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Online Poker: Interview With Noah 'fouruhaters' Schwartz

Schwartz Talks About His Recent WPT Final Table and How He Got His Start in Poker

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Noah 'fouruhaters' SchwartzNoah “fouruhaters” Schwartz may have kick-started his highly successful poker career by playing online poker, but that's not to say that his beginnings were all rainbows and roses. Schwartz, 24, admits that he got off to a rocky start by going into debt to make deposits and by losing whatever he did win right back. However, those false starts have helped him to become what he is today, and he has had a lot of incredible accomplishments.

The Miami Beach, Florida, resident's most recent accomplishment came just a few days ago when he finished in fourth place in the World Poker Tour Borgata Winter Open. His finish landed him $332,000 and some face-time on national television when the episode airs. He has had a lot of success in live poker, but none of it would have been possible if not for his earlier successes online. His biggest online win — and, in fact, his biggest win to date before the Winter Open finish — was when he took down the $1,000 PokerStars Sunday Million on March, 25, 2007, for $291,000.

Before poker, Schwartz had been interested in baseball (he played on his high school varsity team all four years) and school (he got into Florida International University on an academic scholarship). Some torn tendons in his elbow dashed his dreams of baseball greatness, but he persisted with his scholastic success by finishing a degree in finance and entrepreneurship. It was also during this time that he began playing poker. He started playing poker for the fun of it, rather than the skill of it, and he experienced a lot of people telling him that he couldn't do it. It was those naysayers who inspired his screen name fouruhaters, and it was partly because of them that he strove to get better.

Card Player got Schwartz on the phone shortly after his big finish in the Winter Open to talk about those formative years, his drive for success, and, of course, about his recent big score:


Shawn Patrick Green: First off, congrats on the fourth-place finish at the Borgata Winter Open.

Noah ‘fouruhaters’ Schwartz: Thank you very much. Man, it was huge. I’m a little disappointed, but I’m living with it.

SPG: It’s very much a bittersweet moment, I’m sure.

NS: Yeah, you know, it’s just so close to a WPT championship, and so it’s sort of resonating, now. Overall, I’m happy, but I think that if it went a little differently, I’d be happier, of course.

SPG: What got you to that final table? Were you running hot or were you playing well, or some combination of the two?

NS: On day 1, I started the table with Gavin Griffin [the eventual winner of the event], and I got a lot of opportune situations early on. I flopped a set, and a guy flopped a smaller set, and I proceeded to double up through that. I just defined my table image a lot; people thought that I was playing a lot tighter than I really was. Every time I was involved in a pot, I showed very solid hands, so I gained a lot of respect that way. And on day 2 I ran very, very well. I didn’t pick up any big hands, but the hands that I was involved in, which wasn’t many, were big pots. I won a lot of big pots on day 2, and I ended day 2 second in chips with almost 500,000.

And then on day 3 … it was tough for me. I started with 500,000 in chips, and in the first level I got involved in a hand wherein I raised with K-6 under the gun and John Hennigan called me. It was a 6-6-2 flop, and we ended up getting all in for about 440,000. He had 6-5 and rivered a 5, which sort of sent me spiraling downward. I told Card Player [tournament reporters] that I was on “life tilt.” But I was able to regain my composure and stay focused and just played really, really solid poker throughout the rest of the tournament.

SPG: What did it take to help you regain your composure?

NS: This hand happened right before break. At the break, I received several text messages from people that were following me online at CardPlayer.com. They said, “Noah, you have the ability.” I still had 180,000 in chips, which was well above average, but I was just down. It was a 420,000 chip pot. I talked to my fiancé, and my fiancé was like, “Look, I know you can do it.” I’ve been in similar situations before, wherein I may have not persevered and not handled it in the right manner, but I said, “You know what? I’m going to get it done no matter what I have to do.” I picked some good spots where I had a couple of all-in situations when I wasn’t called and I was holding very marginal hands. But I had the reads on certain people, and the tendencies that they had, to get them off of certain hands, and I had enough chips to get that done. So, I was able to chip back up, and once I got back to 300,000 or 400,000, I was fair game and I was ready to go.

