There’s a very compelling reason why you started playing poker. Can you share that story with our readers?
Yeah, I was in a motorcycle accident. Actually I had been watching the WPT and World Series of Poker whenever it was on TV, I was like a fan. But I really didn’t know much about it. I didn’t know a pair vs. ace-king was 50-50. I thought ace-king was like 80 percent. (laughs) … It was a pretty tragic motorcycle accident my senior in high school, so I had to quit my part-time job. I just hung around the computer all day long. I didn’t even really go to high school very much in the last semester of my senior year because I had all of my credits done. So I was talking to an old friend of mine and he was talking about how he was making a couple thousand dollars a month playing online poker and he would teach me. I put some faith in him and I had like $50 or whatever any broke high school kid has. (laughs) I put it online and he taught me how to grind it up playing, you know, I started playing 1-cent/2-cent limit hold’em full ring, and kind of mastered that game before moving up. And I guess I’m still moving up. (laughs)
You made the final table of the WPT Bellagio Cup V and finished third for nearly a half-million. Though that was in July, TV viewers only just saw that broadcast recently. What happened to your knee during that final table?
(In my accident) I tore my right ACL and had surgery. I also broke my ankle very badly and had to have metal implants and screws put into it. But what they didn’t know was I partially tore my left ACL, so that never got worked on. So at the final table (my friend Mike Matusow) pushed me around a little bit (in celebration) and got me off-balance. … I just stepped the wrong way and I heard a loud snap. I didn’t know how bad it was going to be and I was just waiting for the pain to ensue. … I kinda just hobbled back to the table and kept it elevated with some ice on it. I still haven’t gotten it fixed. I can walk fine, not much pain. But when I find a free three-four weeks in my schedule I’m going to try to get it operated on.
Do you need to carry one of those medical cards that says you have metal in your leg so you can get through the metal detectors at the airports?
No. I got a card from my doctor but (the detector) never goes off.
You had a lot of success online before you turned 21. How psyched were you to finally turn 21 last year and get to play in live casinos?
That was a big thing coming up to my birthday, turning 21. Most kids like to turn 21 to be able to go drink and go party, and that’s all great. But my big thing was I could finally go play live. I went to the Commerce to play before when I was like 19 … but I actually got kicked out of the Venetian one time. There was an amazing game too, and that was back when I was 19, too, and I was trying to play $200-$400 no-limit with Jamie Gold and David Williams. It was a pretty amazing game and I couldn’t play.
So what was the first legal live poker you played in the States?
It was the WPT (Southern Poker Championship) in Biloxi. That was the very first event I played.
How did you get your nickname Boosted J?
There’s no special or unique story really. It’s just one of my friends from the car scene, I was really into cars before poker, and boosted applies to like a turbo-charged car, and I like turbo-charged cars. And the “J” obviously stands for Justin.
You live in Florida and in L.A. Was the move west to be closer to the live action?
Yeah, and the lifestyle in general. I live in Hollywood and there’s always stuff going on, great restaurants, clubs, nightlife, shows.
What’s the biggest difference between live and online play for you?
Live there’s so much more information to decipher. You’ve got people’s body language. Dynamic is huge. There’s a completely different dynamic playing live than online.
Was it tough making the transition when you turned 21?
Well, I had played live at the (PokerStars.net Caribbean Adventure) for two years so I had some experience. We had some huge cash games there during those two tournaments. So I wasn’t completely new to it. I pretty much knew what to expect.
What’s your favorite game and what limits?
Deuce-to-seven triple draw. … As of this past World Series we started playing pot-limit triple draw, which is an extremely sick game. (laughs). Very, very, very, very sick, for very, very, very, very sick limits. Very sick game for very sick limits. We played as high as $500-$1,000 blinds, so the pots got up to $500,000.
And who’d you play with?
Well, the people I can tell you about are Durrrr (Tom Dwan), Freddy Deeb and Viffer (David Peat).
How do you rank being named FTOPS III player of the year in your career?
That was big when I was like 19, but now I’m on to bigger and better things. I’m trying to be WPT player of the year this year.
And what would that mean to you?
That would mean a lot. I would rather win something but hopefully I win a WPT and THAT makes me player of the year. That would be ideal. I’m trying to win a WPT and a World Series bracelet this year.
How many events will you play at the Series this year?
I played like 23-24 last year, and I did a lot of multitabling. So I had the $10K heads-up, the $5K PLO and the $2,500 H.O.R.S.E. going all at the same time.
How’d you do that with the heads-up since you get a hand every few minutes?
I just played the heads-up and just blinded off the other two. And every time I came to PLO I just shoved all-in and in H.O.R.S.E. I just played a little bit loose.
I hear you have more clothes than your wife, Anita … is this true?
Yeah. That’s what I spend money on. I’m pretty tight with money like in certain ways, but like I’m very loose with money in other ways. I just like clothes. I like to look good I guess.
Is she envious? A little bit. She actually just went shopping yesterday. She feels like she needs to step up a level.
The shopping in L.A. must be incredible.
Yeah, it’s ridiculous. I always go to Beverly Center or Rodeo Drive. But mostly Beverly Center. Most of the people in the stores are familiar with me. (laughs) They always call me and say they have new stuff in.
Does your dog really have his own bed?
Like a mat, like a nap mat like when you were in kindergarten. … I live in Hollywood, and people there are very picky about their pets. Like you can buy a suite and your dog can have a suite with a TV. It’s a little bit crazy. I don’t do that, but you can do whatever you want to do (for your pets). … You can get your dog massages and facials. (laughs) It’s crazy.
You have a very healthy diet. How difficult is it to keep up with that when you’re traveling or spending tons of hours in the cardroom?
It’s not as tricky if you have a wife. (laughs) First thing she does is goes to the grocery store and as long as we have a refrigerator then we’re pretty much set. … She finds out where she can get me like a chicken wrap because I’m allergic to soy flour so I can’t eat much bread. … I just like to eat healthy in general. It keeps me sharp poker-wise and I’d like to live a long time. (laughs)
Is it true if you bust someone or take a big pot online that you type “You got Boosted!” into the chat window?
I sorta used that at one time.
Well, now that you’re playing live poker, would you say that to someone across the table from you? Because you’re not really a big guy.
I think I’ve probably said it being funny to friends. And I know for sure people always sat it to someone at the same table as me, and be like “Yo! You just go Boosted!” But I would almost never say anything maliciously.
You’re starting to get a lot more exposure now. How hard is it to have the limelight thrust upon you considering you started in poker out of necessity and not with the aim of being famous?
There’s additional scrutiny toward you as a person and a player. Just like anybody in the public spotlight you have to be very limited in exactly what you say, or how you say it, or how you play I guess. I mean I don’t care how anybody thinks I play. I hope people think I’m a bad player.