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World Series Of Poker Circuit 12-Time Champion Josh Reichard: Farmers 'Having A Better Time' At Poker Table Than High Rollers

Mid-Stakes Tournament Crusher Discusses Success On The Felt, Future Plans And State Of Poker In The Midwest

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Over the last five years, few grinders in mid-stakes tournaments have had more success than Josh Reichard. He has racked up nearly $1.7 million in live tournament earnings, all without a score larger than the $221,293 he earned for his Heartland Poker Tour East Chicago title.

Reichard earned a reputation as a finisher on the World Series of Poker Circuit where he has amassed 12 rings. The Wisconsin-native is currently tied with Valentin Vornicu for second on the all-time ring list and trails only Maurice Hawkins with 13 for the all-time lead.

Last summer, Reichard made his first WSOP final table in the $1,500 Millionaire Maker. He finished ninth out of a field of 8,809 for $122,375, finishing eight spots shy of his first bracelet and a seven-figure score. In September, Reichard won the HPT East Chicago main event for the second year in a row.

Reichard sat down with Card Player to discuss his success in the mid-stakes tournament scene, his future plans in poker, and the state of the poker circuit.

Steve Schult: Over the last several years, you’ve become one of the most successful mid-stakes players in the country. Do you have aspirations of playing bigger or are these the stakes you want to make your living at for the foreseeable future?

Josh Reichard: I feel like it’s kind of a situation that fits the saying of, “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” Things are going well for me where I’m at and I enjoy it.

I could be wrong about this since I don’t have a lot of volume at bigger stakes. I have taken some shots here and there. But when you go play an $1,100 MSPT in the middle of Iowa with a bunch of farmers, generally they are having a better time than when you go sit in a $25,000 high roller with all professional poker players.

It’s a more enjoyable experience, and that means a lot to me. I don’t just want this to be a job for me. I want to have fun with it as well. The moment you start not enjoying it, it just becomes a job and I think that is more likely to happen for me at the higher stakes. I will play some higher stakes stuff here and there, some of the good value stuff. Even if I do well in it, I won’t turn my full schedule into that.

SS: For you, what percentage of poker is pure enjoyment versus making a living?

JR: It’s a combination of both, but I’d say 75 percent of it is being enjoyable and 25 percent of it is that it is being easier to beat. Playing lower stakes is definitely more of an enjoyment factor for me.

I’m not sure how I would do if I tried to play consistently at higher stakes. I’ve done okay when I’ve taken shots in some stuff, but not the type of success that I’ve had in the mid-stakes stuff. There’s not much volume there anyway. But when what you’re doing is working, I don’t see a reason to make a change.

SS: You have four six-figure scores. It started with the 2017 Global Casino Championship third-place finish. Did that $130,000 you won give your bankroll the boost it needed to take your game to the next level?

JR: I was always playing 100 percent of my own action for the first part of my poker career. You’re just not rolled to put in the volume and play a main event every weekend. At least I wasn’t with what I had. So it was hard. I wasn’t playing a lot of tournaments that paid a ton. They were few and far between. Maybe your occasional Circuit main event and stuff like that. I was playing a lot of $400 buy-ins and more of that stuff.

Before the summer of 2016, I got a full backer. More so than cashing for $130,000 and opening things up, I think that being fully backed and having the freedom to play bigger gave me more opportunities to have those bigger scores.

SS: Most of your cashes have come in the Midwest. Why don’t you venture out into other regions of the country? What is it about the Midwest that keeps you there so much of the time?

JR: It’s family. I don’t want to be gone too often. Some of the best players in the world at my stakes are out there playing every day. They are real grinders. Ari [Engel] and Nick Pupillo come to mind. These guys just go. They just go from tournament to tournament to tournament.

