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New Bracelet Winner Faraz Jaka Talks Coaching And Shootout Strategies

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: Dec 27, 2023


Faraz Jaka Credit: WPTFaraz Jaka has been a feared competitor in live and online events since he chose the online moniker, The Toilet, because he loved playing any two suited cards and hunting for flushes. Throughout his career, he has wholeheartedly refused to color between the lines of accepted poker strategies, much to the chagrin of his more straightforward opponents.

Online wins and accolades piled up as Jaka eventually brought his game to the live circuit. He won the World Poker Tour’s Player of the Year title in 2010 after several final-table appearances, and ultimately won his first WPT title at the Deepstacks Blackhawk event in 2018. To date, he has accumulated more than $10 million in combined online and live career cashes.

After seventeen years of playing World Series of Poker tournaments, including 71 cashes overall, Jaka finally broke through this past summer. He captured the $1,500 shootout event title along with more than $230,000 and the gold bracelet, scratching one more item off his poker bucket list.

“Over my career I’ve gotten a lot of second and thirds in big main events,” said Jaka. “It was nice to seal the deal this time. And it was really special to have a bunch of my coaching students on the rail cheering me on.”

One of the qualities that have attracted many of Jaka’s followers has been his willingness to hold nothing back regarding the deeper strategies he shares while playing online. Many of his peers are continuously surprised by the in-depth thoughts that Jaka shares.

“Faraz is on another level,” shared poker coach, author, and Card Player columnist Alex Fitzgerald. “I love listening to him analyze the game. He comes up with ideas I have never heard anywhere else.”

Card Player caught up with Jaka after his bracelet win to talk poker, business, and balancing family life at home and on the road.

Craig Tapscott: During COVID, your coaching business took off for you. Can you share how you grew your clientele?

Faraz Jaka: My wife got pregnant around this time, and we had our child in January 2021. We always planned on having kids, but I had to make significant adjustments. I knew I wouldn’t be able to be on tour all the time anymore and away from them nonstop. I would have to create a more stable home for all of us at some point.

I started dabbling with different ideas. I tried everything from live streaming, to being a YouTuber, private coaching, and even a couple of businesses outside of poker. I was happy to see the coaching take off. Once I saw all that traffic from potential clients, my love for coaching expanded. So, I decided to go all in.

CT: Live steaming takes up so much time. It has to be a rough life for a married man.

FJ: I know. I didn’t like the steaming lifestyle. Too many days and hours online weren’t conducive to a family’s lifestyle. Coaching definitely was the best choice. I coached about 120 players over 14 months during COVID.

CT: Wow. How could you keep up with that number of students?

FJ: I had too much demand and insufficient time to fulfill it. My answer was to create group coaching platforms, which eventually became a training site. My adjustment to having a family was building the site so I didn’t always have to be on tour.

CT: How many live events do you play?

FJ: Well, I go to more significant events when I want to. I estimate I do a live series once every two months. And I also play online from wherever I am at every Sunday.

CT: And that’s much less than you used to play.

FJ: Yes. By far. That’s probably around 75% less poker than I used to play on average per year. I’ve been playing since I was in college and was 19. I fell in love with the game, and it seemed like I was playing 24/7. I learned so much during that period, but I’m 37 now.

CT: Have your goals changed since your younger days regarding what you want to achieve in poker?

FJ: When I was younger, I wanted to be one of the best players in the world. I was playing all the high roller stuff and trying to climb as high as possible in the poker rankings. I played some on the high-stakes circuit and traveled a lot. I left my place in Chicago and lived out of a suitcase.

CT: Did you get sidetracked along the way as far as poker is concerned? I know you left the circuit for a while.

Jaka Wins Bracelet photo: PokerGOFJ: Beyond the high-stakes circuit, I became more intrigued with traveling on the road and exploring the local cultures. I put less time into working on my game and more into enjoying life. I saw some of my peers excelling at poker but were not necessarily happy or balanced. That was my sign to prioritize other things toward a more balanced lifestyle.

