Andrew Brokos is a legend in the poker community. A highly-respected player, video maker, coach, author, and voice of the Thinking Poker Podcast…Andrew is a man of many talents. Learn more about him below:
Where is your original hometown, and where do you call home now?
I’m originally from a suburb of Baltimore, though I haven’t lived there in many years. I moved to San Francisco in late 2014.
Where specifically are we most likely to see you playing cards these days?
There’s a small card room just south of San Francisco called Lucky Chances. It’s a bit inconvenient to get to by public transit, but I bring a book for the train, and as long as the weather is nice, the 15-minute walk through cemetary-lined hills can a very nice warm-up for a poker session.
Sometimes I take “poker vacations” where I travel internationally to play online or to somewhere like Las Vegas for a more intense period of playing.
When and how did you start playing poker?
I grew up playing games, including poker, with my father and his extended famil. I hosted a regular home game when I was in high school (almost twenty years ago!) and played regularly in a bi-weekly campus tournament when I was in college. That college game was the one that really got me fired up, and I discovered online freerolls during my senior year as well.
When and how did you decide to play poker professionally/seriously?
When I graduated from college with a philosophy degree and realized that maybe I shouldn’t have been rolling my eyes at all those people who asked what I was going to do with that. I suppose I kind of did “figure it out” as I assured them I would.
What do you consider your proudest poker achievements?
Honestly, the biggest accomplishment is just sustaining a career for 10 years. So many professionals – some of them, I’m sure, better cardplayers than I – just aren’t able to manage the emotional and financial swings and go broke or burn out.
That said, winning a $2000 two-day FTOPS event and my three top 100 finishes in the WSOP Main Event all felt pretty great too!
Actually the biggest thrills I got were probably the very first tournaments I won. Both were on Pacific Poker, one was a $5 limit hold ’em tournament when I was still in college – I believe that was less than $100 – and one was a daily $15 tournament they had where first paid something like $4000. Oh and I did finally win that campus tournament I mentioned, the last time I ever played it. I probably still lost money on it lifetime, but what a great accomplishment that was!
When and how did you start coaching others?
I believe it was 2008, which was shortly after I’d started winning in high stakes cash games (for the first 2 – 3 years of my career I played SNGs and then MTTs almost exclusively). I have a strong background in education: I worked in the Chicago Public Schools for several years, and I founded a non-profit organization in Boston that worked with public school students and teachers there. So, for me combining teaching and poker was a very easy and natural thing to do.
What is your coaching specialty? Do you consider yourself a ‘specialist’ in any games?
You don’t want me coaching you in any game other than no-limit hold ’em. I consider the others very interesting and would like to get better at them (I made the final two tables of a PLO8 event during the 2013 WSOP), but I’m definitely not qualified to coach them. I’ve been playing and thinking about no-limit very seriously for over ten years, and I have both a strong theoretical understanding of the game as well as a lot of experience with the kinds of mistakes people make and the difficulties that most people face when trying to get better at it.
What is your goal in providing coaching through Red Chip Poker?
I want to explain high level theoretical concepts in a way that makes sense and is useful to people of all skill levels. I think that many people have had bad or intimidating experiences with math and are skeptical of anything called “theory” and assume that it’s not for them or only applies to games that they don’t play. Yet they ask questions that and face challenges that can really only be solved by understanding theory. It just isn’t practical to think that you are going to memorize a strategy for every situation you could face at the poker table. Memorizing simple strategies for common situations will get through the small stakes, but when that’s the only way that people know how to learn, they really struggle to get past that first plateau.
My background in education equips me to explain these theoretical concepts in a way that anyone can understand. I want to help people see why theory matters and how it can be useful to them.
Please share a coaching success story with us:
Many of my students these days are not professional poker players. They are serious amateurs, often 10 to 20 years older than I, who are very driven and have been very successful in their non-poker careers and want to master this hobby that is so important to them. These are people who many young pros would take one look at and think “fish!”
I know that they choose me because I can help them make sense of advanced concepts without being condescending. I’m able to meet them at whatever level they’re currently thinking on and introduce more advanced concepts in a way that is useful to them.
My favorite success stories are when these students tell me about making a great play – whether it’s a bluff or a hero call or a thin value bet – against one of those hotshot kids who thinks he can play circles around them just because they don’t look the part of a top-notch poker player.
Do you have a professional career/background outside of poker?
I mentioned starting a non-profit organization in Boston. That’s the Boston Debate League, an organization that supports competitive debate programs in Boston’s Public Schools. Joining my high school debate team changed my life, and it’s a great opportunity for kids in schools that don’t offer a lot of enriching academic programs and where the learning climate generally is not very supportive of indepedently-minded kids who want to pursue their onw interests.
The organization is still going strong – stronger than ever actually – but I don’t have much involvement with them anymore. For a few years, though, I split my time about 50-50 between poker and running the BDL. Now that I’m in San Francisco, I volunteer with the Bay Area Urban Debate League. I’m an assistant coach at a school near me, and I help out with some league-wide events as well.
What are your favorite hobbies and pursuits outside of poker?
I enjoy traveling and doing stuff outdoors. For over two years, my girlfriend and I lived without a permanent residence, just driving around the US exploring while I supported us with online poker. We’d actually just decided to try to settle down a bit in March of 2011, and then Black Friday pushed us to a whole new level of nomadism. We spent the second half of 2011 in Canada, though since then I’ve only traveled sporadically to play online poker.
Can you link us to all of the books you’ve written?
I’ve written four books so far about my experiences in the WSOP Main Event, and more are on the way. They’re all available at http://www.nitcast.com/.
I also write the Thinking Poker blog and co-host the Thinking Poker Podcast, both available at www.thinkingpoker.net.
Do you have any results on Hendon Mob, etc.?
Rapid Fire Fun Questions
Favorite color: Green?
Favorite starting hand: JTs
Favorite poker room: Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh
Last song you listened to: Whiskey in a Jar, the Dubliners version (it was St. Patrick’s Day). Umbrella by Rihanna is my official poker jam.
Waffles or pancakes: waffles
Favorite drink: coffee
Favorite thing to cook: vegan chili
Do you have a lucky object?: nope
Favorite board game: maybe Settlers of Catan or Carcasonne. Actually I went to the real Carcasonne, by accident, as part of a poker road trip. It was an amazing place!
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