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Patrick Leonard: “There is So Much Ego in These High Rollers”
In 2014 Patrick "pads1161" Leonard reached his goal of becoming the world number one online tournament player in the PocketFives rankings.
You don’t reach the summit of that particular mountain by luck.
Leonard knows what he’s doing and, fortunately for the poker community, he's not shy when it comes to sharing it.
A former journalist Leonard feels it’s important to share his emotion with the world. And to spread the kind of emotion that poker imbibes, Leonard believes there is no better time to spew forth than just after a session.
He did this, most recently, after playing in the €25k High Roller event at the European Poker Tour (EPT) Grand Final in Monte Carlo.
He wasn’t happy with his reaction after losing a big pot against Dan Smith. He explained his reasoning in his blog. The next day PokerNews shared that insight with his fellow competitors.
The title of the PokerNews blog was: ‘The €25k Existential Crisis of Patrick Leonard.’
I got hold of the Newcastle man to learn what the fuss was about. This is what he had to say.
Lee Davy: The PokerNews team posted your personal blog post in the live reporting section of that event. How did that feel?
Patrick Leonard: The steep buy-in of €25k means the fields are minimized. This means a large percentage of the field read the live updates on PokerNews.
A lot of players have pieces of each other and they want to keep up-to-date with the action.
I went home at the end of Day 1 and posted what could be described as a depressing blog post. I came back on Day 2 and PokerNews had used some of that post on a live updates blog.
Everyone had read it and I guess everyone was looking at me thinking that I was in above my head ... that a €25k buy-in was too high for me.
There is so much ego in these high rollers. A lot of the guys are playing the event just because it is a "high roller."
A lot of guys either lose a lot of their money playing these kinds of events, because they are underrolled, and others are playing for less than 10% of themselves.
They can choose to play this $25k event with 10% of themselves, and a debatable ROI of 5%, or play a $2k that runs at exactly the same time, with none of the sickos, and an ROI of up to 100%.
They choose the $25k because of ego. I don’t like high rollers in general. There is going to be a $25k in the Aria every weekend during the WSOP.
In terms of bankroll, and skill, I could sell percentages and play every one of them, but it’s not my scene. The high roller culture has come around so quickly.
In the past there would have been one $25k in the summer and everyone would be excited about it. Nowadays there is one every week.
The same people play them and the same people stake them. The fish turn up and everyone else shares their money.
I noticed that after I played the $25k events in Monaco and Malta I started to want to play a bit bigger and stake a bit bigger. Previously, I was buying 10% of players in tournaments; now I was buying 50%.
Because of the increase in buy ins it made me want to do everything a little bit bigger. The best Rolex watch? That's fine. That's only 1/2 of a buy in!
This is one of the reasons why I didn't want to play so high in Vegas. When Vegas ends what do these players do? They don’t play online anymore.
How can you turn up and play an online tournament session on a Wednesday evening when you've been playing $25k events for the last two-months?
In the past I would mark a lot of these players pink on my PokerStars notes: ‘top-top reg.' But they have deteriorated so much.
Not in their natural ability but their disregard for the game. It’s not a challenge for them anymore. They are firing €300k into €100k events on a regular basis and this means all the other tournaments have lost their prestige.
It's very tough for the high roller regulars to take the online game as seriously as before. If you lost $5k a few years ago, on a Sunday, you would think that was a lot of money.
Perhaps the most underrated skill for anybody who regularly plays high rollers is to be able to play different stakes and treat them with similar regard. I know Timex, for example, is trying really hard to give mid-stakes cash games a go.
That's definitely something I really respect. I know players like Nick Petrangelo are studying a lot outside of playing, but it's definitely true that a handful of these guys regularly punt when they grace the online felt.
LD: Were you annoyed with PokerNews for posting your personal blog at that time?
PL: Not at all. If I was neutral and read that as a fan of the game I would love to read it. In general poker players don’t write about how they feel.
I like to blog about my emotions. I want my investors to have a proper sweat. Sometimes I will tell them that I played my "A" game and other times I tell them I made mistakes.
The first time I played a €10k I was in Vienna. I remember where I was in the room when I posted my Facebook status telling people that I was playing, how I felt emotionally, who liked my post.
I love the emotion of poker. It’s my thing. I also love writing, I used to be a journalist and I like to share my emotion.
After a day of poker, when I get back to the hotel room I open up my laptop and write. That’s when the true emotion comes out and I want to capture that.
On Day 1 I was very controlled all day. I lost the first bullet: AQ v AJ all in pre flop and I was totally fine. Then I got my second bullet and played as well as I could.
Then it was the last hand of the night and everyone was bagging up and celebrating when it folded to me in the small blind and I looked down and saw pocket kings.
