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Online Player of the Year Spotlight -- Taylor 'ambiguosity' Paur

Paur Explains the Gamble He Took to Play Poker Professionally

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Taylor PaurThe Card Player Online Player of the Year award honors the best tournament player across the major online sites in a given calendar year. Previous winners have included greats such as Isaac “westmenloAA” Baron, Alexander “AJKHoosier1” Kamberis and Steve “gboro780” Gross. Here, we take a look at one of the current top contenders.

Taylor “ambiguosity” Paur has been the king of wins so far in 2010 having claimed eight outright victories across four different online sites. Paur started his year off with a big win in the $1,000 UB Online Championship event for $125,195. He then followed that up with back-to-back wins in April in the Sunday Brawl and $1K Monday for a combined $189,000. Then he picked up his biggest win to date with a victory in a Full Tilt Online Poker Series (FTOPS) XVI event for $192,228 to put him atop the current OPOY standings.

Paur’s introduction to the game was similar to many other online pros his age. After playing in some friendly home games, Paur began to take the game more seriously and quickly realized the money-making opportunity that lay before him. After some small scores to build his bankroll, Paur began to neglect his school work, opting instead for some extra time on the virtual felt. Then, with just one major cash to his credit, the California resident decided to plunge head first into the deep, shark-infested waters of online multi-table tournaments. The gamble has paid off handsomely for the 21-year-old pro, who has gone on to earn nearly $1.4 million in tournament winnings after just two years of play.

In this interview, Paur explains his meteoric rise to prominence and even divulges a few tips for beginners.

Julio Rodriguez: Let’s hear about your introduction to poker.

Taylor Paur: I started off by playing in a few home games in high school and dabbled a little bit online. I wasn’t really taking it seriously until I won something like $600 from a $3 tournament during my freshman year at San Diego State University. I continued to play really low stakes tournaments and grinded up my bankroll to the point where I could play a little higher. School wasn’t going well, so after that first year, I ended up transferring to a junior college that was closer to home. Not long after that, I ended up chopping a WCOOP [World Championship of Online Poker] tournament for close to $85,000. With bankroll somewhere in the range of $75,000, I decided to drop out and play full time. That was around September of 2008.

JR: Seems like a big risk with just one major score on your record. How did your parents feel about your decision?

TP: My mom, who is a lawyer, obviously placed a lot of importance on my education. She was really upset when I told her I was dropping out, but my dad was surprisingly supportive of my decision. Honestly, I don’t know if my decision would have been different even if I hadn’t won that money. It was no secret that I hated school. I was completely unmotivated academically and poker was pretty much taking over. I figured I’d take that money I won and see what I could do with it. Honestly, I try not to think about what would happen if poker hadn’t worked out.

Taylor PaurJR: How were you able to progress your game? Did you have any friends who played poker?

TP: I didn’t really have any friends that played poker, at least not seriously. I tried a couple of books and coaching sites, but I didn’t really like any of them. I realized pretty early on that the best way to learn was to just play a lot. The only way for it to really stick is trial and error. A player is much more likely to apply a concept after experiencing it first hand. About a year ago, I got a backing deal and my game really took off. Through that relationship I was able to meet a lot of the great online players and exchange different approaches and ideas about the game.

JR: How has your game changed since you turned pro?

TP: I was always aggressive. In fact, I’m probably more aggressive now than when I started. The biggest difference between my game then and now is that I’d like to think that I’ve gotten more creative with my play. Like most players, I started off with a very ABC style of play, but I’ve definitely opened up a bit more.

JR: Leaving school with few options other than poker must have been scary. When did you begin to feel confident about your decision to turn pro?

TP: It wasn’t until the end of last year when I started having consistent success that I became confident about my choice to pursue a poker career. I’m confident by nature, but I can’t say that I ever thought I’d be ranked this highly when I started playing a couple years ago. Anyone can see that it’s just been a rapid rise to the top. It takes players years to achieve success and I’ve been very fortunate to have it come early.

JR: You mentioned the rankings. Is winning the Online Player of the Year award important to you?

TP: I check on the guys and I’m always aware of where I am in the rankings, but it doesn’t do any good to worry about who is doing what. Where they finish is out of my control. All I can do is focus on my play and hope to be at the top when it’s all said and done. It would be cool to win for many reasons. First and foremost, I’d be in the company of the other great players who have won it. Secondly, those guys have all gone on to get sponsorship deals with online sites and that would obviously a nice perk.

JR: Is it possible for a great player to have a losing year with online poker, especially given how many tournaments are offered?

TP: It is very possible for a decent player to lose in a calendar year. Variance, after all, is big part of the game we play. That being said, I think it’s very unlikely for the great, elite players to lose in a year. The volume is just too high to not be able to overcome a few downswings here and there. That’s why it’s so easy to lose when playing live. The variance is absurd because of the small amount of events that are available. But online there are just too many to make excuses. Of course, there is a big difference between the great players and the decent ones. I’d guess that the number of regulars that lose is much higher than people tend to think. Poker will always be profitable. It will get tougher, obviously, but those of us who are willing to adjust and adapt will always be able to win.

JR: Any tips for those of us who want to join the ranks of the elite?

TP: I was doing okay when I started playing, but my game really went to the next level when I started talking to other players. If you are just some anonymous guy hiding behind a monitor, hoping to advance to the bigger tournaments, you’ll have a much tougher time than the guy who’s willing to come forward and ask for help. There are plenty of online communities out there to join and share your ideas with.

Also, a lot of people have certain guidelines that they play by that prevent them from being very good. They see a hand and immediately fall back on habits that make them play it the same way every time. You can’t allow yourself to get stuck in a rut like that. Don’t be afraid to mix it up, maybe flat call a three-bet in position with a big pair. You can’t just play preflop poker any more. If you want to be successful, you need to learn to play well on each and every street.