Joey Ingram Interview

Joey Ingram Interview

Friday, 12 September 2014

Eat, sleep, PLO.

By Dan Gallagher

He’s known for crazy prop bets – for example, playing over half a million hands of No Limit Hold'em in just a month – but now Joey Ingram is on a mission to bring PLO to the masses. Through the medium of his new 'JoeIngram1' podcasts, the guy the online poker world knows as 'Chicago Joey' wants to show the world about the life of those who play with four cards.

“It’s not fun just to compliment everyone and say that they’re all good and everyone is a winning player. It’s not true, and I want to talk some shit about people.”

When Bluff Europe asked Joey Ingram why he feels his podcasts are becoming the new rage, it’s clear he’s very aware of the formula and why it works. This is the beauty of new media – that, in the age of YouTube and iTunes, people like Ingram, a long established high stakes player in the online community, can with little or no budget reach out to poker players throughout the entire world in a way that previously only major publications could.

But that's not even the best part. Although Joey’s podcast may lack the production value of a long established podcast such as the Two Plus Two Pokercast, the fact that Joey is not affiliated with any site or other corporate entity means that essentially, he can say whatever the fuck he likes. And that is exactly what he does.

Having already secured PLO heavyweights such as Leo 'ISILDRooN' Nordin and Sean Lefort, Joey has also ventured into his past and the world of No Limit Hold'em. His Poker Life series has featured a diverse mixture of well known poker pros, from former PokerStars Team Online pro Shane 'Shaniac' Schleger discussing smoking crack, to Bluff Europe’s very own Ryan 'Protential' Laplante talking about being one of the very few openly gay professionals in our game.

Joey’s intro into poker will be extremely familiar to many; it’s not the Hollywood case of depositing $50 once, and then never looking back. “When I first started playing I was one of those fish online, who would deposit $1,000 and play $1/$2, $2/$4, $3/$6,” says Joey. “I had no idea how to play poker, and I would run it up to a couple of thousand dollars and lose it all. I had no idea what strategy was. Once I turned 21, I started going to the casino. I would take all the money I made working as a waiter and I would go and lose it all. Then I would borrow some money off my mom, or borrow $200 off a friend, and then I would get a ride to the casino and lose it all, and have to get a shuttle home.”

“It went on like that for about three years. At the time my friend made me a little gambling book. I still keep it close by. It’s about me having a gambling problem and ways I can fix that problem.”

“Another friend then suggested I start playing online, and gave me $50 on PokerStars. It was a different world. I started playing $0.05/$0.10 and I’d buy in for $5 and play six tables, and then slowly I started making a bit of money.”

“I played maybe five or six million hands of No Limit Hold'em. I was a degenerate at the time, so I would play as high as $25/$50, but I was a regular at the $2/$4 and $3/$6 tables. I didn’t really care about playing poker to make money; I cared about being able to put in sick sessions and play a lot of tables, play a lot of hands and make tons of VPPs. I didn’t think about bankroll management, I didn’t think about those traditional things that most knowledgeable people think about when they play poker. I just wanted to do these crazy things like play 50,000 hands in a day.”

“It was about putting in crazy sessions. I was putting more volume in than anyone, having bigger swings – I lost 50 buy-ins in a session twice, which is absurd for full ring online. And there were other sessions where I made 40 buy-ins. I was just more concerned with doing cool shit like that and posting about it on my blog and forums than I was about being a consistent winner.”

Nowadays, we see volume prop bets left, right and centre. But just a few years ago these kinds of feats had never been attempted. It was actually current heads up NLHE phenom Doug 'WCGRider' Polk who first attempted (and failed) a prop bet of these proportions, trying to win 400 buy-ins ($10,000) in a month playing 25NL. It’s not a surprise that Polk was involved with Ingram’s introduction to prop betting.

“I was playing $0.25/$0.50 and I got staked by WCGRider for $0.50/$1 and $1/$2. Once I was on the stake, I thought it was a cool idea to do some bets. Initially, it was just going to be a bet between me and two other players to see who could win the most money. But after the first couple of days, I’d played so many hands. I thought, 'Maybe I could play 600,000 hands in a month. I’ve never seen anyone try that before.' So I proposed the bet and a couple of people took action against me and it just blew up from there. The prop betting was born.”

