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Online Poker: Interview With Allen 'Reverse' Goldstein

Recent FTOPS Main Event Winner Talks About His Score, How He's Risen the Poker Ranks, and Why It's Easier to Play at the Higher Stakes


Allen 'Reverse' GoldsteinPlaying heads up versus a widely-recognized poker pro in one of the biggest online tournaments of the year would be daunting for most people. Well, Allen “Reverse” Goldstein isn’t your average casual online poker player. Goldstein has been playing online poker since the early 2000s and had already won hundreds of thousands of dollars in online poker tournaments before now, including taking down the PokerStars Sunday Million in August of 2006. He is also a successfull cash-game player at stakes as high as $200-$400 limit hold’em, and he is a heads-up sit-and-go specialist.

With that kind of background, it didn’t come as much of a surprise when he wound up with Thomas Wahlroos as the one of the last two players in a 5,291-entrant field in the Full Tilt Online Poker Series VII (FTOPS) main event last Sunday. With nearly a half million dollars on the line for first place, Goldstein proceeded to take down the event and best the live-poker pro.

Goldstein started out playing poker at much more humble stakes. He began as a self-professed horrible $3-$6 limit hold’em player and decided that he wanted to buckle down and improve. Ten to 12 poker books later, he worked his way up to $6-$12 and then up to $20-$40. He played at that level for two months without having a single losing session. He then bumped it up to $60-$120 in 2002, and it was at that time that he made his first major tournament cash; he finished in fourth place in a $640 buy-in event on PartyPoker, earning $78,000. “And since then,” he said, “I haven’t really looked back.”

Card Player caught up with the 25-year-old poker player, who hasn’t had a “real” job since he was a waiter in high school, to talk about his path to success, his winning strategies, and, of course, his recent big score.

Shawn Patrick Green: You read a lot of books to kick up your game. What books do you think were the most useful to you while you were building your foundation?

Allen “Reverse” Goldstein: I’ve always played a lot of limit hold’em [cash games], especially starting out, and no-limit hold’em tournaments. So, I think the best one starting out for me was Lee Jones’ Winning Low-Limit Hold’em. That was probably the most benefitial one starting out. And T.J. Cloutier’s Championship No-Limit and Pot-Limit Hold’em, that was another one that helped me a lot.

SPG: What do you do nowadays to keep your game up to par?

AG: Nowadays, I hit events like the ones this summer in Vegas, but when I’m at home I just play in some underground poker rooms, some local poker games, and I play online. I go on message boards a lot. I have a lot of friends who I talk to about hands and swap hand histories with and stuff. I’m more of a hands-on learner; in the beginning, I picked up a lot from books and stuff, but at this point, I think now it’s just being able to talk to people who know poker like I do and play at similar limits. It’s far more beneficial for me to do that.

SPG: Anyone we would know?

AG: Two of my closest friends who play online are Jordan Morgan and Stu Paterson.

SPG: How hard was it to get through that field in the FTOPS [Full Tilt Online Poker Series] main event?

AG: In August of ’06 I won the [PokerStars] Sunday Million, and it was funny because both tournaments took a similar route. Early on in the FTOPS, I had a big lead, I was in first place. And then, when there were 150 people left, I was in last place. I think the blinds were 10,000-20,000 and I had 60,000; I was among the last five people. I lost a coin-flip with A-K versus tens and that knocked me down to like 60,000, and I just tightened up and picked my spots and was able to double up. I stole some blinds and antes and just doubled up once when I flopped a set of sixes against A-K, and I got back up to about the average stack, which was 170,000.

It was mainly, especially toward the end, about picking spots and being patient. For as much money as was at stake and how late it was in a tournament like that, players tended to get it in pretty bad. I think, for a lot of people, the nerves and the hours got to them toward the end. I think the key was picking spots and tightening up, a little.

SPG: You said that you were down to about three times the big blind. Is there even a strategy at that point, or are you just waiting for a hand?

AG: I was just waiting for any pair or any ace, pretty much, or a king. I had to get lucky a couple of times, and then I doubled up twice and got it up to 170,000. I got back to the average stack after doubling up twice, and from then on out I had some breathing room.

SPG: And you said that in both of those tournaments you had accumulated a lot of chips early on. How did you do that?

AG: I tend to play a lot of hands early on, when the blinds are low, and I think I’m pretty good at getting chips early by playing a lot of hands. I play a lot of suited connectors and one-gappers and stuff. And I’m not going to lose a lot of money with suited connectors, but when I hit it, if somebody flops top pair, top kicker, for instance, they’re going to be in trouble. I’m pretty good at getting away from hands that I play with middle cards, which is why I do well early on. And then, as the blinds get up, it’s more about picking my spots.

