Chris "Apotheosis" Kruk
It’s been over a month since my first blog post was requested of me and quite frankly it’s a bit embarrassing it’s taken me this long to get around to it. It’s been a combination of it not being a part of my routine (The poker related things I’m used to doing on a daily basis involve playing, studying and coaching, remembering to write a blog about my life is just not something that I wake up and think to do.) A lack of inspiration also posed a problem until recently when I was following the bitB staking thread on 2p2 and Pads was taking a lot of flak from a few accounts who were accusing Pads of making posts and claims about bitB that they claimed were at the very least exaggerations and potentially outright lies etc. Having been staked a few times in the past (never by bitB) and having worked for two stables as well as having done innumerable private coaching sessions and producing over a 100 videos for training sites I’m probably uniquely positioned to be able to comment on staking in general as well as multiple aspects of bitB’s program. Bear with me, as I am no poet. I was going to be a scientist and now I play cards on the internet so writing is not my forte. I already used “right” and “write” in the title of the blog and risked asking my readers to get naked with me just a line ago so you can tell this is going to be a no holds barred type of blog post! Fair warning. Some shots will be fired.
The first thing I want to talk about is whether or not to pursue a stake. I’m going to address this first because the feeling of community that Pads talks about is much harder to describe whereas at the end of the day, whether or not to pursue a stake is quite simple. A stake should be viewed as a tool by the person applying for it. The main factor that should influence your decision is “how much money will I make if I play without this stake and how does that compare to the money I can make with this stake.”
While this question is a simple one, answering it is not so simple. Keep in mind that there are many reasons that a stake may benefit you. The most obvious one is best described as, “Your % of the pie gets smaller but if the pie itself gets way bigger, you may end up with more pie.” This is as simple as If you stay on your own you have an EV of 50k for the year. If you join the stable you have an EV of 150k. Sure, you have to give 75k away which isn’t ideal but you still finish with 25k more than any of your other options so why not? Another possibility is that the structure of the stake may help keep you playing the games you’re winning at (this can be good for guys that have problems punting off heaps playing games they shouldn’t). Additionally the coaching you receive during the stake stays with you after you leave to be on your own which may increase your future EV so even if you don’t make as much in the immediate future while in the stable, you may improve significantly so that when you leave the stable you’re doing significantly better on your own. If it costs you 20k in EV for each of two years but then you make 30k/year extra because of the coaching you received then 18 months after leaving the stable you’re “breakeven” and everything after that is just gravy.
Next I’d like to point out that you develop a network and a reputation among high stakes players who know you’re trustworthy etc. Let’s say you’re a relative nobody and one day you decide to play a 10k EPT high roller. Who’s going to buy it? Who’s going to pay MU? No one. You’re an unknown quantity. We can see some results but no one really knows how good you are because they haven’t spoken with you and they don’t know if you’re a risk to scam them etc. As a result you’re going to have a relatively tough time selling action and you’ll get a somewhat lower MU. Consider having been a part of bitB for two years and then leaving and going out on your own. Now you need to sell for a 10k EPT. Probably what ends up happening is that you just pm Elmerix/Sam/Pads and they just buy it. Worst case scenario they don’t take any of it but they can provide a reference that suggests there’s a low likelihood you’re a scammer and provide some insight into your technical ability. The last thing to consider is that while you’re on stake, you can use your own money to do other things that generate EV (like buy BTC, or a rental property or whatever else tickles your fancy). While it’s difficult to accurately quantify everything and come up with an exact answer all you can do is give it your best shot and then roll with it.
The constant fixation on EV that we all have as poker players is probably not worth the attention it gets at every decision. At the end of the day, sometimes you’ve got to calculate what you can and then make the best decision possible given the information available to you at the time. I promise it’s never going to turn out that badly. In the words of MMASherdog, “At the end of the day, I live on an island and play cards on the internet for way too much money”. In the coming paragraphs I will argue that if you think it’s close in terms of $EV between getting the stake and not getting it, applying for one with bitB is probably a good idea. This is largely due to the community that Pads describes so often in his blog posts.
Before I get into describing the community aspect here at bitB I’m going to begin by briefly outline my own relationship with the team. I feel that it’s important to share that information before writing about the stable so that people are aware of my relationship with the owners etc.
To be clear, I have no piece of the stable. I believe this is fairly well documented in multiple areas (including the thread on 2p2). The three owners are Pads/Elmerix/European and as far as I know they’re the only guys with equity in the stable. They put up the money which allows the horses to play and they cover all the other expenses, in return they get a piece of the profit. All the other coaches (myself included) are paid an hourly to coach (Both 1 on 1 and group sessions). We do a session and we bill for it. If we don’t do any sessions, we don’t bill anything. In addition we have some “soft” responsibilities, being active in the discord group, being active in the forums, occasionally captivating you with our exquisite writing skills etc. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter much to me if you join or not. They’re already making enough to pay me for more coaching sessions than I really need to do so it’s not like my job is on the line here or anything. I’m writing this because I truly believe bitB is a great stable and I think joining it is a much better option than a lot of the other stables out there.
