COVER STORY: Chris Torina is in Deep!

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By Christopher Cosenza

Chris Torina’s house may be in Altamonte Springs, Fla., but his home is anywhere a poker student needs help.

This sentiment makes his DeepStacks poker training company float to the top among a sea of other poker educational options.

“I had the idea during a WPT preliminary event at the Mirage,” said Torina, 33. “During one of the breaks I heard some of the pros talking about some of the other boot camps and academies and how they weren’t going into the other cities, just doing Atlantic City, Vegas and L.A. I was like, ‘Why don’t we just bring poker training into people’s back yards?’ It would be affordable for them; they wouldn’t have to fly and spend a lot of money to get to these places.”

Torina, a former cop who began playing poker in 2003, wasn’t exactly a household name. He had cashed a couple of times in smaller recognizable tournaments while grinding out a living online and at the live cash tables. But, like so many other poker players, Torina was a former athlete who needed a fix, and he channeled that drive into his passion for poker and poker instruction.

“Playing sports in high school and college I just developed a love for anything competitive,” he said. “I fell in love with poker watching it on ESPN. I figured if I wanted to play for a living and make it my life, I’d have to start a business around it. So that’s what I did.”  

Thus, in 2007, DeepStacks was born. By 2008 the business was crawling, but by Torina’s own admission it didn’t start taking baby steps until it figured out how to balance itself.
“In ’08 we tested the business model of the preview-to-workshop-camp seminar. … But there were always two things missing: continued education and the big names.”

That’s when Torina revamped his company, splitting it into two entities: DeepStacks Live and DeepStacks University.

“In 2009 we basically spent (the whole year) developing both. We developed an online platform for developing education (DeepStacks University), while taking the name recognition (DeepStacks Live) and building that as well. … There aren’t many companies, if any, that actually do both. … That’s how we got Mike Matusow.”

Matusow and Torina are now partners in DeepStacks Live, the company that brings the training to your area. And “The Mouth” headlines a roster of instructional pros he handpicked that’s second to none: Tom McEvoy, T.J. Cloutier, Vanessa Rousso, Adam “Roothlus” Levy, Justin “Boosted J” Smith, Tristan “Cre8ive” Wade and Alex Outhred, among others. 

“I’ve been playing poker for more than 20 years,” said Matusow, who owns three World Series of Poker bracelets. “And I enjoy teaching poker. This is something that I can now say is my own. I am strictly here to really teach people what I know. … People have faith in me. They know what kind of person I am, and when I tell them we’re going to sell people a good product they believe in me. The people who know the real Mike Matusow know I’m a good person to learn poker from.”

Matusow, a.k.a. The Dean of DeepStacks, is so dedicated to this company he has severed all ties with other poker instructional opportunities.

“I like talking with people, if you don’t know that by now,” Matusow said with a snicker. “I love having fun with people. … There’s going to be an asterisk on it. If you don’t like being made fun of and being called names by Mike Matusow then don’t join up.” 

Matusow and Co. took their act “Live” in late January by bringing its free preview seminar to Tampa, where hundreds of players converged on Embassy Suites for a chance to meet and learn from poker giants. Then two weeks later the intensive two-day training seminars for the paid customers commenced. Players could pay for one day at $999 or $1,599 for both days.  

“You’re getting hands-on one-on-one analysis, strategies and tips,” Torina said. “But you’re also getting a breakdown to a buildup, meaning most organizations do lecture-based training. You sit in a chair and watch a Power Point presentation and you don’t really get the ‘oomph’ from it. Ours is customizable. We break you down and then build you up. It’s like the military. They break you down to make you a U.S. soldier. Everyone has holes in their games. Even our pros have holes, but they’ve been able to plug them and identify those holes. Many people aren’t honest with themselves. … For every table we have there’s a pro that stations that table. Everyone has a seat; no one stands. And it’s 90-10 ration, 90 percent at the tables, 10 percent lecture.”

And, as Torina said, what makes DeepStacks unique is once your live training comes to an end, you can still have the same pros teaching you online through “Reactive Training Technology.” It’s a subscription-based education on deepstacks.com that’s customizable to any form of training. Interactive videos respond to your every move and guide you through scores of scenarios. This way the DeepStacks education stays with you wherever you have access to the Internet. 

“They always say players play and teachers teach,” Torina said. “I like to consider myself a player, but I find a tremendous amount of pleasure seeing someone who has learned from my company apply it and do well. We’re one of a kind. The way we teach and the types of players we bring to teach our curriculum is one of a kind. We’re the only poker company in America doing what we do.”