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Online Poker: Interview With Adam 'Roothlus' Levy

'Roothlus' Talks About How Magic: The Gathering Helped Him in Poker and How to Play Against Loose-Aggressive Players

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Adam 'Roothlus' LevyWhen it comes to the magic touch, Adam "Roothlus" Levy undeniably has it when it comes to poker, but his original prowess was in a game called Magic. Many poker pros started their forays into card games with Magic: The Gathering (including David Williams and Eric Froehlich), a collectible fantasy card game that required a lot of strategy, a certain amount of odds calculation, and a lot of reads on your opponents - sound familiar?

Levy, a resident of Coral Springs, Florida, got his start playing on PartyPoker during the original surge of players into online poker. Pretty much everyone was in the learning stages at that time, but he had an edge because of his experience with Magic and because of his circle of card-playing friends. He has cashed for almost $190,000 in OPOY-qualified finishes alone so far in 2007, including wins in the $100 rebuy and Nightly Hundred Grand on PokerStars. While he may no longer be tapping cards for "mana" in Magic, he's graduated to tapping his razor-sharp wit for strategies in the highly lucrative realm of poker.

Levy recently got on the phone with Card Player for an interview to talk about his beginnings, what types of tournaments he likes to play, and other poker strategies:


Shawn Patrick Green:
You, like quite a few other poker pros, played a card game called Magic: The Gathering before getting started in poker. Do you really think that this game is good preparation for the poker world?

Adam 'Roothlus' Levy: I think that it makes you think about poker with a completely different mentality. It's definitely equally as complex as poker, if not more so. They're both thinking games. There's something called the metagame, for instance. In Magic, someone would have a certain deck that was good and that deck was beating everything, so all of the decks that were losing to that deck would have to adjust. In a way, that's exactly how poker is; there's a certain style that's winning right now and all of a sudden you're like, "I need to start beating that style." So, that helps me out a ton. I don't even need to necessarily outplay people in poker, I just need to play a better style than they're playing, or think about what counteracts their style.

SPG: You pretty much decided to become a poker professional when you won the PartyPoker Super Tuesday in 2005, earning $31,000, right?

AL: I had actually decided to go pro earlier, probably prematurely. Initially I got the idea when I had been playing poker for just six months and I managed to win $6,000 on PartyPoker playing in a $100 buy-in tournament. I thought, "If I've only been playing for six months and I can do this, there must be something here that I'm doing right." Then, once I'd won the Super Tuesday, I pretty much didn't have to worry about money and could just focus on being a poker player.

SPG: Looking back on it now, was your decision a bit premature, or do you feel like you truly were good enough to make it at that point?

AL: If I was the player that I was then trying to make it today, I would get crushed. But because everyone was learning at the same time then, people weren't as good, so there was a lot of money to be made. I still think that there's a lot of money to be made today, because there will always be new players coming in, but it's a little harder online because of the legislation for online poker.

But I do think that it might have been slightly premature for me, even then, because I had no concept of money, really. I'd never had it, and it sort of started going a bit over my head, but at some point I realized that and turned things around.

SPG: Was there anything that you did early on to drastically improve your game?

AL: I was surrounded by Magic players and one of those guys was one of the best in the world and pretty much good at whatever he did. He started playing poker and the other people around me started playing it, too. We were watching Rounders and were addicted to watching Chris Moneymaker. Being in that environment, dealing with Magic players who go to Magic events and literally play for the entire weekend and basically saturate themselves with Magic, that's exactly what happened with us and poker.

Also, I'm very open-minded when it comes to poker and I'm always looking for a different way to play a certain hand. If there's something that I didn't think about, or a style that I've never played, I'll put it into my playbook if it has merit. If it doesn't, then I'll throw it out, but I will try it.

SPG: What's one thing that you're still working on improving in your poker?

AL: I've never really been a great, great big-stack player, and it seems like my endgame is slightly lacking. I used to be good at it, and I don't really know what happened, but I just need to adjust. Well, there was one thing that I adjusted over the past weekend that has already caused my results to jump tenfold. I was playing way too aggressively, and after a two-month break, I noticed, with the whole metagame thing, that there had been a change. I decided to go back to my basics, which was just to be a tight, solid player and pick my spots, and it's been working well for me in the current poker environment.