SPG: You’ve had very good results both online and live. Are the two that much different?

NS: You know what? You bring up a good question. Are they really different? Yes and no. Online, you see a lot more hands than you do live. You encounter a lot of different situations, because I multitable when I play online, whether it be cash or multitable tournaments. So, I think online has really set the foundation for me playing live, and my transition to live hasn’t been as difficult, if that answers your question.

SPG: Well, I meant more along the lines of whether playing a live tournament is really that much different than playing an online tournament.

NS: The difference is that people online play a lot faster. They’re a lot, a lot more aggressive, and I think it comes from the ability to buy into another tournament right afterwards. You know, you can just click on the lobby and get into another tournament. But live, in these big events, people are a lot more cautious, and they’re not opening pots with as many marginal hands as they do online. So, I think playing live is easier than playing online.

SPG: Just because you can exploit people’s tightness?

NS: Right, because a lot of people live are scared to bust in these big events. Especially early, they’re not willing to put it all in, so if you’re really willing to put someone to the test early, a lot of people are going to fold. I always put a lot of pressure on people, and in my last three events I’ve been able to accumulate a lot of chips because I’m always putting the pressure on.

SPG: Which do you prefer, online or live?

NS: Hands down, I enjoy playing live so much more. The ability to network, the ability to get out and meet new people … . I’m very personal; I love meeting new people, and online takes away that aspect of the game. Being able to see people’s reactions and their mannerisms, that’s very important to me, and I never had the ability to do that, just because I was never turned onto the live game until lately. And I didn’t have the bankroll to play live. But now, with my winning the Sunday Million, along with constant success in cash games, I have the ability to travel the circuit and play full-time live, which is great.

SPG: How much do you rely on tells in both?

NS: Online, there is a lot of psychology involved. For a lot of people, and a lot of this is documented, it’s how fast they click a button and their betting patterns. And a lot of people don’t realize these particular things, they just do it subconsciously. So, I’m able to exploit those weaknesses, because there are very few online players who make the necessary adjustment in order to be successful in the long run, especially in multitable tournaments. Their betting patterns are very constant. I don’t want to go on and on and give out too much information in terms of what has enabled me to be successful.

For live, I go a lot more with intuition. I’ve been working hand-for-hand with Roy Winston. We’ve been discussing several things, like how to pick up certain information, and he’s been key to my success live in terms of doing what I do now.

SPG: Yeah, he was rooting you on in his blog on CardPlayer.com.

NS: Him and I have become very close, and I’ve been helping him with his online game, because, when he has a little more time, he’s playing online more. He has sort of been guiding me and helping me maneuver through these big live fields. I made it deep in the Bellagio [2007 Doyle Brunson Classic]. Unfortunately, I got my money in with top set against a diamond draw in a million chip pot with 75 people left, and that was the end of the day (laughs).

SPG: Which was a bigger accomplishment for you, getting so far in the Winter Open with a buy-in of $10,000 and a field of 507, or winning the Sunday Million with a buy-in of $1,000 and a field of 1,712?

NS: This [the Winter Open] is hands down my biggest accomplishment, ever, just because the field that I outlasted included the most prestigious names from [Phil] Ivey to [Daniel] Negreanu. And I really had to battle, and this really sets the precedent, because I set some lofty goals for my first full year playing live. And I actually just checked, and I’m 14th for Player of the Year, and I know it’s early, but … . I have some big goals this year, and I think this is just a building block; I’m setting the foundation for myself.

SPG: You had pretty damn stacked final tables at both events. How much does your previous experience come into play?

