Aaron Gustavson on a year spent chasing Tournament Leader Board gold

There are now just four weeks left of the Yearly Tournament Leader Board competition. And while that might make you curious enough for you to lift your head from the screen for a second, and maybe say "huh", for others, and by that we mean those in the thick of it, it will make December a nail biter.

In contrast to the glory and plaudits that come with a COOP or Sunday Million win, the leader board is an entirely different contest. It proves in players an almost impossible ability to play well, for what must feel like an impossible period of time.

PlaceUser IDPointsCountry2014 FinishLast Weeks Position
1ismo<3seppo59,439.76Finland2014 - 1st, also 1st in 20131
4MARCIN12353,721.04UKNot in top 2004
7eijseijs50,641.80SwedenNot in top 2006
9guix2x49,847.33BrazilNot in top 20010
12AsjBaaaf49,065.75New Zealand 12
13iWasDjWtf48,720.22SwitzerlandNot in top 20014
14Fabaz48,120.35United KingdomNot in top 20015

One of those players is Aaron "Aguskb" Gustavson.

Gustavson, 23rd on the Leader Board in 2014, did his campaign some good this week by winning a $5.50 Turbo (picking up a further 694 points), but is still some way behind current leader Ismo<3seppo, who remains on course to successfully defend his title.

The past 11 months have included some low points for the American, but also some important highlights both on and off the table. It's no real surprise that he calls 2015 a blur, but how would be describe the experience of chasing the TLB?

aaron_gsutavson_tlb_2dec15.jpgAaron Gustavson in action on the EPT

"Putting in this much volume makes it difficult to keep your game sharp for a few reasons," he said. "One being that you spend so much time playing that you don't get to put in the off the table work that would be ideal."

He went on to explain the problem, inadvertently demonstrated just how difficult the task is to do well.

"Playing many tables at once makes it a big tougher to make the best decision due to less focus on an individual table, less time to act, and lack of game flow reads."

Then there's the risk of burn out from a lack of breaks. To reach the top ten of the TLB required dogged persistence and a refusal to ease off, which comes at a price of energy and sharpness.

Gustavson, who turns 30 later this month, took up poker after the Moneymaker boom, turning pro in 2008. His motivation is a common one; rejecting a more traditional lifestyle to be his own boss. Then there was the simple love of the game.

"Playing to get the number one spot with a huge pay-out is always exciting," he said. "I can't say I enjoy the long sessions at this point of my career. Deep down I'm sure I do on some level, the love for the game is what brought me into it but all these hours definitely take a toll mentally."

But anyone thinking that TLB success is down to nothing more than an unshakable knack for sitting at a computer for hours on end would be expensively mistaken. Gustavson is a Grade A player, an EPT winner (London Season 6), as well as a regular in some of live and online poker world's biggest events. You have to be good to do that. And to be good you must understand your strengths as well as your weaknesses.

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"I have a lot of experience in tournaments so a lot of spots I recognize from past situations. I also have a good feel for what my opponents are trying to do, and then counter.

"The biggest weakness this year is definitely not putting in the work off the table which is very important in poker, especially nowadays."

It's a job made harder by a year of highs and tragic lows, one that juxtaposes the loss of his younger brother in a freak accident earlier this year, to the start of a new relationship which has done much to put some happiness back into his life.


Such things tend to put poker quickly back into perspective. But while there is a title to win Gustavson is determined to try to win it. He may not have started the year with this in mind, but when you find yourself among the leaders the competitive instinct kicks in.

That is what puts him in third place on the leader board this week, nearly 4,000 points behind the leader. Can he catch him? It will be difficult. Gustavson though can be counted on to use these final four weeks well.

"It's my reason for playing every day."

Keep tabs on Gustavson, and the other TLB contenders with our weekly update on the PokerStars Blog.

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Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.

Stephen Bartley
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