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Online Player of the Year - Bryan ‘theczar19’ Piccioli

Online Player of the Year - Bryan ‘theczar19’ Piccioli

by Julio Rodriguez |  Published: May 06, 2011


Bryan “theczar19” Piccioli is barely old enough to play on the tournament circuit, but he already has five years of poker experience. When his high-school buddies started a home game, the Buffalo, New York, native picked it up quickly, thanks to a built-in understanding of the game that was passed down from his father, Daniel, who is a regular cash-game player himself.

Piccioli started from scratch online, turning millions of play-money chips into a tiny bankroll before moving into the real-money games. After finding some initial success, he quickly advanced to the high-stakes tournaments, and has been a regular there ever since.

In February, he chopped up event No. 40 of the Full Tilt Online Poker Series (FTOPS) XIX for his biggest score to date, $282,245. That final table, along with six others, is the reason why he currently resides in the top 10 of the Online Player of the Year (OPOY) race. Because he is widely considered to be one of the best minds in the online community, he recently became a lead instructor at the poker training site Tournament Poker Edge.

Card Player recently caught up with Piccioli to discuss his fast rise to the top of the ranks.

Julio Rodriguez: You’re only 22, but you have a lot of poker experience. When did you learn the game?

Bryan Piccioli: I started playing when I was about 16 in high school. My group of friends took notice of the poker boom, and we started hosting $5 home games. Luckily for me, I had a decent advantage from the start, because my father, Daniel, has been playing hold’em cash games for the last 15 years. He’s not just one of those guys who go to the casino to donk around at $1-$2. He plays a lot of $2-$5 and $5-$10, and takes it very seriously.

You know, a lot of young pros often talk about the struggle to explain poker to their parents. It’s one of those things that becomes very hard to understand and relate to if you are an outsider, but I’ve been fortunate that not only does my father understand my chosen profession, we can have pretty in-depth strategy discussions, as well. I guess you could say that I kind of grew up with the game.

JR: Did you start off with tournaments or dabble in cash games?

BP: I’ve pretty much always been a tournament grinder. I started with play-money tables and sold millions of play-money chips to get started. From there, I jumped into $1 sit-and-gos and slowly built up my bankroll. I ended up making a few big tournament scores, and that led to my turning pro. There’s always rough stretches, of course, but things have been going a lot better recently.

JR: Can you talk about your most recent six-figure score for making the final table in a February FTOPS event?

BP: That was a two-day tournament with a $2,000 buy-in, considered by many to be one of the toughest fields of that series. On the first day, I just played tight and survived. I was a little below average in chips going into the second day, but things just went my way from the first hand, which enabled me to cruise to the final table. I picked up big hands, won coin flips, and all of my bluffs were working. After chopping it up three-handed, I walked away with just over $282,000.

JR: You used to have a backer, but recently have started playing on your own dime. Does your game change when you are financially on the hook?

BP: When you are playing on your own, you need to be way more careful about your game selection. Just because you think you have a particular edge in a tournament, it doesn’t mean that you should be playing in it, especially if there is a high risk of ruin. I try to follow a pretty strict set of guidelines for my bankroll. Some people say that you should have 100 times your average buy-in, but I think you should double that number.

Obviously, that rule makes it tough to play in all of the live $10,000 tournaments out there, but luckily, I have a lot of friends in the online community who are willing to buy pieces of my action; so, I can comfortably compete on the live circuit as well as online.

JR: How would you describe your playing style?

BP: All players sort of go through phases in which they experiment with extremes on one side or the other, but the key to success is finding something that suits your game. For a while, I was having a bit of an identity crisis. I would watch the best players around and try to copy what they did. Taylor Paur won the OPOY race last year, and he’s one of the most aggressive players around, but I quickly realized that such an aggressive style doesn’t work for me.

Lately, I feel like my game is right on target, a nice balance between the two extremes. I not only am winning, but feel like I should be winning. There’s a big difference. Who knows? Maybe now, I’m one of those guys whom other players try to emulate.

JR: You are currently in the top 10 in the OPOY race. Is that a title that you will be gunning for this year?

BP: I pretty much play a huge amount of volume as it is. I don’t really need to change up my schedule or anything to compete, since I should be in the running all year, anyway. Who knows? If I find myself in the top five with just a few weeks left, I doubt that I’ll get much sleep.

JR: What advice would you offer new players who are hoping to emulate your success?

BP: Play as much as humanly possible. Beginners need to plug away at the lowest stakes and soak up as much as they can. Honestly, there is no substitute for experience, and no matter how much you study up on a particular concept, you’ll never quite get it until you see it for yourself. Before long, you’ll be able to visualize the action before it happens, and your anticipation will make your decisions that much easier. Things will start to click. ♠