The Pro’s Pro appears in each issue of BLUFF Magazine and is also featured on Bluff.com. In it, we look at the lives and careers of some of the most successful tournament pros traveling the circuit today. This edition takes a look at Jacob Bazeley.
Bazeley is a 30 year-old poker pro from Cincinnati, Ohio, with $1.1 million in career tournament earnings since 2008. But he only gets to be at home three to four months out of the year. Bazeley has been traveling the country for a few years and has carved out some deep finishes in highlight events.
Tell us about your life before you got into poker.
I went to Christian Brothers University in Memphis to play basketball, it’s a Division II school. My team started playing poker, so we would just play a lot of home games within the team. Tunica, Mississippi is only about 30 minutes away and we progressed to going down there to play. We started getting better as a whole, I picked up a couple of poker books and met a couple of other friends in Tunica that were playing MTTs online. They introduced me to online tournaments and I was I hooked from there.
How long of a time frame was it between playing home games with your teammates and when you realized that you could play for a living?
I really started playing my sophomore year in college and I really didn’t think about playing seriously until I graduated, so that was a three-year span from being a $4/8 limit player to making a decent amount of money online. So I immediately started thinking about playing instead of getting a job. I actually went to graduate school and was a graduate assistant for Christian Brothers and I was making anything. They provided room and board but I only got a $60 check every two weeks to live off of, so I played poker on the side. I finished in two years and never got a job. I took a year off to play poker and see how it went and I had a six-figure year. I never went to get a job after that.
So online poker was a big part of your development as a player?
Yes, there’s so much more experience you can gain, so many fundamentals you can pick up and you learn what not to do. Live poker is so much harder to gain experience from, if I had just played live I would be no where near where I am as a player.
You’ve made three World Series of Poker final tables in the last two years, tell us about the final table experiences at the WSOP.
It’s all kind of surreal, it just happened so fast. You play this game expecting to get deep and most of the time it doesn’t work out. You try to make the best decisions and all of a sudden I’m down to three tables and then two tables and you’re getting close to real money. I tried to not think about from the outside, I tried to play it like any other tournament, if you start thinking about the money there is no way you can make the right decisions. I had a couple of tough ones and the other one I thought I could do really well but I never had any chips.
We’re in an era of poker where it seems that everyone thinks they have an edge over everyone else. What do you think your edge is?
I would say I don’t punt off many tournaments. I don’t give away my chips often, where a lot of these kids try to make hero plays. So many players are really good and they try to get chips different ways. But a lot of these don’t really know when to use those moves, they just try do them on the fly. I try to make the correct play, using mathematics and a little bit of feel.
What’s the single best thing about playing poker for a living – and, conversely, the single worst thing?
The best thing is definitely the schedule. I’m not a morning person; I can sleep in whenever I want, I can work out whenever I want and I can go on trips anytime I want. Besides a couple of the huge tournament series, you can really make your own schedule. The worst thing is definitely the mentality it gives you because you’re literally gambling all the time. It skews your outlook on life in a lot of ways – you lose concepts of money, you lose intuitions about certain things. You tend to blow off a lot of things, where if you have a job you pay more attention to the little details in life.
If you were to stop playing poker professionally tomorrow, what kind of career would you pursue?
I would go back to coaching basketball. I don’t really feel like me and the business world would get a long great; making a lot of money for someone else and only getting a little. Coaching is a better way to have an impact on someone’s life. I get more enjoyment out of basketball and it would be a win-win for me.
How far out do you plan your tournament stops or do you just wing it?
I usually look at two to three months at a time and plan from there. If there are two events running the same weekend I’ll take the second-best option. I’d rather play for a little less money against a worse field than playing against the best players for a little more money.
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