James Atkin interview

James Atkin interview

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Online grinder Epitomised.

Family man James Atkin discusses the transformation from fearless shot-taker to responsible grinder.

You won $112K in 2012. We thought poker was supposed to be getting harder…
I was a bit of a donkey during the poker boom and wouldn’t class myself as a good poker player until 2009. 2012 was definitely my best year. I did well in SNGs and won the Sunday Supersonic on ’Stars for just over $50K.

We hear you’re number one in Lincolnshire, according to PocketFives…

[Laughs.] Yeah, although there are only a handful of people listed. Having said that, I believe Sam Trickett is from Retford, which is pretty close, so I’m not sure if I truly qualify as the best.

What was it about your game that changed in 2009?
The biggest change was finding out Liz was pregnant. It brought home the fact that I had to make a living out of this game if I’m going to support a child. Before then, I wasn’t a proper professional.

Does having a family [two kids and one on the way!] change your view on money?

Before, it was just numbers on a screen. I was also a lot less experienced and didn’t have a full understanding of variance, or how to manage a bankroll. I remember one night I played $150/$300 limit until the early hours and lost $30K, which was half my ’roll. It brought me back to reality and gave me the mentality that it was better to grind and become a more skilful player. I can’t risk losing that much anymore.

Was tilt a problem?
Jared Tendler would have had a field day with me. I think tilt improves with experience as you become more immune to the bad beats. It’s one of the reasons why I prefer larger SNGs. At higher stakes heads-up SNGs, your mistakes are less obvious, and you can make bad decisions without even realising. I prefer the lower variance.

How has what you play changed?

I used to play heads-up SnGs, but then I saw someone post a graph of 45-man SnGs on the Blonde Poker forum that boasted a straight upward line and I was impressed that you could make that much from $10 games. I was a bit bored of heads-up, so gave it a whirl, and it went well. I gradually moved to 180-man SNGs, and also MTTs, anything from $3 rebuys to the occasional $215 buy-in.

In your blog, you wrote you’d been struggling with $109 SnGs this year…

I’m down around $7K so far, but I think it’s just variance as I’ve only played around 200 tournaments. It can happen. It’s impossible not to start doubting yourself, but I see so many bad players and struggle to believe I’m a minus 20 per cent ROI in them all of a sudden when I was doing so well before. But that’s the frustrating thing about variance: you can never know for sure…

We understand you suffered from a rare poker injury…

I managed to hurt my right hand using a shake weight and couldn’t play for about a month. I tried to play with my left, and also a gamepad, but it was too laborious. I realised how important my right arm is when it comes to putting food on the table. Maybe I should consider getting it insured…

How pleased were you with your live result at DTD? [James came third in the $1,000 Monte Carlo for £45,000]

John Eames busted me from Day 1 and I wasn’t going to re-enter, but there was a satellite with a potential overlay, so I played it and won my seat. Coincidentally, I then went on to bust John later in the tournament.

The final was a bit unnerving as I’d never done a stream before, and I had Kevin Allen on my left. He played really well and has an intimidating stare down. I ran good in the latter stages, so was happy to have made the final table, although I guess there were a couple of hands I was disappointed about; I’m not in that position very often, and the pay jumps were huge.

What are your thoughts on re-entry events?

I like them personally because live tournaments are an effort to go to in general, and aren’t as frequent as online. Of course, they have the effect of making the field tougher because many of the good players are going to re-enter and make for stronger fields near the end.

How do you deal with balancing poker and family?

Our house has a converted garage, so I play in there. It can be very de-tilting to nip for a sync break and see the kids for a few minutes; it reminds you about the bigger picture. Live poker can be tough. When I came home from Vegas one year my son had learned something new and I didn’t like the feeling of missing out on that.

How do you envisage your sponsorship prospects?

There was a time when I was putting a lot of effort into my blog, hoping to be a Team Online member for PokerStars, but I don't think it's worth pursuing now. I'm not sure I quite have enough and they seem to be a little more selective as to whom they sponsor these days. The last guy was Isaac Haxton and I'm just not of his calibre.

Rumour has it you’re a bit of a WWE fan?

I try to pull off as many moves on the kids as possible. Did you know you could do a powerbomb quite safely? [laughs.] It’s about the only television I get to watch these days, and it’ll be cool to share a Raw viewing with the kids at some point, although I’m not looking forward to breaking the fantasy that it’s not real.

What are your goals for the future?
I try not to have too many goals other than play as much as possible and put in the hours every day, to improve and study enough. More maintenance goals than anything.

Tags: James Atkin, interview, Jared Tendler