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Andrew Lichtenberger: Climbing to The Summit Of Poker Success

‘LuckyChewy’ Talks Seven-Figure Scores, Teaching Poker, And Cold Plunges

by Sean Chaffin |  Published: Apr 03, 2024

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Andrew Lichtenberger met up with fellow poker pros Stephen Chidwick and Orson Young last year before the Paris stop on the European Poker Tour. The three possess some of the most advanced poker minds in the game, but discussing hands wasn’t on the menu.

The three were instead tackling Fontainebleau, located about 35 miles to the south and one of the world’s premier rock-climbing destinations.

Rather than riffling chips, the group searched for perfect hand holds, gripped outcroppings, and found unique pathways to reach the summit of La Marie-Rose, one of the site’s more challenging climbs. Reaching the pinnacle brought on a similar feeling of elation as winning a poker tournament – overcoming adversity to reach a goal.

“Talk about high morale,” Lichtenberger says. “It was just incredible. It was probably the best climbing experience I’ve ever had and maybe ever will have. The sun is shining and you’re with your pals and you’re succeeding at this thing. It’s not a trivial climb. Compared to an expert, it’s quite simple. But for where I’m at, it’s tough. It was just awesome.”

While it may be every man for himself at the poker table, scaling a massive boulder brings more group dynamics, and Lichtenberger likes the idea of cheering on each other to achieve a goal. In rock climbing slang, the goal is to “send” – shorthand for ascend.

“If I send, you get psyched,” he says. “If you send, I get psyched. Any win is a collective win. Whereas in poker, if I win you might be on the losing end. So, it’s a cool difference, and then just from a physical standpoint, it’s fascinating. There’s a lot of problem solving. How do you dispose your weight in your feet so that you can sort of get your hand up? There are so many little technical nuances that are really fun to try and explore and it’s a great workout.”

And while Lichtenberger may enjoy the communal feelings that come with climbing, over the last year he’s been scaling the poker tournament leaderboards and registering some boulder-sized payouts.

A Massive Run On The Felt

To say Lichtenberger had a phenomenal 18 months would be a major understatement. The 36-year-old rode a wave of winnings in late 2022 that included a third-place finish in the $300,000 Super High Roller Bowl for $1.2 million and a win in a $25,000 Poker Masters event for $465,750.

In 2023, he scored another Poker Masters win for $204,000 and then returned to the Super High Roller Bowl to improve to a runner-up finish for $1.7 million. Then at the WPT World Championship in December, Lichtenberger picked up a career-best score.

The WPT World Championship was a particularly nice rush on a massive stage. This year’s event attracted 3,835 entries with a $40 million prize pool. The third-place finish brought the 36-year-old a massive $2.8 million.

“It’s intense, even a bit overwhelming at times,” he says. “It’s just a dream come true. You never know when it’s going to be your turn. And when it is, there’s just incredible amounts of gratitude because it’s rare. It was just an amazing experience.”

Combined with some recent entrepreneurial efforts, including the launch of his training platform, the poker pro couldn’t have asked for better 2023.

“It’s been an incredible year in more ways than one,” he said. “The public announcement of Octopi Poker and this project I’ve been working hard on, alongside all the success, has felt like a bit of a fairy tale.”

“It’s funny, in poker you can work super hard and do all the right things and sometimes it’s just not your time. In this case, it certainly was my time, so I’m always really grateful to have a lot of success like this because certain things are outside of your control at the poker table. It was just a wild ride. Things just kept going right for me in really big spots, and that’s kind of really what you need.”

Despite some big runs with runner-up and third-place finishes, Lichtenberger doesn’t dwell on the close calls and understands the variance that comes with reaching the winner’s circle. In a game where players may be constantly replaying hands in their heads, “LuckyChewy” steers clear of the “would have/should have” mentality.

“When you have a good result, and it’s such a profoundly good result, you always want to do better, but that’s in some ways like an ego desire,” he said. “You always want more. It’s good and it’s part of competition. It’s healthy to want to do better, but sort of the eating away (at you) side of it can be quite insidious and I find that’s not really the type of person I want to be. I prefer when I feel grateful about my successes, and not dwell on the fact that it could have been better if X, Y, or Z happened. Because it can always be better. That’s just sort of a foregone conclusion unless you win.”

This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t reflect on his game. Lichtenberger looks at his strategic decisions and reviews things he might have done differently just like any other successful pro, but unlike the natural instincts of many, has no desire to beat himself up for how things might have gone. Those feelings can become unhealthy, he says, and aren’t good in the long run.

