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Daniel Schreiber

Focused on 'The Now'

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: Apr 01, 2008

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Daniel Schreiber's poker success was built on two major tenets: thinking "outside the box" and an obsessive focus on "the now." Both have served him well. At the 2007 World Series of Poker, his stoical play and creative flow were rewarded with a gold bracelet and $425,000. Schreiber bobbed and weaved through eight matches, eventually taking down the $5,000 heads-up no-limit hold'em championship.

"I just took it one match and one hand at a time, not focusing on the bracelet," said Schreiber. "When a challenge is presented to me, I do everything I can to win. But in the end, win or lose, I don't get emotional about it. The hunt is always better than the kill."

Strategy games are part of Schreiber's DNA. At age 4, he squared off time and again against his father in Stratego, then moved on to collectable card games such as Magic the Gathering. When the family bought a computer, he instantly fell in love with the complex strategy game StarCraft. That game would change his life. Within a few years, he would drop out of the University of Cincinnati, move to Korea, become a professional gamer, and discover online poker.

As "Rekrul" online, he terrorizes opponents by taking advantage of the moment-to-moment flow of the game with precision aggression. When playing heads up, Schreiber is in his element, able to translate his StarCraft-honed skills into poker success.

Craig Tapscott: What skills did you take from StarCraft and apply successfully to poker?

Daniel Schreiber: Many of the skills that make a good StarCraft player make a good poker player. You need a very good memory, good intuition, decent math skills, patience, and the ability to quickly understand how your opponent thinks. Plus, the hand-eye speed required to be a good SC player can definitely translate well into multitabling online.

CT: Why switch to poker?

DS: After six months of playing StarCraft professionally in Seoul, I realized that it was going to be way too hard to make a living at it. I would be sitting at the gamer house practicing StarCraft, and "ElkY" would be on the computer next to me winning several-thousand-dollar pots. How was I supposed to practice seriously when my best friend was next to me, laughing and making money?

CT: Does your emotional makeup, cool and controlled at the table, contribute to your fierce heads-up play?

DS: I think it does. Heads up is the coolest and most fun form of poker. People say poker is how you play the opponents' cards, not your own cards. That's very true, but heads up takes it one step further. Heads up is like you both don't even have cards, and every pot is a tug-of-war battle. To win at heads up, you have to care about every pot, want every pot, and do everything you can to win each pot if you want to stand a chance.

CT: I read that you don't give much credence to any books on poker?

DS: Experience greatly outweighs the advice of some guy telling you what to do in a certain situation. Every situation is absolutely unique in poker, and to get a feel for what the best move is, you have to have been in similar situations before. If you're the type of person who is going to learn a lot of things from a poker book, you probably will be a bad player your entire life, no matter how hard you try.

CT: How did you develop your style of play?

DS: My style of play is an adaptive way of instilling as much fear into my opponents as possible, by convincing them I play a certain way that I don't. If my opponent is a generally tight and cautious player, I will do my best to convince him that I'm crazy. And then I make sure I have the goods when I'm pounding on him and he doesn't believe me. If my opponent is a crazy, loose-aggressive player, I will do my best to convince him that I am a very tight and scared player, before dropping bombs on him. This is one of the most important things to being a good player: To be better than everyone, you must become a chameleon.

CT: Is poker your lifetime career choice?

DS: I have no career choice. This is how I make my living now, and it's something that I enjoy doing. I don't like wasting time looking back at the past. I also don't like looking too far into the future. No one ever knows what is going to happen and what is coming, so I just try to enjoy each day as much as I can.