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Generation Next: Everything Adds Up for Adam Sherman

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: Nov 12, 2010


Adam Sherman fell in love with percentages, algebraic equations, and poker as an economics and finance major at California’s Claremont McKenna College. During school, he easily made the transition from a teen’s obsession with the card game Magic: The Gathering to earning spending money by playing poker online. During his time at college, Sherman banked more than $40,000 in profits. By the time that graduation rolled around, he’d decided to postpone the security of a corporate cubicle for a shot at the poker life. It was a gamble that made sense to him.

Since that fateful decision in the spring of 2009, he’s had no regrets. This past May, Sherman went on a tear online. He won the PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker $3,150 four-max event, for $210,000, and then four days later lost a grueling heads-up battle with Kevin “BeLOW aBOVe” Saul for a second-place finish in the SCOOP $2,100 rebuy/add-on event, for $172,980. To date, Sherman has more than $1.5 million in career online-tournament cashes. And, he gives credit where credit is due — to his love for the mathematics of the game.

“Approaching poker from a math perspective appealed to me, and helped take my game to another level,” said Sherman. “I realized that if I could figure out what percentage of the time an opponent three-bet me, I then could know when to shove in as a bluff to make it a profitable play. Math works for me, mainly because my poker instincts are not nearly as good as anyone else’s in the top 100 online poker players. I don’t mind being the math guy.”

Sherman knows that the life of an online-poker player can be an incredibly isolating existence. At the moment, he’s enjoying the game, but he really has no clue where life will take him four years from now. He’s open to looking at other avenues for his systematic and meticulous mathematical approach to earning money, perhaps real estate or the stock market. Whatever life path Sherman chooses to take, you can bet that it will be a profitable one.

CT: What suggestions do you have for a player who is hesitant about diving into the math aspects of the game?

AS: I think that it’s best to work side by side with another player who uses math heavily in his game. You need to understand why you can shove certain hands and why it’s the most profitable play. It teaches a tight player how to loosen up his game or take advantage of his tight image. That kind of approach will improve his game immensely.

CT: What’s the first thing you think about at the table in regard to math?
AS: The first thing I focus on is a player’s hand range in terms of percentages. Let’s say that a player opens 40 percent of hands from the button according to PokerTracker. In that case, you realize that you can defend from the big blind profitably with hands like K-10 or J-10, or at least you think you can.
CT: What do you mean?

AS: Against good players who open, it can be difficult when out of position. In a recent event, I knew that Steve “gboro780” Gross was opening a wide range of hands from the button, so I was defending with hands like K-9 offsuit and such. But he was punishing me post-flop and getting me for value when he had it, and was catching my bluffs whenever I was trying to make a play. I never seemed to be able to take a sizeable pot from him, and he was able to inflate pots because he was in position.
CT: You seem to love capitalizing on the math that’s provided by using the tracker programs.

AS: Absolutely. Almost every online-tournament player I know doesn’t use the tracker programs, but I’m a tracker fanatic. But when using the programs, you have to watch out how you play against fish as compared to the good regulars at the table. My tracker stats are really bad against top players like “gboro780,” “moorman1,” and “lilholdem954,” because they don’t play other players like they play me. But the tracker stats do enable me to abuse the fish during the early stages of a tournament. If they’re limping a lot and folding to continuation-bets, I can start raising a wide range of hands and take the pot down that way. Also, if they are calling once and folding on the turn, I can double-barrel, which is even more profitable.

CT: OK, this is completely off the topic. What crazy thing have you done with your poker winnings that you never could have done if you had chosen a 9-to-5 workday?
AS: I recently moved to Los Angeles for only two months to take surfing lessons.
CT: Cool. That works. Thanks, Adam, for sharing your story. Good luck this year in the Card Player Online Player of the Year race. ♠