Online tournament pro Eric Lynch talks to us through how he became so successful at online poker: “Bankroll management is a huge key to success”

Eric Lynch is one of the most successful online tournament pros, and has also had some major live scores

AGE: 28

Eric ‘Rizen’ Lynch has established his place over the last few years as one of the very best online tournament players, with over 50 final tables on PokerStars alone and a Pokerstars Sunday Million win under his belt. The Kansas native is also one of the few online tournament pros with a knack for translating his skills to live events.

His breakthrough appearance came at the 2006 WSOP main event, where he finished 24th for a $495,000 payday. But the internet is still Rizen’s bread and butter, and although he’s not riding high on the leader boards in 2007 he is still a real force to be reckoned with.

At 28 years of age and married with two children, Rizen is not your typical internet sensation. But he is definitely one of the new breed of poker pros. He took up the game seriously just four years ago and has since gone on to rack up a succession of big tournament scores. Not bad for a guy who never finished college.

What were you doing before you took up poker full-time?

I was a software engineer. I attended college for three years, studying computer science, but didn’t graduate. I think a lot of the mental skills you use in the two are pretty similar.

I know lots of developers/ software engineers that have made good poker players. But there is a certain amount of talent involved. Anyone willing to work hard enough on their game can beat the lower levels, but to excel at the higher levels I definitely think there is a talent that some people have and others don’t.

When did you first start playing online poker?

I’ve played poker all my life. Usually penny poker, and later on home games for $20 with college friends or co-workers. I started to take the game seriously in 2003. The games were soft enough then that I started winning, but I really wasn’t very good. I bought a few books and did some studying online, then just played lots of hands and things slowly got easier and more profitable.

I wasn’t really any better than average though until mid 2005. Around that time things just started to click a lot better and I started seeing poker a lot more as a situational game and a lot less as a card game.

So how quickly did you move up the limits online?

I played middle stakes for almost two years and finally broke through and won $13,000 in a $10 rebuy and used that money to put myself into the big weekend tournaments. Within a month or two I won a $200 buy-in event for $45,000 and haven’t really looked back since.

Have you always been quite careful with your bankroll?

Bankroll management is a huge key to success. Making sure you’re properly bankrolled for the limits you’re playing as well as moving down when it’s appropriate are key skills for players. Tournament swings impact all of us, but having the bankroll we need to get through them makes sure their impact is only an emotional one, and experienced players should be able to keep such emotions in check.

What would you say is a good ROI (return on investment) for tournament players?

Online, I think a 50% ROI is pretty good. If you can get in the 100%-plus ROI range, you’re really crushing the game. Live, I think with the better structures and the fact that you get more information from playing face to face, an ROI of 100%-plus is a lot easier to get, and ROIs in the 200- 300% range are possible.

Is that why you’ve been playing more live tournaments? Is that something you plan to do more of in the future?

I’ve been playing some live events, but I try and keep my travel somewhat limited so I don’t spend too much time away from my family. My family lifestyle helps keep me grounded a lot and keeps me from making mistakes that other players frequently make in terms of bankroll management and staying out until 2am the night before big tournaments.

So what is your day-to-day schedule like?

Well, I usually play poker in the evenings five days a week. I schedule two days a week off just like I had a ‘real job’ and to give myself breaks. Most of my life right now revolves around my two children. When I do play, I usually play higher stakes online multi-table tourneys as well as $10/$20 cash games. I play on pretty much every site there is so that I have the best game selection I possibly can.

Not many online players have been able to translate their skills to the live arena. What do you think sets you apart as a player?

I think it’s my ability to stay focused for long periods of time, as well as my ability to easily adapt to a wide variety of situations. Many players play very well within their comfort zone, but play very, very poorly when they get moved out of that zone – either by players who won’t let them play their natural style or by bad beats.

Can you give us an idea of how much profit you’ve made from poker and what you’ve done with the money?

I’d rather not discuss profit details, but I cashed for well over $1 million last year. I’m pretty down to earth though. We saved what didn’t go to the taxman and are working on building a new house now.

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

My first tournament win stands out, as does my first major ($40,000-plus) tournament win. But lots of other little moments over the years stand out as well. I’ve had a lot of good times and made a lot of great friends in poker. The game has been very good to me and I’m fortunate in that respect.

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