NS: It’s funny you mention that, because during the World Series of Poker this year, I came in 11th in an event in which they were stopping at 10 [for the day]. It was a [Phil] Hellmuth final table, and Hellmuth was short-stacked, and that was going to be an ESPN final table. I had 380,000 in chips with the blinds at 8,000-16,000. I got involved in a hand, and after about a minute and a half, Beth Shak called clock on me, and she wasn’t involved in the hand. I ended up mucking the hand [pocket sixes], and the next hand I picked up the identical hand, and I was absolutely on tilt. I didn’t know how to handle the situation, it was a new experience for me, and I was under the gun and I shoved all in for what was like 25 big blinds. I got called by Perry Friedman with pocket queens. It’s a moment that I’ll never, ever forget, because I didn’t have the experience. I didn’t have the composure to say, “Regain yourself, regroup, and you can do it.”

Yesterday, as we were playing down from 27 to 6, I relived those moments. I had certain big situations that had I not been involved in that tournament and in that situation before, I probably would have relived the experience. So, my experience live really came into play, along with my experience online, because when I made the final table of the Sunday Million, I was eighth in chips. I said, “Your goal is to play solid, play your hands, and play to win,” and that’s exactly what I did. I picked up great situations, and although I didn’t really have the cards in the Sunday Million, I just went with my intuition. I went with reads, and that was able to get me to the victory. So, I think that my prior experience was a huge, huge benefit to me — or my prior debacle, especially live (laughs).

SPG: I’ve heard that you started out playing poker using credit card debt. Is that true?

NS: That is correct. I was 17 years old with my first Mastercard. It didn’t have much of a limit. I didn’t do any reading [on poker] and I didn’t do any research; I just said, “You know what? I like poker. Let me start playing.” I started on PartyPoker and I lost thousands — I mean, I lost thousands. I took out a student load for $25,000 and started feeding my PartyPoker account. I proceeded to lose it all, went busto, and then went to my uncle — he cosigned a couple credit cards.

Finally, I hit a tournament on PartyPoker for $45,000, and I was like, “Wow, this is great.” After I won that tournament, I decided, “You know what? I’m going to play $25-$50 all night.” I made $23,000 on top of what I’d won, and I was like, “Wow, this is the easiest thing in the world. I can do this every single day and make $23,000.” Or so I thought; boy was I wrong. The next day, with very little sleep, I stayed on the computer and I suffered bad beats, playing bad poker … . I lost maybe $35,000 the next day, and I had chest pains, and I was like, “Wow, what am I doing? What am I getting myself into, here? Is this really what I need now in my life?”

So, I was struggling with a lot of things; my father had recently passed away, so I had to cope with a lot. It was sort of my getaway. Poker released a lot of things for me, but yet it was releasing negative energy for me, and a lot of stress because of the financial troubles. I couldn’t go to my family and say, “Look, I’m having financial troubles, and this is why, because I’m gambling — I’m gambling on poker.”

So, I sort of kicked myself in the butt and I said, “You know what? Whatever I need to do, let’s get it done.” I was hungry; I played another tournament on PartyPoker about three weeks later, with the last money in my account, and I won like $93,000. It was huge. It was a Saturday tournament, and it was so uplifting. And from there, I started paying off my debts slowly. And it’s sort of a success story; I just kept playing and playing and never went bust. I just slowly kept making $1,000 and then making $500 and then making $1,000. I then I got my breakthrough. I won the Sunday Second Chance on PokerStars for about $47,000, and then three weeks later I won the Sunday Million for a little bit under $300,000, and the rest is history. I started playing live and had some success at the [2007 WSOP] main event, I came in 252nd, and then this is my first TV final table. It feels really good.

SPG: Well, it may be bad to ask this, but do you think you’d be where you are now if you hadn’t gone into credit card debt to play poker?

