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Poker Pro: Tournaments Are For 'Taking Shots'

Cash Game Grinder Tyler Patterson Talks About His Career

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Tyler Patterson broke the $1 million mark for career earnings in 2012 with an impressive third-place finish in the Borgata Poker Open main event. Patterson jumped to 118th in the 2012 Player of the Year list, and he’s only becoming more dangerous on the felt.

Patterson took time to discuss the game of poker with us. He explains how being a father and husband may affect his bankroll management strategies, his flexibly aggressive strategy, and why having a “been there before” moment will allow him to play his best in the future.

Logan Hronis: Talk a little bit about poker’s popularity in Washington (state). Has the scene there changed much recently, and can you see it changing in the future?

Tyler Patterson: Poker in western Washington has seen a lot of changes in recent years. When I started playing for a living eight years ago, the bigger games were just changing from $40-$80 limit hold’em to $3-$5 and $5-$10 spread limit hold’em. The minimum and maximum buy-ins went through a lot of changes. The main game in multiple casinos was even PLO8 for a few months. For now, the biggest games in the tribal casinos are $5-$10 hold’em and $5-$10-$25 PLO. Both are played with a $500 betting limit, which is weird, but I’ve grown to love it. Like anywhere, there are less games than at poker’s last peak, but it’s on its way back up.

LH: 2012 has been the best year in your career, as far as live tournaments. Tell us why you have been so successful this year, compared to past years. Do you attribute it to anything specific?

TP: You know, it’s really just the one big score. I’ve been pretty consistent in prelims when I’ve traveled to tournaments over the last five years, but I’ve done poorly in the main events. I’m not sure what’s changed about my game. Maybe just more experience. Sometimes I think it’s easier for me to pull the trigger now, since the magnitude of the moment is no longer overwhelming, and other times I’ve learned not to make a big play if it isn’t necessary. Experience just helps you balance things like that, and pick your spots better.

Then again, maybe I was just unlucky back then, and lucky now. Who knows (laughs)?

LH: You had a very impressive third-place finish at Borgata in September. How good does it feel to edge out more than 1,000 players for a big payday like that? What does that do for your confidence and outlook?

TP: It felt great to beat so many players, but what really felt great was having my wife, Maile, fly out to see the final table. Also, having friends like Matt Affleck in the crowd, and all my friends and family at home rooting for me. It was a confidence boost. Going into a big tournament, now I can always have “I’ve done this before” in the back of my head.

LH: Your results in the past have included quite a bit of Omaha events, but not in 2012. Is this because you have been steering clear of them, or has your focus been primarily hold’em?

TP: (Laughs) Not for lack of effort. I played as many or more Omaha events this year, just no cashes. I actually don’t play very many throughout the year, as they just aren’t offered very much. The results you’re referencing were actually surprising to me. My view of PLO tournaments would have had me steering clear of them. It was really my backer, also a close friend, who suggested I play more PLO events. My opinion of PLO tournaments has changed, since having such positive results. I play nearly an even split of PLO and hold’em cash on regular basis, with a splash of mixed games and now a good amount of open face Chinese poker as well.

LH: Tell us a little bit about your personal rules on bankroll management. You hear a lot of players talking about “taking shots” in cash games, but is that realistic in the tournament setting, with such variability?

TP: Bankroll management might be the most important skill for a professional player. I have a wife and kids, so it’s probably easier for me to take that part of the game more seriously than some of my peers. That said, I’ve pushed it a little too much a few times, but I have supported my family playing cash games for the last eight years.

As far as “taking shots” goes, I think tournaments are a great avenue for that. I wouldn’t advocate taking shots in cash much, just because it’s so hard to go back down.

LH: Speaking of variability, do you set goals for yourself, in your career? In a game with such upswings and downswings, is it constructive for you to shoot for dollar amounts?

TP: I don’t really set any goals with dollar amounts per time period, or end of day chip-counts, or anything like that, but there are a lot things in my poker career I’d like to accomplish, eventually. I’d like to be able to comfortably move up in stakes, and like any tournament poker player, I’d love to win a WPT title and WSOP bracelet someday. Put “The Commerce Slam” on that list too (The Commerce Slam entails a victory in each of the events held at the Commerce Casino).

LH: Overall, would you consider yourself a more aggressive poker player or a tight one? Which factors would you say have affected your conservativeness at the table?

TP: I’m pretty aggressive in most games, but I think my best skill is adaptation. I think I recognize when to shut it down, and when to ramp up the aggression, better than most. Sometimes it’s not about aggression, but just about seeing lots of flops. If I’m on a passive table that allows me to see a lot of flops cheaply, I can do a lot of damage. I’ve gotten a lot better at the tight-aggressive three-bet and four-bet pre-flop wars recently, but I try to avoid those situations if possible. I don’t think much of the money won by the pros comes from outmaneuvering other pros pre-flop, but it seems that a lot of tournament grinders put most of their efforts into exactly that. I went on a tangent a bit there, but to answer your question, I’m aggressive, but flexibly aggressive.

LH: Tell us about your life outside of poker. What do you enjoy, and what do you do to unwind if the cards aren’t falling your way?

TP: I like to gamble on the golf course, I play softball, my wife and some friends and I even started a volleyball team. I play a lot of fantasy sports too. I’m actually working with a website called moneyfan.com. It’s a daily fantasy sports site where you can play for money, so I spend a lot of time playing and working on that. I like to gamble on sports with my friends. I’m probably not as big of Seattle sports fan as Mr. Affleck, but I’m also a huge Seahawks and Mariners fan.

I don’t really do this stuff to get away from poker at all, though. I really love to play. Hopefully that lasts forever. I see some guys getting burnt out by the swings, or stress, or maybe boredom, but I don’t think that will happen to me, because playing poker is still my favorite thing to do.