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Ben Reason: Zen and the Art of Poker

by Bernard Lee |  Published: Mar 18, 2015

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Bernard LeeIn January 2015, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Circuit made its annual pilgrimage to Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, Oklahoma. One of the most well attended venues, Choctaw Casino recently broke the record for the most entries (4,053) in a single WSOP Circuit tournament during its re-entry event.

Although “only” finishing in 128th place in this record setting field, 26-year-old Ben Reason was just getting started. After his elimination from the re-entry event, Reason immediately jumped into another preliminary ring event. After two hard-fought days, Reason outlasted 280 other players to capture his second WSOP Circuit ring. Shortly thereafter, the Tyler, Texas native continued his surreal week, final tabling two other events, including the main event. At the end of the tournament series, Reason topped the venue’s leaderboard, capturing the Casino Champion honor, which also included a seat into the 2015 WSOP National Championship.

As a youngster, Reason learned poker from his father in the third grade. The game of choice was five-card draw. When the Moneymaker boom began, Reason and his friends discovered no-limit hold’em. They would get together to play small buy-in tournaments, which fed Reason’s interest in poker.

Attending nearby Stephen F. Austin State University for college, the young poker pro honed his game during these formative years. Although he began devoting most of his time to online poker, he still earned his degree in a very unique field: Music Education, focusing on violin. While in college, he decided to utilize his passion for teaching and began coaching poker as well. After graduating in 2012, Reason decided to pursue poker professionally.

His first taste of success after graduation was in September of 2012 when he captured his first WSOP Circuit ring in Bossier City, Louisiana. The week was memorable not only due to his own victory, but also because his friend and roommate, Cord Garcia, also won a WSOP Circuit ring during the same tournament series.

In 2013, the RunGoodGear Pro almost had a brush with poker fame, when he finished runner-up in the 2013 WSOP $1,000 turbo no-limit hold’em event. Although he just missed taking home a bracelet, Reason earned his largest score to date, at almost $175,000.

I recently sat down with Reason to discuss his recent WSOP Circuit victory and his approach to poker.

Bernard Lee: Congratulations on your recent WSOP ring and qualifying for the WSOP National Championship. Will you be playing a lot of events in preparation for the WSOP this summer, which will include the WSOP National Championship?

Ben Reason: I plan on studying much more than playing. I will be hanging out with some friends in a cabin in Tahoe (Nevada) from March until the WSOP. The goal is to be doing a lot of snowboarding, relentless amounts of poker, lifting weights, and being as healthy as possible.

The only live poker events I plan to play before the WSOP is a $1,000 event nearby in Reno and also a RunGoodGear poker series from Apr. 22-26 at the Hard Rock Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma. So, it will really be light on live poker, but it’s going to be a lot of fierce and intense work leading up to it.

Bernard Lee: So, if you are not going to play a lot of tournaments, how will you prepare yourself?

Ben Reason: I believe in the saying, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Anytime I go to a poker tournament, I can say with confidence that I study and prepare harder than 99.9 percent of the field. I highly doubt that anyone prepares as much as I do. Of course, there is some luck involved in poker, but I study and prepare harder than anyone else.

Bernard Lee: You have a slightly different approach to poker, almost Zen-like.

Ben Reason: I believe in taking 100 percent personal responsibility of your results. Therefore, I focus on taking care as best as possible the one thing that makes all of your poker decisions: your brain. This includes eating a strict, healthy diet, exercising before I play, meditating, and studying all the time.

Bernard Lee: When you prepare for tournaments, what do you do to study?

Ben Reason: Most of my studying comes in the form of reviewing hands histories. Also, I often run hand simulations and also analyze board and flop textures. I am fortunate to have a lot of peers who are great players and am able to review different situations.
Bernard Lee: What about your physical preparation?

Ben Reason: When I play in tournaments, my sleep schedule is so crazy. So, I try to work out in the evening, sometimes as late as 3 a.m., so I can be physically drained and I can get some good sleep.

I have recently been working out in the gym, lifting weights instead of just running. Also, I’m trying to work in yoga into my routine, but it’s hard to do when travelling.
Bernard Lee: You mentioned that you are currently working with several students. Do you feel your teaching helps your game and keeps you prepared to play?

Ben Reason: Absolutely. A lot of my students are playing at the professional level as well. Thus, it forces me to study a lot and really keep up to date with the trends, which in turn helps me develop my own game as well. So it is almost like I’m being paid to study and I do a lot of it. I’m one of the few players that studies more than plays.

Bernard Lee: Do you find satisfaction in teaching students?

Ben Reason: I have always enjoyed teaching. I actually received my degree in education. I think in a community like poker where playing the game is intrinsically selfish, giving something back is huge.

Bernard Lee: You have won two WSOP Circuit rings. However, you came so close to winning a WSOP bracelet in 2013 in $1,000 no-limit turbo event (Event #34). Were you disappointed when you lost the WSOP bracelet heads-up?

Ben Reason: I think you should approach live poker with low expectations. I entered the final table with a short stack, so finishing second was a positive result. I don’t really like to have any expectations. I like to be happy with what I get. I try to make sure that I work hard and accept the results no matter what. I don’t put much into the glory side of poker. ♠

Bernard Lee is a poker columnist for ESPN.com, author of The Final Table, Volume I and II and radio host of “The Bernard Lee Poker Show”, which can be found on RoundersRadio.com or via podcast on iTunes. Lee has over $2 million in career earnings, won six titles and is also a team member of RunGoodGear.com. Follow Bernard Lee on Twitter: @BernardLeePoker or visit him at www.BernardLeePoker.com.