Faraz Jaka on his Super Tuesday win and the long road to success
The Super Tuesday is widely regarded as one of the toughest online events to win. The reasons are simple. The buy-in is the biggest of any weekly event, which means the best players take part. It's one of the fundamental laws of poker.
It also means that the winners pictures you see on the blog each Wednesday morning tend to be those of players you recognise, with records that speak for themselves. Like last week's winner--a personable player of indisputable talent, with nearly $5 million in live earnings and a name that sounds like a nursery rhyme. Some would say Faraz Jaka it the complete package.
That list of achievements now includes a Super Tuesday title. Jaka, who plays as "The-Toilet 0" online, triumphed last Tuesday, playing from Berlin ahead of WSOP Europe, and picking up a first prize of $101k. In an interview with the PokerStars blog he was his usual thoughtful and articulate self, giving some insight into how he went about winning this title. He might look to us as that complete package, but as far as Jaka himself sees things, he's on a constant road to be the best he can be, both on and off the poker table.
It's both a literal and metaphorical road, as he explains in an interview with the Blog. Here he talks about his life on the road, his passion for the game, as well as a little philosophy - the Faraz kind.
Blog: Talk us through the Super Tuesday and the final table itself. Were there any moments you would pick out as defining ones?
Jaka: I actually had just arrived in Berlin that day for the WSOP Europe. I booked an Airbnb shared hostel type apartment so had three strangers staying with me that I instantly hit it off with. I was one tabling the event and teaching my new stranger friends the basics of poker as they were intrigued about the game and the fact that I played for a living.
I late registered about two hours in and received AA three times and KK once within a span of an hour, which helped boost my stack to three times starting very quickly. And of course I had to explain to my new friends that this wasn't normal to get AA and KK so often lol.
I had a big stack and dominating lead for a very good majority of the tournament. There was a hand with about 3-4 tables left where I had almost double average in chips with QQ. A player from middle position raised with the same stack as me (260k) I decided to just flat. The Big blind went all in for 105k (Big Blind was 4k) The raiser quickly shoved all in with 99. I quickly called and flopped a queen which boosted me up to the chip leader of the tournament with only a few tables left to go.
Blog: How does a first SCOOP win compare to other achievements?
FJ: A first SCOOP win was great simply because they are larger buy in events with much larger fields, so naturally the purse will be very large as well. Besides that for online poker it really just comes down to: the bigger the payout the more exciting the achievement. Of course in events like WCOOP and SCOOP where you have a live stream, commentators and so many friends, peers, and fans watching it makes things a little more exciting as well.
Blog: Would you agree that there's a stronger field than most for the Super Tuesday?
FJ: It naturally will be a stronger field because it's a bigger buy in but relative to how tough a $1k buy in could be its actually not so bad. PokerStars has done a great job providing the right satellites to the event and adjusting the time the event takes place that I think it has a really good mix of very strong players but also many satellites players and recreational players who want to partake. The structure is great as well it's really my favorite tournament to play on any normal given online poker week.
Blog: You've been in the game for a while and had a lot of success. Do you still get a buzz out of winning events like this?
FJ: Even though I've been around the game for years and have had my share of success, it's still always exciting when you win any tournament... there's just this great feeling about the fact that you won THE MAXIMUM and has the BEST outcome possible. That's a feeling you don't get very often as a poker player as you are only going to win so many tournaments in your career. As funny as it sounds, I would guess my brain releases more endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine (happy chemicals) when I win a tournament for $101k than when I get 3rd in a tournament for $200k
Blog: You once said that you basically live out of a suitcase as a poker player. Is this still how you live at the moment or have you put down roots anywhere?
FJ: I still live out of a suitcase (two carry-ons to be precise) and have done so for the last 4-5 years now. This picture gives you an idea of how I started and ended my day as I showed up a little early to check in to my new Airbnb room in a stranger's apartment in Berlin for the next few weeks.
Blog: In between all the travelling, what do you do when you're not playing poker?
FJ: I'm pretty good at keeping my self busy. I have a lot of interest and not nearly enough time in the day to do everything I'd like to do. Traveling to a new place every other week takes up a lot of time in itself. I'm constantly meeting new people, exploring new areas, finding new restaurants. I love nature and everywhere you travel nature has its own unique features. There are always new hikes to do, new sunsets to watch, and a new angle at the stars to see when you are constantly in new places. I also am starting to put more time into my blog www.farazjaka.com as I like to share as much as I can about what I've learned on my journeys traveling the world for the last nine years.
Blog: Talking about more recently, what's been going on in your life over the last year?
FJ: Hmmm let me look back at my excel travel schedule to answer that one lol.....: Over the last few years I've always been in and out of cities in about 7-10 days. I started doing this new thing where I pick at least 2-3 times a year to spend a more extended period anywhere from 1-2 months. This was partly because I just needed the time in one place to pursue certain goals and get certain things done.
Another reason was just to slow down for a little bit and remember what it feels like to live somewhere as of course once in a while I do have those moments where I do miss having a home and those 1-2 month trips might be all it takes to get me that satisfaction (for now at least) I've been choosing destinations that I think I would consider living at some point in the future so that I can transition into them and see which places I enjoy most. I did three weeks in Buenos Aires, two months in Mexico City, and around 10 days in Colorado, all three of which are very high on the list of very liveable cities for me. It doesn't necessarily mean I will move there now but just that it can be an option for me even if it's when I'm 50 years old and want to live somewhere new.
Blog: What's made you the happiest in the past year?
FJ: When I feel like I'm learning, growing, being productive, being aware, and on the path I want to be on then I am happy. Sometimes I don't feel like I'm being the optimal version of myself (Often might be more accurate lol). When I encounter that feeling, I get a small dose of healthy stress and pressure that I unconsciously put on myself to keep myself focused and on the path I want to be on. It's impossible to always stay on that straight line, we are always going to waver, but sometimes we waver too far. When I look back and feel like I've done a good job staying as close as I can to that line, and have compassion for myself the times I wasn't, it makes me feel happy.
Blog: Almost in comparison, what's the atmosphere like in your house when you're playing a big event?
FJ: Well the atmosphere I'm in during online events differs quite often. Sometimes I'm in an apartment with other poker players with a setup that someone could mistake for a party. Other times I'm grinding out of a hotel or hostel lobby/lounge. Sometimes I'm even grinding out a 24 hour Starbucks that I've found. During the 1k I was grinding on the kitchen table of the Shared Airbnb unit I was in.
My roommates asked me how I was doing at around midnight when the tournament was just a couple hours in. I told them it was too early to tell and that if I'm awake when they woke up to go to work/sightseeing if I was still awake then I was doing good. At about 8am one of them popped out and I was heads up playing for $101k! One of my random roommates, who's a software developer for Amazon, just stood behind me brushing his teeth getting ready to go to work. He was amazed trying to catch as much of the action as he could.
Blog: Finally, in the hours after you won your title, what did you do? Who did you tell? How did everyone react?
FJ: It was 8:30am in Berlin when I won. Two of my roommates were awake by then and knew what was going on. One of them was ecstatic and the other, a nurse practitioner from Chicago, wasn't quite sure the significance of it. She said "CONGRATS.... does this mean you can retire?"
Ready to sign up for PokerStars? Click here to get an account.
Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.