Zac Shaw is back hosting another episode featuring an interview with another star member of the Red Chip Poker community, Steve ‘ChipXtractor’ Catterson. ChipXtractor is what you might call a ‘serious recreational poker player’ — not a pro by any means, but a dedicated student and player of the game who always strives to improve and play his A game. Not only that, but he’s a core contributor to our forum, and regularly blogs and vlogs about his poker trips for the community at large.
ChipXTractor was kind enough to join us on his birthday to talk about his life. It’s a far-ranging interview that goes over the many Red Chip Poker resources he’s drawn upon, as well as his focus on and pursuit of the social aspect of the game.
Finding the Skill Edge in Gambling
ChipXTractor wound up in poker through the not-so-circuitous route of being a more traditional gambler at the casino. He began as a blackjack player, and when he realized he was leaking cash, he decided to learn how to count cards. After studying hard and getting into other advantage play like wheel clocking, dice control, and any type of way to game the system. He realized that he needed that skill edge to counter the mathematical disadvantage, and this led to the pursuit of poker.
Differences Between Recs and Pros
At the Red Chip Poker meetup in Vegas this year, ChipXTractor roomed with two other pros: Persuadeo and Fausto Valdez (we interviewed Persuadeo a few weeks back, and Fausto will be interviewed in an upcoming podcast). This showed him the major differences between players who take the game seriously as a way to make a living, versus players like himself who play more for the recreational and social aspect (though nonetheless seriously when it comes to strategy). He points out that it’s possible for recs to compete with pros thanks to all the training information out there.
He was also blown away by watching the other coaches and pros who seemed so nonchalant, only to be able to dissect any hand they played in great detail afterwords. All of their hard work created an image of just another poker player enjoying themselves, when the mental machinery was churning at top speed the whole time.
“It’s like listening to people speaking a different language,” he said about conversation with the coaches and pros. “They almost communicate on a different level.”
ChipXTractor says this makes all the difference in his participation with Red Chip Poker. Being able to converse with pros and coaches lead to a feeling of community, and a strategic advantage for recreational players and pros alike.
Socializing Around Poker
ChipXTractor talks about inserting himself in the community as “a bit of a fanboy” and then falling into a mode of constantly thinking about poker, in a similar way as the pros. He relates how Red Chip coach Christian Soto sought out Matt Berkey and developed a friendship that took his game to the next level. He feels he is doing a similar thing by reaching out to Red Chip’s members and coaches, accelerating his learning process and becoming a much better player in a much shorter time than if he had relied on training material alone.
Social interaction is the main reason ChipXTractor plays. “I play to profit enough so I can continue to play,” he says. “I want to continue funding my education and my experiences with my winnings.”
Every penny he spends on poker trips, poker books, poker training material comes out of his poker bankroll.
“Everybody wants to win because they want to play,” he says in relation to the vast majority of poker players who approach the game recreationally.
ChipXTractor’s goals are not necessarily to move up in stakes or amass an enormous bankroll. He wants to seek out more community involvement. He talks about possibly moving to Vegas after retiring to go deeper into the poker world, perhaps mentoring recreational players in a similar way to his video blogs and articles.
Poker is a People Game
While the “strategic minutia” is important, ChipXTractor and Shaw bonded over their shared love of the game, the social aspect, and writing/blogging about their experience. They see a place for their content as being ambassadors of the game to recreational players, and getting them into studying more so they can win more, which in turn will be more fun for them, even if poker is primarily a social pursuit for most of us.
In regards to applying the right strategies, “You need to understand why people are playing the game”, he says. A lot of poker players aren’t playing for profit, they’re playing to win and have fun.
When speaking specifically of how so many $1/$2 players limp so often and have huge leaks around limping, he points out many of these players “just want to play” and either don’t know why they shouldn’t be limping all the time, or simply don’t care.
“That doesn’t make it right or wrong”, he says. “They’re not going to win, but they’re willing to give up that profit because they want to play.”
ChipXTractor sees a lot of judgement in poker, and thinks players should get beyond it. He advises players not to take it personally or seriously when players make stupid strategic decisions that negatively affect you.
Balancing Social and Strategy
“It’s a real skillset to be socially involved while playing the game while also playing well,” he says, admiring the ability of pros to juggle both aspects of the game. He talks about his personal struggle in trying to play well while being social in the game, and vice versa.
ChipXTractor says that in the times he’s been lucky to play with high-level players like Christian Soto, he’s been amazed at how comfortable other players have been to give them their money. He talks about how impressed he was with their ability to be fun and approachable on a social level, to the point where their opponents didn’t even seem particularly concerned that they were losing to them.
“A lot of these guys focus on keeping the other players happy because that’s their profit source,” he observes.
Red Chip Highlights
ChipXTractor first got into Red Chip like many ‘Chippers did — by reading Ed Miller books. He was also aware of James “SplitSuit” Sweeney and Doug Hull from their books and coaching. When he learned the three of them got together with Christian Soto to form Red Chip Poker, he was all-in right away.
He was immediately struck by the forum and how often the coaches would post and answer questions directly. He contrasts this with his participation in 2+2, where he felt over the years that the tight-knit community feel went into a different direction, whereas Red Chip Poker’s forum gave him that community feel right away.
ChipXTractor on Live at the Bike
He recounts the story of getting to Live at the Bike during the Red Chip Poker meetup. It was a harrowing journey featuring tight quarters, a bus that almost caught fire, an hourlong unplanned stop in the middle of the desert, and running into the Bicycle casino just in time to get on air.
He talks about getting seated between Christian Soto and Fausto Valdez, two very aggressive and smart players. Then after doubling up he got involved in a hand where he basically flipped for stacks. Shaw asks about the double-up hand vs. Valdez, when ChipXTractor called a raise from Soto and then Fausto massively overbet the pot with a shove, Soto folded, and ChipXTractor called with A9o and Fausto showed 63 of hearts. You can hear the in-depth justification of this call from ChipXTractor in the podcast — he had some solid strategic thinking backing up this call.
Future Poker Studies
ChipXTractor talks about his new pursuit of recording himself studying. It’s been an incredible new way of studying which allows for greater attention to be paid to what he’s picking up, and holding on to those learned lessons by having to essentially perform for others around the most important parts.
“When I practice online or watch a video, I literally verbalize my thought process, and I record it. And then I’ll go back and listen to what I’m thinking,” he says, adding that he’ll immediately notice gaps in applying what he already knows.