Yevgeniy Timoshenko: Man or machine?
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Having already won the WPT Grand Final earlier this year for $2.1 million, Yevgeniy Timoshenko only went and bloody took down the most prestigious online poker event (WCOOP Main Event) too for $1.7 million.
The man they call 'Jovial Gent' in online circles has managed to amass over $5 million in tournament winnings (including online) since he booked in his first major victory in a side event at the 2007 Irish Open for $163,000 (that’s only 2 and a half years!).
Hot on the back of his online victory, Timoshenko (21 years old) flew to London from his home in Seattle to try his hand at the World Series of Poker Europe. Last year he managed to finish third in Event #1 for over a $100,000. We caught up with the money-making machine to see if we could force him to reveal his secret to success.
What have you been up to here in London?
I’ve been playing a lot of poker. I went deep in the Main Event of the WSOPE, so that took up a lot of my time. Then I played the EPT London and a couple of invitational events.
You were leading the WSOPE main event on Day three. What happened?
Yeh I had a really good start to my day 3. Three levels in I had like 660,000 chips and was the chip leader. Then I had a really bad final three levels. The fourth level I bled a little bit and then on the final two levels of the day – I came back from dinner and I was a little tired. I was at the feature table and things didn’t really go my way. I sort of tightened up and didn't really do anything for the last few hours..
Was that because you were on TV?
I think it was just because I was a little tired and things weren’t really going my way -I wasn’t really being as alert or as creative as I was earlier in the day. Then I had a good start to day 4 - I thought I was playing really well. But then I got one bad beat in a pretty big pot. After that I then got coolered in another big pot and then in the final hand I lost a coin flip.
What did you have in the big pots?
Well, there were a few. There was one guy who I had position on, who I was trying to play pots with. In this one hand, someone raised, he called, and I squeezed with kings. Both he and I were really big stacks and he ended up calling my squeeze with AQ suited and the flop came ace high – he managed to get a small bet out of me after the flop. And then in another one I flopped a set and a guy made a straight and I lost a really big pot there. And then the final hand I had Ace king suited and lost to sixes.
Nasty, so it all ended rather abruptly for you. Tell us about the side action here in London?
It’s been pretty good. There have been some pretty good private games. It’s tough getting into a lot of them being a pro, because some of them are invite-only. I played in one a couple of days ago and did pretty well. It was 25/50 and then towards the end of the night it became 25/50 - 100/200. But I shouldn’t really be talking about it…
Tell us a bit about your background and how you got into poker?
I was first exposed to poker around 2003. I saw Chris Moneymaker win the World Series on TV and was immediately enthralled and became interested in the game. I gradually started playing with friends – I was in high school and a few of my friends got into poker as well at that time. We started small games for fun and from there I slowly made the transition to online play. I played play money for awhile and then started playing some freerolls and won a couple of bucks – and that’s how I built my roll.
So you are one of those players that never deposited?
How did you find the learning process at the play money tables? It seems that most of those players tend to play recklessly and don’t take the game as serious. The transition from play money to real-money must have been very different?
Yeh it was certainly very different adjusting from play money to real money. I started with fixed limit and then moved on to no limit. Obviously all the freerolls were no limit.
What other learning tools did you use to help get your game intact? Did you use the any poker forums like 2+2 for example?
A little bit – but I think the biggest learning tool I used was just reviewing hand histories and playing them afterwards reviewing the big hands I played, seeing if I would do anything different, seeing if there was any better way to play the hand – just reviewing different types of players and how they play – just thinking about how people play, how to approach certain situations, things like that. So I think most of the growth I have made as a player has come through personal tuition. I have studied the game, thought about the game, played the hands and then done my homework.
Jovial Gent – where does that name come from?
You know I don’t really know. I didn’t have it before poker and when I turned 18 I wanted to make a bunch of random names that didn’t have any correlation to each other – so I came up with bballer88 and Jovial Gent.
What is you online poker playing environment like at home?
I just recently got a pretty sweet setup with two big monitors and a really big desktop – so I’ll be playing on that when I get back. For awhile I was playing on my laptop because around this time last year I got hacked – my desktop was key logged so I just stopped using it. Luckily I didn’t lose any money but I had to move onto my laptop and have only just got round to getting a new setup. But playing on a laptop isn’t ideal for grinding out multiple tables online.
How many tables do you tend to play at once?
I haven’t really had the chance to put my new setup to use but I am going to be playing more cash games now and the more screens the better!
On which site do you prefer to play cash games on?
I play on all the sites – I play a lot of heads-up. So a lot of my online poker playing will involve sitting on a number of tables on a number of different sites, with varying stakes – just waiting for my opponents.
What are your stakes of choice at the moment?
I play 25/50 plus. I was playing a lot of high stakes cash in 2008, and then after I got hacked I went on a trip for a few months and sort of got out of the rhythm of playing a lot of online cash. I was also playing from my laptop and so I found it a lot easier to play tournaments and heads-up sit n go’s. Also a lot of the nose-bleed action dried up around that time so I decided to focus more on multi-table tournaments and heads-up sit n go’s.
What do you prefer to play cash or tournaments?
It depends really. I am comfortable playing everything; I don’t really have a favourite game type as such. Cash is nice because you can take breaks whenever you want. What’s great about tournaments is that it is so much more satisfying winning a tournament than winning x amount of dollars in a cash game.
Which leads me nicely onto your recent WCOOP Main Event victory. $1.7 million. Wow. Tell me what it’s like to win the most prestigious online tournament of the year?
