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Capture The Flag -- Daniel Buzgon

Buzgon Plays Live Cash Games To Offset The Cost Of The Tournament Circuit


Dan BuzgonPoker pro Daniel Buzgon is a familiar face among some of the biggest poker circuits in the world and has nearly $1 million in career earnings. The 28-year old discovered poker while studying agro-business at Arizona State University and began playing with friends in his dorm room and then online. Buzgon completed his degree but was already playing poker nearly full time and took that as a career path instead. Today Buzgon can be found at the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey, at the World Series of Poker each summer and at occasional stops along the poker circuit.

Card Player caught up with Buzgon in Atlantic City during the 2013 Borgata Spring Poker Open to talk about the transition from tournaments to cash games, common mistakes at the table, lessons learned throughout his decade–long career and more.

Diana Cox: What games and stakes do you typically play?

Daniel Buzgon: For the most part I play $5-$10 no-limit. I should play mixed games live, but I can’t bring myself to do it.

DC: When you say you ‘should,’ what do you mean?

DB: From what I’ve heard from friends that play those games, like the $40-$80 mixed-game at the Borgata, it is fairly soft. But I probably don’t know those games as well as I should. I just haven’t gotten around to it. When I moved to Atlantic City a few months ago I said I was going to play in those game, but I haven’t done it yet.

DC: You play a lot of tournaments and then you can be found in the cash games. Is going back and forth between the two a complicated transition?

DB: I think that is one of the most difficult things to do. To be honest, I try not to mix the two. It usually takes me about five to ten minutes to cool down after busting out of a tournament, unless it was a really big tournament and I was really deep. But usually after five or ten minutes I’m not even thinking about the tournament any more. But some people can’t do that. And you can’t go into the cash games tilted. You have to have your emotions in check. That is a big thing in cash games, knowing when you are losing or when you need to quit. During the World Series of Poker I usually don’t play cash right after I bust.

DC: Is it purely an emotional thing or is it hard to transition your thinking as well?

DB: I guess it’s a little of both. The emotions are the big thing. The other day I played cash and I knew I shouldn’t have been playing. I let my emotions get the better of me. And then, when you do that, one bad decision can lead to another bad decision and then that leads to another one. In cash games you need a clear head. It’s a lot more than your initial buy-in in a tournament that you can lose. You can just keep losing and losing. And you have to be careful of that.

DC: What advice would you give players who are thinking about playing more cash games?

DB: I would recommend that much more than I would tournaments. If you are going to travel the circuit you should learn how to play cash games. It’s a great way to offset the costs. And playing in tournaments, there is so much variance, you never know when you are going to have a good month. The downswings are going to be much bigger and cash games can help you offset your downswings. I would say go online. There are so many sites out there with great players that offer coaching. There are so many videos you can watch and you can get really good, really quickly. I’ve watched a lot of videos myself and it makes the transition easier.

DC: What is the biggest mistake you see at the cash game tables?

DB: There is a combination of things. Players being on tilt and not getting up and taking a break or calling it a night is a big one. They think they are fine and they really aren’t. They think they are playing how they normally play but they aren’t and they are just chasing their losses, trying to get them back. Game selection is another thing. Just because they have the money they feel they have to play in the biggest game going. Even if it’s a tougher game and they could probably have a better hourly rate in a smaller game. But they still chose the highest game.

DC: In your opinion, why do so many players do that?

DB: I think a lot of it has to do with ego and pride. You have already done those smaller games, you’ve moved up from $1-$2. But just because you are on that higher level doesn’t mean you need to be playing it all the time. People have an image of themselves that they should be playing in a certain game. They probably should be, but there are a lot of times where the lower stakes are better for them at a given moment. And everyone is guilty of that. It just takes a lot of years of experience to figure out what you should be doing and where you should be playing.

DC: Speaking of people playing bigger and bigger games, how quickly should a player expect to master a certain level and move up?

DB: There are so many rules, how many buy-ins you need to play in certain game and whatnot, but it all depends on your comfort level. With your bankroll you could have all the money in the world and still play $2-$5. You could have the money to play $5-$10 or $10-$25 but if you get there and are not ready for it you shouldn’t play it. Ask yourself, are you still playing the same way? Are you still winning? If you are playing a lot different then maybe you aren’t ready for that level. The higher you move up in stakes the more difficult the games get. It’s all about comfort level.

DC: What is the most important lesson you have learned about cash games?

DB: I guess it would be something like I said earlier. When you are playing tournaments and you take a bad beat or you are on tilt you don’t have the luxury to get up and walk away. Your stack will blind out. But in cash, if you don’t feel right, if you are on tilt, you can leave and come back when you are feeling 100 percent again. You can sit out, take a walk or do whatever it takes to make you forget about what just happened.

DC: How long did it take you to learn that?

DB: A long time. In cash, you can get up and you don’t have to play every hand. It probably took me longer that it should have to realize that.

DC: How much has your game changed over the years?

DB: It has definitely changed to where I am more comfortable in a lot of spots I wasn’t comfortable in when I first started. That comes from tournament play. When you first get in to cash games you realize how tricky certain hands can be. You know how to play these hands in a tournament, but not when you are first thrown in to cash games. It’s very tricky and you aren’t sure what you should be doing. You are going to lose a lot at first if you try to play the same as in tournaments. There is a lot you should be doing different and knowing when to do it becomes a lot easier the more hands you play. ♠