Tom Marchese is a student just turned professional poker player. He has enjoyed an abundance of success anywhere from $400 buy in all the way up to $5000 buy in No Limit Hold’em games and has made over $200,000 in the past 3 months alone. While his game showed potential, only a few months ago Marchase was struggling to break through the 2/4 limit. But then, after deciding to play fewer tables and focus on heads up, he skyrocketed through the levels. He is by far the best heads up player I know, once bragging of a near 20ptBB/100 winrate at the 2/4 and 3/6 levels! His results sure don’t lie: http://img474.imageshack.us/my.php?image=88kdy1.jpg
DS: For those who have no idea who you are, can you just briefly go into some basic information about yourself and what your poker accomplishments have been?
Tom Marchese: I’m a 20 year old poker player who just recently decided to take some time off to pursue poker professionally. My poker career began playing Limit, where I started at .50/1 and progressed to 15/30 and 30/60. As of November 2006 I made the transition from Limit to shorthanded NL where I began playing 2/4. For the first 2/3rds of 07 I grinded 2/4 putting in extremely high volume and a decent hourly. My game has really prospered over the past 3-4 months once I began playing heads up poker and fewer tables of Short Handed NL. My biggest poker accomplishment was most likely grinding the 7k I had on Pokerstars into over 200k in a 3 month period.
DS: Now many poker players play for a year or two and can never get past the 1/2 or 2/4 NL level, you appeared to be somewhat on that pace, and suddenly you go from 2/4 to playing in soft 25/50 games in a matter of 3 months…. What happened!?
Tom Marchese: For me my biggest problem was that I was always playing 9-12 tables. Because of this, I was making a lot of money but never really working on my game and improving. I think this is a problem that many mid stakes players struggle with as to improve and move up they most likely will need to sacrifice a little bit in the short run in order to progress as a player. I also found that playing heads up greatly improved my hand reading skills along with improving my game in blind battles and when playing OOP. Most of my success at the 5/10 – 25/50 level has come when I was playing 1-5 tables and truly concentrating on every hand instead of just going through the motions.
DS: Can you go more into how HU has improved your game?
Tom Marchese: HU improved my game because since you are faced with so many marginal spots HU in order to become good you need to improve your hand reading. Then at 6 max so spots in a blind battle that may seem difficult to someone who just plays 6 max are instead ordinary to you because you have put in so many hands also since your merely concentrating on one opponent it really allows you to get good reads on them. Until after playing HU, when playing 6 max I never really took into account bet sizing, timing tells or things like that nearly as much so I guess playing HU just made me more aware of the flaws in my game and the flaws of playing sessions in “robot mode” and just defining people at a 21/16 who 3-bets light. Rather than a tricky tag who 3-bets light; a tricky tagg who calls 3-bets a little to wide, gives up in 3-bet pots easily and likes to float dry boards in position.
DS: Game selection is one of the most important and sometimes hardest skills in HU poker, what are your thoughts and advice on it?
Tom Marchese: I think when playing HU game selection is so key. Early on when I was putting up a huge winrate at HU I game selected religiously and for the most part just destroyed fish. Once you get into playing other good regulars you’re just looking at a variance nightmare which can often take tens of thousands of hands to iron out. I’d say for the most part just try to concentrate on playing fish or exploitable weaker regulars and you can maintain an extremely high winrate with relatively little variance but if you decide to play other good players expect 20-30 buy-in downswings semi regularly and a much lower winrate to often people will beat a regular for 5-6 buy-ins over a small sample and assume they have a huge edge. When, in reality, they just ran good. I think because of this you have all the dickswinging contests where for some reason 2 extremely good HU players will decide to 4 table versus each other in a match that will be decided for the most part by who runs better.
DS: What players are the hardest for you to play against HU and why?
Tom Marchese: I think the toughest players for me to play against are ones that are extremely active postflop. As in they float a lot, lead a lot of flops with a wide range and in general just don’t give up pots easily. Often times they can be exploitable but when running bad versus one it’s an absolute nightmare.
DS: How does your poker game differ from other good players you play with and how do you think it gives you an edge?
Tom Marchese: I think the strongest part of my game is that I balance really well and am always trying to mix up lines. I’d say these days the main thing that gives me an edge is I make very few mistakes and am often able to have a general idea of how my opponents would expect me to play a certain range of hands and thus skew my range in a direction that leads them to make mistakes. So I guess my biggest edge often comes from being a deeper thinker then my opponents which allows me to play on a deeper level then they play on.
DS: How has being wealthy at this age affected your life? And similarly how has being wealthy at this age affected the lives of family and friends?
Tom Marchese: I’d say being wealthy has affected my life pretty minimally. I still live in a crappy college apartment (of course it’s stocked with a plasma TV and every video game you’d ever need) but overall my spending habits differ little from the average college student. All that being wealthy has really given me is the ability to buy what I want which isn’t all that much. I try to not allow wealth to affect me that much so overall up until this point in my life, it has just allowed me to live comfortably and never worry about the small things that a lot of people my age have to stress about being able to afford. I don’t think it matters that much with friends or family. I’m able to treat friends to fancy meals on occasion or give better gifts then your average college age kid. But other then that I don’t really have overly big spending habits
DS: What’s your favorite poker story?
Tom Marchese: So I’m playing 3 handed at TurningStone in a 10/25 game. I’m the button SB is some random fishy kid and the BB is this over-aggro Asian kid. I raise 26o to 75, because why not, I’m the button, SB calls and BB calls. Flop comes 2x3c9c. Checked to me and I opt to check behind. Turn ten. Checked to me again and for some reason I thought betting 80 would work really well. so I bet 80, SB calls, BB makes it 320, I think for a bit and think the BB is squeezing but 4-betting looks obnoxious so I call with the plan to snap him off on a blank river. The SB thinks for a bit and calls behind me, and river is a 7. BB bets out 600, I think about it for a bit and think its one of those weird situations where I’m ahead of the BB but the SB has me beat. Instead of raising I decide to quickly call. Since then I figure the SB won’t really be able to overcall with any of his range. SB ends up folding and the hand gets shown down. And the bb had 54, so my 26 was good for like a 2500 pot. And on top of that SB folded 87, which was the best hand.
DS: Wow, sick.
DS: Who has aided you the most in your poker growth?
Tom Marchese: I won’t say anyone specifically but good work ethic and having a solid group of friends to bounce ideas off of and talk strategy with is a great tool.
DS: Okay last question, what do you see as your future with poker and what are your goals?
Tom Marchese: My short term goals are to keep winning and start putting in some 50,000$ months at 5/10. Long term I’m not sure. I kind of think for me poker is one of those things that by the time I reach my late 20s I’ll be ready to give it up. Hopefully, by that time I’ll have made enough and have enough invested where poker money gives me enough of a cushion that I’ll be able to get a job that I truly enjoy and not a job that is based purely on achieving financial success. I’d say I would like to get to the point where I play 25/50 regularly, and by that I mean 40-50k hands a month at around 3ptBB/100, and am able to take shots in some soft 50/100 or 100/200 games that pop up on occasion.
DS: Alright thanks for the interview!