Full-Ring Friends Series: Belok

Very excited about this blog’s guest! Given that he’s been grinding for Supernova Elite this year we have played quite a bit against each other and I’ve always been a big fan of his blog. He recently signed on to do a video series for Card Runners or mega-tabling and his knowledge in that area is famous. Enjoy!

Tell me a bit about your poker story, how you came to be involved in online poker and what made you choose full-ring no limit games.
I was a CS major at Purdue for 2 semesters. I ended up dropping out during my second semester due to a combination of family issues and absolutely hating my chosen field. I also spent nearly all of my free time during that second semester playing .25/.5LHE on Party Poker. After losing my first 50$ deposit, I had a friend sign up through me, and I received a 50$ bonus. From that 50$ came everything I have now.

Over the past 3.5 years of playing what I would consider professionally, I’ve bounced around a bit. I was a LHE grinder and bonus whore for most of 2005. In 2006 I moved to FRNL on PartyPoker until the UIGEA. After the UIGEA, I moved primarily to Bodog, where I selectively played MSNL for most of 2007.

In December of 07, I saw that I was very limited on Bodog, and needed to change my game plan to advance, so I took on the SNE challenge. 2008 has been almost entirely focused on achieving SNE, and I expect to finish just after Christmas.

What is the origin of the name Belok?

I’ve been using this screen name since I was about 12 years old. It somewhat became my alter-ego for most of the video games I’ve played, and it just stuck. There’s a longer more cheesy story on my blog. It also means “egg white” in Russian.

You are on the verge of Supernova Elite for the 2008 year. What initially prompted you to make a run for it?
After the UIGEA, I was having trouble finding a good “home” for most of my poker playing. Bodog had the best table selection, but 3 tables max and awful rakeback/bonus. Stars/FTP were both solid options at the time, but compared to Bodog, the table selection was just horrible. Unfortunately, I saw my $/hr hit a ceiling very quickly at Bodog, and was not satisfied with remaining there long-term.
Reaching SNE is 110k/yr in bonus alone, which was plenty of motivation. Getting sent to a major tournament, the status of SNE, and the sheer challenge of playing that many hands were also big factors in the decision.

How many hours/hands has it taken?

About 1500 hours and 1.8mil hands so far. The majority of my play has been at 200NL, with about 300-400k hands at 400 and 600NL.

How has the experience been and would you do it all again?
Well, it depends on when you ask. September, October, and November have all been so gut-wrenchingly breakeven over a massive sample. The VPP rate has gone down significantly since early this year as well, so I have been forced to put in even more hours of breakeven. Much of this is due to stress/time limitations effecting my game I am sure. Much is also due to the increasing difficulty of the games. I’ve been working on a new style with WCGRider lately, and it has revitalized my interest quite a bit. I’ll know by February if I want to do it again in ’09

You have a baby and just got married this year. How hard has it been to balance SNE grinding with family life?

Very mixed answer here. Some days it is incredibly easy, and some days incredibly difficult. I do share my office with Sophy’s crib, so that complicated the situation a little more. Marriage/fatherhood really isn’t difficult, it just requires a lot of time and patience. So on the good poker days (most days), I’ve got plenty of patience and enough time to go around the house. During the bad days where my patience has already been worn down, it seems like the only thing in this world I want is 15 minutes of silence, which I’ll never get.

On one hand, I’d say that taking care of a family can really make a SNE run difficult, in that you are automatically giving up a significant portion of your time and energy every day. On the other hand, these girls have been so helpful, and given me so much more motivation than I had previously. I may not have had the drive to pull it off without them.

You made a name for yourself with your epic 2+2 thread on 24-tabling on PokerStars. How has the number of tables you play progressed through your poker career?
I’ve always been the type to want to do more, better, faster, stronger, whatever. I can never settle for whatever hands/hr or $/hr I currently have. From the very beginning I was running 4 tables (which was the max at the time) on PartyPoker. When I moved to bonus whoring, I really upped that #, because those were the golden days where bonuses were worth $5+ per table hour.

Nowadays, for most serious players, I’d say that 4+ is an absolute necessity. The higher stakes games are saturated with very good players, and the lower stakes just can’t give someone the $/hr to make it worth your time without multitabling.

