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Sit-and-go king reveals trade secrets
If you're at all interested in high-stakes online poker, chances are you've watched Jared Hubbard play at some point.
Hubbard, a 23-year-old from Winona, Minn., who plays under the screen name of jhub3000, is something of a poker machine. He plays 10 to 12 sit-and-go tournaments at a time at true nosebleed stakes - and not only does he play, he wins. A lot.
So much, in fact, that he's ranked as the top short-handed sit-and-go player on the Internet today.
So what's the secret of his success?
"I think I work on my game more than anyone," says Hubbard. "It seems that I study the game more than pretty much most players I talk to. I think mainly it's just a matter of studying more, and making sure you have every situation down. That's what separates people at the top."
"I get pretty ambitious with goals," Hubbard says.
That ambition gives him the incentive to perfect his game, which has taken him a long way from where he started. In the beginning he played six-max cash games, mostly at the 50¢-$1 level. He made the jump to sit-and-gos by starting with $20 and $30 tourneys at PokerRoom, and then switched to PokerStars and their $38 sit-and-gos - which he crushed for a 22% ROI.
At the time, the only higher-stakes sit-and-go offered on PokerStars was at the $121 level. Hubbard says he was really happy with his results at the $38 level, and a little "gun-shy" about moving up. But eventually he did just that, and met with continued success.
"After I moved up, I started getting strategy down better, and adjusting to players better," says Hubbard. He also started playing turbo sit-and-gos instead of the slower-paced variety because of their profitability. The real turning point followed his jump to turbos.
"I started asking people in chat boxes to e-mail support about higher levels. So the $78s, $235s, $325s, $565s, and the $1,000 six-man sit-and-gos - the reason they have those is because of me spamming the chat boxes and getting people to e-mail support.
"It ended up working because everyone else wanted them," says Hubbard. "But poker players generally don't seem to take much initiative unless you put the idea out there. You have to tell people or else they won't do it on their own."
A rough transition
Sometimes poker players talk about having "aha" moments, where something about the game that had previously eluded them suddenly becomes clear. Hubbard doesn't cop to any of those moments, but he does admit that the transition from regular sit-and-gos to turbos was a rougher one than the switch from cash games to sit-and-gos had been.
"Turbos are a very different game. There's way more push-fold, and I didn't have that down as much as I thought. I had a lot more leaks than I thought, especially once you get to the bubble," says Hubbard. "The bubble of sit-and-gos is just a completely different character."
He says he started off on a downswing as a result of those leaks. But the old saying about dark clouds and silver linings held true, thanks to his work ethic.
"I think when you're on your downswings you get more motivated to learn," Hubbard says. "So I sought out other players. Just talking with a couple other players, having them review my hand histories and looking at theirs - that was really what helped me get the turbos down pretty quickly."
Hubbard particularly credits Newt Buggs, who at the time was one of the biggest winners of sit-and-gos on PartyPoker but has since moved on to cash games, for helping him to master the turbos. That mastery has led to several hundred thousand dollars' worth of profit and SuperNova Elite status at PokerStars.
Live poker = prison?
Lots of online players dream of making a big score in the world of live tournaments, but Hubbard isn't among that group. He says that he plays two or three live tournaments a year, but no more than that.
"To be honest, I find live poker kind of boring," he says. "I'm so used to having 10 to 12 games going at a time online, and when I get down to one - it's just a drag sitting there 12 hours a day with one table. You have to focus on everything, and everything is slower.
"When you play live, […] you're in prison," he says with a laugh. "You have to play."
It all comes down to the math, Hubbard says. If he has a 100% ROI over the three to five days of your average $5,000 tournament, he's actually losing money because he could've made more by playing online.
"That's my whole deal, I just look at the long run instead of trying to go for some pipe dream of winning a couple million. Once you factor in all the travel costs, and [the fact that] you're always away from friends and family - it's not worth it to me.
"I just love that with online poker, I can make my own schedule. I have all the freedom I want. If something comes up, if some friends call me and want to do something, I can stop loading my games and be ready in an hour, you know.
"I love the freedom of online poker, and I think the live tournaments kind of take away from that."
You can read Jared Hubbard's blog at http://jhub3000.livejournal.com.