SPG: You say that you play a lot more hands preflop; does that mean only in limped pots, or does that mean you’re going to loosen up your standards for calling a raise preflop considerably?

AG: If I’m coming in, I usually come in raising, especially early in the tournament. I take control of the pot. It always depends on the table I’m playing at, but if I can take control of the pot early and take control of the table, I will, especially in a tournament like that, because it’s a lot of satellite winners and people who are playing really tight early. Sometimes I get into a table and it’s crazy and I tighten up early from the start, but usually I like to get in there and raise with suited connectors and just play a lot of hands, and if I get played back at, I give up.

SPG: Now let’s talk about your heads-up match with Thomas Wahlroos. What was your thought process going into heads-up play?

AG: For heads up, the blinds were at 250,000-500,000 with a 60,000 ante, and I think I started out with 16 million and he had 10 million. So, with the stakes, there really wasn’t much play, but I tried to take control on the button a lot; I raised him. I play a lot of heads-up sit-and-gos, and I think that’s helped me out a lot. I focus on heads-up sit-and-gos, so I like my game. I like to take control on the button and play tight. I was getting some hands, though, and a couple times he was down to like 7 million or 8 million and he would have to play pot-committed. But he got out of a couple of traps, and finally I got ace high on the button, and he shoved. And I figured ace high was probably the best hand heads up, and it was a pretty easy call for me, and it held up.

SPG: You made quite a few Online Player of the Year points for your win. You’re currently in third place. Do you think you play enough online tournaments that you could be a contender in the race?

AG: Yeah. I’m going to start focusing on tournaments more, because that’s something that I’d definitely be interested in winning. A lot of these guys play Sundays, and I’ve had a lot of success on Sundays, but surprisingly I don’t play some Sundays, and usually, if I do play, I’ll only play one or two tournaments. Some of my friends will play nine or 10 of them on a Sunday. So, I think I can; I think I have a shot at it, especially if I start playing more tournaments on Sundays.

SPG: Will this win change much about how you play poker at all, as far as the increase in your bankroll, or is it not significant enough to change how you’re going to go about your daily life?

AG: I don’t really think it’s going to change much. I’m probably going to play the same limits online: $10-$20 no-limit, when I play no-limit, and $30-$60 or $200-$400 limit. I don’t think I’m going to go crazy and play the higher limits.

SPG: How do you manage the money when you have something as big as a half-million-dollar win?

AG: Just do a lot of saving. Money management has definitely been a problem for me in the past. I’ve won a bunch of different tournaments and have done well in the cash games, but money management has always been a problem. But I’ve gotten a financial planner and I’m looking to get into some investments, so I’ve got some things working to make the money work for me as much as possible while I continue to play.

SPG: You said that you play a lot of heads-up sit-and-gos. What stakes do you play?

AG: I play $200, $500, and $1,000 sit-and-gos.

SPG: Are the swings in heads-up sit-and-gos larger or smaller than normal?

AG: I would say that if you can win 70 percent of the sit-and-gos you play in, which I think I do, you are a pretty profitable player. There are some swings, though. I’m usually the second to sit in the sit-and-gos so that I know who I’m playing with. I don’t like being the first to sit and not knowing who I’m playing against. I think that’s a key; you should avoid playing people who you may be just as good as. So, I think game selection is key.

SPG: So, since you play at such high stakes, are you playing against a lot of the same people over and over?

AG: Yeah, usually you see a lot of the same people who are there a lot of the time. You want to play the people who you usually don’t see. There are some people who are on there who I look for, though. I think everyone has specific people that they want to play against.

SPG: Basically, people with large disposable incomes that aren’t very good (laughs)?

AG: Yeah, people who are there for the recreation of it rather than the profitability of it.

SPG: Yeah, and I don’t think that some people understand that even at the higher stakes there are still people who exist like that. They just think that people are incredibly good at those stakes, which is definitely not the case (laughs).

AG: I play at Bellagio and online and I’ve played at all limits, starting at $3-$6 and working up to the high limits, and I tell everyone that the higher you play, the easier the games are. People think that the higher you play, the harder the games are, but the guys at the lower limits are the ones who are reading books and trying to learn the game and improve. As you move up, a lot of times it’s the guys who are oil tycoons, doctors, or lawyers who are just out having a good time. They’re the guys who go into the casino and play $2,000-a-hand blackjack, and when they walk into the poker room to play poker, they’re not going to be sitting at the $3-$6 games, they’re going to sit at one of the bigger games available. They’re not really the guys who are young and working on their game.

SPG: Those were all of the questions I had for you. Thanks a lot for doing this interview, Allen.

Tags: poker beat


over 13 years ago

Great Interview! Allen Goldstein seems to have a great outlook on his poker game. I look forward to seeing the future success of this young man. Manage that money AG :) and good luck to ya at the tables...

Dmitri Nobles