I’m told that the first video of my “Mass Tabling” series on CardRunners will be released next weekend. If the response is good, this will be a very long series, and I already see it as being much better than my 24-Tabling articles.

Do you think there is a point at which playing above a certain amount of tables is detrimental to your poker progression?

Definitely. During this last month or two, I was very interested in playing ANYTHING other than FRNL. The only problem was, I needed to be making ~500vpps/hr+ or I just wouldn’t be able to earn enough points to finish SNE. This left me with only 3 playing options: 24tabling FRNL, 24tabling shortstack 6max, and multi-tabling DoNs. All 3 of these games can be extremely brainless, which is what makes them easy to multi-table.

So I found myself in somewhat of a rut, but the rut was more because of the SNE goal than the multi-tabling itself. In the end, I stuck with FRNL because it is what I am comfortable with – but even with 24 tables, I’ve been able to massively overhaul my game this month.

You’ve been playing some of the ‘Double or Nothing’ SnGs in order to grind some VPPs for your SNE run, how have you been faring?
Crushing. Those games are not even poker. It is fun to win $ and everything, but there is very little skill involved in those things.

Your blog title references you as an entrepreneur. What entrepreneurial opportunities do your pursue outside of poker?
Ohh…long answer. My dad and I have co-owned 2 apartment buildings and 2 houses (one of which I live in) since I was 20. I did Ebay reselling for a while. I had the idea behind, and coordinated the early work on Sixth Sense. I haven’t been a part of that program for ~1.5y now. Random staking, a few small-time coaching deals, etc. I just love taking an idea and turning it into a profitable working business.

What are some of the major breakthroughs and leaks that you have plugged in order to get the point of playing solid winning poker?
I think most FRNLers struggle with being a giant nit, which is no exception for me. It is still a struggle to avoid my nitty tendencies.

What are the best and worst aspects of being a poker player?
Best: Money, Hours, Freedom, having a hobby as a job
Worst: Uncertainty in the future, swings, closed-minded people making judgements

What do your family (both immediate and extended) think of your poker playing?
My immediate family started out very much against the idea, which is understandable given how rare it is for someone to succeed. After a year or two of consistent results, I won everybody over. Some of my extended family are much more against the idea.

I’ve found that there are some people who just plain shut down when they are shown a situation they don’t like. Of the members of my extended family who clearly aren’t happy that I’m a poker player, and not 1 person has ever said a word to me about it. I’d much prefer to have a conversation about it, but people will be people.

As a PokerStars Supernova VIP what changes do you think could be made to the VIP program to improve it?

Well, Stars takes away your SNE status in July if you haven’t reached your million points yet. I think that’s pretty awful, and one of the major reasons against trying again.

How do you view the future of online poker? Will it be legalised in the US sometime soon and if it is what sites and networks do you think stand to benefit?
I wish we could keep things the way they are. If it is legalized, the god damn government will get their filthy hands on it somehow, and we’ll wish they never did. 5k cashouts will reach your door as 3.5k with the tax taken out already…Uncle Sam will be taking an extra 1$ out of every pot for national security… it seems like every single thing they touch turns to ****. Keep poker under the radar as long as possible IMO.

Quick Quiz – Of All 2+2 SS Full Ring and PokerStars $100nl-$400nl full-ring regulars
Best avatar?
I have avatars off, so I have to vote for Belok.

Best strategy poster?
I don’t post or read strategy any more.

Best trash talker?

Best 24-tabler?

Jack frost…but not because he’s trying to be

WCG and WeakTite have both been friendly to me, I don’t have as much social time as other regs though.

PimpMySpeed – I dont know if he’s a 2+2er, but he sure likes to whine when he loses his 40$ stack. Pretty weird IMO.

Most under-rated?
Weak Tite

Most over-rated?
I’m not gonna out anybody, but there is a list of people who were thought of as good who just can’t cut it any more (I was very close to this list).

Who, if anyone, have you met in real life?
Nope, but I’ll be at Monte Carlo in 09! Maybe some others will too?

Most Tilty?
against me – WCGRider

Least Tilty?

Best table selection?

Best short stacker(lol)?
The best shortstackers are the ones who fold to 3bet 75%+

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