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When I Was A Donk – James Mackey

by Julio Rodriguez |  Published: Jul 19, 2017


James MackeyIn this series, Card Player asks top pros to rewind back to their humble beginnings and provide insights regarding the mistakes, leaks, and deficiencies that they had to overcome in order to improve their games.

James Mackey very quickly worked his way up the ranks of the online poker world, racking up nearly $4 million in winnings before making his presence felt in the live arena, taking down a World Series of Poker bracelet in a 2007 no-limit hold’em event for $730,740.

The 31-year-old also added World Poker Tour champion to his poker resume, besting the field at WPT Choctaw in 2016 for $681,758. The Kansas City, Missouri native has more than $3.7 million in live tournament earnings.

Here, Mackey talks about his complete disregard for bankroll management.

I was terrible at bankroll management when I first started playing. I think it was back in 2005, when I first started playing online poker, I didn’t follow any sort of guidelines for how many buy-ins I needed to play certain games. I just went for it.

I would basically just play as high as I could. As soon as I had enough cash to jump up to the next level, I did. I would have like three buy-ins for the games I was playing in. I went from 25¢-50¢ to $5-$10 in just a couple months.

Another problem is that I would use my tournament winnings to fund my jump up in stakes in the cash games. If I hit a big tournament score, I’d playing bigger cash games, even though I wasn’t ready for them. I’d play way too long, like 20-hour sessions, if I was stuck and was trying to win my money back.

I went broke a couple times along the way before I finally learned my lesson. At the time, I was just a broke college student. My only job before that was at McDonald’s, so I didn’t have the discipline yet.

These days I have enough money that I’m alright and don’t have to worry about it, but I also don’t really play the big stuff anymore. I remember back in 2008, I got second in the $10,000 eight-game event [at the WSOP] and immediately jumped into the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event. I don’t even really play any mixed games, and I bubbled that, so it was a good lesson for me.