Joey Ingram Polk

The prop bets were indeed introduced into existence with Joey facing a month where he knew he would have to play over half a million hands in just 30 days. “My average day was fucking miserable,” he recollects. “I lived in Chicago with three other people. My bedroom was pretty small. I had a 70-inch TV that I played on. I laid on my bed sideways using a magazine as a mousepad, and played for 12-15 hours every single day. Some days I would play longer. I would just decide that today I would play a certain number of hands and would just play until I had reached that number.”

Ingram ended up winning the bet helping to develop his reputation online. The 'Chicago Joey' brand was growing.

“I wasn’t really aware of what improving my game was back in the day. I’m sure I was improving, but I just didn’t understand. Obviously now, I know. But back then, I don’t think people understood what is was to improve your game or get better. I was just trying to win at poker, I wasn’t really thinking of how I could get better. I think I’m very much more aware of what it means to get better at poker than I was then.”

A year later, Ingram decided once again to stage another lavish prop bet, but with considerably higher stakes – this time he wanted to play 50,000 hands in just 24 hours. “I was living in San Diego and I saw that PokerStars had posted that a player had played 37,000 hands in a day, and that this was a record. I got in touch to say that I had played more than that in a day already. I had beaten that guy, he didn’t have the record. No one really gave me any credit, and it kind of upset me. So I thought fuck this, I’m gonna beat this in a prop bet. So I made a thread on Two Plus Two that I was going to play 50,000 hands in a day at 6-max No Limit and I was gonna play at $0.25/$0.50, because I thought that was the limit people would bet against me at. [Ingram had to finish the day with a positive balance]. It’s not the hardest limit, but playing 6-max for 24 hours straight – that’s going to be challenging for anyone.”

It was at this point where Ingram noticed the popularity of videos and live streams that were coming into poker. World of Warcraft legend Bachir 'Athene' Boumaaza had just burst onto the online poker scene as 'Chiren80', playing seemingly infinite amounts of hands, and live streaming the whole thing. Joey immediately knew that this would be the obvious next step for him.

“I decided to get my neighbour, who was a masseuse, to make a skit with me. I made a few videos and I had no idea they’d become as popular as they did, but they were the first videos I posted on my YouTube channel,” Joey recalls. He would go on to have a 24/7 live stream up to show that it was him actually playing, as well as regularly uploading video updates. These would then be followed by some obligatory victory celebration videos.

As anyone who has shared anything on the World Wide Web will know, feedback isn’t always particularly positive. “I wasn’t some super respected player for my results, I was just a big volume grinder. So, people would obviously say that I couldn’t win if I wasn’t mass-tabling. During the prop bet, I made 45 buy-ins at those stakes, but I wasn’t winning much at higher stakes. It was win a lot/lose a lot. But I enjoy the hater comments, they fuel me and inspire me to improve my game. Without those comments, and if people would have just had full respect for me – honestly, I would have probably never become a strong winning player. When you hear people tell you the same thing for so long you have to decide, 'Let me think about this and try and fix it.'”

After bouncing around all of the high stakes No Limit games and encountering regular eye-watering swings, Joey decided to add a couple of cards to his pre-flop strategy and give Pot Limit Omaha a spin – a decision that has worked out remarkably well for him thus far.

“I think that the people who were playing No Limit at the time were just ahead of me, in terms of how long they had been playing etc. As for PLO, it was a newer game. It was more fun, you didn’t have to fold to three-bets – and I hate folding to three-bets! There are a lot more variables, so it’s a lot more fun. I found No Limit boring, and there wasn’t much of a thought process going on for me. The PLO games are better; there is more action, you can play a higher VPIP. Everyone wants to play hands, and in PLO you get to do that.”

