On the 5th of August, Jason “JCarver” Somerville visited FlopTurnRiver.com to answer a plethora of questions from our forum. Jason is a WSOP Bracelet winner, and has been a coach on PokerVT for some time.
He recently signed with Nevada regulated poker site Ultimate Poker, and has a history of crushing high stakes online. We had a great turn out for this AMA, which wasn’t surprising given the quality of the main attraction. Below is a summary of all the questions and answers, but you can also see the full thread here.
Jason started off the event with a quick welcome before he started on the questions.
Jason: Hey everyone! Very excited to be here answering your questions, thanks so much for having me. Let’s get started
What is the best board to c/r bluff, after calling a raise when you’re in the blinds?
Jason: I don’t really think this is the optimal way to approach this decision – IMO, you should try to evaluate what frequency you should be checkraising given your opponent, dynamics, history, your range, your exact cards, and probably a dozen more small variables. Like most poker questions, “it depends” is really the “correct” answer, but to not totally dodge your question, I think you should be checkraising more than you think you should against most opponents
Jason, how has year 2013 gone for you so far? What was your best showing? Did you play in the WSOP that just finished?
Jason: pokerwise, my 2013 has been decent but not great – I played maybe 15 events at WSOP but besides that I haven’t really played a ton. The majority of my poker profit this year has come from backing and piece buying. I’ve been spending more and more time doing off-table businesses and work and I am kind of mentally prepared to have a lower poker $EV this year in exchange for a higher longer-term EV in non-play business. I’ve been absolutely loving this year though, most fun year of my life for sure and I’ve never been happier, so in the important stuff, everything’s been great.
Do you plan on doing more videos like the Bracelet Hunting series you did at this years WSOP?
Jason: I absolutely love doing live videos like that and The Final Table both behind and in front of the camera and plan on doing more and more going forward. I did an absolutely awesome video for UltimatePoker, Harley-Davidson and the UFC with the Bracelet Hunting team that might be my proudest non-poker moment of my working life and I can’t wait to do more stuff like this in the next year.
Under typical circumstances, what percentage of your stack are you willing to call when set mining (assuming the raiser has you covered)?
Do you think players should boycott the Venetian in Las Vegas since Sheldon Adelson is trying to block online poker in the US?
What is your typical opening range under the gun on an 8 or 9 player table?
Jason: As far as setmining goes, I don’t really think like that too often anymore but in the old days I used to use Barry Greenstein’s rule of thumb of calling up to like 10% of your stack with pairs if you felt like you could only win by spiking a set in tournaments.
I think the Venetian poker room could be absolutely empty and Sheldon Adelson wouldn’t care in the slightest and I don’t think it would change his opinion on the matter even if it was. That being said, though, there are a billion options on where to play and I sincerely doubt I’ll give them any business in the future and I didn’t put any of my team’s horses in the recent tournament. I’ve got a pretty pessimistic view on poker boycotting given how many people played on Ultimate Bet even after all the scandals had been revealed… if we can’t stay away from that as a community, I don’t think we’ll ever be able to force Venetian’s hand via boycott.
9 handed poker is sad to think about depends of course on a lot of things, I don’t think I do anything UTG that is particularly unique to be honest.
Glad to have you here….great skills you have!!!! One of my favorite players
– Where do you keep your World Series of Poker bracelet? Open to all eyes or in a secret place just for you?
– I know you are a poker advanced instructor for tournaments…do you like that part? I mean the teaching part?
– What is your favorite online website to play online poker?
Jason: For a long time, I kept my bracelet right beneath my painting of Randy Couture winning the belt off Tim Sylvia (I was there in Colombus when it happened and I’ll absolutely never forget it… “not bad for an old man”). I don’t know if I have a good picture but you can see it in the background in The Final Table episode
I’m sure I’ll get more into UltimatePoker later, but I couldn’t be happier with my relationship with UltimatePoker and I’m extremely proud to represent them on and off the felt. I really believe in the team we’ve put together, and I wouldn’t play anywhere else
Thank you for the support and the questions!
