The poker world features players that go from rich beyond their wildest dreams, to completely busted in a short time due to playing outside of their rolls, overspending, or for whatever reasons. It’s a world where the lines of right and wrong have been blurred quite a bit in the last year, with several high profile players committing unethical acts that not only harm other players, but harm the very game itself. However, Justin “WPTHero” Rollo is not one of those people. He is a well-known, and well-liked player amongst his peers. Rollo, an extremely talented player from Massachusetts, is a MTT moderator at 2+2, as well as well as an MTT instructor at Poker Savvy Plus (http://www.pokersavvy.com/plus/).
Dave Thorne: What’s your poker story? Who are you?
Justin Rollo: Hey Dave. Well I started playing poker like almost every other person these days, as a broke college student. I needed some income on my sophomore year of college and ended up getting extremely lucky in a few MTTs early even though I had basically no clue as to what I was doing and was hooked as I thought it was free money. Ended up really getting smacked with reality though shortly after and losing a good deal of money at that time and basically would buy in for the minimum with credit cards (yes they were allowed back then) and would lose and reload, I was the classic fish but I was also a persistent one! My brother also played poker and was into books by 2+2 and turned me onto them and helped me out. I never really read a poker book cover to cover but instead just read threads on the 2+2 forums (eventually becoming a moderator there) and experimented with different techniques. If something worked repeatedly I kept it in my arsenal, if it didn’t I got rid of it. After about three years of doing this I have a good skill set in my opinion, even though it’s still essentially the same process I was using three years back, just slightly more complex. With all that being said, sometimes I still feel like the fish I was three years ago when I make a dumb bluff.
DT: How important do you feel it is to have a good moral and ethical compass in the poker world? In your position, do you greater responsibility than others perhaps do?
Justin Rollo: I think it is pretty huge overall. Some of the young kids don’t realize the seedy history of professional poker. It was a game of cheats back in the day. Luckily a lot of people now see Chris Moneymaker as their first memory of professional poker and not a group of seedy guys playing in a smoky backroom. That being said, while it might not seem overtly seedy now a days there is still a ton of broke guys looking for shady deals, drug use and cheating but it is more of an underground thing now so staying away from that is a big deal. My main goal in poker, especially considering I have moderated the 2+2 forums, is to set a good example for younger players and I think I have done that. There is a ton of room to make money in the poker world, on and off the table and a lot of the younger guys now don’t realize this and trash their public image while they are still young (see JJ Prodigy) and what they don’t realize is there is an insatiable need for marketable new professionals for TV so while these kids might be having fun now by talking about their drug use or cheating they are only cheating themselves out of literally hundreds of thousands of future equity in possible sponsorships or deals. My best advice would be that if someone decides to go pro they should instantly treat it like a business and market themselves and their skills accordingly. As for the 2nd half of your question I do, in a sense, feel the need to hold myself to slightly higher a bar as a moderator of the forums and a pretty well known player online, a lot of the players in their early to mid 20s are role models for the younger kids, whether we like it or not.
DT: What would you say are the biggest mistakes tournament players make?
Justin Rollo: I can take this question in two ways. One on a more macro level and one on a more micro level. In the macro I think players jump too high too fast and eat up their bankroll in games they either aren’t ready for or games that represent way too much of their bankroll. On the micro side I would say some players fail to trust their instincts. I don’t know how many times I have been playing on a table for hours make a play that flies in the face of my instincts because I talk myself into making the play rather then just trusting that something wasn’t right, one way or another.
DT: With so many instructional sites in today’s age, what separates Poker Savvy Plus from the rest? What makes your site special?
Justin Rollo: Well we are still pretty new but our lineup of pros is pretty amazing. All of us have really prided ourselves on giving this thing our best shot we can and we just really want to show appreciation for the game and what it’s given us. Making videos is probably a negative sum game for us as professionals because we’re only making fields tougher but that’s a sacrifice we have all accepted to show our thanks to the game and to hopefully perpetuate this ride of popularity even further. I think some sites just make videos to make them and hopefully make some money whereas I really think we are doing it the other way around, trying to make amazing videos for our users and if we are compensated then its icing on the cake. We also have a great ownership group who is open to ideas and are, to be honest, amazing with marketing and business, so it’s just a really good thing to be a part of.
DT: What was it like making the World Series of Poker final table last summer?
Justin Rollo: Frankly, all I can say after being removed from it this long is that it was a disappointment. I was 3 handed for a bracelet and a ton of added sponsorship equity and I just lost focus. I ran like god to get there (the structure was shallow) and lost focus at the most crucial time. I will be back in Vegas for the entire series again this year and am really going to try to stay healthy and focus on the series first and enjoying Vegas second so hopefully I can get some redemption.
DT: What did you do with all that money?
Justin Rollo: Hmm…first thing I did was buy a car, a hybrid actually. I know its not baller but I paid in cash which is baller. Then I paid off the rest of my student loans and bought a house to renovate. After that I have sat on some for a rainy day, enjoyed some with some frivolous purchases and put some back into my roll. Nothing too crazy.
DT: After the WSOP score and numerous online results, what’s next for you? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
Justin Rollo: Hmm. Really interesting question. Honestly, it’s a super tough one to answer. I am getting into real estate now and would love to use my degree in urban planning at some point but poker has been too good for me to just give up on it. I will likely still be playing in 5-10 years if the games are still good but I will never be the kind of person that travels the circuit non stop, even if I were to win the WSOP ME or something it just isn’t something that interests me. I love poker but I love a whole lot of other things and like to challenge myself in other areas so basically I see a lot of the same in 5-10 years hopefully. I just want to live comfortably, invest well, continue to challenge myself in poker and out and go from there. How’s that for a vague answer? Haha.
DT: Any suggestions to aspiring poker players or current ones?
Justin Rollo: I mean my biggest thing is sort of two fold. I think way, way too many kids are dropping out of school to play poker full time and it worries me. College isn’t for everyone, I will concede that but it is a hugely formative time in your life, you really find out who you are and more importantly, how good you are at adapting to all different kinds of people. Your academic education is almost secondary to your social education in college but it is, obviously a pretty important secondary focus. The best thing a degree gives a professional poker player is a safety net if things turn bad. At any time I could get a job using my degree and not start from the absolute bottom of the barrel, this is a pretty comforting thought when trying to make it in poker. In the end, sticking it out and getting my degree is one of the best decisions I have ever made. The second thing I would say is that as players we should all take a step away and just enjoy what is going on right now with poker. I mean 10 years ago could anyone have guessed poker would be this huge? Not a chance! Just enjoy this ride because we never know how long things will be this good and lucrative and make sure you have a safety net for the chance that they go south and you’ll do fine.
DT: Thank you very much, Justin.