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Capture the Flag With Randy Lew

by Brian Pempus |  Published: Apr 29, 2015

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Randy LewName: Randy Lew
Based Out Of: Mountain View, CA
Age: 29
Years Playing Poker: 12
Cash Game Most Frequently Played: Mid-stakes no-limit hold’em six-max
Top Poker Accomplishment: First Place in the 2011 APPT Macau main event for $484,617
Twitter: @nanonoko

Randy “nanonoko” Lew, a former world class video game player, is now one of poker’s premiere high-volume online grinders. He typically plays 24 tables of six-max no-limit hold’em cash games.

Lew studied managerial economics at UC Davis and it was there that he discovered poker would be a much more lucrative endeavor. According to PokerStars, the site which sponsors Lew, in 2009 he surpassed the $1 million mark in cash game earnings. Lew did it playing $5-$10 and below, so it wasn’t just a rush of good cards, but a consistent ability to win over hundreds of thousands of hands.

The 29-year-old set a new Guinness World Record in early 2012 when he played a total of 23,493 hands online in the space of eight hours. He finished the session in the black.
The prolific online grinder has had some success on the tournament circuit as well, winning the 2011 Asia Pacific Poker Tour Macau main event for $484,617. To date, Lew has $986,000 in live tournament earnings.

Lately, the poker community has been gaining interest in a website called Twitch.tv, which lets poker pros live stream some of their online sessions, and they can provide commentary and strategy analysis. It’s a great way to popularize poker. Twitch, which is used by a wide array of gamers, is Amazon-owed.

Card Player had the chance to speak to Lew about cash game strategy, what it’s like to play so many hands online, as well as his Twitch live streams.

Brian Pempus: First off, what are some of the most common mistakes people still make at $1-$2 online?

Randy Lew: I find that players at $1-$2 online either over-adjust or don’t adjust at all. So some players when you reraise them a couple of times, just start going crazy against you and end up overvaluing tons of hands. Whereas others let you run them over and never resist because they fear confrontation. Also, I think that players are again overvaluing their hands and value betting in spots where they often are never getting called by worse with, say, a top-pair-okay-kicker hand on the river. This ends up setting themselves up for only putting more money in when behind and rarely while ahead.

BP: What kind of strategy concepts do you try to convey during your Twitch streams?

RL: On Twitch, there is always a wide range of viewers watching. We have our beginners, intermediates, and expert players all in the chat at the same time often. I try to explain my thought processes as thoroughly as possible so that everyone can learn. Of course, there will be times when the beginner won’t understand some of the strategy I’m explaining or the expert players already know what the value of the button is, but explaining why I do things helps refine players’ knowledge. Poker is a game where you have a strategy and you make your adjustments to players based on your reads. I’m there to tell them what my strategy is and how I’m adjusting it based on the way things have been going on at the table.

BP: Can you talk about how Twitch is changing the way people learn about poker, and specifically cash games? Or is Twitch being used primarily for tournaments rather than cash?

RL: Twitch is such a great tool for learning about poker because it’s very interactive and fun. As the viewer is watching the stream broadcaster, they get the opportunity to see the hole cards while the broadcaster explains his thought process. This is important too because I feel that viewers are able to grasp concepts better when it’s visual. Now add the fact that if you’re watching and you have a question, you can ask the question in chat, and I would respond to you. This is great, as oftentimes you get to read/watch something but there’s no one to answer any questions that perplex you. Most importantly, because people are having a good time while watching the stream, they come back day after day to learn more. Having fun makes the experience of learning poker that much more enjoyable and you have more passion to keep learning more.

One of the great things about Twitch is that there’s no set rule on what you are supposed to do while streaming. So you can stream cash games, tournaments, pot-limit Omaha, badugi, or any sort of poker you can think of and in any format. Whether it’s a tournament or cash game, when people watch and see you make a play that they don’t normally make, they are going to think I should incorporate that into my game because I think that’s good. That visual aspect is what’s going to help players fine tune their own poker games.

BP: I saw you post an interesting $1-$2 hand recently where you had KDiamond Suit QSpade Suit against 9Diamond Suit 8Diamond Suit. The player (UTG+1) raised to $5; you three-bet to $18, and they were the only person to call. After continuation-betting $20 after being checked to, you eventually called a check-shove of $80 in total on a 6-5-3 rainbow flop. Can you talk basic strategy here and give a beginner some insight into thinking about ranges? Can you talk about this spot specifically and how close do you think it was?

RL: In this spot, I decided to reraise K-Q offsuit because I wanted to take the initiative against this player who had a very wide range of hands. On the flop, he checks to me as expected, and I decided to fire out about a half-pot bet, trying to take the pot down, and he instantly check-raises all in. Of course, you are never excited when someone goes all in against you and you have just king-high, but the next step is to try and figure out all of the hands they could be holding, also known as a range. So because I felt he was a looser player preflop, I put in lots of straight draw hands such as 8-7, 9-8, 9-7, 5-4, and so on. He was actually so loose I wouldn’t be surprised if he even had a hand like J-4. This is just a small sample of hands that I could beat here. Next was, he could have flopped a big hand such as two pair, straights, or sets. And, lastly, the marginal one-pair hands that have me beat like A-5, 4-4, 8-6.

Against that range, I should be folding my king-high because when I get it in against that, I will be in bad shape more often than not. However, using my reads and what I observed at the table, I noted that this player would just call with his marginal hands rather than raising all in. So I expected him whenever he had one pair hands to just call rather than going all in in fear of me having a big hand. So I discounted a lot of the hands that have me beat. Also, had he flopped a straight or set, it seems senseless for him to go all in on this non-scary board, so I discount those hands a lot too. If I’m up against straight draws mainly and occasionally some of the hands that have me beat, this king-high call becomes a lot closer where I have to call $60 to win the $137.76 in the pot. I don’t think it’s a snap call by any means, but sometimes with some intuition and logic, a seemingly easy fold may be worth a call.

BP: Can you give some advice for people wanting to add more tables to their online cash game sessions?

RL: As someone who has a lot of experience playing 24 tables at one time, I can confidently say learning to multi-table doesn’t happen overnight. If you aspire to be playing 10 tables at once and are currently only playing one table, don’t just jump straight to your goal. That would be a 1000-percent increase in output. Take it slow and get comfortable playing one more table. When you feel pretty good about playing two tables, move onto three, and so on. Easing into it makes the process manageable while you’re still improving your poker game. If you’re playing on PokerStars, I recommend you use their built in hotkeys. That way you can make decisions even quicker and make multi-tabling that much easier.

You can watch Lew grind on twitch.tv/nanonoko and follow him on Twitter @nanonoko. ♠