Interview With Andrew 'azntracker' Li, 2011's First PokerStars SuperNova Elite
Li Explains the Benefits of the PokerStars VIP Loyalty Program
These days, winning at online poker is harder than ever. The number of sharks have increased and the fish are few and far between, not to mention the fact that even bad players are just a few clicks of the mouse away from a top-rated poker education at any number of the training sites out there.
Now, players are fortunate just to break even in the long run. But thanks to poker site loyalty programs, such as the PokerStars VIP Club, break even players can be rewarded with huge profits, that is, if they know how to work the system.
Andrew “azntracker” Li is one such player. Though he’s actually a decent winner at the stakes that he plays, Li’s number one source of income is all of the FPPs (Frequent Player Points) that he trades in for cash as a member of the SuperNova Elite.
Li mastered the game while still in college at the University of Virginia. Though he originally thought about medical school after graduating with a degree in Biology, Li realized that poker was just too lucrative to give up, at least for the time being.
Though earning SNE is no easy task, Li has managed to do so for the past four years. In February of 2011, Li broke the record formerly held by PokerStars Team Online Pro George “jorj95” Lind by two weeks when he managed to earn the required 1 million VPPs (VIP Player Points) in just 59 days. Incredibly, he didn’t even play nine of those days during that stretch.
Card Player caught up with the 25-year-old to discuss his milestone achievement and to learn what it takes to claim elite-level status.
Julio Rodriguez: First off, tell us how you got started with poker.
Andrew Li: I had a very clichéd start to my poker career. I was a high school senior in 2004 when Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker main event and needless to say, I was hooked. I knew about online poker, but I decided not to deposit right away. I fooled around with play money for awhile and realized that people were actually buying play money chips on EBay. I believe the old conversion rate worked out to something like 1 million chips for $30. I made something like 10 million play chips and then took the cash I had earned to several sites, trying to pick up various deposit bonuses.
After everything had cleared, I had a bankroll of about $1,000 and then I started to grind it up playing sit-and-gos. I had fooled around with cash games, but I quickly realized that my game was better suited to sit-and-gos. I spent months just slowly building my bankroll and moving up in limits. I still remember the first $100 sit-and-go I played. I wound up losing and for awhile, I was pretty devastated. Times have definitely changed since then.
JR: The first SNE was Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier in 2007, when only 39 players hit the milestone mark. You got your first of four milestones in 2008 and since then, the yearly total has grown to 342 players. What does it take to become a SNE and just how much can a break-even player earn in bonuses?
AL: Anyone who tries to jump right into this program is going to easily get overwhelmed by all of the stipulations and numbers they throw at you. It’s very complicated based on all of the different tiers one can achieve. If I had to simplify it, I would say that it is the highest VIP tier you can achieve on the site and you earn it by accumulating 1 million VPPs in a calendar year. Once that happens, you gain access to a number of advantages that regular players don’t get. Right off the bat, you pick up $20,000 in cash as a bonus, but the biggest advantage is that for every VPP you earn, you get a multiplier of 5 on your FPPs, which most people turn directly into cash. Some people use them for tournament buy-ins or electronics. Dario Minieri famously used his to get a Porsche.
If you start the year at SNE and already have that built-in multiplier and then achieve it again, then a break-even player can earn a minimum of $129,600. That includes points, the milestone bonus and converting your FPPs to cash. Most people obviously don’t start at SNE, but even without the multiplier, earning that status is worth approximately $105,000. Personally, I’ve slowed my pace since earning SNE status in February. That being said, if I can break the VPP record of 3,055,385 set by Kevin “WizardOfAhhs” Thurman, it will be worth about $350,000.
JR: What’s the best way to earn your VPPs? Cash games or sit-and-gos?
AL: In cash games, the maximum rake is always going to be $3, whether the pot is $100 or $10,000. Everyone at that table will then share the VPPs that are earned because of that rake. In sit-and-gos, they are going to rake between 8 and 10 percent on every game you play and you don’t have to share those VPPs with anybody else. A $100 sit-and-go has a rake of $9, which translates into 47.5 VPPs. If I’m playing 40 tables at a time, I can earn anywhere from 3,000-4,000 points every hour. Even if a cash game player is maxing out his rake each hand, he’s still not going to even come close to the numbers he could get with sit-and-gos.
Viktor “Isildur1” Blom started the year by playing heads-up $5,000 sit-and-gos, six tables at a time. Each of those is worth 550 VPPs, so there was no way I could have caught him had he continued to play. Luckily, his competition realized how good he was and stopped giving him action. From there, he went back to heads-up cash games and allowed me to jump past him and get the record.
JR: Are you a break-even player or do you win anything besides the bonus dollars from your efforts?
AL: The volume is so high and I’m playing 40 tables at a time, so during that stretch where I’m just trying to get back to SNE, I’m probably a break even player. The rest of the year, I can take it a bit easier and reduce the amount of tables I’m playing at, which will likely make me a small to decent winner. The key is to run well when the high-stakes sit-and-gos fill up. If you manage to win at the lower stakes, but lose whenever you play the $1,000 and higher sit-and-gos, then you’ll be lucky to turn a profit in the long run. It just takes awhile to overcome the bigger losses, but that’s why you put in the hours.
JR: Some people who read this are going to assume you’re a shut in who does nothing but play online poker. What are some of your outside interests?
AL: I can totally understand how an outsider can take a look at my life and be under the impression that I’m glued to my monitor 24/7, but that’s just not the case. I’m actually a really well-rounded person. I enjoy skiing and biking and bar hopping with my friends. Because I play so many tables at once, I’m able to start and quit sessions within three or four hours each day and I’m always taking days off when I feel burned out or if I want to travel. I would say I work less hours per week than most people on the nine to five.
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