I was introduced to bitB through Pads. I “met” Pads in the poker world just before his journey into MTTs began. (That is to say, we spoke on the internet occasionally even though I had no idea who he was). We were part of a Skype cash group chat that started in the beginning of January a couple years ago (undoubtedly as someone's “New Year’s Resolution” type of thing.) I believe he was playing 100z/200z at the time for the first month or so we were in the group. The exact dates escape me at the moment but within a few months he’d had back to back 100k weekends. Again, the details escape me but I believe he won the Warmup (?) And then got 8th (?) in some special edition Sunday million. What a fuckin luckbox. At that point he headed towards greener pastures over in MTT land and I stuck with cash. We chatted occasionally but didn’t really begin talking much until I started playing more MTTs nearly a year later.
When I started playing MTTs, the plan was simple. Play cash most days and then fire Sundays because people are terrible and you might win 200k. Obviously from a variance standpoint this isn’t the most attractive plan because Sundays and COOPs provide the biggest swings possible. As such, seeking out a stake seemed to make the most sense. After all, 50% of 200k is better than 100% of nothing. Sadly that stake turned out to be an absolute disaster. Exactly how big of a train wreck the stable was couldn’t possibly be described by the English language until late last year. At this point, the term “U.S. Politics” comes to mind to describe how well this stable was run. I’ll spare everyone the details as they aren’t particularly important and the goal of this blog is not to put the person running that stable on blast. Suffice to say, there are definitely some stables out there you absolutely do not want to join, and that was one of them.
During the time I was in the stable I was following Pads’ somewhat famous 2p2 blog that followed his poker adventures. While it wasn’t strictly dedicated to bitB, bitB inevitably came up every so often. From the outside he seemed to know what he was doing and had a reasonable grasp on reality so when I had some questions about potentially getting out of my current staking deal I turned to him. (There were also other people in the stable trying to get out of MU or quit while in MU etc because of how big of a disaster the whole thing was, so I occasionally bounced a few of their problems off him as well.) He helped shed some light on what the industry standard was for a bunch of situations I was totally unfamiliar with. Thankfully I cleared MU and quit the stable before anything too disastrous happened. Luckily this disaster of a situation got Pads and I speaking a lot more and eventually I brought up the possibility of rooming together in Vegas.
In years past I had gone as a cash player. That is, for the week of the Main Event to punt off 10k USD under the illusion that I might actually win eight million dollars one time. I stayed at the Rio both times which is pretty brutal but an acceptable option if you’re only there a week and really enjoy suffering. This time however, I was travelling as a tournament player. That is to say, for five weeks in the Summer to punt off 100k USD under the illusion that I might be more likely to win some large sums of money if I tried more often.
In the end, we got a house together with a couple other guys Pads knew from elsewhere. I have to say, it was by far the most fun I’ve had in one summer. Vegas is infinitely better when you go with buddies and rent a house. I’ve got to take a second and do my best Joe Ingram impression and give a special shout out to Jack and Anthony if you guys ever end up reading this. I enjoy the live poker in Vegas but it’s so much better when you can spend the spare time going out to dinner with friends, watching Soccer and talking hands etc. That beats the hell out of returning to a crappy hotel room after busting and ordering room service. I mean, sure, occasionally you play at Bellagio until 8am and then get woken up at 10am because England is losing to Iceland in soccer so five guys are yelling at the television but hey, what can you do… I mean sometimes you just run into a Soccer powerhouse in the quarters and get smashed, that’s just life.
Throughout the duration of the summer Pads’ stable inevitably came up in conversation a few times and I floated out the idea of potentially working for them. I still felt I had some tournament specific things to learn from guys like Pads/Elmerix/European and felt I could contribute in other areas so it seemed like a great fit. One of the things that sold this as the place to be for me was when Pads skipped a WSOP tourney because he had a 4-6 hour long investors meeting on a Monday. This happened at least twice that I can remember, potentially more. A guy taking time out of his Vegas trip to talk to a couple of Finn’s on skype for six hours is fucking dedication. I mean, what can Finn’s talk about normally? Snow and Teemu Selane. Well guess what. In July there’s no snow (even in Finland though it gives it it’s best fucking shot) and Teemu Selane retired. Patrick Laine provides some light at the end of the tunnel for those hoping to converse in Finnish during the Summer months in the future but alas, he’s just a rookie.
