Back to my roots
Before I got into poker I was a professional billiards player. I had quite a bit of success in my home country of Romania and in the rest of Europe. As a professional, I practiced a lot. If a big tournament was coming up, I would practice seven to eight hours every day. I loved the game, but it was more than love. I was playing for a living. Billiards allowed me to find the money I needed to live.
Now that I'm a professional poker player I can't spend that much time playing pool. But I do want to start to play again in Romania. They've rebuilt the billiards federation. For the first time in a few years we will have a national pool championship. I want to participate this year and maybe win again.
In the old days I was playing a lot and traveling a lot. Basically, what I'm doing now with poker I was doing with pool before. I don't think I can jump back into that life with pool but I can practice a few hours a day for a few times a week. It will help me to get back in shape and to find my old game.
The summer could be a problem though. I'll need to find a good pool hall in Las Vegas. I'm planning to arrive in Vegas for the WSOP between June 1st and June 5th, and I'd like to stay through the Main Event. I want to play lots of NLH tournaments and all the PLO tournaments.
Last year I tried to mix my activity in Las Vegas. I played some PLO games at Bellagio and some WSOP tournaments. This year I intend to play all the NLH tournaments at the WSOP so I don't think I'll have as much time for cash games - especially because I need to practice my billiards game as well. My hope is to mix all three: PLO cash games, WSOP tournaments, and pool.
In poker everything changes. Last year what I observed in Las Vegas during the WSOP was that the PLO cash games were tough and the action wasn't as good as it had been in previous years. My opponents were better. They had improved their games and weren't as weak as before. I think that's normal for people who practice something a lot, whether it is poker (online or live) or billiards. They get more and better experience so beating them will not be as easy as it was three or four years ago.
The new Romanian billiards federation hasn't decided yet when to hold the national championship. Right now they're scheduling some qualification tournaments - like a satellite in poker. In order to make it to the national championship I'll need to win a qualifier, and for that I'll have to practice. My billiards skills are rusty after not practicing very much for the last 5 years, and many of my opponents will have spent every week of that time improving.
It's going to be a big challenge for me, but I'm excited about it. I like the idea of changing my mindset from always thinking about poker to including billiards sometimes too. It's good to make changes once in a while.
Toni Judet is a member of Team PokerStars Pro