“I think for me, as long as I’ve really done my best and I feel like I’ve played well, I’m just usually pretty content,” Lichtenberger said. “Of course, being on a big rush certainly helps.”

The success comes at a time when Lichtenberger has taken a more sustainable approach to the game. That has included a commitment to decompressing and trying to relax before playing a tournament. That doesn’t mean just getting plenty of sleep. Lichtenberger enjoys yoga and even wrote a book titled Yoga of Poker: A High Stakes Journey to Freedom. His tournament preparation also includes breathing exercises and meditation.

Another recent addition to his routine comes with some cooler vibes – as in ice cold. The poker pro has embraced cold plunging. These quick therapeutic soaks in ice water not only ease sore muscles, but also help with focus and sleep, according to advocates. Lichtenberger finds a cold bath or shower can fit the bill while on the road, and at home in Las Vegas he has a water chiller perfect for a daily plunge.

“I know it’s kind of all the rage, but I find them to be particularly useful, just being able to sort of develop that resilience of mind and focus and to push past uncomfortability,” he explained. “There’s just something awesome about willingly getting very cold. It’s worth experiencing and seeing how you feel afterward. There’s a certain high associated with it in all honesty, there’s a dopamine release for sure and I would recommend it.”

Looking At The Poker Landscape

While he may enjoy cold sensations, Lichtenberger has been on fire at the poker table. That includes on the high roller scene, with several big finishes in the PokerGO Studio and at other venues over the last few years. As a poker coach, professional player, and now entrepreneur in the industry, Lichtenberger is bullish on not only the sustainability of larger-stakes events, but of poker as a whole.

“Even before COVID, field sizes were rising,” he said. “Then we had the biggest ever (WSOP) main event last year. It just seems like live poker is undefeated in its ability to draw new faces because, if I’m being honest, I think poker is sort of the most interesting game. I’ve always loved games throughout my life, and I’ve dabbled in a number of them. I’ve just never found a more interesting one than poker.

“I think the reason for that really is that there’s just so many different styles that can succeed,” Lichtenberger explained. “You have this very distinct and unique disposition between the logical aspects of the game, being able to break everything down to sort of ones and zeros, quantifying edges, strategic choices, and expected values, and you have the complete other side of the coin, which is the intuitive aspect – the emotional components going into decision making, the psychological elements. Those are things that we can’t really model for yet. Maybe we have plans to do that at some point. There’s just no game like it. It has those two distinct pillars of different areas of exploration, and they’re just so seamlessly woven together.”

Looking at the high roller scene, there still remain plenty of shortcomings in even the most elite players, Lichtenberger says. It’s a misconception that players in these events have mastered it all, he says, and many still have some leaks to plug.

“Poker is such a deep game,” he said. “It really is just about constantly learning, and that is one of the things I love about it. There aren’t enough days in my life to play poker and stop learning. The game is far too deep. Everyone is always making mistakes and learning from them. Obviously, when we’re talking about sort of the elite level of competition, there’s a significant ability to overcome these mistakes and make a lot of amazing plays. But it’s an incredibly challenging endeavor and there is constantly room for improvement.”

New Ventures And New Responsibilities

Beyond the winnings at the table, which now sit at $20 million and counting, Lichtenberger is now one of the brains behind Octopi Poker. He’s worked as a poker coach and instructor for years, including with LearnWPT, but he’s now branched out with Octopi Poker.

The platform is a “poker tech company” focused on education and building communities of players looking to improve their skills. The community and social aspect is a major focus, something he hopes takes the platform in a different direction than most training sites.

“I really think one of the best things about poker is the community,” he said. “It’s why poker is in large part fun – it’s the people you’re interacting with. So, we’ve created social components into the learning software, whether it’s hand history reviews from hands you’ve played or hands friends have played or stream hands we have in our database.”

“For me, I think it speaks to the significance of just respecting the fact that poker is a logical and intuitive endeavor, and it’s not one or the other. It’s really both and there will be people that have varying levels of interest in either one or the other. And it has to be able to cater to one or both of those things.”

The Octopi team goes through a rigorous process, he says, in developing training resources and materials. That includes simulations optimized for different raises and bet sizes as well as a simplification of the game tree with heuristics that are most useful for building blocks for strategic understanding.