It feels great. I thought the tournament went pretty well. With two tables left, as people started busting out, I managed to build my stack and with 10 or 11 left I was second in chips to Daniel Kelly (djk123). The only thing I was hoping for when we made the final table was that he wouldn’t have position on me. As it happened he was seated on my immediate left, which kind of sucked. But he actually didn’t give me too much trouble. Things went pretty smoothly for me and once I realised he wasn’t going to be messing with me too much I opened up a little bit.
You certainly played some aggressive poker on the final table. Can you explain the thought process behind your 3 bet shove against the short stack with Q8…
It’s really case by case. With the Q8 hand, it was probably mathematically a fold for him. The reason why I did it was because PeachyMer had less than one big blind and there were at least two other players who had less chips than him at this stage in the tournament. The pay jumps were so huge that considering I wasn’t re-shoving any two cards – I was re-shoving reasonable hands like Q8 which is a 40/60 against his hand – which actually makes it a fold for him because the pay jumps are as such that doubling up for him is not as significant as preserving his tournament life and making sure he outlasts Peachymer who is about to be anted off. He ended up calling with Ace King and I doubled him up.
Would you fold that if you were in his position?
I might play it a little differently. I might just go all-in to not risk someone re-raising me all-in with a pocket pair and me having to call. Because there are a lot of hands that have very good equity against his hand that would fold if he just goes all-in. At that time you are really trying not to get a call, even with aces. You just want to outlast the shortstacks.
What meant more to you – the WCOOP Main Event victory or your WPT victory earlier this year?
They are both pretty meaningful. One was a very big achievement for me in the live arena and this was obviously my biggest achievement by far in the online arena. Both are extremely prestigious titles and so both meant a lot.
How did you first find the transition from playing online to playing on the live tournament circuit face to face with experienced pros?
I think a lot of the skills are pretty interchangeable. I am a lot more comfortable online because I don’t think I’m as good at picking up tells or reading people as some of the live pros are – so that’s an advantage they have on me. I just try to play my game when I am playing live. I think my strength lies in my analytical abilities – studying my opponents, seeing how they play, seeing how they think, seeing if I can pick up any sort of patterns in their games that I can exploit.
So you’d say you make more mathematical decisions than psychological?
Yeh I think my approach to live poker is pretty similar to online. Of course as far as tells go, I am always looking for them. When I am in a hand I always try and be very stoic and not give anything away, all the while studying my opponents seeing if I can pick anything up..
Is there a formula or pattern that you adhere to when playing online tournaments or do you take each table as it comes?
Not really. You really can’t have a system. I find that lately people have got pretty good so you can’t get away with playing too many hands. Against some players you can play a lot more hands than you can against others. You do come across some very inexperienced players who are going to stack off really light, so against those players I am going to target them and play more hands against them and even some really bad hands where I think that if I hit the right flop I can stack off against them when they have hit top pair. But typically I think online tournaments have started to get tougher. I normally just play solid and pick my spots.
Who do you rate as some of the best online tournament players of the moment?
I don’t play enough online tournaments to have a good grasp anymore. A lot of the players that would make the list don’t play many MTT’s anymore.
What are your ambitions in poker. Where would you like to be in say 10 years time?
I think I am always going to be playing poker even if it is not my main source of income in ten years time. I think I have devoted so much of my time and effort to getting where I am and I still really love the game, I don’t think I am ever going to lose my passion for it. I think I will always be playing, even if I start my own business or do something like that. I think I’ll definitely still be playing tournaments.
What would you start a business in?
I am getting into a lot of investing right now. I am studying and being mentored in business at the moment because that is something I would like to do in the future.
Do you ever invest or buy a stake in other players?
Yeh, I stake a lot of the top online tournament players.
Why do some of the top online players accept stakes when it’s clear that they are rich enough to put up the full buy-in and inevitably will have to give such a large percentage of their winnings away?
Some are very risk averse and don’t like the idea of going on a downswing with their own money. Others are big spenders outside of poker, they often spend what they win and because of that they don’t really have a very big poker bankroll. And there are other reasons – some invest too much of their money and don’t leave enough for them to handle the downswings and then when they do go on their downswing they seek backing. There are a lot of reasons.
Have you ever had a serious downswing?
I have experienced downswings but never anything too devastating, I’ve never been staked and I’ve never gone broke.
Do you think you are the kind of person who will ever experience a big downswing?
No, I don’t think I am. Especially not at this point in my career.
What’s in store for the coming months?
I’ll play the WPT Festa al Lago and then I think I’ll have a few weeks break after that. Then I’ll probably do Foxwoods and then I am going to do the five diamond poker classic, Bellagio in November-December.
Do you enjoy travelling around playing various tournaments?
Yes, although I do get homesick if I am away too long, but I definitely like live action.
What’s your favourite country you have been to?
Probably one of Italy, Spain or Australia
Ok and one last question. You played Luke Schwartz in the PKR Heads up challenge. What do you think of him?
I think he’s a good player, he played well. Him and I are actually acquainted so we don’t have any beef or anything. We also played together at the Party Poker World Open. He ended up busting me actually. He min raised and I pushed with A 8 and he had Kings and I lost that one. But earlier on I lost a big pot with A 10 against A 8 – had I won that I would have had 2/3 of the chips in play. In the space of ten hands I lost three all-ins and that’s how I busted.
Bummer. Well there is always the next one. Anyway great talking to Yevgeniy you and good luck.