Faraz Jaka talks traveling, settling down and living with a target on your back.
American poker pro Faraz Jaka has been homeless for the last two years but after playing WPT Montreal he thinks he’s found the perfect place to settle down.
Jaka has earned millions of dollars playing poker both online and live and began traveling abroad full-time following the US Department of Justice’s crackdown on online poker in 2011.
Since then he’s come to appreciate European culture and the poker scene outside of North America.
But it was a recent trip to Canada that made him think about setting up a home base.
PokerListings.com caught Jaka at WPT Prague and he told us about life as a traveling road gambler.
PokerListings.com: Today is the first day of the Bellagio Five Diamond, but you are here in Prague. Why?
Faraz Jaka: I really enjoy playing in Europe these days. I started playing in Europe about five years ago half time, and now I play here almost full time.
I love travelling, and I like playing tournaments, so I enjoy using the time in between events to travel around in Europe.
And it’s also because of the tournaments. There is just more value in the tournaments over here, and blacking out the US from online poker killed a lot of the live action as well.
PL: Most of your Hendon Mob entries of 2012 are European, indeed. Some of them even from smaller events like the ones in Dublin.
"I like to go all out or nothing."
FJ: Yes. What I like to do is, I like to go all out or nothing. So, if I decide to go to an event, I’d rather play all the tournaments. It gives you an advantage because you learn about the players. If you just come and go, you miss the chance to take advantage of that.
Of course, I’d like to get that advantage over American players.
Another thing I really like about Europe is where the casinos are situated. In America, the casinos are always in the middle of nowhere, because they are afraid that they would attract drugs and prostitution and crime and so on.
In Europe on the other hand, the casinos are always right in the middle of the city, and the authorities try to regulate everything, which is easier, if the casinos are closer.
I’d love to play an event bang in the middle of Chicago or right in the middle of New York, but that’s just not happening, you know.
PL: If you say you stay here full time now, have you found yourself a place to stay?
FJ: I’ve been homeless for two years. I kind of have a base in Gdansk, Poland, but that doesn’t mean I go there that often.
PL: In Poland? Not the typical first pick for an American in Europe.
FJ: I just love to explore, and I have a buddy who lives there, so I went to visit him, and it’s a really cool city.
PL: Any favorite place in Europe?
FJ: Zürich, maybe. I had a blast when I went there.
But recently I went to WPT Montreal, and I didn’t really know a lot about it beforehand. When I got there, I really fell in love with the place, and I got to know a lot of the locals. So now I’m trying to get back there.
"Montreal is kind of the perfect mix for me."
PL: So where are you going to settle down?
FJ: I would generally prefer Europe, because of the better cultural experience, but it’s kind of hard to play online poker on the European schedule. Whereas in Montreal, you feel a lot like being in Europe, but you are in a better time zone when it comes to online poker.
Also, it’s one and a half hours away from Chicago, where I have some business to do on a regular basis, so Montreal is kind of the perfect mix for me.
PL: What does a homeless guy like you do when you want to play online?
FJ: It’s not a big problem, really. You can play while you’re on the road, only that there are some exceptions. Not only the States, but of course you can’t play in Italy or in France and some other places where only locals can play.
I don’t play online that much, though, mainly the big Sunday tournaments or big series events like the SCOOP or the FTOPS. I try to never miss the Sunday, but usually, I don’t play more often than one more week day.
When SCOOP or FTOPS are on, I might play the whole week, though.
PL: You are more of a tournament than a cash game player, right?
FJ: Yes. I started out with cash games about seven years ago, but for the last five years it’s been almost exclusively tournaments.
PL: Have you heard about what happened to Theo Jörgensen yesterday?
PL: People broke into his house, robbed him, and then shot him in the leg because they weren’t happy about how little money they found.
Jaka when he sponsored by Doyle's Room.
FJ: Really wow. I did not know that.
PL: Is playing poker a dangerous profession?
FJ: I hate hearing stories like that. I try to keep my mind off things like this, but the truth of the matter is you are a huge target as a player because the amount of money you’re making is right there on the internet, but of course your expenses aren’t.
And on top of that, there really are sketchy people in this business. So you have to be very careful about what you’re doing. You have to be smart and research the area you’re in.
For example, I hear a lot of people asking “what hotel are you staying in” or “in which area is your apartment”. I don’t answer that. Many players do, but I don’t. This information makes it easier for something to happen like what happened to Theo.
It’s a measure of protection. It’s part of the “being smart”, that you stay aware of what can be exploited.
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