If you’re following me on Instagram, you’ll know that I recently took part in the Pokerstars EPT London Missing People Charity Event at the London Hilton Park Lane. I have collaborated with Pokerstars for a number of years now, and been lucky enough to attend a number of live events on the European Poker Tournament circuit, so I knew that the event would be a well-oiled operation. As I took my seat amongst 90+ poker pros, poker enthusiasts and poker media, the excitement started to kick in. The aim was simple – play tight, conserve chips, and bet aggressively when I wanted to win the pot. A full ten hours, and countless number of cards later, I walked away in fourth place. Not bad for my first competitive live tournament!
The atmosphere was great; as with any Pokerstars live event, there is a mixture of nerves, excitement, and pretty intense action. There were plenty of showdowns to get behind, although as I was one of the last men (and women) standing, I could only guess when pocket Aces got beaten by a Jack-Queen off-suit by the shrieks of excitement from neighbouring tables. Halfway through the tournament, I found myself in the unenviable position of sitting in the seat next to Pokerstars Pro Ben Spragg, AKA “Spraggy”. This wasn’t my first time up against one of the best in the business; a heads-up in the the Monte Carlo media tournament left me with the trophy but Spraggy with the win. Luckily, the tables rotated, so he only took a few chips, but I did get to catch up with him after the tournament to get his thoughts on poker, streaming, and how to be a better player on the felt…
Me: You’re definitely one of the most entertaining poker streamers on the internet at the moment, how do you keep the energy levels (and commentary) consistent?
Spraggy: “I think being able to stream for a long time over a long period of time is really a product of loving being on stream, feeding off the energy in the chat to a point. I really enjoy putting out as entertaining a stream as I can so I think the energy flows to me naturally.”
What do you find are the biggest differences between online and live poker?
“Speed of play is probably the most obvious, aside from that the live poker meta is very different to most of the games I play in online. Players adopt a very different style of play so it’s important to be aware of this and be able to adapt to their strategies as you play the game.”
Is it difficult to transition from the online satellite tournaments to the live games?
“Aside from the physical mechanics of playing live and perhaps some early nervous energy in your first live experience I don’t think so; it’s ultimately the same game and, while it might play a little differently to online poker, the vast majority of live games that you get a seat in will be a softer experience strategy-wise to whatever you might have been playing online. I think that’s true in the majority of cases. It’s certainly possible to adjust poorly at the start, but anyone who is having success playing online… it’s very likely they can easily translate that to success over a physical table.”
Which do you prefer playing?
“I think a mix of both is where I’d land on this question. I wouldn’t want to do either exclusively, although if pushed, I would take online because of the streaming element. Live poker trips are a really nice break to the online grind but the idea of not being able to hit the volume of tournaments I can online is a little terrifying, which rules out a purely live poker existence.”
What skills translate well between the two? What skills don’t?
“The inherent strategy of the game is the same; it is after all, the same game being played. Understanding and looking at how you are defending ranges and folding ranges should look in certain spots is still the most relevant thing over both formats. Discipline, mental game, and patience will always play a big role in poker success and all these skills are paramount both live and online. The only real non-transferable skill is the most obvious lack of “live reads” when you play online. In an online environment you only have timing tells to help you make decisions based on “physical reads” at the margin, whereas in a live environment you might have that nervous look, that heavy breathing or indeed that stoic glare.”
Any tips on how to keep up with the pace of those faster online tournaments (especially the turbos)?
“Don’t be afraid to be all in with a short stack, don’t “wait for better spots”. Win your all-ins.”
Any tips on how to pace yourself in the slower live games?
“It’s a really big trap to show up to a live poker game and not be willing to fold a lot. Most of the time across all positions you are probably going to want to just fold 70-75% of the hands you get dealt. That’s a lot of folding. If you find yourself moving from online poker playing 8 tables and always having action to being bored by the 1 table of live poker then I’d seriously suggest just listening to a podcast or audiobook so that you have something to keep your mind occupied in those moments when you’re tempted to open 9-5 suited under the gun.”
Talk me through some of you favourite PokerStars tournaments to play (both online and live)
“Anything with a nice big prize pool is surely everyone’s favourite tournament to play. Main Events, big events, the Sunday Million, The WCOOP Mains, EPT Mains. It’s always going to the be the most compelling and intense poker game when you’re playing for as much money as possible I think. Pair that with the prestige of the main events both live and online and you’ve a tournament everyone wants to play, and win!”
What makes these tournaments so special? Which is your favourite one to play, and why?
“I think online the WCOOP Main Event is the favourite of them all. It’s a once a year outing with one of the biggest prize pools across the calendar. It’s also one of the few tournaments online where people remember the winner, consistently, over many years. That is a title worth holding and, of course, the small matter of winning well over $1m for 1st place.”
The cliché question, but do you have a favourite hand or pot win from a PokerStars tournament?
“I tend not to remember too many specific pots, I’m more of a what’s done is done kind of guy so don’t really have a big emotional attachement to specific pots from the past. I did win $16,000 in bounties for knocking 2 players out in the $5,200 PKO WCOOP this year with Ace Ten suited. That was nice.”
Are there any other PokerStars Pros that you would rather avoid facing off with at the tables?
“Yes, tonkaaap [Pokerstars Pro Parker Talbot]. Not because he’s good at poker, but because he’s loud, brash, obnoxious, insufferable, needles me, winds me up, makes my life miserable, awful to be around, awful to listen to etc.”
Finally, if there was one single piece of advice you would give to another poker player (regardless of ability) what would it be?
The Pokerstars EPT Tour is visiting Prague next, from 7-18 December 2022. Find out more here.