Roberto Romanello: Do you need to know the maths to be successful at poker?

Do the math 

I’ve been a recreational poker player for a couple of years and I’m looking to move up a level or two this year after a profitable 2013. My aim is to one day make enough [money] to turn pro, so I’m making sure I read as many books as I can to enable me to keep learning. Most of the books have helped me to improve in one way or another – however the last two I’ve read have concentrated on mathematical things such as ICM and equilibrium. I’ve tried to take in everything in the books but I find that most of it goes over my head.

How important is it to be able to grasp the more complex mathematical side of poker? If I keep reading the books over and over will I finally be able to get to grips with it? If not, will I ever be able to compete with the bright young guns of internet poker? Is 36 too old to try and get started in poker nowadays?
Gus Tawse

I have never read a poker book. I have always gone on my own instincts and you learn about different situations and different types of player from experience. It’s the same with the maths. Whether I should call or pass using the maths in my head comes naturally to me. So I never used books, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing to do so. We are all different. If you are going to play at a high level though you must know the maths. But it’s possible to pick this information up the more you play – you will learn it along the way. And 36 is not too old at all! I started around 30 and wished I’d started earlier. It’s never too late to get started and you can pick up the game at any age. 

Fighting fire with fire 

I’ve got a question regarding playing against a LAG who is always three-betting. Is it better to loosen up your four-bet range or is there another way to combat this type of player?

 A lot of the time these players will be super aggressive every time they are in a pot and you know that you won’t get an easy ride through the streets. Early on in a tournament I would play tight against these guys – there’s no point getting into a war. 

These players tend to fall deep in the tournament when the game gets more short-handed. I’d wait and play back at them once the blinds and antes are worth more. It’s important to battle sometimes though as they will obviously have looser ranges, but try to risk the minimum when you do it. Make sure you know exactly how aggressive they have been and don’t get into a mind games war. 

A generous donator

How much should you tip if you cash in a tournament? Should you tip when there is an upfront deduction?

It differs all the time. If I’ve been in a tournament where an amazing job has been done I am happy to dig deeper. When I won EPT Prague I tipped a lot. But then I played an EPT in Copenhagen and when I went to collect my cash they were putting it into two piles, one for me and one for a ‘recommended’ donation. I got really upset – it’s not for someone else to tell me what to do with my own money. I’m a proud man and asked them to put all my money together and it would be me deciding how much I wanted to give. 

Work it out

How important is being fit and healthy when a professional poker player?
Jim Bland

It’s very important – look at Eugene Katchalov or ElkY now. They are very successful and so focused at the table, being healthy means that your brain works so much better and you have more endurance. Katchalov’s concentration is really high, even on the last hands of the day. He watches everything and doesn’t play on his phone. That can make a huge difference.

Tears of a cod 

When you travel for poker all over the world, do you still miss your chip shop business? 

When I was a Full Tilt pro and playing every tournament I’d always get homesick and I couldn’t wait to come home. Then I’d help out in the chippie and eventually start to get the fever to go back out somewhere. Now that I’m playing nowhere near as much poker, because I haven’t got a sponsor, I’m really missing it. It’s killing me not to go away to these tournaments. I’m really hungry to go away and win a big tournament. The hunger is back! 

Expensive business 

When you played the peak of your live poker volume how much would your yearly travelling expenses be? 
Simon Hemsworth 

It was easily £25,000-£30,000 per year just on hotels and travel. I’ve always advised people to play satellites where you win the whole package and not just the buy-in. That’s the way forward for new guys who want to make it because your money goes so fast otherwise.

Quickfire questions

What do you like to eat during a big tournament?
I’ve always tried to be sensible and eat healthily. I like to eat a lot of little meals and never big ones. 

Apart from the obvious big hands, what is your favourite cheeky hand?
It has always been 7-5 of diamonds. I won some huge pots in my first Barcelona tournament with that hand when I was four-betting it. I was much more crazy in those days! 

Which country do you think is best at poker? 
Germany. Nobody can compete at the moment. They seem to shine in the biggest tournaments – lots of them swap high pieces of each other and that breaks down their variance.

Thank you Roberto!

After over two years of service Roberto is retiring from his In The Tank duties. He had this to say to the PokerPlayer readers…

When I first started this column I didn’t know how long it would last but it’s great that people like me, want to ask questions and are interested in what I say. I’d like to say thank you. It means a lot to me to have a following and I am very grateful for what I have achieved so far. I’ve enjoyed trying to help you all out and I’m honoured that you want to ask me for advice. 

We’re pleased to announce that PKR Team Pro Sofia Lovgren is taking over the In The Tank duties from now on. The super Swede is one of the poker world’s fastest rising stars. Ask her a question on any poker topic now by emailing or by Tweeting us @PokerPlayerUK using the #AskSofia. 

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