Multi talented Isaac Baron tells us his story: “Poker is a huge passion of mine and I am always learning”

Gambling instincts have netted Isaac Baron millions from online cash games as well as tourneys. We had to find out more…

The world of online poker is divided neatly into tournament players and cash game specialists. Those making millions at the cash tables rarely bother with ‘donkaments’, while the tournament hotshots generally shy away from dabbling in the high-stakes action. Isaac Baron, however, is a player who breaks the mould.

Baron has won over $1 million in tournament play, including the PokerStars Sunday Million and the $750k guaranteed on Full Tilt. Not content with this, however, the 20- year old is also a regular winner at the high-stakes no-limit cash games on Full Tilt.

Like many of his online peers, he gave up a degree course to concentrate on his burgeoning poker career. ‘I went to the University of Oregon in Eugene with the intention of getting a journalism degree,’ he says. ‘But I ended up majoring in poker!’ So how did the man from Menlo Park, California, better known as ‘Mr Menlo’, manage his rapid rise to the top?

When did you start playing poker, and how long was it before you were any good?

I started playing cards right after the Chris Moneymaker boom. My friends and I started a local game at my house that initially was $0.25/$0.50 no-limit. As we all got better, the game moved up to $1/$2. From the beginning I knew I loved the game of poker. It wasn’t that I was better than my friends – I just cared more. They were playing a game, while I was playing to win. I was the biggest winner in our home game – a nice form of income at the time.

What were you doing before poker?

I was just like any other kid. But I always found myself wanting to gamble. My group of friends could never do anything without some sort of wager, whether it was a game of basketball or just a game of Madden [American football game] on Xbox. I think my competitive edge has helped me excel. I never liked losing and I always liked to outsmart/outplay someone.

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

There are many defining moments that helped shape my poker career, from cashing in the WPT Bahamas in my first live event to my first $100 rebuy win on PokerStars. But I would be lying if I didn’t mention my win in the Sunday Million for $250,000. I had been playing them for a while and had been getting decently deep. I felt like every week I wanted it more and more. When it finally came, it was like someone had shot a monkey off my back…

How did you work up the limits online to the biggest cash games?

When I started playing cash games online, I began pretty much at $5/$10 no-limit on Full Tilt as I hadn’t been playing too much [cash games]. The build up to $200/$400 no-limit was a very long – but steady – journey. I, like all poker players, had swings. But I made sure I had a good bankroll, so there was never a point where I was thinking about going bust. I spent a lot of time at $25/$50 no-limit before I moved above that game as it just seemed like a big jump to $50/$100. Once I did make that transition, I never looked back.

You’re known as one of the few players who consistently does well in both high-stakes cash games and tournaments online – how do you manage this and what are the major differences between no-limit hold’em tournaments and cash?

I think the reason I can be successful at both no-limit hold’em cash games and tournaments is my ability to recognise them as two completely different games. If I bluff off $10,000 at $50/$100 no-limit, I can reload right away. If I bluff off all my chips in a $10,000 tournament, my day is over.

In tournaments, if you lose a hand and still have chips left, you adjust your game and try to find a way to get more until you have them all and the first place prize. In cash games, each hand is a mini- tournament where real money is exchanged. There is always a winner and a loser, so it’s important to find every edge.

What is your daily schedule like, and what stakes/games/sites do you play?

My life right now is actually quite busy with travelling to live events like the WPT Turks and Caicos and the Aruba Poker Classic. I don’t even play everyday online anymore, but I have put in a lot of long hours to get where I am. When I do play, I play on PokerStars and Full Tilt mostly. PokerStars doesn’t usually have the cash games running that I like, so it is primarily my tourney site.

Full Tilt is where I spend the majority of my time playing cash games from $100/$200 no-limit six-max all the way up to $200/$400. If the game is right, I’ll go up to $300/$600 no-limit heads-up. I still play all the online tournaments over $100. It is definitely a love/hate relationship and at times I promise myself I’ll never play another one – but it also helps me for the live tournaments which I am focusing on.

What have you made from poker and what have you done with the money?

I don’t like to give out too much information, but I will say over seven figures. I try to stay as down to earth as possible, but have been known to do some ‘baller’ things from time to time [baller meaning to live a lavish lifestyle]. I did buy a 2007 Maserati Quattroporte, and I am actually in the process of closing escrow on my very own house in a neighbouring city of Menlo Park, called Los Gatos.

Another cool thing was for my 20th birthday I rented a Sky Villa at the Palms, one of the Playboy suites, which came with a butler and was fully catered. Once the whole night was over, I think it ran to around $25,000.

Where do you see yourself and poker in ten years time? What about online players in general?

I hope I am still a force. Poker is a huge passion of mine and I am always learning. It is kind of crazy to think about the player of the future. It is amazing to look at the advancement online players have made. From Steve ‘MrSmokey1’ Billirakis winning event one of the World Series this year at 21, to Annette [Obrestad] taking down the WSOPE main event at 18. The game is only going to get harder…

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