NS: You know what? I don’t think I would be here. There was a time that I thought about giving up. My father, may he rest in peace, he always told me that no matter what, whatever you believe in, just pursue it and hit it hard. And that’s how I’ve been; whenever I’ve really put my mind to something, I’ve always been able to be successful at it. With poker, I said, “You know what? I’m not going to give up. I’m not a quitter.” And I started out badly, but I think that was just because of inexperience and not knowing what I was doing. I was just the average guy saying, “I want to live the dream,” which is Jamie Gold and Jerry Yang … anyone can do it, but I didn’t know what I was doing. Through trial error, I learned, and I never read a book. I just learned and I learned. And now I’m just starting to taste the success, which is great. In the past eight months I’ve made a little bit over $1 million in tournaments alone. And it’s a great feeling, it really is a great feeling.

SPG: Have you since gotten a better money-management system in place, or is the $332,000 from the Borgata already earmarked to be blown?

NS: Oh, without a doubt. I’ve learned from my prior mistakes, along with those of my buddies, who have made millions and have proceeded to go bust. I also have a degree in finance, so I’m putting my money into a lot of different kinds of investments, now. Now that I have more liquidity, I’m entering the real estate market.

So, to answer your question, and to make it short and concise, yes, the money is definitely being put to good use. I recently got engaged and we’re having a wedding, so some of it is going to go to that, along with buy-ins and whatnot.

SPG: Congrats on the engagement. So, kind switching gears here a little bit, what do you consider short-stacked play?

NS: Whenever I have an M [the number of rounds you can last by making only the compulsory bets of big blind, small blind, and antes] of around 10 — that’s about 10 times what the big blind is — I think you have one move, and one move only, and that’s to push it. Now, depending upon what your image is at the table, when my M is around 10 and I’m in position, I have the ability to shove any two cards. I did it in Borgata when I shoved 8-2 on the button when my M was a little low but I had enough to hurt someone. I look at the position of the table; I look at who’s in the big blind, who’s in the small blind, and where I am in terms of the table so that I can think about who’s going to call and people’s playing styles. I take all of that into account.

SPG: What is the biggest mistake that people make during short-stacked play on the bubble?

NS: In this particular tournament [the Winter Open, I had 600,000 in chips at the bubble play, and I had great feel for my table. I had John Hennigan and Al Krux, and aside from that, I had a lot of young guys who I did research on prior, and they hadn’t had many cashes. So, I knew they weren’t willing to put their money in during bubble play, so I really pounded those particular stacks. I stayed away from the bigger stacks at the table, but with the medium to short stacks, I knew it would take a really, really big hand for them to put their money in. So, during bubble play I was able to go from about 600,000 to about 770,000 without a showdown, just by taking the blinds and antes, because I really put an emphasis on who I needed to attack and who would not be able to combat my attacks.

SPG: So, the biggest mistake that people make on the bubble during short-stacked play would be that they aren’t willing to get their money in?

NS: A lot of people are scared to get their money in with more marginal hands: Q-J or K-Q. I’m willing to put it in no matter what. I mean, the money’s great, but scared money is no money.

SPG: What’s the biggest mistake that people make when deep stacked?

NS: A prime example is my buddy Justin Bonomo. He entered the final table of the tournament and he had $3 million in chips; he was second in chips at the table. And his style is — and he doesn’t change it — to open a lot of pots and be willing to play in any situation. And, unfortunately, in this particular situation, it hurt him a lot because he got involved in a hand wherein he called 125,000 preflop with 7-4 suited, or maybe it was off, and he flopped an open-end straight draw and he ended up losing about $1.5 million in the hand. So, I think that what a lot of people do is that they open up their game too much; they start opening too many pots.

Gavin Griffin is another prime example of this. He started opening a lot of pots, but for him it was successful because he exploited the people who just wanted to move up, who wanted to go from ninth to eighth to seventh. So, he was able to take advantage of that. And he picked up some good situations, like queens against the A-K of Bonomo; he won $2 million in chips in the hand. I think, ultimately, you just need to stick to your game; a lot of people try to bully, they get a lot of chips and they start to bully, and it hurts them. It catches up with them at the end of the day.

SPG: Thanks a lot for doing this interview, Noah.

 
 
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