No poker questions here.
What drew you to MMA?
Favorite fighter(s)? Least favorite(s)? Why?
Favorite fight(s) ever? Again, why?
This is one of the few AMA’s I’m actually super excited for. Jason seems to be a really great representative of poker and the kind of person we should want representing the game.
Jason: Love it
I started karate when I was 6 years old because, umm, I wanted to be a Power Ranger, bitch. as I talked about in an earlier post, I started teaching when I was 13 and got more seriously into kickboxing and basic grappling when I was in my upper teens. I was first introduced to the UFC by accident, actually, wandering into a friends house immediately before the Gracie/Hughes fight and I was just instantly hooked. Despite having to buy super overpriced tickets from a scalper for awful seats, Steve O’Dwyer and I went to Tim Sylvia/Arlovski 3 (co-main : Tito Ortiz vs Ken Shamrock 2! lol) which IIRC was the next event in Vegas. People (including Steve, lol) told me the event was awful, but I loved the experience and have barely missed a press conference nevermind a fight since.
Favorite fighter has to be Nick Diaz, can’t get enough, but Chael might be one of my role models purely by what a fascinating character and performer he has developed. I went to almost every Q+A at the recent Fan Expo in LV and of Dana, Joe Rogan, Ronda, and whoever else they had, Chael’s was by far the best (and most packed). He’s an amazing individual, although I obviously don’t agree with the xenophobic stuff in principle, I appreciate the amazing marketing power of what he’s done. He’s in the fight-selling business after all and nobody does it better than Chael.
Favorite fight… I’ve gotta be biased for the ones I was there for. Going to the events live (especially near-cageside) is an incredible experience you’ll never forget if you’re a fight fan. I’ve been to Sylvia/Arlovski 3, Sylvia/Couture, UFC100 (brock/mir, gsp/alves, hendo/bisping), Silva/Sonnen 1, Silva/Weidman 1. I think that’s it, and of all those, the one I’ll absolutely never forget is the incredible energy in the Sylvia/Couture fight. From the moment that Randy cracked Tim with that overhand right (iirc) at the start of round 1 I don’t think a person in the arena was in their chair. Absolutely electric night and I have goosebumps reliving it in my head. I’ve never been a part of anything like it before or since then.
Thanks for the questions!
– Are there any specific poker tells that you look for and think are especially important?
– How do you see online poker in the USA in the future? Do you believe that the legalization of poker in the United States will contribute to a second poker boom?
– What tournaments do you plan to play this year?
– What is your stance on gun control in America?
Jason: As far as tells go, nah, not really. Pay attention though, you’d be surprised
I definitely think the best years are in front of us in the US for online poker. I’m not sure what it’s gonna look like, or when it’ll happen, but I’m confident that eventually sanity and logic will rule and we’ll be able to play online poker again from our homes in the US.
I don’t really have any plans for the rest of the year to be honest – my priorities at this point aren’t really very poker tournament oriented. I’m committed to improving my casting and production abilities and to work more in that space, since I’ve been absolutely loving it and can’t get enough. I’m also more committed to helping grow and build UltimatePoker which’ll keep me kind of close to Nevada for the next few months. I’ve always felt that the best part of being a poker pro (besides gambling for piles of money) is having the freedom to do exactly whatever the hell it is you want to do to make you happy. At the moment, that’s not grinding tournaments for me, so I’m not gonna force myself especially when I have so many options that I love doing and no financial pressure.
I once was with a friend who bought a gun and a pizza in the same day. the pizza took about 30% longer to buy. That doesn’t seem correct to me, and I lived in NY at the time, one of the toughest gun control states. I think reasonableness and logic once again should rule the day in that regard, but I’m just a poker pro, not exactly an expert on gun control nuance.