In all seriousness though, it’s a real eye opener to see how well a stable can be run when you’re coming from a stable where it takes three days to contact the guy running it because his internet isn’t the best. Living with one of the investors for five weeks it became apparent that the stable was run by a good group of guys who knew what they were doing even though at that point I hadn’t yet met the other two investors. I met Sam and Tomi at EPT Barcelona a couple of times a month later and as expected, they seemed like super cool, reasonable guys. They were much like Pads himself except Finnish and their diets didn’t entirely consist of pineapple and pistachios. I delayed joining the stable for a month or so after that because I was in Lithuania (legit place to go by the way) and then considered opening my own stable with one of the guys that I lived with in the summer.
I joined the stable midway through WCOOP. When I first joined the stable I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. On the one hand, my experience with the investors and some of the horses I’d met in Barcelona suggested this should be a really cool place to improve and meet cool people. On the other hand, I remember thinking the same thing when I joined the first stable I was a part of and that turned out to be a pretty big disaster so who knows…
I’ve now been a part of the stable for about four months and I can honestly say it’s been a fantastic experience. Everything is organized so it’s super easy from a coaching perspective. At the start of each month I’m given a list of guys that I’m going to have a 1 on 1 with that month. We get in contact through discord and organize the session through a scheduling app the stable has some affiliation with. The system is idiot-proof which is great for someone like myself because… well… you know…I also do one group session a month which is more like a presentation on a topic that I think is relevant to people in the stable. I can’t speak to the level of organization for the horses but I have a hard time believing that bitB has everything really organized for their coaches but the way they interact with their horses is completely unstructured. This is supported by the fact that the students tend to be on time and prepared for sessions. Obviously there are exceptions but overall the level of commitment from the horses is quite high.
The discord group chats are very active and I’ve learned a lot from the other coaches. Pads/Elmerix/Sam all have exceptionally good reads on the mtt player pool and it’s been really eye opening to see how they think. Their games are less rooted in GTO play because they play against such weak competition in general and are able to simply accurately predict which exploits are correct in any given situation. Of course, occasionally sometimes they’re wrong and it looks pretty foolish but sometimes they get everything just right and it’s really spectacular to witness. I can honestly say that watching European run over the Super Tuesday final table in SCOOP was one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen in poker. He knew exactly when and where to apply pressure and always just put enough on to accomplish what he needed to get done. I’d have been significantly less aggressive in a number of spots and may not have built up such a significant chip lead.
Whenever we talk about hands it’s always really interesting because there are two competing perspectives. If they do something that I disagree with (because it seems “bad” from a “GTO” point of view) and we discuss it they generally just have some (seemingly) bold prediction about how this completely random guy is going to play his range. Eventually I convince them that Math is the answer, this magic crap is useless. They sigh and agree and I feel pretty good about life until the guy does exactly what they thought he would do and then I briefly consider taking up the piano instead of continuing to play poker. This isn’t a onetime thing either where they happened to get lucky and guess right. It’s just like this. Every. Fucking. Time.
I’ve also learned a bunch from the other coaches who are also fantastic. I truly believe that bitB have the best coaching rosters available for mtts. Personally I’ve learned plenty of poker related things since joining the stable but one thing stands out above the rest. I’d be remiss if I talked about the things I’ve learned since joining the stable and I didn’t mention Graftekkel. I want to give a big shout out to Graffy for teaching me how to construct my small blind range vs a BTN open. I used to 3b stuff like 87o because it has sick playability but since then you’ve shown me the light.
All trolling aside, my experiences here with BitB staking have been overwhelmingly positive. The community atmosphere that Pads speaks about in his 2p2 blog posts is a real thing. At the beginning of this I took a few paragraphs and did my best to outline how to consider whether or not to pursue a stake. Obviously, I don’t recommend sacrificing a ton of EV in the name of some community atmosphere but I do think that if it’s at all close that should tip the scales in the favor of applying. At the end of the day there is life EV to be gained (and I don’t mean financially although that’s also possible) through developing a solid network of friends in poker. Is bitB the only place in poker you can find a positive environment where you can add genuinely good and interesting people to your network? No, almost certainly not. There are undoubtedly other places where you could add valuable people to your network of poker friends so it’s not like if you don’t join bitB you’re doomed to spend your Vegas trips alone in your room at the Rio. That being said bitB is a fairly well known quantity. I can vouch for the quality of the stable. If you need a stake, definitely apply and I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised with all the other things you get out of your experience here.
Certainly you could apply elsewhere as well, and you know what, it might turn out great. However, you also risk ending up in a disaster of a stable like the one I was previously in. I’m not saying bitB is the greatest stable that is or ever will be but I’d certainly take it over the unknown every day of the week and twice on Sunday.