Dusty ‘Leatherass’ Schmidt: Tight is right for a poker pro

The legendary grinder on why tight is still right and a few things to think about before you turn pro…

Dusty Schmidt’s unorthodox strategy book, Treat Your Poker Like A Business, was published in 2009 and explains how anyone can make a living from playing poker, with guidance on topics as diverse as avoiding tilt to successfully juggling a poker career with having a family. Here he shares some of his views on the life of an online pro.

Tighten up

A tight style is pretty darn good online. A lot of guys have gotten so aggressive that they don’t quite adjust to the tighter players. It’s always more sexy to play loose and aggressive – that’s the cool way to play – but you want to be able to make money in the game and that’s ultimately what we’re all here for. I’ve noticed a lot of guys who will start to do really well, then they’ll get cocky and think life is great but sometimes they hit a downswing and lose lots of it back. It’s only then that they will look at the tight guys still making money and see that it’s not such a bad thing.

There’s definitely less variance too when you play tighter. I haven’t had a losing month in my entire career. People approach poker the wrong way – you should be trying to make the most money. When you go to buy a home or pay the bills it’s nice to be able to do it. I like to play it a bit safer and make sure the money comes in.

Marathon man

I play 12 tables now but used to play 16, 17 or 18 at once. It’s hard to beat the games with that many tables going though. [Playing so many tables] definitely affects my decisions but luckily I have a good default strategy for every situation. I play 40 to 50 hours a week.

I’m a big believer that most businesses, if they even succeed, take about five years before they are profitable. I’d like more people to realise that poker is like starting a business and the way to go about it is not to worry about trying to make a profit right away but to think, ‘I am starting a business here and I need to be patient and do it right to create long-term health and longevity for my business.’ I would say that most people should err on the side of playing fewer tables and lower stakes. Just take it slowly and make sure you’re doing all the right things so your game can progress.

Video nasty

The best way [to get better] is to really immerse yourself in poker. I also don’t see how anybody could go wrong signing up for any training site – they’re all so good. A lot of people go wrong by just watching the video and not taking enough notes. We’re not in school any more, we need to actually make money. They’re watching and thinking ‘that looks like a good play’ but they should be watching the same videos over and over again if they need to. Also, don’t try to implement all the things you’ve learnt in your next session – take it one at a time.

The second thing that people miss a lot is that they just don’t take advantage of what is in front of them. You have the ability to ask some of the best poker players in the world [on forums] why you would do a certain thing – why would you not want to take advantage of that? If I had the chance to ask Tiger Woods something about golf I’d be running to the computer for that chance.

Pro times

You’ll just kind of know when you’re ready to turn pro. If you win $40k in a tournament, don’t go and tell your boss to piss off – that’s the mistake a lot of people make and they’re often back working within six months. I’d like to see someone have at least 100,000 hands in a Hold’em Manager database that says they’ve made at least a couple of BB/100 at a lower stakes game. The lowest level you could make a living from is probably $0.25/$0.50.

I have very strict bankroll limits. Rather than win two houses, I’d rather make sure I still have the one I’m in. My guideline is having 100 buy-ins for the stakes I play – you’ll never go broke. I don’t think there’s anything worse than taking on a profession like poker and going broke. It’s bad for your CV – I’d rather see people play it safe.

Some people really struggle [with the lifestyle]. I think anybody can do it but some people can’t cope with being their own boss, having to grind out hands every day and managing their own bankroll. The reality is that you’re going to play a certain number of hands per year and depending on variance you’re going to make a certain amount of money per hand, so it’s a lot more of a fixed income than people realise in the long term. However, I think a strong case can be made that poker will never be harder than it is right now. It was easier every year until the last two years. The biggest shift in the games has been in the last 12 months. The weaker players are better than they were five years ago and there are more pros than ever.

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