If I wasn’t married and didn’t have obligations at home, I might do something like that, but the reason I stay close to home and don’t travel as much is because I like to be close to my family. When I’m home, I try not to play. I only play when I’m traveling. I don’t go to the casino and play cash when I’m home. I just like to spend as much time at home as I can. That’s the quality of life that I want to have.

SS: How much volume do you realistically put in over the course of a year if you aren’t traveling and aren’t playing at home?

JR: I’m probably traveling about one-third of the time, and when I’m traveling, I’m playing every day. I don’t know what that amounts to. I’d have to go through some numbers when I’m home. I have alternative sources of income, which I think helps a lot with regards to not having to travel and not having to play all the time.

Poker is my primary source of income, but I have backup income in case of a downswing or if I just don’t want to play. I don’t need to be making money at that moment. I have some rental properties and my wife has an income as well. That helps me not have to play all the time.

SS: I remember we spoke when you won your seventh Circuit ring several years ago and you said it was your dad who taught you how to play. How has your relationship changed as you’ve become one of the most feared players in the Midwest? Are you teaching him things now?

JR: I think he’s come to terms with the fact that there are things that he can learn from me. In the beginning, I learned everything from him. I don’t know exactly what it was, but he’s got a business that keeps him very busy and I don’t have that. So I was able to commit more time to studying, more time to playing.

The more you study, the more you are going to figure out. I started learning other things beyond the extent of what he taught me. I don’t think it’s changed our relationship at all. I think our relationship is still the same, but when he first started teaching me, I knew nothing. Now, it’s more of a back and forth where we bounce ideas off of each other instead of one person learning from the other.

SS: During that same time, you had said that you looked up to players like Ari Engel and Alex Masek, a couple of guys who had a bunch of Circuit rings. Now that you’ve passed everyone except Maurice Hawkins, do you still find poker players to look up to?

JR: I still definitely look up to quite a few players. It doesn’t necessarily correlate the number of rings that people have. It has to do with a lot of other things. I think that Ari is one of the most respected mid-stakes players out there. I definitely still look up to him. I don’t think that just because I have more rings than he does now that I’m above him or I’m on a higher level. I think it’s just the opposite.

He’s won Aussie Millions, he won a WSOP bracelet. He’s won major stuff. A ring count doesn’t mean a lot in terms of who to look up to in poker in my opinion.

SS: You made your first WSOP final table this past summer in the Millionaire Maker. Coming from the mid-stakes with smaller payouts to being eight spots away from a seven-figure score, what was that whole experience like for you?

JR: It didn’t really hit me at the time. I was just out there playing poker. The money up top wasn’t changing my emotions or my play. It was just another poker tournament to me. I think that is one of my strengths in poker. The ability to handle the highs and lows without swinging mentality very hard. That was a similar situation.

I was just going to play my game regardless of the amount of money that I was playing for. It was getting pretty real when my wife flew out, my dad flew out, and my buddy flew out to see it. And then I busted, but obviously it was a large amount of money and a huge tournament. I hadn’t really been in that position before, but it wasn’t really hitting me at the time.

SS: What about in hindsight? How are you going to remember it?

JR: I will remember it as a cool experience. A good run. I don’t have any regrets and I look forward to doing it again.

SS: You just won the HPT East Chicago main event for $186,612. You won the same event last year. It’s got a lot to do with variance, but is there something about that field specifically that gives you an added edge?

JR: I don’t really know if geographical run good is a thing, but Chicago area and Milwaukee area are the same basic players and I play against them a lot. I do really well against these fields. I think a lot of my game benefits from playing against players whose tendencies I understand, because I’m not playing a GTO style that will work the same against every player type. I’m playing an exploitative style.

I think playing against a group of players in the field that I’ve played with before will benefit me more than it will benefit other players in the field.

SS: Do you have any specific long-term poker goals that you want to achieve?

JR: I just want to keep running as well as I have to this point. A Circuit main is definitely something that is pretty desirable for me to win. I’ve pretty much won a ring in every format of event they have except for a main event.