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Online Poker: Interview With Jon 'Sketchy1' Eaton

Eaton Talks About Rebuy Tournament Strategy and Some Big Online Tells


Jon 'sketchy1' EatonVery few people can say that they earned enough money from their home games to quit their conventional jobs. Jon "sketchy1" Eaton is one of those people; he would consistently beat the home games he played in while attending Missouri State University in 2002. Whether he was really that good or his opponents were just incredibly bad is probably open for debate, but even he admits that, as a college student at the time, he didn't really need money to pay for more than pizza and beer. Regardless, over the next few years, he has parlayed his early success at the home games into a highly lucrative career as a professional poker player.

Once Eaton turned 21 in the summer of 2004, he started grinding low-stakes limit hold'em in both in the casinos in Kansas City and online. Between 2004 and 2006 he supplemented his poker income by working as a poker writer/reporter for some online publications, one of which was the now defunct PokerTrails, a site he ran with poker pro Brett Jungblut. Then, in early 2007, he got his big score when he chopped a $1,500 buy-in no-limit hold'em tournament (event No. 15 of the L.A. Poker Classic) for $130,000. That was the break that he needed to justify jumping head-first into a career as a professional poker player.

Since that time, the name sketchy1 has been ubiquitous in the top spots of the tournaments-results listings from big-deal online tournaments. He has taken down the $100 rebuy tournament on PokerStars multiple times and has also won the PokerStars Wednesday Hundred Grand. As far as live tournaments go, Eaton cashed twice in the 2007 World Series of Poker and made final tables at both the Mirage Poker Showdown and the Bellagio Cup III.

Card Player caught up with Eaton to talk about poker strategy, including live and online tells and rebuy tournament tips.

Shawn Patrick Green: So, taking a look at your stats, it seems as if you love the rebuys, or, in the very least, the rebuys love you.

Jon “sketchy1” Eaton: Yeah, it’s kind of been hit and miss, lately. I haven’t done anything in a while. I’m probably stuck for about how much I’ve won in the $100 rebuy since I last won it. It seems like I get to the final table and nothing ever happens. But, yeah, I’ve been playing a lot of those since the $10 rebuy days, and I still play that tournament, even. My first big online win was in the $10 rebuy about two or three years ago. I guess because they give you a lot of chips and there are usually a lot of bad players, that’s why I do well in them.

SPG: What’s your general strategy for the rebuy period?

JE: It used to be to spend as much money as possible, and lately I’ve been steering away from that (laughing). I don’t know, it just depends on who’s at my table. In the $100 rebuy, it’s not so easy to get people to just stick their money in blindly. So, sometimes you have to do different things; sometimes I’ll just start limping around with big hands, and other times I’ll limp with pocket twos and then call an all in just to kind of mix up my image, so no one knows what the hell I’m limping in with. I don’t know, you just kind of have to stay one step ahead of everybody in the $100 rebuy. And in the $10 rebuy, and things like that, I just stick my money in blindly and hope it comes back.

SPG: What about after the rebuy period is over?

JE: Well, it’s just a normal tournament at that point.

SPG: Well, but it’s a normal tournament wherein a lot of people are deep stacked.

JE: Exactly. I don’t try to get too out of line in the $100 rebuy, because people are going to three-bet you with totally random hands. People think that I’m super tight and that I’m going to fold to three-bets constantly, so I kind of have to wait until the table thinks that I’m really tight to start stealing. The $100 rebuy is such a tough tournament to play; sometimes I don’t feel 100 percent comfortable. But usually, if you get a good enough table draw that you’ve got a few bad players at the table, it’s a really profitable tournament.

SPG: Do you see a velocitation effect, of sorts, just after the rebuy period ends? Do you see people who can’t quite slow down?

JE: No, I don’t see that too often. And if you do, they usually don’t last too long. But if they do do that, that’s the type of player you want at your table. I haven’t seen too much of it, especially in the $50 rebuy and the $100 rebuy, but I know it happens in the $10 rebuy. They don’t really know what they’re doing in the least, and then the rebuy period ends and … . And they especially get the inverse going where they think that I’m not slowing down, and they think that because I’ve been pushing all in every hand that I must have nothing every hand. So, that’s kind of fun.

SPG: So, in the $10 rebuy, then, if you see someone that’s doing that, playing the same way that they were playing during the rebuy period, how do you best take advantage of that?

JE: If you’re both really deep, the best way is to — if they’re going to be shove-monkeys and they’re going to keep three-betting you and reraising — just lead into them. Especially if you flop a big hand, lead into them and let them raise you. If they’re not too deep-stacked, you can limp in or just check to induce a bet and then shove. If you flop a big hand, play it kind of like a draw so that they call all in with top pair for around 20 or 30 big blinds.

You kind of just have to think about what they think you’re doing with a bad hand and do that and try not to make your good hands look like bad hands.

SPG: Have you ever pretended to be stuck in rebuy mode with a big hand, or is that ploy not really worth it?

JE: I don’t think I’ve ever done that. One thing that I have seen, though, that I’ve been meaning to take advantage of, is that every night the $20 rebuy and the Nightly Hundred Grand will start at the same time on PokerStars. Every now and then, I’ll see somebody in the $100K who thinks they’re in the $20 rebuy open-shove all in under the gun. And I know that if I see a few other players who know what’s going on and who are aware that I could be thinking that I’m in the $20 rebuy, I could take advantage of that, but I haven’t done that, yet. I probably shouldn’t have said that, though, because now people know that I’m looking to do that (laughs). When I get aces in the Hundred Grand I’m just going to shove all in.