Switching over to PLO didn't harm Joey's work rate, or his thirst for crazy prop bets. With what was left of the year quickly running out, he was still a long way off reaching the illustrious Supernova Elite on PokerStars (an accolade that requires you to accumulate an annual total of 1,000,000 VPPs). In desperation, Joey decided a little bet was in order to help push him over the line. "I made a prop bet with my room-mate that I could get to Supernova Elite in just 10 weeks,” remembers Joey. “I 24-tabled for that entire time, and ended up playing 450k hands in December at mainly $2/$4 to win the bet." Now, we're all familiar with having a bet with our room-mates, but ours our usually to the tune of about a tenner. For Joey, however, there was $40,000 on the line. It would be his biggest test yet and the online world was watching, but come New Years Eve, Joey was the winner. During this time, Joey broke two records – one for the most PLO hands played in a day (33,000) and the other for the most PLO hands played in a month (450,000).

Joey Ingram Graph

Due to the success of his podcasts in converting new players to PLO, Joey regularly receives requests for advice on how to transition to the four-card favourite. His answer? Play money chips.

“I don’t expect many people who read this to do that, no one is going to sit down and play with play chips, but in reality, it’s what you should do,” says Joey earnestly. “No one has a clue what the fuck they’re doing. The best way is to just get in there and play hands. Honestly, even if you’re playing with play chips for a week or two. Just work on identifying what equity you have against what you think your opponent has. Play with stuff like Pro Poker Tools. What’s the point playing two tables of $1/$2? You’re not going to learn much. You might as well play with play chips and get in the same situations and learn from there.”

“The easiest way is just putting in volume. Work out what you have, what your back-door draws are, what your immediate draws are, if you have the nuts right now, what hands can come that’ll beat your hand. It’s just really about being able to identify what you have first and foremost, and from there on understand what you could have. From there it becomes a normal poker game. Work out what you think your opponent has, and work out what you want to do – whether you want to bet for value, bluff, or fold.”

After moving back to the US, the now notorious post-Black Friday legislation has led to less action for Joey. Forced to play on such sites as Bovada with nowhere near as much traffic as PokerStars, Joey had to shift his attention to something else. “The initial way I got into the podcast was because I wanted to create a website,” he says. “I kept going to Two Plus Two every day, and I just thought Two Plus Two was getting boring as fuck. It’s the same shit most of the time. I post in the PLO threads, those are okay. I think it’s a great mix of people: some funny people, some smart people, but overall a good group of people who have opinions that I enjoy reading. But when you come to 'News, Views & Gossip' and 'BBV' [the 'Beats, Brags & Variance' forum] It’s not something I enjoy visiting.”

“So I thought, 'What if I started my own website?' Sort of a blog, but with other things, like people writing for me and having links to things. I thought it might be cool for people to visit once or twice a week. But then I realised it’s a lot of work. I wondered what I could do that could have an entertainment impact for people outside of just poker. I thought, 'Well, what about a PLO podcast?'. I didn’t want it to be strategy based – I’m not big on giving out free information and taking what I’ve learned playing millions of hands and dishing it out over two hours. It seemed fucking stupid.”

“I don’t understand people who produce training videos. I understand that there is a satisfaction in helping others, but to me it just doesn’t make sense why you would spend all this time learning to just help other people get better. I didn’t want my podcast to be that, I didn’t want it to be strategy-based. I thought I could take high stakes hands and start talking about them. I didn’t want to be one of those people who are afraid to say bad stuff about people. There are people that I hate and I want to talk shit about them. I am going to say some mean things about people. It’s not over the top, it’s just me talking about my experience with the player.”

“I felt I’d be good at doing a PLO podcast, because I’ve played so many hands with all of these players. I know who the bad players are, I know who the good players are, I know who the great players are. I also thought it would be a good way of bringing new players to PLO. There is no PLO-related entertainment out there. If you only play No Limit, then you’d never watch a PLO training video, you wouldn’t know what’s going on. So this is an opportunity for them to learn about the game, through my podcast. I wanted to bring attention to the big names who are crushing like Lefort. The feedback so far has been great – people are really happy that I’m creating this content for the PLO crowd and people are starting to try out PLO for the first time. That’s the impact I wanted to have. It’s such a fun game, I want people to learn about it.”

Watch Joey's videos at, or follow him on Twitter at @Joeingram1.

Tags: Joey Ingram, PLO, podcasts