Mike Schneider is the king of limit hold-em and we found it why: “I play ultra aggressively pre-flop and try to accumulate chips”

Mike Schneider is considered by many to be the best short-handed limit hold’em player online

It’s safe to say Mike Schneider has found his niche. In his favoured sport of short-handed limit hold’em he is one of the toughest and most successful players in the world. He has been beating the $100/$200 games since 2005, and is now part of the elite cadre of pros at CardRunners.com.

Like many young pros, Mike honed his poker skills at college. He took up the online game in 2002 – just before the boom – and quickly discovered a talent for limit hold’em. By the summer of 2003 he was winning more every night than he’d make all week at his crappy data entry job.

In his second year of college Mike started smashing his way through the levels, leaving $2/$4 behind for the $10/$20 six-max games. By the end of his college years he was a regular on the biggest limit games online – $100/$200 and up. In 2006 he also found time to win $1m at the PartyPoker Million V, the world’s biggest limit tournament.

Unusually, Mike actually managed to finish college before giving in to the pro lifestyle. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2006 with a degree in journalism – and an extremely healthy bankroll.

Your play on some sites as ‘PapaWarbucks’. Why did you choose that name?

No special reason, I just thought it sounded slightly tough, yet still kind of corny.

Do any moments or results stand out in your poker career and why?

Winning the PartyPoker Million in 2006 was obviously a standout moment. Other than that, my most satisfying poker moment was probably in late 2006 when I was playing in a three-handed $500/$1,000 game and I won over $100k in a couple of hours.

You’ve been very successful in limit hold’em tournaments. What adjustments do you make when switching to tournament play?

From the first hand on, I play ultra aggressively pre-flop and try to accumulate chips. If I do, I stay on the attack because most limit hold’em tourney structures are set up to be very fast. Most tourney players do not adjust and essentially get blinded away while waiting for good hands.

There’s a lot of money to be made by blind-stealing and winning pots with continuation bets on the flop, as not too many people play back at you unless they have it.

Can you give us an idea of what you’ve won at poker and what you’ve done with it? Any nice purchases?

I’ve made enough that I can live a comfortable life and never feel nervous about money. I bought a really nice town home last year in a cool part of Minneapolis. I have a 5 series BMW and love how it drives. And I compulsively purchase DVDs to add to my collection. Other than those things,

I’m fairly frugal and if someone passed me they definitely wouldn’t suspect I have accumulated any wealth. My main focus at present is to diversify some of my money via investments. Right now for instance I have some money in real estate and then obviously there is my role in CardRunners as an equity partner.

How did the CardRunners gig come about, and how do you think the site rates as a learning resource?

Brian Townsend approached me about joining CardRunners as a lead pro and being at the centre of their expansion into variations other than just no-limit hold’em. I honestly believe that video training sites can and will replace other forms of poker education.

There is simply no better way to learn and explore ideas than by viewing them in action, since there are so many variables that can come into play in any given situation, all of which can be captured ten times better through videos than by reading examples in books.

Who would you say are the top five short-handed limit hold’em players in the world and what makes them so good?

Hoss TBF is darn good. So is Valesco on PokerStars. A couple of live West Coast players, Jimmy Gorham and Tommy Hang, are both super-good. And hopefully without sounding too arrogant, I want to put myself on the list.

It’s tough because there’s a ton of guys all on a very similar level, and some who maybe were but aren’t any more because their focus is on other games, such as Patrik Antonius or Joe Cassidy.

What makes them all tough is that they’re relentless, yet all reach a somewhat balanced range in their actions post-flop so it’s generally impossible to narrow their ranges a lot. Plus, none of these guys ever seem to suffer from tilt.

What are the differences between the decent players at mid-stakes like $30/60 and those in the $100/200 or $200/400 games?

I honestly feel like almost any game smaller than $100/$200 plays in slow motion compared to anything bigger. People in smaller games don’t play as aggressively, give up more often, have balancing issues more often and a lot of times their bets or checks end up revealing polarised hand ranges and make them easier to play against.

The downswings in limit hold’em are notorious – what’s your experience and what swings do you think are likely even for the biggest players?

The biggest downswing I’ve experienced was 350 big blinds or so, and that was three or four years ago. I think 500BB swings are much more possible today than five years ago when 300 was considered large, simply because games have become tougher and in some cases the rake has increased.

I go through 150-200BB swings all the time, but have been fortunate enough to avoid any of those dreaded gigantic downswings.

What tips would you give to no-limit players who want to try limit?

Most no-limit players tend to miss a ton of easy value bets on the turn and river because they’re used to a game where it is often correct to check behind, because you would hate getting check-raised. In limit, the name of the game is extraction.

Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

Hopefully in ten years I will be at the point where if I’m playing poker, I’m doing so recreationally and playing in the biggest games simply for the challenge. I’d like to be like a Bobby Baldwin or Lyle Berman – guys who are super-talented at the game, but aren’t playing for any reason other than the competitive fire.

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