The team also boasts quite a roster of coaches, influencers, and content creators including High Stakes Poker commentator Nick Schulman, who is a co-founder, PokerGO commentator Brent Hanks, and fellow high-stakes pros Stephen Chidwick, Nick Petrangelo, Chris Brewer, and Maria Ho. Poker player and entrepreneur Victoria Livschitz, whom Lichtenberger met two years ago, also serves to drive the tech side of the operation.

Octopi allows coaches and creators to feature their own content and hopes to be the Amazon for poker in a way. The company faces a competitive market in the training site space, but Lichtenberger believes there is room for many differing options. He’s hoping the platform helps promote even more creativity with content geared toward all levels of skill, bridging the gaps in understanding.

As CEO and co-founder of the enterprise, Lichtenberger has had to step out of his comfort zone to deal with other parts of a business and industry he’s not used to.

“I’m just generally very excited for the first time in my life to be on this side of poker education and content creation because I’ve been a poker coach for probably 15 years, but I’ve never been quite in this role where I’m developing a real integrated learning platform for what I think is really most useful as a beginner and intermediate player or the advanced player,” he said.

“It’s super fascinating for me to learn about this whole new world. It is not something I understood before going into it. That’s part of the reason that I owe Victoria [Livschitz] such a debt of gratitude because she’s been able to take me under her wing with all of the entrepreneurial things one has to be made aware of to become successful. There are so many blind spots. I’ve made this mistake in the past where like, ‘Okay, I’m successful at poker. Well poker is problem solving, I can problem solve other stuff.’ But there’s so much going on that you just don’t have an eye for if it’s your first time, so I really do enjoy it. I’ve been mentoring Victoria in poker and she’s been mentoring me in business.”

Away From The Table And Looking Ahead

Originally from New York City, Lichtenberger grew up on Long Island for most of his childhood. He attended Stony Brook University for three semesters before deciding to earn a poker Ph.D instead. Las Vegas is his home now and he enjoys the energy of the city and the feeling that there is always something going on. (There are plenty of opportunities for rock climbing nearby as well.)

Lichtenberger describes himself as a man with many interests. He enjoys spending time with his wife and the couple has two pet doves. Violin lessons were also a part of his routine for a few years and he also recently bought a guitar.

“I just try to stay well rounded and expose myself to different things,” he says. “In some sense, with hobbies I go where the wind blows.”

With so much going on, Lichtenberger has no plans of slowing down.

“Take someone like Erik Seidel for example, to me it’s quite inspiring how much longevity he’s had in this game,” he said of the 64-year-old Hall of Famer. “He’s still playing at the highest levels and just won the $50,000 high roller (at the WSOP Paradise) in the Bahamas. I really admire that. Being able to stay successful and competitive for many years on end is something that I value, so I will certainly seek to do that. I don’t foresee that I’m going to leave the industry. It’s very much my home. I love it.”

“Doyle’s infamous quote of, ‘You don’t stop playing because you get old, you get old because you stop playing,’ there’s probably a bit of truth to that. Poker at the end of the day is a game. It’s meant to be fun. And the more that you can do that, and take that to heart, [the better]. That never really gets old. It’s part of what drew many of us to poker in the first place, and what will keep us fascinated with the game.” ♠

Top Tournament Scores

Date Event Place Payout
Dec. 2023 $10,000 WPT World Championship 3rd $2,798,700
Dec. 2014 $100,000 WPT Alpha8 Bellagio High Roller 1st $1,770,692
Sept. 2023 $300,000 PokerGO Super High Roller Bowl 2nd $1,680,000
Oct. 2022 $300,000 PokerGO Super High Roller Bowl 3rd $1,152,000
May 2019 $50,000 WSOP High Roller NLHE 2nd $917,232
Dec. 2018 $10,000 WPT Five Diamond Poker Classic 3rd $802,973
April 2022 $50,000 Hard Rock Poker Showdown NLHE 1st $638,223
June 2016 $3,000 WSOP NLHE 1st $569,158
Dec. 2011 $20,000 Epic Poker League Mix Max NLHE 2nd $514,480
July 2009 $10,000 WSOP Main Event 18th $500,557
Sept. 2022 $25,000 PokerGO Poker Masters 1st $465,750
July 2015 $25,000 Aria High Roller NLHE 1st $432,980
Dec. 2021 $25,000 Five Diamond Poker Classic High Roller 1st $432,000
Nov. 2014 $50,000 Aria High Roller NLHE 1st $398,160
June 2015 $111,111 WSOP High Roller For One Drop 9th $390,875

*Photos by PokerGO and WPT.