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Online Poker -- Interview With FTOPS XIII Winner Jake Toole

Former Penn State Tennis Player Talks Poker and Plans for the Future


Jake TooleYou many not know him now, but Jake “psutennis11” Toole is one of the fastest-rising online poker players in the world. The Penn State student has only been on the big buy-in scene for the better part of two years and already is turning heads with his quick rise to prominence.

Toole, who also plays as “hwtd1” on PokerStars, recently took down the $2,500 short-handed no-limit hold’em event during the Full Tilt Online Poker Series (FTOPS) XIII. The victory earned him $453,687, a great payday for sure, but it doesn’t even make up half of his career earnings.

Toole is in the middle of a breakout year where he has already made 13 OPOY-qualifying final tables and cashed for over nearly $750,000. That number doesn’t even include his live success (more details on that below).

In this interview, Toole talks about how he made his way into poker and the tournament that made him an FTOPS champion.

Julio Rodriguez: So, Jake, I assume your screen name psutennis11 refers to your time on the collegiate team?

Jake Toole: Yes, I was on the Penn State tennis team until just last January, but I decided to quit and take poker more seriously.

JR: How did you get into poker?

JT: I first started playing poker by just goofing around with friends in high school. Then during my freshman year of college, I decided to try it out online. I would randomly deposit $50 at a time and kept losing it fairly quickly. Then, one day I decided to play a $75 45-man sit-and-go, even though I only had $300 in my account. I won like $1,000 and decided to withdraw it all and not play for a few months. That April, I decided to deposit another $150 and start over. One Friday night, I stayed in and won a satellite into a $75 knockout tournament. I won that [knockout tournament], and all of a sudden I had a $6,000 bankroll.

JR: Did you cash out and spend a bit, or did you start grinding?

JT: It was so much money to me at the time, and I had no clue about bankroll management. I started playing in tournaments that I had no business playing in and quickly lost about $3,000.

JR: At this time, had you read any poker books or discussed hands with any other players?

JT: Basically, I played all on feel. I hadn’t yet met anyone from Penn State who also played poker at that point. Then I met my friend Andrew “gershantor1” Gershenfeld. Up until that point, I had stuck to just one or two sit-and-gos at a time, but “Gersh” got me really into tournaments, and I was able to build my bankroll to about $25,000.

That’s when I experienced my first downswing and lost pretty much everything. I completely stopped playing and was seriously considering quitting altogether. It was mind boggling to me that I could lose that much money, which was a lot to a college student. Luckily, I took fourth in another $75 freezeout, and the next night I won another tournament on Full Tilt for $20,000. My roll was back, and I was riding high on confidence.

A short time later, I final-tabled the Sunday Mulligan and then won the Nightly Hundred Grand on PokerStars. The timing was perfect, and I was on a $100,000 upswing.

JR: A few months passed with continued success, and then you won the $200,000 guarantee with rebuys on Full Tilt for $71,100, at the time, your biggest score.

JT: That was a great feeling. It was kind of my breakthrough score. I had a few $20,000 cashes here and there, and a bunch of smaller ones throughout, but I hadn’t yet really produced any huge results on a Sunday. I was with my friends Eric “Avril Sharapova” Ladny, Brandon “AreTheseUtz” Hall and Sean “wawa711” Rice at the time. I was kind of speechless, just throwing my hands up in disbelief. I don’t usually show a lot of emotion while playing, but that win made me very, very happy, and kind of kick-started the year off right.

JR: March rolled around and you decided to get some live tournament experience under your belt.

Jake TooleJT: Yeah, I went to the EPT German Open over my spring break and played the main event, as well as a $2,000 side event, which I ended up final-tabling. It was a tough final table, for the most part. Mario “Pokerccini” Puccini finished third, and I ended up getting heads-up with my good friend Craig “hu4rollz” Bergeron. We chopped it evenly for about $135,000.

I play a lot at Turningstone Casino in New York, but this was the biggest final table I had ever been at in the live arena.

JR: You’re only 20 years old, but you still came out for the World Series of Poker.

JT: I rented a house with a couple of friends, just for a week. Brandon and I were going straight to WPT Barcelona, so it worked out really well. Eric ended up making a final table at the Series, so we even got to rail, which was very exciting.

JR: The last week, in particular, has been very good to you. In August alone you have four OPOY-qualifying final tables, including a second-place finish in the Sunday Warmup for $95,706 before winning the FTOPS XIII event No. 22 for $453,687.

JT: Definitely, I feel very comfortable in six-max tournaments, so I decided to buy in directly for the $2,500.

JR: What did you think about the overall field?

JT: I mean, it’s hard to get a field much tougher than that. There were definitely a few satellite entrants who I ran across, but for the most part, I was at a bunch of stacked tables.

JR: Are you one of those players who plays better against good opponents or bad opponents?

JT: I feel that in soft fields, when I get a stack, I tend to spew a little more than in a really tough field. That being said, bad players are so easy to exploit that it doesn’t really matter sometimes.

JR: Is it ever about ego? Are you less likely to make a play in a stacked tournament to avoid embarrassment in front of your fellow online professionals?

JT: Possibly, yes. It’s probably a subconscious thing. In softer tournaments, I sort of go out of my way to win every single pot, solely because I know I’m a better player. But in a tough field, I know that I need to be patient and adjust appropriately to table dynamics and pick my spots.

JR: Any lucky spots in your FTOPS run?

JT: Of course! (Laughing) It’s hard to win a tournament without getting hit with the deck sometimes. I think I made my biggest mistake of the tournament with about 20 players left. I five-bet pocket nines from the small blind into the button’s pocket queens. That left me with just around 20 big blinds, and I was lucky to pick up pocket jacks against pocket tens and then have my pocket queens hold against A-K to get me back into the tournament.

