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Coronavirus Halts Farid Jattin’s Breakout Year On Live Tournament Circuit

Colombian Pro Racked Up More Than $1.2 Million Before Live Poker Was Paused

by Steve Schult |  Published: Jul 15, 2020

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When the COVID-19 pandemic put live poker tournaments on hold, perhaps nobody was more frustrated in the poker world than Farid Jattin.

The Colombian poker pro was on a complete tear to start the year, having racked up more than $1.2 million in earnings, including six final tables and three titles in the first ten weeks of 2020. The hot start put the 31-year-old near the top of the 2020 Card Player Player of the Year race, sitting in second behind Australia’s Vincent Wan.

Jattin started the year off with four final tables and two victories in high roller events in Australia. He won the $25,000 no-limit hold’em at Aussie Millions for the equivalent of $678,831 and won the $25,000 pot-limit Omaha at the Australian Poker Open for $195,888 less than two weeks later.

The wins were sandwiched in between a seventh-place finish in the Aussie Millions $25,000 pot-limit Omaha and a sixth-place in the Australian Poker Open $25,000 no-limit hold’em. In February, he earned his third win of the year by taking down the partypoker Millions South America $10,000 high roller finale in Uruguay for another $200,000.

He came back to the United States and closed out his pre-COVID run with a seventh-place finish in the $5,250 eight-handed no-limit hold’em at the L.A. Poker Classic and an 11th in the World Poker Tour Rolling Thunder main event at Thunder Valley for $20,920.

“It’s kind of painful that coronavirus had to stop all the live games,” said Jattin. “Because I feel like I was in such a good zone, you know? But at the end of the day, you just got to take what life gives you. I can’t really complain about it. It’s given me time to spend with my family. Time to work on myself, but it is kind of painful that everything just came out of nowhere because I feel like it was going to be a crazy year for me.”

The breakout start to the year is the culmination of years of progress and hard work, which dates back to his days as a standout baseball player in Colombia.

“I grew up in Colombia until I was about 10 years old,” said Jattin about his childhood. “Growing up there, it was a very rough time. It was the Pablo Escobar era. The Guerillas were going crazy. They were kidnapping people. Stuff like that. It was kind of dangerous.”

Jattin had an opportunity to move to America and take baseball more seriously and he took it. He hopped on a flight to Miami and moved in with his grandparents.

His parents, however, couldn’t leave the country as easily as he could. Both his parents were doctors and his father ran a business in his hometown as well. It wasn’t until they were able to sell their business and give up their practices, that they moved to Florida as well to start from scratch and reunite their family.

As a sophomore in high school, Jattin was the starting catcher for one of the top high schools in Florida. It was there that one of his upperclassmen teammates introduced him to the card game that would bring him millions.

“The star pitcher was like one of my best friends on the team,” said Jattin. “He was a lot older. He was a senior. I was a sophomore, but he had failed a couple times, so he was almost 19 years old. He used to really like poker, so we started running house games with the team. Little tournaments and stuff, you know? And I started liking it.”

Jattin went on to play college baseball, but college was where his baseball career ended and his poker career took off. And took off quick.

“The first time I played a big tournament I ended up chopping it for like $40K,” said Jattin. “That was the start of it.”

In September 2010, Jattin finished 12th in the $2,000 River Poker Series main event for $43,800. He followed that up with a runner-up finish in a $555 no-limit hold’em World Series of Poker Circuit event for $40,430 and three months later, he was runner-up in the Everglades Poker Open Championship for another $44,370.

The tournament scores were great and certainly padded his early bankroll. But Jattin wasn’t interested in tournaments. In 2010, $100 buy-in caps for cash games were lifted in Florida and Jattin spent most of his time playing those games.

“I didn’t really care too much about tournaments,” said Jattin. “I used to play a lot of cash games once Florida became big for those. I was playing the biggest games. I liked the tournaments just for fun. I had a couple good scores, but I was never really a tournament player, but when I would play, I would usually go pretty deep.”

Eventually, those cash games became less lucrative as some of the fish went broke. Like any successful poker pro, Jattin migrated to where the money was.

“In the past two or three years, the cash games really dried up,” said Jattin. “So, I figured the big money was in the tournaments because tournaments are still popular. All the recreational players love tournaments, but don’t really like cash games anymore because it’s all nits, you know? It’s not a good atmosphere in cash games.”

His high-stakes cash game background was the basis for Jattin’s insanely aggressive playing style. He didn’t come up the ranks by working through ICM [Independent Chip Model] calculations in an effort to ladder up the payouts. He came to the table with the sole purpose of getting every chip on the table.

