Fausto Valdez is a longtime and beloved member of the Red Chip Poker community, known for his poker heart and fearless aggression. He joins us on this week’s podcast to discuss how he’s honing his play style to move up from $1/$2 to $2/$5, and his life as an aspiring poker pro.
This podcast is being published several weeks after we spoke with Fausto, and since then he has gone on a massive skill-stoked heater and has now officially moved up to $2/$5. He’s now even dabbling in the occasional $5/$10 game, and based on his results and dedication, we wouldn’t be the least surprised to see him as a regular there soon.
This podcast is a rare snapshot into the mind of a poker player who’s literally in the middle of becoming a professional poker player.
Fausto starts by talking about his harrowing recent history as a player who almost went bust. He’s well on the upswing at the time of our interview, but his bankroll had winnowed to $800 before he turned his whole game around.
Unlike most players, who start off nitty and tight, Fausto was a born LAG maniac, never afraid to get it in and let it ride. After taking coaching from James “SplitSuit” Sweeney and Christian Soto, he was able to run his bankroll up to $16,000 and ascend to $2/$5. But his aggressive style got the best of him and he was in free-fall until he doubled down on studying the game, particularly with the Red Chip Poker training videos and community.
The moment he went back in the lab to re-tool his game to reign in some of that aggression, the stacks stopped slipping across the table and his win rate wasn’t just resuscitated, it was skyrocketing.
Aggression is Fun
Fausto plays aggressively because it’s more fun for him. But as he noted, “Poker doesn’t care” which play style is fun, you have to respond to player types and table dynamics to be successful.
As he pointed out, winning aggression isn’t blind, it’s exploitative. The big adjustment he made in his game was to stop pushing his luck and trying exploitative moves until he met resistance and lost chips. Instead, he’s more conscious of when to take aggressive, exploitative lines, and when to tread more carefully… and it has made all the difference in his game.
Difference Between $1/$2 and $2/$5
Fausto reflected on the adjustments he had to make moving up to $2/$5. He saw slightly more confident and competent players who would try to put him to the test more, and also be stickier vs. his aggression. He said “You gotta be ready to double- and triple-barrel.”
At $1/$2, players are way too passive. They don’t pay attention, they get frustrated, and they aren’t applying nearly enough aggression as they need to.
Fausto said that mentally, you have to be prepared for all the looseness at $1/$2. He said that you need to put a ton of study and practice into your game so you can trust your strategy, because $1/$2 will test you in terms of ridiculous plays, suck outs, and the like.
Strategy-wise, he cautions against being “too creative”. Players at this level are more likely to give you information that turns their hand face up because they play very straightforwardly.
More than anything else, Fausto said he was paying close attention to frequencies and people who are playing far to aggressively or passively. By adjusting to these frequency discrepancies, profit can be uncovered.
He also said he looked for bet sizing tells a lot — things like players who double-barrel and use the same bet size on the flop as on the turn indicating a medium-strength hand. He likes to raise here and “get away with murder because they’re not thinking about what they’re doing.”
At $2/$5, Fausto said he focuses more on player type and board texture, and the relationship between the two. He’s always thinking about his opponents’ ranges, and the range he’s representing. He looks even more closely at frequencies — anything he can pick up on that is unbalanced he will attack no matter what his holding is.
“You just can’t make assumptions every single time,” he said. “You still gotta understand your opponent,” because people’s moods and play styles aren’t set in stone, they can change based on things as dynamic as their mood that day, or the way the game has been going for them.
Being a Poker Professional
Fausto talked about how important it is to not only “act like a professional” by taking the game seriously, but also to be fun and social at the table to keep people feeling entertained while he takes their money. “It’s part of the job,” he said.
He thinks of his best “customers” as the bad players who like to be entertained, but clarifies that with other players who are approaching the game with a serious, profit-based mindset, such effort is necessary.
Understanding, defining and committing to your aspirations unequivocally is what it takes to become a pro, Fausto said. He studies poker five nights a week and travels long-distance to play anytime he can to squeeze every hour of experience and profit out of his schedule. If you’re not living and breathing poker, Fausto thought it would be difficult to truly succeed as a professional.
He talked about how he studies hard to plug his leaks and weaknesses, and refines his strengths into intuition, so his profit-producing moves become second nature.
Poker Study Time
A lot of players are very focused on strategy, but Fausto talked a lot about mental game. In particular, he said he was studying being focused and controlled at the table. He talked of making sure to curb the instinct he had to take every edge he saw as soon as he saw it, and to be more patient because “you can’t force the game.”
He also spoke of the importance of living a balanced life and avoiding overworking, either at the tables or away from them. Many poker players burn themselves out grinding to become a pro, but Fausto realizes that balance is an important key to sustainable poker success.
“It’s very important you still feel hungry,” he said.
Don’t Just Play by The Book
“You don’t want to read something or learn something and become static with that one strategy,” Fausto said of many players’ tendencies to “play by the book”. He emphasized how important it is to understand strategic concepts and then apply them dynamically based on the many variables present in any session.
Dealing with Aggression
One thing our members often ask about is how to deal with aggressive players. Who better to ask than one of the most aggressive players we know?
“The most annoying thing someone could do to me is just hang on for dear life with everything,” he said when asked what the best defense vs. aggression would be.
“The point of my aggression is to get you to fold,” he said. He admitted he will have hands sometimes, but he will also have trash often enough that not folding to the pressure of his barrels is a necessary defense.
“Be brave,” he said.
We wrapped the podcast discussing a couple hands from the Live at the Bike session, including one where Fausto shoved over a preflop raise from Soto and a call from ChipXtractor, only to be called by ChipXtractor who managed to run his A9o against Fausto’s 6h3h in something of a leveling war. He also discussed another more subtle hand in depth, which gives a fantastic glimpse into the depth of his thought process — listen to the podcast for the breakdown.
After running through the hand, he related his experience being coached by Christian Soto and being awed by his thought process. He talks about how he aspired to have Soto’s “second nature” intuition about poker, and his ability to recount hundreds of hands he’s played in exhaustive strategic detail. And in the process, he demonstrates exactly that second-nature thinking process that he so aspired to have.
“When you love something, you’re in the moment,” he said, perhaps better encapsulating his strategy better in one sentence than this whole article.