I was ready to fold the hand and bag up a really good stack for Day 2. I was looking forward to blogging about how well I played and how comfortable I felt playing €25k events.
I guess my mental state just slipped for several minutes. I lost this Kings hand on the river, all-in, and I felt sad. Mentally I wasn’t tilted. But I have never felt so sad in poker before.
I felt angry and entitled to win. I was thinking: “It’s not fair that he beat me, I study and he doesn’t. I play six times a week he doesn’t.”
All those things were going through my mind. I was playing against the best players in the world, in the biggest buy-in I have ever played, and I was walking home sad, dejected and depressed.
That’s not a place I want to be. I play six days per week. $109 tournaments are my bread and butter. I realized it wasn’t for me.
Even if I did feel that I was one of the better players, if it makes me sad I am just not going to play them.
LD: Was part of the sadness related to your ego?
PL: I think so. Take football as an example. I played a lot when I was younger and there is a lot of ego. You really want your teammates to think you played well.
When you lose, and you know you played poorly, sometimes you make excuses and bitch about the other players. You don’t want the other players to think you were the bad player.
It’s similar in poker. I knew that I played well and didn’t make many mistakes, but when you look back in time you will see that I blasted two bullets in a €25k and wasted €50k.
I wanted to finish the day as a really big stack. I wanted to post my blog post so people could say that I did really well.
If I see Timex ending the day with over 200k going through to Day 2 I think, “what a sicko!” I was feeling that same sense of entitlement. I think a lot of people think like that in poker.
If you study 10 hours per week, play all week, and dedicate your life to the game and then you fail … even if you know inside you play well it’s not enough. You also want other people to know you played well.
LD: And I imagine there are players who win regularly without applying the right work ethic.
PL: A lot of guys have played about 50 High Rollers and have run way over expectation, so I imagine they don’t feel like they need to study.
But in reality they are not always playing optimally and making huge mistakes. Before I played my first €25k I spent hours watching these events on YouTube.
I was studying players and looking for mistakes. I have so many notes on so many players.
Some lines certain players were regularly making just couldn't be the optimal line, but it gave me a lot of confidence that I could break down a hand that one of the top, top players made and realize the mistakes they made and how I would play if I was ever in a similar spot.
I don't proclaim to be the best poker player, but I think that tomorrow I will always be better than I was yesterday. If I stopped seeing progression in my game I would be very concerned.
Unfortunately, poker doesn't always reward hard work and a studious approach to the game. Over the next three years maybe there will only be 50 high roller events.
The variance in such a sample size is so absurd that it's barely worth even thinking: "who is the best player?"
LD: Was part of the sadness related to the thought of losing your bankroll?
PL: If I had a great result in one of the first €25k’s I played in then life would be so different.
If I lose €100k playing four tournaments, which is nothing, I would feel guilty asking people to take pieces of me.
But if I win a big score I would feel like I was doing them a favor by offering them a piece.
No one wants hear about my bad beat stories before investing in me. I felt sad because by not winning that big pot it perhaps stopped me playing them in the future.
I guess you start to feel bad or somewhat apprehensive about posting packages where you have no success in.
If I post a package for an online series I feel OK even if I brick it completely because I've shown over the last 12 months that it will definitely be a great investment.
But selling for high rollers - until you actually have a big score - people are still going to doubt you. But let’s say I won the 25k in Monaco everybody would be thinking, "Wow what a sicko, I definitely will invest next time.”
LD: So what adjustments do you make?
PL: Because there are so few of them it’s just not a wise thing to play any of them in the future. If the WSOP was $25k every day, and not $1k, then I would sell enough to play every day.
Even though 50 events is nothing variance-wise it’s more than once per month. Let’s take the $25k events at the Aria.
From Mon-Fri you play $1-$1,500 events and then you are playing a $25k. It’s so hard to respect these smaller tournaments. It’s so hard to fold that hand on the river.
I want to play everything and have a breakout year at the WSOP. When I set goals I want them to be challenging but realistic. It’s so unrealistic to say that in 2016 I am going to be a High Roller champion.
I feel the most realistic thing for live poker, in terms of a goal, is to have a great WSOP cashing as much as I can. I am going to play 40+ events and it’s not unrealistic to say I could be one of the guys who cashes a lot.
If I can prepare well, eat well, sleep well, go to the gym; I have a mental coach and my personal trainer. Only variance stops me from doing well.
My edge is bigger in a smaller field because the variance is easier to control. My mind isn’t ready for these €25k events because my bankroll is not big enough to take the variance.
It will affect me mentally if I run badly for a year playing €25k’s. This doesn’t happen losing money playing in $1.5k, $5k or $10k events.