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Capture The Flag With Mike Gorodinsky

by Brian Pempus |  Published: Apr 01, 2015


Mike GorodinskyMike Gorodinsky is only 29 years of age, but he already has a World Series of Poker bracelet and plays in some of the biggest mixed games in the world. Like many in the poker community, he started playing poker seriously after seeing Chris Moneymaker win the World Series of Poker main event back in 2003.

He said his poker skills “blossomed” in home games with friends, leading him to think it was a wise decision to eventually transition to online play and move up in stakes.

Card Player had the chance to speak to Gorodinsky about his poker life.

Brian Pempus: At what point did you venture into a casino and try playing a casino cash game?

Mike Gorodinsky: Not until I studied abroad in Australia. I only ever used my fake ID in college for booze and never really had the urge to gamble with it in a casino since I was playing pretty huge stakes online at the time and there wasn’t really a great appeal for the local $2-$5 there. Just for lack of any other gambling to do abroad though, I first got my feet wet in a $5-$10 half-pot limit hold’em game in Brisbane, Australia which was the highest stake game they were legally allowed to spread.

BP: Can you talk about moving up in stakes online?

MG: Early in my career, I just had unbelievably bad bankroll management. I would deposit $500 and just try to run it up, time after time. Luckily for me, I did eventually run it up on PartyPoker and they capped their stakes at $10-$20 at the time. So, by sheer luck alone, I was eventually rolled to play $10-$20 pot-limit Omaha. I eventually found poker strategy sites and other guys to talk about the game with and developed my away-from-the-table fundamentals. I never really looked back. But I busted many a $500 deposit before finally spinning it up.

BP: Can you talk about what was going through your mind when you were losing those $500 deposits? Were you ever upset to the point of thinking of just quitting?

MG: I actually never really lost the $500. I think my biggest legitimate downswing back then was like $2,000 of actual losses. Most of the time I would run it up to like $700, withdraw the original deposit, and try to spin it up. It is borderline embarrassing to even recall those days now, but whatever, it is what it is. It was honestly fun for me, and I was at worst a break-even player the whole time, so I never really considered quitting the game.

BP: Can you talk about how advanced online cash games have gotten? Even at the smaller stakes?

MG: I can only speak on hearsay since I actually haven’t played a single hand of online poker since Black Friday (Apr. 15, 2011), but just the simple lack of action at $10-$20 and higher for the big bet games should serve as a pretty good indicator that things have dried up significantly since then. The reality is that the sheer volume of training content and advanced playing tools out there is going to inherently toughen up your average poker player. The losing players then wind up losing faster and the weak professionals don’t really seem to have the desire to improve their game while taking any sort of equity loss against better regulars. So the games just don’t go the way that they used to.

BP: Do you think it was a mistake for the poker community to pump out strategy content—videos, articles, whatever—the way it has over the past five years or so?

MG: I do. But I also recognize that the market was too obvious to remain unsaturated forever. I give props to the original poker training site founders, like Taylor Caby, for tapping into the obvious opportunity, but I definitely wish that, as the profit margins in the business went down, the professionals producing this content would realize the amount of damage they’re doing to the community for relative lack of personal gain and quit producing content.

BP: What is your regular cash game these days and why?

MG: I like to stay home in San Diego with the puppy these days and don’t do a ton of traveling anymore, so I just play whatever the game happens to be in San Diego. Recently, it’s been on the smaller side, typically a $200-$400 or $300-$600 mix game and a $10-$20 pot-limit Omaha game.

BP: Why do you feel mixed games are usually less of a grind to play? More room to be creative?

MG: There’s definitely that. But also the fact that the game keeps switching and there are both no-limit and big bet games in the mix helps to keep the blood flowing a bit and forces you to change gears throughout the session. Whereas playing full-ring pot-limit Omaha is typically going to be more of a test in discipline.

BP: Is discipline what it comes down to these days when many people out there have obtained advanced poker fundamentals? In other words, can we think of discipline in terms of implementation of a skill set?

MG: Absolutely. Since the current state of high stakes poker games is typically either all pros of varying skill levels or, if you’re lucky, a true fish or two in the game, there’s inherently a ton more variance present in the day-to-day life of a poker player. It takes a ton of discipline to consistently play you’re A-game and motivate yourself to keep putting in hours when the cards don’t seem to be breaking even. Nowadays, people with legitimate tilt issues, or significant leaks otherwise, are just fading away.

BP: Can you talk about specific things in your mixed game play that can tip you off to the fact that you aren’t playing you’re a-game anymore in a session and need to take a break?

MG: Playing too many hands is always a pretty good indicator, especially for me. But paying off obvious value bets against predictable players on the end is probably the thing that makes me quit sessions the most. In limit games, it’s very easy to just slowly leak away bet after bet, so any time I notice a bad pattern like that developing, it’s usually good for me to clear my head a bit.

BP: Will you play in as big a mixed game as you can find?

MG: No, I draw the line at about $1,000-$2,000 unless the game is both super soft and it’s a mix of all my best games. Realistically though, $400-$800 or $600-$1,200 are much more comfortable stakes for me and tend to have the mix of games and lineups that are more to my liking. In short, I do game select, both in terms of players and in terms of the games that are in the rotation, but I’m pretty loose with my game selection and can appreciate a good challenge. ♠