Who is your favorite poker player? Who do you think should be considered on the poker hall of fame?
Jason: I’m not too familiar with the poker HOF so I can’t really answer there – favorite poker player, that’s a tough one. Favorite to play with might be talkative Ivey, the rarest of rare monsters, haha, I’ve had that experience a few times and it’s awesome when he’s in the mood to chat. I’m a huge fan of Phil Gruissem, I think he’s an absolute sicko and has a great table presence, and my favorite to watch has to be Isildur. All in all, though, I’ve been a Daniel Negreanu fan since the very first time I saw poker on TV and I can never understate how impactful his mentorship was to my life and career. I don’t think there’s a better ambassador-player in poker and I’ve learned so much from him especially in regards to being a positive force for the game.
I saw on Twitter you like UFC, do you think that if you had more time to practice you would leave poker for UFC??
Jason: ha, I doubt it, but fellow UFC lover and UltimatePoker pro Terrence Chan has been trying to get me to train with him, especially now that I’m much closer to his weight. I might do it!
A great honor to have you here
– Since you started playing at a young age and with a considerable amount of success…did you have time to continue studies and improve your grades or did poker ended the study business?
– What made you decide to announce to the poker universe that you are gay? Something in your mind for a long time or a particular event that happened in your life?
– What was the feeling of having so much money available at a very young age? Did you spend some on crazy things or did you manage your bankroll always wisely?
– What was the craziest thing you ever bought with money from a large prize pool?
Jason: I left college at 19 to pursue professional poker as you might know – not at the peak after a big win but after I had lost 60-70% of my bankroll and then broke even for 6 months. I felt that if I still loved poker while losing, as I did, that it would only get better if I dedicated the remainder of my non-poker time to the game (which pretty much meant school). I hated what I was learning in school, it wasn’t exactly challenging, and I was spending most of my time in class on the computer playing online anyway. If I had picked a major that I actually liked instead of “business” maybe I would’ve finished. Although I sincerely doubt I’ll ever finish formal college, I do have a passion for learning and I spend a good amount of time understanding something or trying to work on some skill or another on any given day.
The short story is I felt like remaining closeted wouldn’t be respectful to my boyfriend. I met him on a Friday, he was busy on Saturday, then again we met on Sunday and pretty much never were apart for months after that (he says I never asked him to leave, lol). I wanted to commit to our relationship fully, to not tiptoe around things, and generally felt to both maximize both my and our happiness, I’d have to be open about it.
I had a decent amount of money at a young age but I never really let it get to my head I think because a) I have little regard for BRM and going broke was always a possibility that I was okay with b) it felt more like earning a high score in a game than winning piles of real cash money. I definitely have a healthy poker ego but I think it hasn’t bled into my real life ego too badly.
I bought a cherry red convertible for like 25k with 50k to my name from my cash game winnings when I was like 18 or 19. That was dumb, and even dumber was the fact I bought it to get back at a girl. Yuuuuuuuuup, real smart purchase that was.
I think it’s great that you came out in the context of sharing your sexual preference, Jason, and I respect you for having the self confidence to be truthful with us, the world and yourself. Have you experienced any backlash at all? Are you in a relationship? Would you be willing to date another poker player?
Jason: Thank you sir! You remind me of my mother with that “sexual preference” phrase, lol, as though it’s a preference for ice cream flavors. I don’t think you mean anything bad by it, but that’s my honest reaction when I see it, haha. I never preferred anything over another, I just preferred to stop fighting myself and be happy
I thankfully haven’t had almost any bad experiences in or out of poker, and for that I am incredibly grateful given how many years of anxiety I had about it being a living hell (I didn’t say it was reality-based anxiety!). I am still in a relationship, yes, and although I obviously can’t now, being in a relationship with another poker player would be a lot of fun, I think. Although I don’t feel it’s true any more, I used to think I could only be with a poker player in the long run because who else would understand the ridiculous swings of things (or enjoy the roller coaster as much). I kind of like the fact that I never have to talk poker (or any business, really) around my actual boyfriend and given my career trajectory I’m not so worried about it any more.
