Emil Patel and Jay Rosenkrantz are still in their early 20s. They've only been playing online poker for a few short years. In this short time they've both made a massive impact, crushing big-league games and earning reputations as two of the toughest No-Limit Hold'em players on the net.
Welcome to the latest installment in a new series of interviews here on PokerListings.com: The Session. We sit down around the virtual table with the biggest online players in the game, and a few of our in-house writers, in an attempt to break out of the traditional question-and-answer format poker interview.
Our guests are the aforementioned Patel and Rosenkrantz. Patel plays online as Whitelime and Rosenkrantz as Pr1nnyraid and PurpleEUROS.
They were gracious enough to join me and our head strategy writer Daniel Skolovy for a roundtable discussion on everything from the state of online poker today to the ridiculous prop bets kids get into when they have too much time and even more money on their hands.
Matt Showell: Welcome to the Session. In lieu of your life stories we're going to let people check them out for themselves. Krantz, you have a well post here.
Let's get the ball rolling anyway with the very short version.
Krantz: I've been playing since I was 12, more or less, online for the past four years-ish. I had never heard of bankroll management and insisted on never folding top pair even if there were four all-ins and I had no money invested and no kicker.
MS: How'd that work out for you?
Krantz: Busto. Very. Frequently. But I eventually found twoplustwo.com, and lurked for a while. Then I posted for a while and finally realized you could study the game academically. I read a lot, did a lot of out-of-hand work and made my way up through the stakes.
Around the time of the UIGEA I was winning at $25/$50. Around spring of '07 I stepped into $50/$100 and higher, ran very well, played better, and now I play anything from $25/$50 to $300/$600.
[That] was actually around the time that I started talking poker with Emil and moved in with him. He was kind of in semiretirement but the first or second day I moved in we put in a huge session, split some profits and destroyed everyone.
Daniel Skolovy: OK, post-UIGEA it seems like at the nosebleed stakes there is so much parity. Where do you feel your edge comes from in these tough games?
Krantz: The edge in tough games is very slim. It really only comes from being able to make incredibly quick adjustments one or two steps ahead of other very strong players. You pretty much have to be able to envision what your opponent looks like, eats for breakfast, what kind of car he drives. It's a strange metaphor but once you're in their shoes it is much easier to find your edge.
Whitelime: Yeah I'd agree with that. It's important not to get complacent. You have to constantly review hands you've played and discuss them with other good players to make sure you aren't making mistakes.
DS: Speaking about putting yourself in your opponent's shoes, is this helpful in assigning your opponent a range or is it even deeper than that?
Krantz: The more information you have, the easier it is to put someone on a range of hands and determine how they'd play that range street by street. That doesn't mean you need 100% accurate info, though - you can often get an insanely good read based on one play you've seen your opponent make.
For instance, if I see someone make a desperate bluff in a reraised pot versus someone else, I can now sort of cross-reference that kind of bluff with every other player I've ever seen make that kind of bluff, and draw assumptions based on how that group of players acts.
So it's really all about figuring out exactly what you're up against as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
Whitelime: Sometimes you get into a big pot very early in the match and the only information you have to go by is his screen name or his geographic location and you have to go by those based on past experience.
MS: How often do you have to contend with unknown players and put these sorts of skills to work?
Whitelime: For the most part, I think 90% of the players I play against are known to me. If they are unknowns there's a reasonable chance it's someone else on a new account.
Krantz: Although at this point not too many people will go out of their way to play us!
DS: So it's safe to say that few actual fish just step in and play the nosebleeds?
Krantz: Relative to the other stakes, yes.
DS: What about a guy like Seda1? That's a bit different because he was playing Ivey exclusively but I believe the general consensus was that was a fairly average poker player.
Whitelime: I really don't have much information on him other than I remember him playing Ivey heads-up at nosebleed stakes for a one-week period or so.
Krantz: I don't have much experience playing him either but from what I understand it was a private match set up versus Ivey ... and I mean even so, that game doesn't run very often at all so as you might expect, random players like that are few and far between.
MS: The average skill level online seems to be going up at all stakes. Given that you're both actively involved in this evolution with your instructional site, what direction do you see the game going in terms of it being profitable?
Will there always be worse players or is it a matter of adapting to the changing game?
Whitelime: There will definitely always be worse players. I don't think No-Limit Hold'em is a game that can be solved by computers anytime soon. Also, there is constant adjusting to how the games are changing. They are definitely getting tougher, but I also feel like I'm getting better.
Krantz: Well, I don't think poker will ever die. Traffic on the major sites is actually up from before the legislation. The game is expanding internationally, the new WSOP final-table format will be good for the marketing of the game and it will always be profitable for those who are smart enough. It might just take a bit more work.
MS: What are the specific changes or trends you're seeing at your level recently?
Krantz: There's been a lot more aggressive pre-flop play. A few years ago if you got reraised pre-flop you could fold pocket kings. Now you can't even fold pocket sevens.
Whitelime: I think the most drastic changes occurred about a year or a year and a half ago when the games got incredibly more aggressive. I think recently the trend has slowed but still exists.
Whitelime: One of the biggest, most annoying trends has been the increase in professional short stackers. It's a shame very few sites have done anything to combat this.
They basically have computer programs that tell them what to do. There is literally no skill in what they are doing. While I do think the addition of 50 big blind minimum buy-in tables is a step toward correcting it, sites still refuse to remove 20 BB buy-in tables.
It's obvious the sites [...] receive more immediate profits by allowing the short stacks to exist because people will pay more rake.
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That's all the time we have for in part one of this epic roundtable discussion. Make sure to check back tomorrow when part two will hit the site. Tales of ludicrous prop bets and more invaluable insights from two of the game's best are in store.
And remember, Whitelime got his start online grinding freerolls and in just a few short years he's risen to playing the biggest games online. We're not saying you're going to get the same results but there's only one way to find out. Click through and check out all the exclusive freeroll programs available to everyone who signs up for an account through PokerListings.com.
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And as a second added benefit check out the second part of the interview.