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Jonathan Little: "Too Much Rake is Going to Badly Hurt the Game"

Poker pro Jonathan Little has quietly become one of the most prolific poker authors of all time.

This year Little published the 10th poker book of his career and, to take things one step further, begun a series of Webinars to help aspiring poker players get their games to the next level.

Still putting his technical knowledge to practical use at the felt, PokerListings met up with the former WPT Player of the Year at the EPT Prague Poker Festival just before he entered the €10k re-entry High Roller event.

Rake Is Too High

PokerListings: It is a re-entry, isn’t it?

Jonathan Little: Yes, but hopefully it’s not a re-entry for me.


With 100 BBs you have to work hard to bust.

I usually don’t re-enter very often because you do get a lot of chips in the beginning. If you don’t go crazy early on it’s difficult to run through 100 big blinds.

PokerListings: Then how do players manage to bust in the first two levels?

JL: Because they tend to overplay their hands or run big bluffs. I don’t tend to do either.

Of course bluffs work a lot of the time as the other guy might not want to risk it all. But in general you should only go crazy for small pots in the early stages, not for the big ones.

PL: You’ve recently published another poker book titled Excelling at No Limit Hold’em. Who is your target audience?

JL: Pretty much everybody who plays poker. There are some chapters for beginners but there are also some incredibly advanced chapters.

I made the book in a way so that everyone can learn from the best players in the world. Chris Moneymaker, for example, wrote about how to vary your game according to the buy-in level of low buy-in tournaments.

Before I read his chapter I didn’t realize that players in $50 tournaments are different from those in $200 tournaments, and they differ from those who play the Eureka Main Event for €1,100.

Chris Moneymaker

Moneymaker: Gets low-stakes differences

On the other end of the range you have Olivier Busquet talking about how to play high-stakes heads-up against players who play almost perfectly.

I think no matter what your level is you’ll find something that’s interesting for you. And the more you learn, the more things in the book will be of interest for you.

PL: You've now also started a series of Webinars. What are they about?

JL: These connect directly with the book. I had players write about everything that they wanted and I’m inviting one of them for each of the Webinars.

All the participants are then invited to ask questions and will get the answers directly from the respective author. I’ll pretty much be the moderator of these sessions.

They’re going to run approximately once a month and they’re free to enter. I already did the first one on my own and there were about 1,400 people taking part.

Jonathan Little

High-stakes experience for amateurs.

PL: It’s universally known that good players never share their secrets with everyone, but you're coaching all the time.

JL: I realized that back when I learned to play I learned a lot from high-stakes players. At the time these players were sharing information a lot more freely than they do today.

In high-stakes circles we still talk to each other a lot during live events like the EPTs but amateurs never get to share this experience.

I want to give them that experience. I know that there are many players who want to become really good and don’t know how and I remember how I struggled in the beginning.

PL: Are you not raising your own competition?

JL: I don’t think so. Most of the players reading books and taking part in the webinars are not high-stakes players.

They don’t want to play $10k tournaments; they want to play $500 tournaments. I know that the games on these levels are getting tougher and I’ve actually received a couple of hating emails telling me I should stop making them tougher.

They usually come from players who are generally disgruntled with their lives, but when it comes to poker they still think they’re entitled to win because they studied poker 10 years ago.

But the truth is the game has developed and they didn’t improve, so it’s just not going to work that way.

PL: Online poker rooms do struggle with a diminishing number of players and they take different measures. What do you think would be the right way to deal with this?

JL: I think the first thing they should do is lower the rake. A problem on most of the major sites is that none of the micro-stakes players are winning because the rake is too high.

party poker screenshot

Beginner tables a good start.

Everybody’s getting raked to death, the games are unbeatable, except for maybe 2% of the players. If I would jump into microstakes poker without any knowledge I’d get crushed, too.

Maybe beginner tables would be a good idea. I think they did that on PartyPoker. First depositors would be seated only with other beginners for a specific amount of time after they deposited.

Or they would single out players who are continuously losing and put them on the same tables. But the easiest thing would just be lowering the rake at all games.

People would last longer and get more experience so they might rather want to play. The problem is the companies want to make money.

They’re not looking at the big picture and they’re not thinking long term. If the high-stakes players would have to pay as much rake as the micro-stakes players there wouldn’t be anybody who wins.

Jonathan Little

More than one way to make a difference.

You can’t pay something like $60 every hand and expect to win, it’s just not possible. But the microstakes players don’t realize that because for them it’s maybe only seven cents of rake in a hand.

PL: But as the vast majority of tables are low-stakes tables …

JL: That’s where the companies make most of their money. In the long run too much rake is going to badly hurt the game.

And the rake has gone up quietly but steadily, both in online and in live poker.

PL: Do you think boycotts and T-shirts are a good form of protest?

JL: I think that protest can take a lot of different forms so I don’t mind that. For example I could not go to the Venetian because Adelson is against online poker.

Or, I could go because I think I have an edge over most of the players, so I can probably cash out good money and then I wouldn’t spend it in the casino afterwards, like many other winners do.

Thus I could take money out of that circle by taking part rather than boycotting.

I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if they're going to ban T-shirts here with protest messages just as they banned the ones with political messages. I’m sure that’ll happen sooner or later.

If you want to join in Jonathan Little’s webinars you can get more information at Holdembook.com.

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