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Capture The Flag: Sebastien Sabic

Sabic One Of Online Poker's Biggest Winners

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Sebastien SabicIn the span of just about two years since his screen name “Seb86” appeared on Full Tilt Poker, Sebastien Sabic has become one of online poker’s biggest winners of all time. According to tracking from HighstakesDB, less than 70,000 hands of action have netted him more than $2.5 million in winnings, which is good for the top 25 winners in online poker history.

Over at PokerStars, he is up more than $660,000 lifetime.

The Frenchman started off his career playing no-limit hold’em and other big bet games, but eventually graduated to the nosebleed mixed games, which arguably feature the most action these days in the high-stakes poker world. Sabic also found that his winrate was stronger in the in games other than no-limit.

He doesn’t travel the tournament circuit too much these days, opting instead to grind online. However, he did make it out to Las Vegas this summer for some World Series of Poker action. He cashed once.

Here, Sabic talks with Card Player about his experiences as a high-stakes regular.

Brian Pempus: First, can you tell me about how you found the game of poker?

Sebastien Sabic: Like most people, I would say, I saw it on TV and then decided to deposit some money online. I was terrible at first, though, and needed a few small reloads. When I realized I wasn’t really good at no-limit hold’em, I decided to try other games. That’s how I first decided to dabble in mixed games and deuce-to-seven.

BP: What kind of mistakes did you make early on in your career?

SS: I made many. One of the biggest was probably trying too many things at the same time. You can’t get good at every game at once. It took me a while to settle on a game — deuce-to-seven — and grind my way up. I used to play three days of no-limit hold’em cash, then a tournament, then Omaha eight-or-better or something. You never really learn doing that, and you sure can’t grow a bankroll. I probably focused too much on live poker at some point in my career. I used to travel quite a bit to play mixed cash and tournaments. I now see it as a big waste of time, energy and money. Your hourly rate is always better online and you spend a lot less money this way. Plus, you stay away from meeting the wrong people.

BP: So, do you try to stay away from staking people, loaning money, and so on? Is that one of the biggest dangers to a bankroll, especially one that is developing?

SS: I wouldn’t say it’s the biggest danger to a bankroll, as you would need to be a bit stupid to loan and stake people for a big percentage of your bankroll, but it’s a danger when you start traveling for poker and meeting a lot of people. You usually assume that because they are famous in the poker world they are better and richer than they actually are, and you are quite easy to impress at first.

BP: What’s the high-stakes online community like just in terms of the character of the people?

SS: I would say it’s very important to have a small, very close group of friends you can talk poker with and maybe sell action to and/or transfer money. You improve a lot this way, but you have to know who your true friends are. Many poker players get confused about this. As far as character, I think a lot of high-stakes pro are a lot alike. In order to be good at poker you need to have the will to spend a lot of time in front of the computer, both playing and working on your game. You also must have that gamble in you to make it big. Most people do not have all of those character traits, so most of the time when I meet another regular in the high-stakes games I can see a lot of similarities with me. I can relate to almost all the high-stakes pros that I have read, for example.

BP: Continuing with that thought: If you could sum up what you think makes you such a great player, what would you say? What is it about your skill set?

SS: There is a fine line between being confident enough to play big, take shots, play against very famous and feared players, and so on, and being humble enough so that you don’t play too big for your bankroll and against players who are simply superior. It’s hard to find that balance, where you would make the most out of opportunities you might get but also not blow up and lose a large chunk of your bankroll. I think in the end that’s what makes the difference between a high-stakes regular you see year after year and the others who pass by and disappear, never to be seen again. The ability to question your own game is also very important. There is stuff that I have been doing, like taking a certain line in certain spot, which I have been implementing since I started playing and never really questioned why I was thinking that way. Sometimes it came from reading something on a forum or reading it in a book, so I applied it to my game as if it was some godly truth. Obviously, not all of it was and you have to be able to figure out what to absorb and what to discard.

BP: Do you think any games or forms of poker (heads-up limit hold’em, perhaps) are pretty much solved or are theoretically possible to solve?

SS: Well, I am sure heads-up razz is solvable. I would be surprised if no-limit hold’em six-max with 300 big blinds per player is solvable. All the other games are probably somewhere in the middle. Generally speaking, the more often you will encounter the same spot, the easier it is to solve, obviously. It might be an issue for poker in the long run, but not that much for the high-stakes games. But for lower stakes, bots could easily beat these games and thus take money out of the poker economy. I don’t think we have seen any game solved so far, though. Top regulars at all games have different styles and they all seem to do well. Limit hold’em might be the game the closest to being solved, but I only play it in mixed games against people who definitely didn’t solve it.

BP: Which game do you think is the most misplayed at the high stakes and why?

SS: It’s hard to say. In the eight-game mix I would say it’s the game with the least amount of information available — deuce-to-seven and then the three seven-card games.

BP: What do you see people doing wrong in those games? Could you give just a tip or two for each for a beginner audience?

SS: People don’t feel as comfortable with these (mixed)games. They tend to play very tight preflop, and then very weak and passive later in the hands, which is usually quite bad in limit games, especially short-handed formats. You can’t just fold everything and wait for a big set up because even if you get one you will win three big bets, which will not make up for the 20 bad folds you made previously. I see this type of thing a lot in live tournaments as well. People are folding hands like J-J-5-2 in the big blind in Omaha eight-or-better versus one player who raised, only because they want to “stay away from tough spots.” While this logic makes sense in big bet games, in limit you are just giving away too much by folding. Funnily enough, in the bigger games, the players tend to have the opposite leak and be too loose or overly aggressive. They are typically just used to taking advantage of the weaker players at the lower stakes games.

BP: Did you have that overly aggressive leak at first in the high-stakes games? How did you go about trying to plug it?

SS: Every time I moved up, I thought the regulars at my new limit would push me around and try to bluff me off every pot. So, I became the biggest calling station. But actually nobody really cared or noticed, and I just paid off way too many value bets at first. When I took my first shot at the nosebleed stakes, like $400-$800 mix at the time and then later $1,500-$3,000 deuce-to-seven, I thought everybody would see me as scared money and try to bluff me. Just like before, nobody cared, and I was paying people off a ton. So, after a while you just adjust and learn. ♠