If you want an example of a successful low and midstakes grinder, look no further than Thomas “Renton” L. Even though Thomas has been grinding 1/2 and 2/4 NL for over a year, he has profited a handsome $125k. He may not be flashy, but the one half Native American has been living off poker winnings for a year and a half, and has been consistent winner his whole career.
DS: So tell me your poker story.
Thomas L.: Late ’05 to early ’06 I was just mildly interested in poker. I played at bar freerolls and eventually was depositing 50 bucks at a time on party poker and playing 5 and 10 dollar MTT’s and SNG’s. Obviously I was losing money at first, and after about the 3rd 50 dollars that I deposited/lost for fun (I had a decent paying job so it wasn’t too degen), I decided to deposit 500 into Party and make a fairly serious run at cash games. I was interested at that point in cash games because bonus whoring was HUGE back then. So I came up with this crack scheme to whore every major site in like 3 months and make like 15 grand.
Thomas L.: Starting with 25nl on Party I did so, and within 3-4 weeks I had a 3k roll and was playing 100nl. It was at this point that I started to realize how much could be made in these games, so my interest then shifted to simply grinding and building my roll on party poker, and away from whoring. Within a few months I’d brought my roll up to over 10k, which is when I began withdrawing. At that point I was playing 1/2 full ring and doing really well. Eventually I decided like everyone else to switch to six max since everyone was making a ridiculous killing there. This was where I began struggling a lot, and I had my first fairly long breakeven stretch. This is a trend that would happen a lot throughout my poker career: Making ridiculous money at full ring, then going over to six max and breaking even.
Thomas L.: Once I was a winning regular at party 2/4 full ring for a month or so, Party closed to Americans and I moved to Full Tilt, where I continued to do reasonably well, and in January 07 I had my best month to date, making around 16k at 1/2 and 2/4 full ring on FT. Since then I’ve seesawed from full ring to six max back and forth and have had a generally rough time, but have made steady money with a winrate of around 2ptbb/100 overall. In August ’07 I had my best month ever, making over 35k at 2/4 on stars, and bringing my roll over 50k$ for the first time.
DS: Hmmm cool story.
DS: What do you think separates you from other poker players?
Thomas L.: I think that one thing that separates me from most players is that I’m kinda poker antihero. In that, it’s really always only been about the money for me. I don’t really thrive on challenge, and I don’t especially enjoy playing against good players. I think that’s one reason while I’ll never experience really great success at poker. I’ve made a good bit of money, but it’s been slowly and over time. I’ve always had a pretty average winrate.
DS: Why do you think you were never successful at 6max but so successful at Full Ring?
Thomas L.: I think I do best at full ring because I am usually the most aggressive player. At six max, you have to deal with a lot more aggression. Also, I think I have a slight tilt problem, and playing full ring results in a lot less tilt. I think it goes back to what I said. I just don’t do especially well in aggro deathmatches with other tough regs, but in full ring, there are no tough regs.
DS: You have been at 2/4 Full Ring for over a year. Do you still feel you’ve gotten significantly better? Are you frustrated with your results?
Thomas L.: Well, 2/4 full ring is in essence the highest full ring stake. For the past year, you’ve been able to find a lot more 3/6 Full Ring on Poker Stars, but still often times there aren’t enough tables going. That said, I have played fair amounts of 3/6 and 5/10 and done very well in those games across small samples (+15k in the 5/10 game over <10k hands lol) But generally speaking, if you play higher than 2/4, you just have to move to six max for game selection.
DS: What are the advantages of playing in one or two stakes for so long?
Thomas L.: I think that the games I play in have a pretty high reg turnover rate, that said I am pretty versed in many of the regs. I’m not sure how much that helps me out though, because in general I tend to avoid regs, and historically I’ve always done much better new games then in games I’m used to. However, playing 2/4 for so long has crippled my ability to beat 1/2 as hard as I used to.
DS: How so?
Thomas L.: People just tend to play a lot differently at 1/2 than at 2/4, I don’t really know why. Just generally more passive and overly potcontrolling really good hands. So I end up value-towning myself a lot there. Also, it’s probably largely psychological.
DS: I know you have gotten coaching from a few professionals. I’m wondering what your general thoughts on your experiences are?
Thomas L.: I got coaching from Parlay Slow, along with a session or two of coaching from DJ Sensei, shootaa, and sauce123. I haven’t experienced dramatically different monetary results since getting this coaching, but I think it’s helped me think a lot more deeply about the game and about why I make the plays I’ve always made. I’ve also done a little bit of 100nl to 200nl full ring coaching and helped a few people out a lot, which I enjoyed. I don’t know that coaching is really worth it though, because so much of poker is just in focusing and not tilting. Which no coach can begin to teach. Also, most coaches aren’t exceptionally good at poker.
DS: You live in the ATL, so how does poker affect your street cred there?
Thomas L.: Lol. No one cares, not even my family. Its the biggest awkward anticlimax whenever I tell anyone what I do for a living.
DS: How was your life before poker and how is it now?
Thomas L.: My life before poker was reasonable. I had a good paying job and I went to school. My life since is good. I really like that I have zero financial worries ever, and can buy anything I want within reason whenever I want it. There are cons though. I don’t like how lazy I can become with such little structure in my life. I think its no better no worse all factors considered.
DS: A beginner on FTR private messages you and asks you one piece of advice you could give him for a jump start of his poker career. What would it be?
Thomas L.: Play as much as you possibly can and never play out of your bankroll. There are awful regs in my game who STILL make huge money just because they play alllllll the time within their bankroll, grinding at their tiny winrate.
DS: Where did the name Renton come from?
Thomas L.: Mark Renton was the main character of the movie Trainspotting. Originally my scheme was to be Renton on Party Poker, and be a different Trainspotting character on each of the major sites.
DS: Alright, last question, what do you see as your future with poker?
Thomas L.: I see myself making between 100 and 200k a year at mid stakes games for the next few years. Maybe I’ll get really good and move up, but realistically I’d just like to continue making good money and saving up, and eventually investing and never having to work again.
DS: Alright, thanks for the interview, and good luck!