SPG: What strategy do you use to combat loose-aggressive players?

AL: It's actually something that I didn't really know how to approach. There was one hand that I played against zangbezan24 [Sorel Mizzi] when he raised on the bubble of the $200 rebuy event on PokerStars. I had just doubled up and had a decent stack, but he had a big stack. I had nines on the button, and I know that zangbezan24 is raising a lot of hands there, but if I reraised him with nines, he's just going to shove all in on me. That would put me in a bad position, so I don't want to do that, but I can't fold nines on the button, either, because I know that I'm probably good. And I don't really want to just call, either.

Eventually I decided to just call. The only reason why I just called was because I was in position and I wanted to see a flop and decide where to go from there. I ended up getting a set to beat him. He had jacks that hand, so if I had reraised him, I was definitely getting shoved on and I might have had to make a bad call. The good players generally put you in tight spots, so you oftentimes have to just play your cards. Stop playing back at them, because they're just going to call you on it. That's what they're waiting for, for someone to try to reraise them with air. I've been getting away from reshoves, lately, because it doesn't accomplish much. You just gain a few chips and occasionally you get called and crushed.

SPG: Are you any good at any non-hold'em games?

AL: I think I'm all right at PLO [pot-limit Omaha], but other people are starting to get better at that, too, so I think I'm actually probably a bit behind. I've won a couple of $20 buy-in PLO tournaments that I entered for s---- and giggles. It's definitely a fun game.

I was playing some satellites for some non-hold'em games because I wanted to both qualify and prep myself for them. I just wanted to throw myself into them. I did that for razz in the WCOOP [World Championship of Online Poker on PokerStars] last year and I actually got 39th out of 1,300 or so, which is pretty good. I qualified for the pot-limit five-card draw game, which I'd never played in my life, and I was trying to figure it out during the rebuy stage of the qualifier. I ended up qualifying based on instinct alone. Playing aggressively can get you far in any game, but I wouldn't say that I'm anywhere close to as good as I am in hold'em in any non-hold'em games.

SPG: What's your favorite kind of tournament? Whether it be a shootout, heads up, rebuy, turbo, freezeout, shorthanded, or what have you?

AL: I'd say the best tournament, and the most enjoyable tournament, for me is a $30 rebuy. The PartyPoker $30 rebuy was by far my favorite tournament. It was so special because you could go all in and rebuy while you were all in no matter how many chips you had, it was really cool. Essentially you were buying your stack, but it was still a lot of fun, because there was still no guarantee that you'd make it far after the rebuy period was over. But in $30 rebuys, for whatever reason, the players who play in those are so tight that they don't know how to play the rebuy period effectively. And then there are the good players who are trying to capitalize on those tight players, so you're playing against both good players and bad players at the same time and it creates a lot of fun, crazy hands.

SPG: Do you consider cash games or tournaments to be more profitable?

AL: Personally, tournaments. I've had some runs in cash games, but the runs always seem to end in one-day downswings. I try to stay away from them just for that reason. I'll play in them occasionally, and I'll do all right in them, but it's not something that I'll go out of my way to play because I don't want to jeopardize my money. In tournaments, you can only lose one buy-in.

SPG: What do you think of PokerStars' recent decision to disallow poker tracking sites from displaying statistics like profit and ROI [Return on Investment]?

AL: I was a little disappointed because I liked to see how some players were doing. I guess it can be an edge for someone sitting at a table when they can track every single other player at their table, but I don't really do that. I just like statistics and to see how well everyone's doing, and to see if someone is doing as well as I think they are.

I guess you can get some sort of edge from it, but a lot of times it can be misleading. If there's somebody who's played in 200 tournaments and has had a bad run, but he's actually a sick player, you're going to treat him like he's crap when he's really not. I can see the point of it because it's sort of a privacy thing, because they are your statistics, but I have no problem with it. Even if I was doing bad in poker I'd have no problem with it.

SPG: Great, well I appreciate you taking the time for this interview, Adam.
 
 
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