CT: You even took some time off from the game, correct?

FJ: I did. Then, when I came back to poker, it was now the solver era. I remember talking some hands with a friend, and he was kind of going through blockers so quickly. I thought maybe the game had passed me. (laughs)

But I slowly got back into the swing of things with some study. And, in about three or four months, I was back in it. I was where I needed to be to compete on a high level again. It made me realize that poker is just a mental muscle. It’s all about repetition and awareness.

I focused more on playing $1,500 to $10,000 buy-ins. From my experience, I don’t need to study 30 hours a week with the solvers to beat those stakes. Now, that’s kind of where I see myself fitting in now. And an added plus, I enjoy the game more now. I have enough time now with my family and to also take care of my business, and so on.

CT: Keeping up with those crushers playing the $100,000+ buy-ins has to be more challenging.

FJ: If I did, I would need to spend 20 to 30 hours a week studying like some top guys. But I decided to enjoy having the flexibility to spend more time with family. That’s been my priority.

CT: You’ve dabbled in a few businesses and even an online poker site.

FJ: I did. I launched a poker site in Brazil, a real money gaming licensed site. I spent three years doing that. We had about 30,000 accounts registered, and we had a carousel license. We were trying to build a competitor to PokerStars.

We were live for almost two years and shut down not too long ago due to some architectural issues on the software side. But yeah, we had a lot of traction. A lot of customers were telling us we were their favorite site.

CT: What do you enjoy the least about your career choice playing poker?

FJ: It’s a very tough and challenging lifestyle. You just can’t get the volume playing live on tour to beat the variance. I didn’t like the variance and how inconsistent income was. But it’s a catch-22. That same thing I just said that I don’t like about the life is what makes it so popular. If the good players consistently won, the recreational players wouldn’t have a shot and wouldn’t play. I like how I’ve changed my approach to playing live and online.

CT: It seems to have worked out for you, and I enjoy watching you stream online on Sundays. I’ve learned a lot. And you just won your first WSOP bracelet last summer. Congratulations.

Many people equate shootout events to being similar to sit-and-gos. Please share your approach to the shootout format.

FJ: I would say there’s a bit of a misconception when saying a shootout plays like a sit-n-go. You must win your table in a shootout in the first and second rounds.

The shootout differs significantly from a sit-n-go because those pay the third, second, and first place. And there are all these ICM considerations as you get down to five and four players approaching the bubble.

In a shootout, there’s none of that. You’re going to have to win every chip on the table. So, the strategy actually plays a lot closer to a cash game.

CT: So, the first two rounds have a different strategy than the final table.

FJ: Yes. What’s fun about round one and round two is playing short-handed. A lot of people do not know how to play short-handed at all.

CT: What are some of their weaknesses?

FJ: Well, things like playing out of the blinds, for example. In a nine-handed table, you’re only playing out of the blinds two times out of the nine hands. But as people are eliminated, you may play two times out of six hands. So, a third of the time, you have to play as a blind.

If you have a weakness from the blinds, this will be much more costly for you, and a good player will run you over.

CT: What is a big weakness from the blinds?

FJ: The most common mistake people make in the blinds is not three-betting more. The deeper the stacks, the more advantage the experienced player has. So, by three-betting when you’re out of position, you’re taking a pro’s edge away.

CT: What are the primary keys to dominate short-handed play?

FJ: It’s just being an excellent all-around poker player. You have to pay attention to all the situations you end up in over and over again. When you do that, you understand your opponent’s leaks and how they’re playing.

Sometimes, I play with a guy all day at a nine-handed table and don’t see some of his weak areas. But in shorthanded play, you figure each other out much more quickly.

CT: What have you learned the most from teaching these past few years?

FJ: So much. The main thing was that people asked me so many questions, and sometimes I didn’t know the answer. So, I had to figure it out. That’s fun for me.

Find Jaka on Twitter/X and Instagram @farazjaka.