PokerStars Pro Lex Veldhuis is a guy who knows exactly where he's been in poker and exactly where he's going.
From living the high-rolling lifestyle as a young pro in Vegas to playing in the highest-stakes cash games on TV to drunk-bluffing Phil Ivey, Veldhuis has his share of crazy poker stories.
Now a little older, a lot wiser and with a clear picture of what's best for him, his health and his poker game, Veldhuis keeps to a pretty tight and focused schedule. Or he tries to anyway.
Our colleague at PokerListings Germany, Dirk Oetzmann, was lucky to catch up with him at the recent EPT tour stop in San Remo and sat down for a chat about growing up in poker, crazy No-Limit Omaha games, insomnia, shady casinos and more.
PokerListings: How long do you normally plan your schedule in advance?
Lex Veldhuis: I focus on the EPT tournaments, because these I want to play the most, and of course the WSOP.
But other than that, I don’t really plan that much. I check if there is anything on in the next two weeks and then make a decision.
But I am mostly a cash-game player, so I don’t really travel that much.
PL: About cash games. Are you still spending most of your time playing in Las Vegas?
LV: No. I play a lot online on PokerStars now. My girlfriend (poker pro Evelyn Ng) and me recently gave up our house in LV and moved to Toronto, so I spend a lot of time there now.
Before Black Friday, I spent five or six months of the year in Vegas. I would play online or live games, whichever I felt like doing.
Now I play mostly tournaments in Europe – they have some nice ones in Holland, too – and in Canada.
Also, there have been some really insane Omaha cash games in Toronto recently. They play $5/$10 and $10/$20 No-Limit Omaha, and it’s absolutely crazy, what’s going on there.
PL:No Limit Omaha?
LV:I know, it’s very unusual, but if you know the maths and the equities, it’s actually nice, cause you can punish mistakes extra wide.
To be honest, I am still learning, so it is sometimes hard for me, too.
PL: Does NLO even make sense?
LV: It only wouldn’t make sense if there were just very good players at the table, as they would basically neutralize each other.
People would for example 4-bet an AAxx hand to half of their stacks, so that the other guy with, say, T-8-7-5 can’t call anymore.
But if you have worse players, it’s an insane game with insanely deep stacks, as it’s “only” 5/10 and 10/20.
PL: To many beginners, you look like the guy who’s living the dream: young, successful, moving to Vegas. Are you living the dream?
"I don’t know if it’s the dream life, but it’s definitely the best life I can imagine."
LV: I don’t know if it’s the dream life, but it’s definitely the best life I can imagine. Also, it’s not always as crazy as it seems.
I try to live a healthy, very steady life, to make up for the moments when I go completely crazy. The moments when I go and play on The Big Game or High Stakes Poker, or when there is a good game in Vegas.
Away from that, I try to save all my energy for these games. Then there is me learning PLO, and I’m grinding a lot online, so I have to cope with a lot of ups and downs.
I learned from the past. There were times when I would disregard my health completely. I would play all night and sometimes all weekends without a minute of sleep.
I wasn’t thinking about what I was doing, I would just do everything.
Then my health deteriorated. I started getting allergies to food, I developed insomnia, all sorts of things. These allergies never went away again.
I cannot digest beer, cheese, chocolate, coffee, grapes. Basically everything that is strong or matured, my body can’t cope with.
I can live with this, cause most of these things I don’t care too much for, except beer, obviously, but it’s all still the result of my former malnutrition. It’s been a real wake-up call.
I started to do sports, like kickboxing for my fight against ElkY, I’m active in sports five or six times a week, and I feel a lot better.
So now, when there is a long tournament series, I have the energy again to sit down and sail through it for several weeks without getting worn down.
"I learned from the past."
PL: Phil Ivey recently won several million Pounds playing Baccarat in London and then the casino refused to pay him off. Did you ever have that kind of trouble?
LV: Well, I’ve had people who didn’t want to pay me off. (laughs) Casinos are always a bit shady, when it comes to paying off.
Take craps for example, or even Blackjack. They offer a game, some people figure out how to beat it, and as soon as that happens, beating becomes cheating, although it’s really just skill.
That doesn’t mean I think Ivey beats Baccarat, I think that’s pushing it a little too far, cause it’s a pretty skill-free game. I think he just got lucky. The thing is, if someone loses 20 million, they don’t care.
I mean, then they don’t say “I’m sorry, this has never happened before, there must be something wrong, here’s five million back.”
As for me, I never had any trouble like this. Mainly, because I didn’t gamble that much, and secondly, because I never really won. So, I usually got a handshake and free drinks.
PL: Did you ever go to Macau for the high-stakes games there?
LV: No, I’ve never been to Macau in my life. For one, I like my life the way it is. I do pretty much whatever I want.
Secondly, to play in these games, I would have to be a 24/7 grinder. I would have to earn a bankroll big enough so I can play in those big games.
But I don’t want to sit in some shitty 5/10 game for two weeks straight to then get into a good 100/200 game in Macau.
"I just had all the time in the world, and I went broke."
It would turn poker from fun to work, and I don’t want that.
Live games you should only play if they are really fun, or if they are really good. And there are enough fun and good games around.
Look at what happens to a lot of young players. You see some really happy young guys coming over to Vegas to grind, and a year later the grind has made them become very bitter and miserable. They take everything very hard and very serious.
They’ve taken a wrong turn. I know what this is like. I used to do the same thing. There were times when I looked like a ghost.
It all has nothing to do with poker. It has to do with responsibilities. These young guys are on their own for the first time, they have money – at first – and they can do what they want.
When I started out I stopped doing sports, I didn’t have to go to bed on a regular time schedule, I just had all the time in the world, and I went broke.
But even with money on your hands, it’s more difficult than they think to take care of themselves.
On the other hand, there are people who play successfully and stay healthy. For me, the fun part is important, and I’d rather play 20 tables simultaneously for one hour than one table for 20 hours.
PL: When Full Tilt comes back, are you going to play there?
LV: This will sound like a preconception, as I’m obviously sponsored by PokerStars, but even before that, I always preferred the software on PokerStars and played almost exclusively there.
It’s the only software where you can properly multi-table, and it was always a very trusted site.
I have between five and six million hands on PokerStars. On all the other sites combined, maybe 100,000. If they would fire me tomorrow, I would still keep playing on Stars.
"If I had to grind for a living, I would always do it on PokerStars."
PL: Did you actually ever play on Full Tilt?
LV: Yes, a couple of times, but rather casually. I played Ivey sometimes, when I got drunk.
PL: You played Ivey casually, when you got drunk?
LV: Well, you know, it was one of these nights, and there were no games on, you look around and see “oh, there’s Ivey”, and go for it.
I remember one night playing Ivey, I was sitting there with a friend, and I checkraise-bluffed Ivey on the river.
We had these special sound effects for Call and Fold, and we just sat there covering our eyes and praying for the fold sound, and it was such a relief when we heard it. Crazy times.
PL: Are we still talking about too much money and irresponsibility?
LV: Yes. I guess.
PL: So, if you had no contract with PokerStars anymore, you would still not be interested in representing Full Tilt?
LV: If I had to look for a new sponsor, I would of course take a lot of things into account, but if I had to grind for a living, I would always do it on PokerStars.
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