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Capture The Flag -- Aaron ‘aejones’ Jones

by Julio Rodriguez |  Published: May 28, 2010


Aaron Jones 'aejones'Aaron “aejones” Jones began his poker career in meager $5 tournaments in high school, but after reading every poker book he could get his hands on, he was able to run a modest bankroll up to the point where he was taking on the regulars in the medium-stakes games.

After a couple of years of bad bankroll management and variance getting the best of him, he made his comeback. It started with his dedicated study of the game, gained momentum with his posting and digesting feedback on cash-game hands from poker forums, and continues today with him offering training and coaching services at LeggoPoker.

Jones is currently settled in nicely among the nosebleed stakes online, playing some of the best players in the world — and winning.

Card Player caught up with him to discuss a little strategy and see where he’s currently at in his poker career.

Julio Rodriguez: You had an up-and-down start to your poker career, but things seem to have leveled off recently. What stakes are you playing these days?

Aaron Jones: I still play mostly whatever action I can get heads up at $25-$50 and $50-$100. I don’t play much higher than that anymore. I mean, nowadays it’s kind of hit or miss. It’s mostly just professional players playing against other professionals.

JR: So, it’s been tough to drum up any action? I guess that’s a compliment to your game.

AJ: A little bit. It can be difficult at times. When someone at the lower stakes goes on a nice rush, he may occasionally take a shot against me in the higher games. The only problem is that those players aren’t there for very long, especially if they get beat. So, it can kind of be hit or miss, depending on who is running good or who has worked on their game recently.

JR: What do you think of all of the players who are battling it out at $1,000-$2,000?

AJ: I think the biggest problem that online poker players have is that they are unable to connect online money to real-life money. Although it generally converts at about 50 percent thanks to Uncle Sam, you still need to treat your virtual money like cash. I’ve always been able to kind of conceptualize it a lot better than most people. Because of that, I’ve kind of turned into a bankroll nit. Simply put, very few people are properly bankrolled for $200-$400, let alone stakes that are many times that level.

I guess a kid has a dream to be the best or take everybody’s money. Most of the time, he’ll end up broke, but every once in a while, he’ll end up as a big winner, I guess.

JR: Is it all about ego?

AJ: Yeah, it’s about ego. I think that’s the case for most online players. You are supposed to treat the game as a job, but that’s a concept that most online players have trouble with. I think there’s still a gamer mentality to online poker, and a lot of players treat it as such.

JR: In the past, you’ve been involved in a few grudge matches with other high-stakes regulars. Have you since phased out of that part of your game?

AJ: I’ve definitely matured a little bit, but grudge matches are more about getting action than anything. As I said before, it can be hard to get people to play me at times, so if I have to, I don’t mind running my mouth a bit to try to drum up some action. It’s also big for rematch equity.

For the most part, heads-up no-limit hold’em is smoke and mirrors. You are trying to get people to think you are doing one thing while you are actually doing something else. So, I’m not averse to playing a particular hand badly and making sure that my opponent notices it. He’ll think I’m not particularly knowledgeable about a key concept, and perhaps that will work in my favor later in the session, or even weeks or months later. It’s all big-picture stuff; a lot of little things add up to something big, which hopefully makes you a winning player.

JR: Moving on to some strategy, can you explain the difference between front-door and backdoor aggression?

AJ: Front-door aggression is simple. A player is going to raise, continuation-bet, fire the turn, and so on. Backdoor aggression is a little different, in that it is delayed until the later streets. A lot of times, especially in live settings, players just aren’t capable of bluff-raising on the turn or river. But trickier players are constantly aware of what possibilities are available for their hand, and have no problem turning a pair into a bluff, if need be.

For the most part, until you are good enough to understand certain concepts, you want to always be aware of whether you are betting for value or betting as a bluff. You want to keep those ranges known. That being said, if you are facing a bet on the river and have a hand that you are not sure can win at showdown, you may want to turn that possibly valuable hand into a bluff, perhaps representing a backdoor flush, rivered trips, and so on. Sometimes, you’ll just be getting worse hands to fold, but other times, you’ll be getting better hands out, as well.

The key here is that raising the river shows substantial strength. So, instead of just calling with your marginal hands and being a station [calling station], you can on occasion show some backdoor aggression and take down the pot without a showdown.

JR: You’re one of the head coaches on the training site LeggoPoker. It seems like the poker market has been flooded recently with training sites, and not all of the coaches are even winning players.

AJ: Each training site has its own standards, and some are stricter than others. We’ve been really fortunate at LeggoPoker that our coaches have proven not only to be successful, but also to have longevity in the game. I know there are certain sites out there that track player results, but a losing graph doesn’t always tell the whole story.
Remember, online poker has been around for many more years than those tracking sites have, and there are plenty of sites and games that still aren’t recorded. Also, a player may have built up his bankroll and consistently won at, let’s say, $25-$50, and then lost a good amount when he decided to take a shot a higher stakes. A good poker coach isn’t necessarily the biggest winner in the game; it’s the guy who can best express his concepts and ideas to the students.

JR: What is the one concept that a beginning player must master before he can move up in stakes?

AJ: It’s so cliché, but it can’t be stressed enough. You should be focusing more on your opponent and your position at the table than the cards themselves. Believe me, you’ll make a lot more money in your life by playing Q-2 suited on the button than you will K-J from under the gun.

It’s such a basic concept, but it’s such an important one. Once you begin to think about the game in that regard, you’ll find yourself more than ready to move on to more advanced concepts and higher limits. Spade Suit