Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Interview: Aaron Bartley a.k.a. GambleAB

How do I Improve My Game: Part I
An Interview With Aaron Bartley a.k.a. GambleAB

The one question I hear asked more than any other is “How do I improve my game?” Well, thanks to the help of Adam, Cal and Riley, three people many of you have never heard of and their internet poker forum PocketFives, I am attempting to answer that very question. Over the past few weeks, I have been fortunate enough to talk with some of the best poker players on the internet, all of whom I got to know through the PocketFives forum. I have broken the information down into a 3-part series. This is the first installment of that series.

Aaron Bartley, otherwise known by his internet handle, GambleAB, is ranked as one of the top poker players on the internet. Though he is only 22 years old, when he sits at an online poker table, he is given the respect of a Doyle Brunson or a Johnny Chan. Bartley has been playing online poker for the last 2.5 years, an amazingly short period of time for his skill level. Bartley is a full-time poker player. That is to say, his sole means of income is playing poker. His largest tourney win is $142,000. Sound like someone you’d want some advice from? You got it!

Bartley describes his overall game as “Controlled aggression based on reads and feel of the table.” Well, that’s all well and good, but what does that actually mean? I have broken out the tourney into early, middle and late stages and asked Aaron to explain specifics about his play in each stage:

Early Stage- Play fairly tight, avoid large pots where you are 50/50 to win if you feel you can outplay your opponents later on, play your cards more than your opponents.

Middle Stage- This is where you try to accumulate chips, but NOT go broke. Especially in online tournaments (due to rapidly escalating blinds) it is important to reach the final table with a decent chip stack, but it is even more important to simply GET there. This is the stage in which good reads can really pay off.

Late Stage- This is where you can become more aggressive, but don’t forget your main goal, survival. If the other players are super-aggressive (raising and reraising a lot), lay low, let them bust each other out. “Most final tables have a few players that are just playing stupid, a few people that are playing smart and a few people that are playing tight. My goal is to identify who is who and exploit that knowledge.”

I asked Bartley what he felt to be the best hand he ever played and I think it really illustrates his middle-stage strategy. The hand came up during a live World Series of Poker Circuit Event. “It was on Day 2 and we were down to about 4 tables (final 18 got paid). I had a slightly below average chip stack, but [I was] still in good shape (I had just come back over the last 30 minutes from taking a bad beat and getting down to a decimated chip stack). I had a hand come down where I had AK [suited] and it got heads up with a guy preflop. Every instinct and poker ability in my body told me this guy had AQ. When the flop came down all rags, I let him take control of the betting since I felt I had the best hand. I check-called him on the flop and then check-raised him all-in on the turn and he had to put the last of his chips in. He ended up having KQ (so basically my read was perfect) and I won a huge pot to double up with Ace high. That hand let me accumulate more chips and basically propelled me to the final table, all because I had a read and stuck to it.”

Hopefully, this hand and the tournament breakout gives you a good idea of how GambleAB has had so much success. With so many new players out there, wishing they could play like Bartley, got this advice once and wishes to share it: “Practice, practice, practice…and when you’re not practicing, practice. Then practice some more. The only way you can get better at poker is to practice. Play. Think about the game at all times. When you are driving, think about hands and situations. When you’re at work, think about different players and how they play. Only by constant thought and practice can you get to a high level, especially with tournament poker.” For those of you who have gotten this far and can’t wait to finish reading so you can run out and become a professional poker player, GambleAB has a warning. “Make sure you are focused and determined enough to make a run at it. I recommend playing part-time for a while and when you can show 6-12 months of solid results, then start thinking about having poker as your only source of income.”

Its not easy to play poker for a living, but Aaron Bartley, a.k.a GambleAB, at age 22 has done just that. Aaron plays on many poker sites and even has his own avatar (the small picture that appears next to your name when playing online) on certain sites. Bartley has already been on television and can be seen daily playing online. Without a doubt we will be seeing a lot of GambleAB. Stay tuned for the next installment of this 3-part series featuring the best internet poker players in the world.

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