Ben Tollerene is a 26-year-old poker pro from Ft. Worth, Texas who’s made millions playing poker, most of it on the internet under his screen-names Bttech86 and Ben86.
Tollerene has more than $1.1 million in online MTT earnings but it’s his high-stakes Pot-Limit Omaha chops that garner the most attention.
The Texan regularly wins or loses six-figure sums on a daily basis, and since Black Friday he’s had to travel the world for the privilege.
Tollerene found poker as he was finishing high school but it wasn’t until he was studying finance at Texas Tech University that he found Two Plus Two.
A Future at the Poker Table
This was in 2006 and it didn’t take Tollerene long to realize his future was at the poker table. His Hendon Mob page contains only four cashes, and they’re all from the 2011 World Series of Poker.
PokerListings.com: You’ve been crushing online this year. Was it a tough decision to come here to play the WSOP since you can’t play online in the US?
Ben “Ben86” Tollerene: Well, I figured a lot of the high-stakes players would be coming out here to the WSOP so the games I play in might be dead.
Also last summer the games out here were huge. They were playing $100/$200 with a $400 or $1k straddle, so there’s definitely good cash games here.
And it’s also about all the tournaments here all summer that I love to play.
PL: What was it like playing the high-stakes cash games here last year?
BT: I didn’t play super big, I was playing mostly $100/$200, but the games were great.
I was playing about half at Bellagio and half here at the Rio and you’ve got all the typical guys like Cole South and Brian Hastings and one of the Dang brothers, and then there’s a few very wealthy people who come into town for the World Series and the games form around then.
PL: You’re best known as an online cash player so what’s your experience like out here playing live tournaments?
BT: This is my fourth year out here and it was definitely rough at the beginning, just having the patience to play slow and play just the one table at a time.
But now with the experience I have it’s a lot easier. I’m a lot more comfortable and I don’t feel anxious when I’m playing.
Tournaments have been a bit of a struggle for me though. I have a few good results but I’ve actually had some problems with the pressure of playing live, especially towards the end when there’s so many people and the cameras are getting in your face and stuff.
It’s something I’ve been working on for sure.
My best live result was a seventh-place last year in the $10k six-max and I remember specifically making a few mistakes because I got kind of frozen by the cameras and couldn’t think.
When you’re under high pressure it’s really hard to apply the things you don’t have memorized to like an unconscious competence level. The things that you have to actively think about when you’re playing, that stuff kind of disappears when you’re under intense pressure.
PL: How does that compare to the pressure of playing online for huge stakes?
BT: I just have so much more experience playing online that there’s just not the same pressure. I think the actual physical presence of people has a lot to do with it as well though.
It’s not only thinking about what you’re going to look like on TV and stuff, but I have so much less experience playing live that I’m really worried I’m giving stuff away to the other players at the table.
Tollerene has been to Canada, Malta, Spain, Holland, Italy and Australia since Black Friday.
When you’re under pressure it feels very intense inside your body. It might not look that intense on the outside but you might think it does, and that can sort of snowball and make it worse.
PL: Tell us a bit about your lifestyle since Black Friday and what you’ve had to do to keep playing online.
BT: It’s been pretty crazy. First I went to Canada and I lived in Toronto from the end of the WSOP last year until December.
Then I went to Malta and lived there for two months. And then I did a little trip through Barcelona, Amsterdam and Rome, and then I went to Melbourne and I was there for two months.
I’ve definitely seen a lot of things I probably wouldn’t have seen if Black Friday hadn’t happened.
PL: You’ve had an amazing year so far online. Is there anything you can point to, to explain the success?
BT: I don’t know. I think it’s a combination of the PLO games being really good, and I’ve been putting a lot of work in for a long time.
I’m not sure exactly what I would point to but when people ask me how I succeed, I always tell them it’s about the work you put in off the table. I don’t think very many people put in enough time away from actually playing hands.
PL: Are there a few tips you can give our readers as far as things they can do away from the felt.
BT: I’m not really comfortable saying specifically what I do. It’s something very important to me and I think it’s helped me a lot.
PL: Who are the players you most admire in the online high-stakes games?
BT: I have a lot of admiration for Sauce123, Ben Sulsky. When I was in Toronto I met him and we hung out a few times.
A ton of respect for Phil Galfond of course. Kanu7 is a great player I think and he gives action to anyone.
Isildur1, when he has a roll.
PL: We read that you would not consider playing the Superstar Showdown on PokerStars against Isildur. What’s the reasoning behind that decision?
BT: Well, if there was an incentive to playing it then it would be different but there’s no point in getting locked in to playing a certain number of hands with him.
It’s not like I have to sign up to play him. If I want to play Isildur I can play him on my own terms.
He’s a person who you might be much better off playing one night over another, so there’s just no reason for getting locked in.
PL: Where do you see poker taking you in the future?
BT: I don’t know if I’ll be doing this for the rest of my life but I love it right now and I don’t have any intentions of slowing down.
There are still bigger games I’d like to play in. I don’t really want to travel a ton so I really hope I’ll be able to play in my home town at some point in the future.
Obviously it’s not up to me so I’ll just have to wait and see.
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