheikhan, Annie Duke, Phil Gordon, Erick Lindgren, Daniel Negreanu, Scotty Nguyen and Men Nguyen.
11. Who out of the full tilt team of pros would you least/most like to find yourself heads up with in wsop main event?
I would love to be heads up with Phil Ivey or Chris Ferguson, just for the challenge. But Phil Gordon would be my dream, because Tiltboy bragging rights would be on the line, and it would be so sweet to take him down and not only win the Main Event, but keep Phil sans bracelet.
12. What are your views on the recent abomination by the US government in respect to online gambling?
I think that eventually regulation will supersede prohibition. The American public loves poker, and there are too many tax dollars at stake. Also, right now the US is bucking the WTO and has been ruled against repeatedly over its stand on online gaming.
I think that online poker will become more and more feature rich, and will continue to differentiate itself from live poker, rather than trying to simulate the live environment. I think there are so many great advantages to playing live, and online sites will continue to push the envelope to make the online experience that much richer and more convenient. I’m addicted to the new “Matrix” tournaments on Full Tilt Poker, and it’s something you can’t do with live poker.
14. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of giving up their job to take up poker professionally?
Make sure you have something to fall back on. It is very difficult to succeed as a professional poker player and you have to be prepared if you fail. Having that cushion also takes the pressure off and makes it easier to succeed.
15. How did you get the nickname 'The Baiter'?
At my first WSOP final table, they asked me for my nickname. I didn’t have one, so they said how about something like “Lasts longer”. Well, I didn’t think it was that good, and I had just played much of the day with Men “The Master” Nguyen. I was new to tournament poker and didn’t even know who he was at first. Anyhow, I suggested to the tournament director that I could be called “The Master Baiter”, but they passed on that name. I later shortened it to “The Baiter”, which they had no problem with, but still was an inside joke/pun.
16. There are more and more women playing poker now, is it harder reading tells on women than on men?
I don’t rely too much on physical tells when playing live. I tend to use much of the same tells live as online – betting tells. However, to the extent that I do use physical tells, I don’t find a big difference in how easy it is to read women versus men, although the kind of tells tend to differ slightly.
17. What are your thoughts on the many poker books available? Is the recent influx of so many poker strategy books harmful to the broader well-being of the game, and do you have any advice to those reading these books for the first time.
I think that anything that helps people learn the game is good for the game. Unfortunately, many of the books aren’t very good. You need to read any book critically, and apply what you learn to what your real work experience tells you. Even if you learn that the advice in the book is flawed, it will at least have accomplished the goal of getting you to think critically about that aspect of your game. Sometimes bad advice can lead to just as good an improvement as good advice. Learning what things to avoid is just as critical as finding out what works well. Removing leaks from your game is important, and a constant diligence towards improving your game is the best way to improve. You should learn from every session, and you should learn from not only the things you did right and wrong, but also from the things that other people at the table did right and wrong. Similarly, as you learn from books, you will learn from the good advice that you are able to successfully apply, and the bad advice that you can rule out from your game.
18. If you could suggest only one strategy book for a player to read and study, which would it be and why?
Super/System is a great, comprehensive book that covers many important concepts and poker games.