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Jonathan Karamalikis is one of Australia's most successful professional poker players and he got his start playing online without ever depositing a dollar. Karamalikis grinded free money poker on the internet and got his bankroll rolling with a $3 win on UB. Since then he's raked in millions of dollars both online and live. We caught Karamilikis on a break from the WSOP APAC main event, just days after his runner-up finish in one of the first ever gold bracelet events in Australia.
I started poker when I was about 15. I just learned at a friend's house, just playing a home game, I guess. But I only played a little bit, and then I went and played online, and I refused to have a deposit, so I ended up grinding play money for about a year. I actually didn't think real money really existed, and I pretty much thought I was, like, the greatest thing ever because I made the top leaderboard of this, basically, a TLB of this other site. And then I won $3 on Absolute Poker and just ran that up.
I wouldn't say it's a good opportunity that, you know, people that don't know what they want to do with their life to play poker because it's just one of those games that, it's so adapted to your personality that I don't think anyone can do it. And it's not, basically, I don't think it's based solely on IQ or anything. I think it's like a set of, I guess, like behavioral skills, so I don't really feel like anyone should kind of, I don't know, try and dedicate a lot of their time to being a professional poker player.
You've got to be good at analyzing risk versus reward. I think that's a big part of it. You've got to have somewhat of a lack of care for money, not to a reckless regard, but you've still got to be willing to be a pretty carefree person, I think, and not really worry too much about consequences, even though that's going against the whole risk versus reward thing. But yeah, they kind of somehow gel together, I think.
It's not hard, no. Like, my parents think I have the cushiest life in the world. They understand poker quite well. They know exactly what I'm going through, especially when I'm stressed a little bit. But it generally doesn't take me too long to get over a couple of bad bets or anything, and usually the positives outweigh the negatives by a lot, you know, because I get to travel around a lot and generally have a pretty good time.
Yeah, I'm definitely grateful for poker. I went to uni and I was studying accounting, and I didn't even really like it. So just to find something that I enjoy doing and that I can make a living off has been amazing.
Yeah, I'm generally pretty depressed if I don't win, but considering the run I had on the final table, I got it in bad three or four times, so I was actually really happy about coming second, even though I'm really competitive and I hate to come second. But, I mean, I feel like I played pretty well and got really lucky, so I can't have any complaints.
Having a World Series bracelet, I feel like it should be something that I really, really want, but, I don't know. I definitely would love to win one, but my whole goal in poker isn't just to win a bracelet, it's basically just to do the best I possibly can and win as many tournaments as I possibly can, whether it be an EPT or a bracelet.
I definitely use poker as a way just to do things that I like to do. I like poker, it's a great game, but it's not my whole life. And yeah, I just love the freedom I can have with it. I mean, I can just go spend a couple months with some friends in Europe, and it's fine because no one's my boss or anything. So it's pretty cool.
But yeah, once I started building up my bankroll a little bit, then I started to realize that it was definitely possible to make a living. And I had seen it on TV before. I just remember watching this one episode with Juha Helppi winning like a million dollars or something at PCA, and I was just like, "That's a pretty sweet job."
No, I think this is pretty much it for Australian poker. I think this is going to be a really big boom, especially if an Australian wins, though, because, I mean, it's going to be so easy just for people over the next year to learn poker and save up their money and register because, I mean, it's going to be a big deal here, I think.