With nine left, I coolered JBT449 in a sick pot. He and I had been going at if for a while, and unfortunately for him, his pocket kings ran into my pocket aces. It was such as huge pot at such a crucial time in the tournament.

Jake TooleJR: Your heads-up opponent was Brian “Stinger88” Hastings, a Full Tilt pro and Card Runners instructor. What did you think of his game?

JT: I thought he played incredible. I hadn’t played a lot of pots with him at the final table. I think we were basically staying out of each other’s way for the most part. I started heads-up play with a 3-2 chip lead, but I was sort of flustered when we started. He was winning most of the pots, and I felt like I was getting outplayed. I also couldn’t connect with a lot of flops, which didn’t help, either.

JR: What kind of adjustments did you make?

JT: Well, I was down to my last 1.3 million with the blinds at 10,000-20,000, and I got it in with pocket sevens against his A-Q suited.

JR: That’s a good adjustment.

JT: (Laughing) Yeah, fortunately I doubled after flopping a set. I took that coin-flip win as a momentum boost. After that, I decided I was going to pick up my aggression and three-bet him a ton from the small blind. I wanted to really put him to the test both preflop and post-flop.

JR: You weren’t concerned with him flatting your raises when you were out of position?

JT: Well, I wasn’t going to be reckless about three-betting, but when I picked up hands that played well post-flop, like suited connectors and Broadway cards, I didn’t hesitate.

JR: Did you ever consider making a deal?

JT: When we got heads-up, I asked him if he wanted to take a look at the numbers. I was almost positive he would say no, and he didn’t disappoint. I wasn’t really bothered by it, because I knew that he felt he had a huge edge.

JR: What was the pivotal hand of the heads-up match?

JT: There was one hand after I doubled up, where I opened Q-8 offsuit on the button and he flatted. The flop came 9-3-2, and he check-called a continuation-bet from me. The turn was an 8, and I bet. He called, and I bet about 60 percent of the pot when a king hit the river. He called, and I was able to get thin value from his 10-8. That gave me a ton of confidence for the rest of the match.

JR: You are now an FTOPS champion. Do you think you’ll start getting more respect in the online community?

JT: I think so. I have no clue what people think about me, but I thought I played the best poker I’ve ever played in this event.

JR: Are you going to stick out school and finish your degree? Maybe play tennis again?

JT: It’s unlikely that I’ll ever play for Penn State again. When I was being recruited I felt it would be a good fit for me, but I realized in my third semester that I wasn’t enjoying it the way I did in high school. It really sucked because I loved all the guys on the team. As far as school is concerned, I just switched my degree from marketing to psychology this fall and I have two years left. I’m actually looking forward to it.

JR: Are we going to see you playing in the Series next year?

JT: Absolutely. It was such as tease being in Las Vegas this year and not being able to play. I’m definitely looking forward to being 21 next summer.



over 11 years ago

First I want to congratulate JT for his great play and success! He is an excellent player with great instincts, the below comment should not reflect on him personally.

I would like to ask CP Mag what are they thinking in promoting and advertising underage gambling. This is what the Feds want to find out to shut it down and CP gives them more ammo. All the talk about JT being underage just flaunts the law. How about other great article like this without ever mentioning his age? Sounds like common sense to me instead of promoting breaking the law and giving the Feds even more reason to shut online poker down!

Again Congrats JT


over 11 years ago

CP is not promoting underage gambling. The site requires an age limit of 18 years old. The site is based where 18 is the age limit.

Just like if a kid hits an Indian reservation that allows 18 and up. It is not illegal for them to play there even though they are playing in the US.

There are way to many underage kids playing but in this instance as long as he is over 18 CP is not promoting something illegal.

He had to rail WSOP here since under 21 but had hot WPT Barcelona where it is legal as well


over 11 years ago miss the point, 21 is the legal age to gamble in the US and he is underage in the US playing online to the foreign country's that allow it with no checks so any 12 year old can get an account. CP promotes ONLY gambling and they could care less the age...obviously. you must also be underage not to see the maturity of my original post. Peace


over 11 years ago

21 is the legal age to gamble in the US.
18 is the legal age to gamble on Indian Reservations in the US
18 is the legal age to gamble on Full Tilt (Anywhere)

Explain to me how you would know that Mr. Jake here wasnt playing the tournament from an indian casino resort he frequents or from anywhere other than the US

The point is that there are tons of professional players in the US under 21 because there is no law that prevents them from playing online if the site is not US based. If US based than it would be illegal.

And for you to say CP only promotes gambling?? What kind of crock is that? Have you read their pieces on charity events, passing of people, and many other things.

And I am 31 by the way and won my first $21,000 Pai Gow jackpot on an Indian Reservation at Cache Creek casino in California when I was 18. And dont you know the US government gladly took $5250 in taxes on that even though it was won. So explain to me how online gaming (where there is no age limit law--the sites put out their age limits) would be illegal to play on in the US. And if you can do that can they stop me from playing in the US from a US location that allows 18 and up to gample.

Finally the maturity of the posts was never in question. Its just that your facts are skewed. you think the US age for gambling is 21 and that makes it black and white law--too bad that is not true!!


over 11 years ago

And before you respond 18 is the age for many not ALL indian casinos. (It is 18 for the

The casino I won at had an 18 age limit before they switched to 21 to serve liquor. There is an 18 year old age limit at Turningstone Casino in New York where the Jake toole plays live.

Is it against the law for him to play there? If so why/ And if not why not?

Than apply that logic to the online poker community and you will see why not one person under the age of 21 has been CONVICTED of internet gambling for playing poker at any of these major sites.


11 years ago

You ever go to canterbury park in minnesota?There acouple years ago it was still 18 then maybe still is,and some of those young kids can play!!!!