Nathan “Blackrain79” Williams claims to be the biggest winner at NL2 and NL5 ever on PokerStars.
Judging by the six million recorded hands he’s got, we’re inclined to believe him.
PokerListings.com met Williams in Vancouver to talk about his new book Crushing the Microstakes and find out what it’s like to attain some of the highest winrates ever recorded.
Click through here for our feature news review of Blackrain79’s book and keep reading for the full interview transcript.
PokerListings.com: Hello Nathan! Let’s start with your backstory. Please tell us a bit about where you came from, before getting into poker.
Blackrain79: I grew up in Maple Ridge which is a suburb of Vancouver, BC and I was really into sports growing up as a kid. I was really competitive.
I went to Simon Fraser University and did a degree in History and Philosophy and I ended up getting into poker when I was about 24.
It was pretty much the same story. A friend of mine showed us Hold’em at a party and I ended up getting really lucky and winning, and found Party Poker online the next day, this is in 2004, and started playing with play money.
I played that for about a year and was winning a lot just playing tight and I ended up finding a way to sell play chips so that’s how I got my first small bankroll. I sold like 5 million play chips for $60.
Eventually I moved to PokerStars and started playing the lowest stakes they had which I think was 1c/2c and just employed my strategy of playing super tight and it worked.
I bought some Two Plus Two books from the PokerStars store, Theory of Poker was the first book I ever read, and I saw the address to the forums on the back.
I started really learning a lot from the forums and I started playing a lot and mass multi-tabling and moving up.
I quit my job in 2007 to play NL100 and I ended up playing millions of hands at the lower stakes. I guess I didn’t really have the right work ethic and I kind of just hung around the micros.
And then when PTR came out my exploits at the lowest stakes became public knowledge and it became interesting for people to talk about.
I’ve been blogging for a long time and in 2010 I got involved with coaching and now I work with DragTheBar.com. Then I had an idea for a book and wrote Crushing the Microstakes in 2011.
You mention your ‘exploits’. Tell us more about why you caught people’s interest.
I guess because no one was playing as many hands as I was and getting such high win-rates. And people just thought it was crazy.
I think it was just the sheer number of hands. I’ve played about 6 million hands online. And most of those are at NL25 or below. At the very lowest stakes I have the most winnings ever on PokerStars, at 2NL and 5NL.
Are there other people putting in that kind of volume at the micros?
There are actually yeah. In a lot of countries out there where the American dollar goes a lot farther there are a lot of “professionals,” even at the lowest stakes.
If the dollar goes four times as far where you live it’s definitely possible to get by playing these really low stakes.
By writing a book like Crushing the Microstakes you’ve got to be contributing to the rising average skill of the players, essentially making it harder for you to earn money. Do you believe that there will be a time that games are unbeatable, or at least much harder to beat?
For years I actually stopped posting in strategy forums, so did a lot of players, because everyone was kind of scared the games would just get too tough.
But after a while I just realized that the players you make the most from playing lower stakes are just recreational players. They’re not joining training sites or reading forums or buying my book.
Sure, the regs in these games will continue to get better by using books like this, but the recreational players really aren’t doing anything to improve, and that’s where most of your money is coming from at the micros.
And I don’t subscribe to the opinion that anyone can just join a training site or get some coaching and expect to be as good as the best regs.
There’s always going to be a pecking order in poker. Dusty Schmidt said in a blog post about a year ago that he thought the games are as hard now as they’re ever going to get and I agree with that. These recreational players are always going to be there to play.
Now that you’ve been making a living playing poker for a while how happy are you with your decision to pursue it professionally and spend a big chunk of your life playing?
I got into poker for the same reason as a lot people. I loved the freedom and the independence that poker offers. I haven’t exactly gotten rich playing poker but I don’t regret it at all.
I knew that the corporate nine-to-five gig wasn’t for me even though I did get a degree so the freedom and the control over your own destiny that poker has was really appealing.
In poker if you’re willing to take some calculated risks and put in the work you can play all day and all night and move up stakes and give yourself a pay raise. There’s a ton of benefits if you can make it work.
Do you feel like poker is a viable way to make a living for young people who have the brains and the work ethic that it takes to play poker day in and day out?
Five years ago it looked more optimistic to play poker professionally but even now in 2012 I don’t think my opinion has changed all that much.
If you’re young and disciplined and want to take a shot at this I don’t think there’s any reason not to. You don’t have to give up your life to try poker or anything.
I really feel strongly about going after what you want, that’s how I’ve tried to live my life, and I don’t regret getting into poker. I’m in my thirties and I’m really happy with the decisions I’ve made.