“I think it’s my nature. I go for the throat,” said Jattin with a laugh. “I don’t really care who is playing. I go hard. I’ve always gone hard. Probably one of the hardest. It’s cost me a lot of money sometimes and it’s saved me a lot of money sometimes. I think people enjoy that. I think I’ll probably always be like that.”

The aggressive style that he cultivated took years to hone and perfect. Before 2020, Jattin had already amassed more than $4.4 million in career tournament earnings. But despite the millions in earnings and several final tables, his career lacked a major title. A significant win.

In 2016, Jattin final tabled the World Poker Tour Borgata Fall Poker Open main event. He came into the final table with a massive chip lead, holding nearly half the chips in play, but was the first player gone, bowing out in sixth for $167,942.

After losing the chip lead to Jesse Sylvia, he ran a massive bluff where he three-bet 5-4 offsuit against Chris Limo and five-bet all in when Sylvia cold four-bet from the big blind. Sylvia called with A-K, eliminated Jattin in sixth and went on to win the tournament for $821,811.

“That was one of the worst mistakes I ever made for sure,” said Jattin about his bustout hand. “It took me a while to get over it because it was a lot of money at the time. Not that I didn’t have money, but it was just such a big spot and it ended up being such a big disappointment. I go into the final table with a massive chip lead and I get sixth.”

Instead of tilting, Jattin took the experience for what it was and worked to improve himself and his game.

“I just took it as a life lesson,” he said. “You got to make these mistakes to learn how to win tournaments. And I feel like, for me, I never really studied the game that much. It was all based on talent and things I thought were right. I was obviously making a lot of big mistakes coming from a cash game background. In a cash game, you go for it. If it doesn’t work, you rebuy. No problem.”

Now that he has those trademark wins to his resume, Jattin feels a sense of accomplishment, but doesn’t necessarily want to flaunt his winnings. He just wants to be the best version of himself that’s possible. Poker is just a means to become that version of himself.

“I did feel like a couple of nice titles would be good for my resume,” said Jattin. “I think it has some importance, but I don’t want it to define me as a person.”

It’s that attitude that has kept him off of social media and out of the public eye until now.

“I’ve always been really low key,” he said. “I don’t really post on Instagram about my scores, this and that. No Twitter. None of it. Some of these guys, some of these kids, they have a few scores and they think they own the world because they’re good at poker. And I feel like you need to do a lot more than that, you know, for the world.”

Jattin spent several years grinding high-stakes tournaments. He would play anything with buy-ins between $1,500 and $10,000. In 2019, however, he made a deep run in the $25,000 PokerStars Players Championship, finishing seventh for a career-best $746,000 score, which prompted a few shots at high roller events.

He started competing against the best in the world, against a different caliber of poker pros. En route to his first title this year, Jattin topped a final table that featured Steve O’Dwyer and Sam Greenwood, two pros that have been at the top for more than a decade and combined for more than $52 million in tournament scores.

“It’s a different experience for sure,” said Jattin about the high roller events. “I feel like a lot of people would be intimidated by it, but I feel like I was preparing myself for that moment for a long time and I was ready for the moment. I showed up to play and a couple things went my way.”

Jattin’s style is even more unique when deployed at those buy-ins. Many regulars in those fields are doing lots of work with solvers and other computer programs that have a much more math-based approach to the game than Jattin does.

He may not have used the strategy in his own game, but he did pick up tendencies from those that take a more GTO [Game Theory Optimal] approach to the game and found ways to counter it.

“Just in playing with these guys for a while, I realized exactly what they were doing,” said Jattin. “As long as I know what they’re doing, I would like to take my own approach, which is a bit non-standard. But at least I understand it enough to be able to battle it.”

Most pros hope to accomplish in a year what Jattin accomplished in slightly more than two months. And many recreational players hope to achieve those results in a lifetime. Jattin was on pace for a historic year before the spread of coronavirus stopped it dead in his tracks.

“When you got all the confidence and all the momentum, people feel it at the table,” said Jattin. “They play differently against you when you’re in that zone. Your energy is different. Now they have a few big tournaments online, which I’ve been playing a bit, but I can’t wait for live poker to come back.”

For now, thanks to COVID-19, Jattin is stuck at home grinding tournaments online. A format of poker that he doesn’t enjoy as much as he would like to.

“I don’t really enjoy the online thing too much,” he said. “I feel like it’s a lot of robots. It’s a lot of people using software. I like the live atmosphere. People can’t really look at the software and wait for it to spit out the right answer of what to do in every spot. Live, you’ve got the presence. The physical reads. It’s way different.”

At some point live poker will return and tournaments will run all over the world again. There are few people more excited for that day than Jattin. ♠