SPG: So, what kind of bankroll do you recommend having if you’re planning on playing in rebuy tournaments?

JE: I’ve never been the best bankroll manager, I’ll be honest about that. That’s something I probably shouldn’t even answer. But, just to give you an idea, if you’re playing in the $100 rebuy and you plan on spending a minimum of $300 or $400 a day, then you should probably have 40 grand, at least, to sustain the swings. So, at least 100 times whatever you think your average buy-in will be, daily; that applies to the $10 rebuy, too.

SPG: You’ve racked up a decent set of live results, as well. Which do you prefer, online or live?

JE: Definitely online. Live is just slow and tedious to me, and it seems like it can take a couple of hours before you can even find a playable situation, sometimes. Online, if I’m playing eight tables, I’ve usually got at least one situation up at a time, and that’s easier for my attention span, I guess.

SPG: What role do live tells play in your game?

JE: I’ve been working on that a lot. I don’t play enough live to really develop that skill that well, but when I was playing live more earlier this year, back in the spring, I was playing $5-$10 no-limit at Bellagio and I had just gotten done reading that Joe Navarro book [Read ’em and Reap], and I was trying to use all of that. There’s definitely a lot that you can learn from that book and a lot that you can take in, but it takes a lot of practice live to get all of that down. The last few times I was playing, I didn’t feel like I was picking up that much, and hopefully in the next tournament series that I play, I can pick up enough to try to get into that rhythm again. Especially when I was playing in L.A., it seems like there were a lot of bad players who weren’t really aware of things that they were giving away. In Vegas it’s a little tougher, because people like to give off reverse tells, so you really have to be able to decipher the BS from the non-BS, I guess.

SPG: What about online tells? What do you look for and how important are they?

JE: There are actually a lot more of them than people give credit for. I think the speed at which someone makes a bet gives away a lot. If I threebet somebody, and they have a lot of chips left, and they hit the timebank and think forever, and then they suddenly shove all in, oftentimes they have aces right there; they’re trying to make you think they have nothing. But that doesn’t always work at the higher limits; it’s usually something that you see people do in the lower limits. The one big thing that I’ve seen is that if anyone ever types anything into the chatbox just before they move all in or make a big decision — like, if they say, “You really have it?” and then they shove all of their chips in — they probably have the nuts. There are a lot of tells that you can pick up; I don’t want to give them all away (laughs).

SPG: Regarding timing tells, it’s always struck me that those can be pretty inaccurate, because you don’t know whether they’re playing a bunch of tables, or watching TV and not really paying attention, or even whether they ran to the bathroom real quick, anything that could slow down their reaction time.

JE: Yeah, that’s very true. I think it’s a lot more about when somebody actually makes a quick action [as opposed to taking a long time]. Like, if I raised from the small blind and they instantly shove all in, that’s often just overcards like A-K, A-Q, or A-J. They’re usually not going to snap-shove with aces or kings. Sometimes that can make your decision easier with mid-pocket pairs and I think there is definitely a lot of truth to that.

SPG: What has been the best way that you’ve found to hone your skills?

JE: Probably surrounding yourself with other people who are good and learning from them. I mean, I’m still learning the game, and I’ve been learning it for a long time, but every single time that I play with someone who I perceive as a better player than me, and I ask them a question about the game, I seem to learn something from them. Every single day that I learn something is a day that I’m getting better at the game of poker. So, the more good players that I surround myself with, the better I seem to do.

SPG: What kinds of questions do you normally ask them?

JE: Just, in the heat of the battle, I’ll show them a hand and say something like, “I bet here, bet the flop, and bet the turn; what do I do here?” Or, maybe afterwards I’ll show my hand history and we’ll discuss it. Every single situation that you come up with in poker you want to be able to have the correct answer for the next time that it comes up, so I try to figure out what the correct answer was.

What I do is I just log all of my hands. I have them all saved into a folder, and sometimes I’ll just go back and review them. I remember one time, on a plane ride over the holidays, I just sat there and read an entire hand history from a tournament that I won and tried to figure out what I did right.

SPG: You’ve already made two Online Player of the Year-qualified scores this year. Unfortunately, they were both for bubbling the final table of the $100 rebuy on Stars on Jan. 1 and Jan. 2.

JE: I’m aware of this (laughing).

SPG: (Laughing) Yeah, I’m sure you’re aware. How do you rate your chances of taking and holding a top spot on the leader board this year?

JE: I’d like to say that I think I’m confident enough to get up there, but there are so many good players online, and it’s so early, I have no idea. I’d like to get a couple of good scores this month, and I’m playing a whole hell of a lot this month, so we’ll see what happens. But if I can snap off a big win in a Sunday tournament, then I think my chances are good, because I’m going to be putting in a lot of time this year. So, we’ll see, I guess. I’d like to stay in the top 100, at least; I was like 250 or so last year, so I’d definitely like to crack the top 100.

SPG: That’s all I’ve got for you. Thanks for taking the time for this interview!

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