As most of us don’t know what it’s like being a poker pro, could you describe how you feel sitting down at a table: do you feel like you’ll be in control of your destiny or do you fear the unknown to some degree?
Jason: well, there’s two kinds of poker pros, the ones that gamble to live and the ones that live to gamble. I feel like I can influence my fate and I embrace not knowing the outcome. knowing the results is boring
Do you have a particularly funny story about something that happened to you while playing poker?
How difficult is it to teach someone else to be successful at poker?
Jason: Nothing leaps to mind although plenty of awesome/funny things have happened. Hang out with Antonio or Phil Laak, you’ll have a funny story
I used to think I could teach a complete novice to be a solid winner at $1/$2 NL in a week of work. These days, I certainly don’t feel that way any more and I think you need a variety of skills to succeed at MSNLHE+ that would take a lot of work to teach. I think the primary high stakes poker game itself will always change – the move to PLO, the addition of the draw game nonsense in the Aria mix, the move to OFC – which is why I don’t really mind talking about NLHE strategy fairly openly these days. Drawing in new players to the game is obviously great for the overall health of poker and should be a priority for the pros lucky enough to have a public following, IMO.
Are you involved with any organization such as the PPA that is lobbying to change/create laws re poker in any or all of its forms? If so, what role do you play?
If you could travel forward or backward to any place and time, what date(s) and location(s) would you visit? Why?
Jason: I haven’t got an official role with the PPA but I do support what they’re doing and would love to help the cause any way I could going forward.
I’ve always been a fan of Roman history. I took Latin in high school and loved it and I was so close to deciding to pursue Latin/Greek as my major in college (some sort of linguistics degree, I don’t remember what it was named). I love reading Roman history books and the culture of antiquity. Rome is one of my favorite HBO shows (Sopranos, Wire, GOT, Rome, Deadwood are all so good). I don’t think I’d want to stick around too long, haha, but I’d love to have been able to see some of the world back then.
Are you involved in any charity work? What non-profits do you support with contributions, volunteer hours or both? What attracted you to these groups? If you’re not currently involved with any, do you hope to be in the future?
What is more meaningful to you, being known as a great player or a great person in general? What do you want your legacy to be in-and-outside of the poker world?
Jason: I’ve done a bunch of different charity work in the past year – just yesterday I hosted a poker night for Kiehl’s amFAR LifeRide and Antonio, Norman Chad, Dennis Phillips and I did a charity event benefiting several local charities in Daytona in May. I spent a bit of time working with the Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth organization last year, too, among other things. I think it’s very important to give back off the table as someone who has made a living at poker and I’m very appreciative for how many opportunities I’ve had to do that.
If I have to pick great person or great player, it’s great person and not even close. In my early 20s my answer might’ve been different but I was really dumb back then (and unhappy, ha). I don’t really know what my legacy will be… I have a lot of goals for myself outside of poker and I don’t really know what my career or life will ultimately look like in retrospect. I suppose I hope if nothing else that people who learn about my story will follow their own path to happiness because man, even being on the road to happiness is so much better than doing nothing and accepting being anxious, afraid, isolated, or depressed. real talk!
Has part of you ever regretted dropping out of school or did you never look back once you left? Were you studying anything you were passionate about?
What inspired you to start the Run it UP series? What’s your overall vision for that series? Definitely digging your commentary!
Jason: I think I answered that first one in the past few answers… I wanted to do Run it UP! (my $50 to $10,000 bankroll challenge series on youtube) because I felt like I’d enjoy the challenge of a long daily show from a casting perspective and that it would give me good practice doing a show without too much pressure while also building a YouTube audience. I did another challenge on YouTube a few years ago (rewatching it makes me SMH so much, lol) and I figured it’d be fun to do. I’ve been loving making daily videos for you guys, all you fans are awesome and I love the love I get from the run it up squad!
