Your online moniker, Rizen, impulsively came from the Diablo video game series when you were in high school. How do you feel about the prospect of being in your 50s someday and still being called Rizen? (laughs) Hopefully when I’m in my 50s people still know who I am. … It’s worked well for me so far, so if that’s what people still know me as in my 50s then I’d be happy with that.
Is there anything you miss from your software engineer days? Yeah, one of the biggest things I miss is the sense of accomplishment you have when you complete a big project. I mean, don’t get me wrong, when you win a tournament you have a sense of accomplishment as well, but it’s not quite the same as when you’re working as a team. … I guess it’s more the contribution you feel as part of a team toward some greater goal, whereas poker is more of an individualistic activity.
How difficult was it to turn pro? It wasn’t that difficult at all. In 2006 when I decided to go ahead and quit my job it was because I wanted to go to the World Series that year and I knew my job wasn’t going to let me just leave for six weeks. So actually I had another job lined up for when I got home and I did so well in 2006 I decided not to take that job. So it was one of those things where I didn’t make a conscious decision to quit and never go back to work … it just kinda turned into a full-time thing.
How did the Winning Poker Tournaments series come to fruition? It was an idea (poker player and Dimat Enterprises publisher) Matthew Hilger had a while ago. … He had the idea and approached me about it and asked me who I thought would be some good players to work with, and we kinda both came up with our own list. Fortunately we had a lot of the same people on it. And I think actually Jon (“PearlJammer” Turner) and Jon (“Apestyles” Van Fleet) might have been the first two people we asked, and they jumped on board. I thought it was a great idea. At the time (Gus Hansen’s) Every Hand Revealed wasn’t out yet, so it was a very unique idea.
Vol. 1 dealt with all kinds of scenarios in tournaments. What is Vol. 2 about? Vol. 1 really just covered the early hand scenarios from the very beginning of a tournament through the money bubble. Book 2 kinda picks up where Book 1 left off. … In Book 1 you kinda got a lot of hands that were scattered around that deal with a lot of common early to middle tournament situations. While in this one, we all picked a tournament we won and went from the money bubble on to the end. You get a lot of that continuity; you get a lot of the reads that we get. Because I feel like late tournament poker is so much more about reads. Also you’re dealing with a lot more shallow-stack situations, so a lot of things are a lot more preflop. … When do you three-bet? When do you reraise all-in? … It’s more of a late-game sort of book.
What’s the biggest mistake you see players make once they’re in the money? People tend to go to one of two extremes. They become too impatient and they start to make plays that really don’t make a whole lot of sense and add a whole lot of risk and variance to their game. I realize we’re doing a lot of restealing; we’re doing a lot of three-betting and reraising. But we’re very selective about how we do it. We make sure we’re picking the proper opponents with the proper hand ranges who are capable of folding hands. The other mistake is people get too patient. They let themselves get down to five or six big blinds, sometimes even lower. I was actually just at a WPT event in Indiana and two people let themselves get down to three big blinds. (laughs) … and that was after the money bubble burst. … Once you get down that low, even if you managed to get dealt aces four or five times in a row, the chances of actually doubling up and getting a workable stack to take on to the final table is pretty low.
Finally, I hear you might challenge me as cheapest individual in America. (laughs) Where’d you hear this? (laughs) Yeah, I’m pretty cheap. Even when I go to Vegas for tournaments I’ll Priceline it, or find the cheapest room I can. Sometimes I’ll even stay with a friend. … I don’t really feel the need to spend a whole lot of money. A lot of times when I know I’m gonna be there for four or five days I’ll actually go to the grocery store other than going out to eat all the time. I’m not cheap in my homelife. … You know, I see guys blowing thousands of dollars every time they travel and that’s just … it seems like a waste to me.