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Alex Kostritsyn: 'When I'm Losing Big, It’s Impossible' To Step Away From The Poker Tables

High-Stakes Cash Game Star Talks About Playing Through Downswings

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Kostritsyn earlier this summer with a chip stack in the Poker Players ChampionshipRussian poker pro Alex Kostritsyn is one of the most prolific online cash game players in history, as he has consistently beat the nosebleeds for nearly a decade.

During this time he has always been a proponent of playing through a downswing, rather than taking a break to clear his head. It’s obviously not something every player can do, but Kostritsyn has proven he has the poker skill set to pull it off and continue grinding at the high stakes.

In recent years, Kostritsyn has switched to the mixed games where his edge is greatest, bringing his lifetime volume on the Internet to around two million hands, he said. On Full Tilt, he plays under the screen name “PostflopAction”, while on PokerStars he grinds under “joiso”. Kostritsyn opted out of having his long-term results tracked on HighstakesDB, but he has often been atop the weekly leader board this year. Kostritsyn had a $900,000 week in January, and later a $450,000 week in March.

Card Player caught up with him during a short break in play in Tuesday’s $25,000 buy-in pot-limit Omaha high roller event at the 2015 World Series of Poker to talk about his online game these days.

Brian Pempus: How has your year been going online?

Alexander Kostritsyn: Alright, it’s good. There was a lot of action earlier in the year. The first four months of the year was a ton of action. I could be playing like 16 hours a day, and I have been playing pretty close to that.

BP: A lot of people often say that the online cash games have gotten tougher over the years, and every year it’s tougher than the year before. You’ve found this to be the case too?

AK: It is always, yeah, always getting tougher. You need to stay ahead, but it’s been the same for 30 or 40 years. [Back in the day] when Doyle [Brunson] was playing the field was getting tougher and tougher every year. I’m sure that a lot of people around were saying it’s too tough. I don’t think Doyle would agree.

BP: Do you think there is some sort of plateau for poker theory for a lot of these games? Like does it eventually boil down to instinct and things you can’t teach, is that fair to say?

AK: It depends on how good you are, because if you are really, really good you can teach that because you can explain everything. If you are very good, but not super good, you cannot explain sometimes. It’s like knowing something for sure; it’s very easy to see why it’s right and why is that wrong, and how much better a certain decision is than others and what cases can affect the decision. When you are just very good but not super good, you can feel like it’s more about feeling. For me it’s more about feeling, because I am not super good at any of the individual games.

BP: So in the big online mixed games you can still win a lot by being pretty good at all the games in combination?

AK: Yeah, you can win by being just good. I’m not great at many games. I am definitely a fish if I just play like $100-$200 limit games, but I am better in the mix, when it’s eight or 10 games…It’s very hard to learn all the games above the average. That’s what I have done. I’m above the average and I can beat the fish in every game. When I can beat the fish in every game, then I can beat a lot of good professionals if they are good in five games, but not the other three. They will be losing so much in those three, and they cannot recover…My best game in the mix depends on the player, sometimes in some lineups I can say that this individual game I am very good at, but if we switch lineups it changes.

BP: Do you think you put in the most volume in the mixed games out of anyone online?

AK: It depends on the year. Last year, it was so awful, during the World Series especially. So I had to put way more volume in. This year I have been playing a lot too. If last year was better I would have played five times less. It depends. Some months I’ll go travel and won’t play much.

BP: You’ve been playing a long time, so is it easier to cope with a downswing as you get older?

AK: Yeah, I’ve been playing 10 years, and nine of them at the highest stakes available. So you get used to everything. I just don’t feel so stressed when losing some pot, because I just don’t look at it like that. There are a ton of pots. I can definitely tilt and steam, but in an hour or two I just let it go away.

BP: What do you do to reduce that tilt or calm down a bit?

AK: Well, it’s part of my style. I play over-aggressively in a lot of spots and in many games. When I tilt it’s very hard to say if I am tilting or if it’s part of a strategy. I am just playing being on tilt. It works because people are not too good at all the games. But when I am on tilt and am playing someone very good, it’s a disaster usually. It happens every year, at least like every year, but usually way more often.

BP: If you are in a downswing do you try to maybe take a break from certain players?

AK: Not really, I just play them more (laughs). I am a little bit stubborn. I can’t rest and go somewhere for like a week if I am in a big downswing. I usually go for the vacation when I am winning, not when I am losing, or when I am break-even. When I’m losing big, it’s impossible for me to do something else. I just want to play.

For more coverage from the summer series, visit the 2015 WSOP landing page, complete with a full schedule, news, player interviews and event recaps.