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Olivier Busquet on Unique Friendship with Dan Colman, One Drop Trip
For years Olivier Busquet has been known as one of the best heads-up poker players in the world.
A revered commentator on various WPT and WSOP live streams, he's also proven himself to be one of the sharpest poker analysts going.
After winning his first major live title at WPT Borgata in 2009 Busquet picked up his second major at the EPT Barcelona Super High Roller this past August, defeating pal Dan Colman heads-up.
Following that up with a win in the £2,000 UKIPT High Roller in October it's been a banner year in 2014 -- although it has come with its moments of controversy.
PokerListings caught up with Busquet at the ongoing EPT Prague to find out more about his recent trip to Honduras and El Salvador, his thoughts on PokerStars’ recent changes and a poker book even he has learned from.
PokerListings: Olivier, we saw you in the Main Event reading a poker book. Are you still studying the game in this way?
Olivier Busquet: Not really. It's an exception. But the book was recommended from a couple of really good players, for example Ike Haxton.
The title is Expert Heads-up No Limit Holdem and it's written by a guy called Will Tipton. I guess he came originally from poker and decided than to pursue a PhD in some economic field.
The book is highly theoretical, formulizes a lot of the math and I'm really impressed because it helps to understand the process of heads-up poker in general. I certainly learn from it.
PL: You Tweeted recently about a trip to Central America with Dan Colman and the One Drop Foundation. How much are you involved in the One Drop charity project?
OB: I am not actively involved. Basically, the reason I went on the trip is that I am good friends with Dan Colman. And Dan Colman won the $1m One Drop.
So, the winner is invited to go and can bring some friends. Dan brought me and my wife. And Jack Effel was with us, because the WSOP plays a big role in the whole One Drop thing.
I would maybe engage myself a little bit more in that. But they don’t accept volunteers. They want to have specialists. So, the only thing I can do is to play their tournaments.
PL: You travelled to El Salvador and Honduras. Was there a special reason why you went to these countries?
OB: We were originally supposed to go to Burkina Faso and Mali. But the combination of ebola and the state coup in Burkina Faso two months ago made the trip a little bit too risky.
I think Dan had mixed feelings from the beginning about Africa, but my wife and me we really wanted to go.
There it would have been better for me as they speak French in Burkina Faso, so I would have been able to talk to people.
Now, it was all Spanish, so it was on my wife to handle the conversation. Her mother is from the Dominican Republic. She supported us really well.
PL: What exactly did you do there?
OB: One Drop organised the trip really carefully. We travelled in convoys, we had bodyguards.
We spent two days in Honduras and two days in El Salvador and always felt very safe. We met the local partners and they presented the projects.
And then we visited families. Were we were they had water but it was not clean. So the challenge there is more to have good working filters.
And some of these filters are very simple. For example, you can take a bucket, fill it with ceramic shards and the ceramics catch the bacteria and clean the water.
But One Drop is more than only water. It is more to give people the opportunity to become self-reliant. They don’t hand out micro loans themselves, but they give the guarantees for them.
PL: Antonio Esfandiari chose Jeff Gross as the partner for the trip. Why has Dan Colman chosen you?
OB: Dan is like family to me, like my brother. We met 4 or 5 years ago online.
They had different chat rules on Full Tilt than on PokerStars so you could write in the chat, even if you were only an online spectator.
I was playing a $1k Heads Up Sit-n-Go and Dan started chatting with me. He wrote some funny things and some really intelligent stuff about poker at the same time.
So, we had purely online conversations for some time. Then we met and we started a mentor/mentee relationship.
I was coaching him and then I started staking him. The day when I staked him he immediately quit his job as a dishwasher.
We became really good friends. And then we decided to not play against each other anymore.
There are a lot of poker players who like to gamble against their friends. But Dan isn't like this and me neither.
Heads-up can be very, very personal and we don’t want to hurt each other. So we never met on a heads-up online poker table again.
And then Dan became closer with my wife also. And I am always together with my wife so in the end, like I said, I see Dan Colman as my family.
PL: Now he is the Player of the Year. How is the coaching going?
OB: He started playing Heads-up Sit-n-Gos couple of years ago on the highest level.
Then he moved to Brazil and won a lot of money, and at the latest from this point he was established. And then two years ago I started learning things from him, too.
PL: You're an active, independent online player who has been known to answer controversial questions What do you think about the raise of the rake by PokerStars?
OB: I mean, they raised the rake only in some games, for example in the hyper turbos. I don’t play them very much so it doesn’t affect me very much.
From what I’ve seen PokerStars’ new rake is relatively in line with the market but at the same time, when you raise the rake like that, you’ll make it tougher for people to win money.
There is only so much profit to go around and the more PokerStars raises the rake, the more goes into their pockets and not into the players’.
It’s a tricky situation. They are market leaders so they have a lot of liberties to do what they want to do.
They didn’t raise the rake on every game. When it comes to the hyper-turbos there are some guys around who make a lot of money.
Maybe at PokerStars they were thinking they should tilt the boundaries of profit a little more towards them. In a way, I can’t really blame them.
The players who have been making money in these games are now hiding their stats because the guys don’t want anybody to know how much money they are making. Hyper-turbos are like a well-kept secret.
Also, it’s generally very hard to say how high rake should be in the first place. The poker rooms are really just making it up.
They look at how profitable people are and then adjust the rake accordingly. Had they begun with this level maybe everybody would have just taken it without saying anything.
I don’t know everything about all games, but what I’ve heard several times is that players complain that their profitability was squeezed out.
But honestly, if your profitability has been squeezed by this small rake increase, maybe you weren’t really that profitable.
The increase hurts the people right around the middle. Those who are grinding a high number of hands on multiple tables and who are making money on rakeback and these things.
Now if these people quit, then the real sharks, the guys who are crushing the games, would play more fish and that could even increase their win rate.
Where PokerStars could lose money is if they are crushing the reg wars. Where the regulars are vying for superiority, there is very little edge.
So with the increase these wars could stop and that would lose PokerStars some money.