ShipItHolla Atcha Boy: Jon Little at the Gulf Coast Poker Championship

Jonathan Little
Jonathan Little playing on Day 2 at the Gulf Coast Poker Championship on Season 6 of the WPT

Going into Day 3 leading the pack with over $500,000 in chips here at the inaugural Gulf Coast Poker Championship is Jon "FieryJustice" Little. Repping the infamous ShipItHolla Balla Crew and gunning for his second WPT title this season alone, Little played an exceptionally disciplined game this evening to finish with the chip lead.

After the bubble had burst and the chips had been bagged, Jon took a few minutes to give his side of the story.

Let's start by talking about your experience on the World Poker Tour. You've had a ton of success, a final table last season and a win already this season. How has your approach to these events changed now that you've had a taste of victory?

Justice Prevails.

Well, back when I started, before I made the final table at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure last year where I finished fifth, I wasn't really playing to win; I was more just playing to hang around. After that one I've really been playing to win which means I'm going to make it into the money less but when I do I'm going to have a lot more chips.

You're well known online for your success in sit-and-gos, so how does that experience translate to these large multi-table tournaments?

Late in a tournament it's very similar to a sit-and-go because everyone has a fairly short stack so a lot of the time you can only really go all-in or fold. And most people don't know how to do that very well. They'll raise 30 or 40% of their stack and then fold if you go all-in. So that's a huge leak in a lot of people's games. I really do like smaller fields better though because whenever you're playing in a big field you have to run better for a lot longer.

Jonathan Little
The force is strong in this one.

I have done pretty decent in multi-table tournaments online as well though. I took second in a Sunday Million on PokerStars and a fourth in a Million Guaranteed on FullTilt, both in the last year.

I've heard the idea that the fields in tournaments tend to get softer the farther south you go. From your experience here do you think there's any truth to that?

Generally the farther away from Vegas you go in America the softer the fields get. The one in Atlantic City will probably be just as soft. This was certainly one of the softest fields of the year though, mostly because a lot of the pros didn't make the trip down.

Jonathan Little
Little Jon.

Is having such a high percentage of weaker players conducive to the way you play or are you more comfortable playing against somewhat better players?

There are different kinds of bad players. There's the really tight bad players and the maniac bad players. If you're playing against weak-tight players it's great because you can just steal all the blinds. But if you're playing against the maniacs it can be difficult. You just have to play very tight yourself and wait for hands.

On my first table I had three very aggressive players and I ended up busting two of them because I was just patient. I just check-called them down with top pair and it was good every time. There were also a few very tight players on my table today so I was just going after their blinds a lot.

You talked about the problems that a lot of players have with not understanding that all-in or fold mentality when you are short-stacked late in a tournament. We were just playing on the money bubble so were you able to use that to your advantage?

Jonathan Little
Legend in the making.

The money bubble was really weird at my table tonight. It was like everyone was trying to get all-in all the time. I've never seen anything like it. I probably only gained about $30,000 from stealing the blinds twice. Every hand was raised and re-raised in front of me so there's nothing you can really do.

Right now, in this stage of WPT events, the average stack is still like 30 big blinds so in a few levels we'll get to the point where the average is closer to 20 big blinds and then if someone in front of you raises you should just push. And if you raise and someone pushes you should be calling a lot. So what that means is that you have to raise a lot less hands and play much tighter because you should have the intention of calling whenever someone's playing back at you.

You talked about playing to win versus playing to move up in the payouts so what's your game plan going forward tomorrow?

Well, I don't really know how the weaker players are going to play now because we haven't seen how they play in the money. So I'm not sure if they're going to play like maniacs now, trying to win the tournament, or if they're going to try to move up in the payouts. No one should be trying to move up because it doesn't really jump that much.

Ninth place is only $46,000 which is only four times what we're getting now so it's basically nothing. Everyone should be trying to win but if they're playing tight I'm just going to steal a lot of blinds. If they start to play like maniacs though I'm just going to tighten up myself and get it all-in good over and over.

Jonathan Little
SNG Icon.

We've talked about the later stages of the tournament but what is your general approach to playing early and putting yourself in a position to make a run at the final table?

Usually in the early levels of these tournaments I play pretty loose, just long enough to give other players the image that I'm really loose, and then I tend to tighten up a bit. But on the other hand if I'm playing tight early I'm going to loosen up later on.

Usually at this stage in the tournament I've yet to play really tight. It's alright to raise a lot if you're raising to like 2.3 times the big blind because then you're getting better than 1-1 odds to steal the blinds and you'll probably steal the blinds more than half the time so that's profitable by itself, even if you fold every time you get re-raised and lose every flop you see.

Generally people see someone with a big stack and assume that they're a loose player so whenever I raise I'm generally going to be pretty tight and no one's really going to figure that out most of the time. They see the big stack and think that I'm raising everything and so they're going to push with A-9.

Jonathan Little

Is table image something that you're really aware of?

Oh yeah, table image is very important. If people think you're raising every hand you're going to get re-raised a lot more often. I've also noticed that in weak fields people seem to really believe in rushes so if you're winning a lot of hands people are much more likely to fold. But the same is true if you're losing a lot of hands, you need to just chill out and wait for a hand.

OK Jon, good luck tomorrow.

When at the table Little is a man of few words, clearly comfortable with letting his play do the talking. Away from the felt though, the analysis and thought he's put into the game can be heard loud and clear, leaving little doubt as to why he's had so much success in just a few short years. Going into Day 3 with the chip lead and the ability to adapt to any situation which may arise, his seat at the final table seems all but locked up.

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