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Generation Next - James Ackerman Celebrates Poker Success With Good Friends

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: Feb 18, 2011

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Cash-game professional James Ackerman attributes much of his success to getting a little help from his friends. He knows that reliable poker buddies can be a vital asset to his game’s growth, the same way that a savvy businessman knows that a Rolodex full of hot contacts is money in the bank. This is because some days, playing poker seems like a job that you hate. Sessions can be brutal, and it’s not always a party to grind out 80,000 hands a month online just to pay the rent. In the end, poker is just a game, but good friends who have your back, no matter how much you crush or go on tilt, are a precious commodity not to be taken for granted.
“The best advice that I can give is to find friends who are at or near your skill level, and talk to them as much as you can about poker,” said Ackerman. “That way, you make each other better players. It’s good to bounce ideas off them about hands and get feedback and new viewpoints. You can learn only so much if you’re thinking about the game by yourself, as you will have only your own bias of how well you played a hand.”
To further improve his game, Ackerman hired well-known CardRunners coach Haseeb “INTERNET POKERS” Qureshi. That day changed everything for the young professional. “He really opened things up for me. I was pretty close-minded. I thought that playing a tight-aggressive, straightforward style was the best way to go. While working with him, I learned how to think outside the box, and make creative moves — plays that aren’t just basic strategy from books or videos.”
Over the last two years, Ackerman, 21, has more than $175,000 in winnings, most of it coming from playing 9-12 tables of $1-$2 no-limit hold’em six-max cash games online. One of the unique things about Ackerman is that he has no aspirations of doing battle with “Durrrr” [Tom Dwan] at the nosebleed stakes. Playing poker is just one of the tools he’s utilizing to accomplish his dreams. Presently, he’s content to shuttle his poker profits toward college. His future plans include trading options using his poker skills, and retiring by 40 years of age. But most importantly, he wants to enjoy a comfortable life, surrounded by close friends in his hometown of Chicago.
Craig Tapscott: How did you start playing poker?
James Ackerman: I played with friends in high school back in 2007, and in private games around Chicago. Honestly, I was a degenerate and just liked to gamble. It didn’t matter what I was playing, as I had no clue what I was doing half the time. The games were easy enough back then, so I could at least survive and mostly break even.
CT: When did that change? You must have started to take the game more seriously to be able to be so successful over the last two years.
JA: One of my friends joined CardRunners, and we started talking about hands and strategy all the time. Eventually, we were making each other better players and became winners.
CT: You seem content at the stakes that you’re playing.
JA: I feel like I make enough money from $1-$2 online, and it’s not worth the extra stress to move up in stakes. I like to live comfortably, and I’m going to school now. But I do play for higher stakes in the casinos nearby. I plan to finish school and get into trading options, and then play poker more for fun.
CT: What kinds of things did you learn that have helped your game grow so fast over the last two years?
JA: Well, a lot of people watch a video and do everything they see. I think that’s the wrong way to approach it. You can’t just start three-betting because you want to three-bet and be aggressive. It has to work in synergy with everything else you’re doing. If you’re making changes in your game, you have to think about how they’re affecting your game as a whole. You can’t just pick bits and pieces from other people’s styles and expect to be the ultimate player on the planet.
CT: How did you control your degenerate tendencies to gamble it up all the time?
JA: Well, I used to be one of those people who would deposit until my account was down to zero. But then I moved out of the house at 18 to live with my grandparents. When you have to live on your own and pay rent and bills every month, that changes you into a new person. I knew what I had to do. It’s all about becoming an adult and taking on responsibilities. That changed me. ♠