– Do you hope your action can help other anonymous gay poker players to come out as well? BTw..why valentines day to announce it? How did you family embrance your decision?
Jason: I gotta go in 20 minutes so I’m gonna hop around to the most unique questions I haven’t got to yet.
I always said from day 1 that coming out was a personal decision and that I only did it because it was what I felt was best for me. There was no “oh I am gonna kick this closet door so wide open, LET THERE BE GAY!” nobility in my actions, haha, but that being said, if my actions inspired or encouraged anyone to do anything positive, that is absolutely awesome and I’m extremely glad about it. It’s great to be able to give back to the world in a positive way as a poker player, not too many avenues to do that natively in our industry.
My family was unsupportive at first, especially my mother. The only person who ever expressed any remotely hateful sentiments to me was my mother and she never was one to hold back, which was actually really good in a way because it eventually made all the prospect of facing other hateful comments a joke. built some great emotional armor from that whole experience to say the least, lol. My mother’s still not exactly rocking the rainbow flag tattoos over there but she’s the only one in my life who isn’t 100% supportive at this point (and it’s been that way for years).
Do you ever “go with your gut” when you play or are all of your decisions at the table based on logic and math?
Jason: I am a feel player at heart and I only know poker math because all my friends coming up were extremely strong math guys. It was actually really crucial for my career to have people who were really sharp with that stuff because you NEED that fundamental math base to work off of. Even feel players like Ivey or DN use fundamental math as a starting point for their decisions (although neither might be able to show you the math on paper).
How do you feel about Edward Snowden’s allegations against the NSA and their sweeping collection of all our online communications? Are you comfortable with our government collecting and holding this data in the name of security or does it worry you?
Jason: I don’t think I can overstate how opposed I am to domestic spying by our government on its own citizens. In my opinion, domestic surveillance programs are about as un-American as it gets and giving up such huge amounts of privacy for increased (but not nearly 100%) safety is not a price worth paying.
Would you sit down in a high stakes NLHE cash game where 4 opponents were world class cash game pro’s and one would be somewhat fishy?
Why did you choose not to relocate immediately following Black Friday?
Jason: Absolutely, and I’ve done it many times. I’m really a gambler at heart and I have no problem playing in a tough game because 1) weaker players can’t join a game if there is no game and 2) I love a challenge. whats the worst thing that can happen, we lose some money? there’s always more of that to be had somewhere
I didn’t relocate because I didn’t really need to grind anymore daily at that point in my life.
Phil Galfond says that, at least at some point, you need to “rungood” to make it as a pro. Do you necessarily believe that? According to your charts you have been making sustained progress. I know you have a theory of spots with low-variance plays. So, do you think you have been able to diminish the role of variance in your career so that you don’t have to rely on lucky streaks to “stay in the game”?
Jason: Seems only appropriate to conclude the AMA with an answer on a quote from one of my poker idols. I think it’s very true – imagine if you laid out the timeline of almost every pro’s career and at some point could apply a reasonably normal 6-9 month horrific downswing. Many people would either want to quit or be forced to do something else if you pressured them at the right points of their poker life. I actually think I’m an exception to this (and likely so is Phil). As my good friend Leo Wolpert said, “I used to think I was a college student with a gambling problem until I one day realized I was a gambler with a college problem”. I am inherently a poker player and gambler at heart and I don’t think losing would’ve shrugged me off my path.
Thanks so much everyone for your questions, sorry I didn’t get to everyone! This was a blast, thanks so much to FlopTurnRiver for hosting this, and if you guys would like to see more from me I do a show every day on Youtube and I’m very active on Twitter as well. Thanks again, everyone, we’ll have to do it again sometime peace!
This brought the AMA to a close, and we thank Jason for spending his time answering our questions, and wish him all the best in the future.