Super Tuesday winner Jason Koon on taking the long view
You might have read something we wrote yesterday about certain moments in poker that leave you almost dumbfounded. They're like flashes of brilliance that might have been dreamed up by some scriptwriter in Hollywood, but which provide the proof, if any were needed, that good players are good, and great players are great, and with good reason.
On this latter point Jason Koon provided some of the inspiration. He's one of what seems like a flurry of high profile winners of the Major online events of late (following Georgios Sotiropoulos and Rob Tinnion in recent weeks), who are proving that, while everyone has a shot, it takes more than wishful thinking to succeed; and instead, like most things in life worth achieving, takes hard work, discipline and dedication.
Koon is the courteous, well-spoken winner of the Super Tuesday this week, a raconteur when seated in a live event (his 'self-defence' tips from the PCA this year had an entire Super High Roller field rapt), but something of a pragmatist when it comes to his online day job. Talking to him you could say he's figured out what lesser players haven't, that poker is about the long term, not the immediate satisfaction of winning big.
So after this latest big win I asked Koon if he still got the same feeling when he won a major title.
"Yes and no," he said. "It still feels great. That said my overall view of tournaments is just more realistic now. I have played them for a living now since 2008 and just have a better understanding of the short and long-term. One of the things that makes poker such a beautiful game is that it rewards the strongest players in the long run, yet also gives almost anyone a shot in the short run.
"The point I'm making is that winning may not feel quite so good now because I understand the reality how streaky poker tournaments are. If you keep a grounded, yet still inspired view of focusing on what is in your control, you will have a happier and healthier career."
His performance on Tuesday went some way to prove that. Reaching the final nine Koon found himself up against a formidable final table, with the likes of Victor "Tu Ta Tenso" Talamini, Daniel "42ayay" Erlandsson, Andrius "Davydenko123" Milauskas, and Jason "jdtjpoker" Wheeler attendance. But crucially Koon had the chip lead.
"Coming into final tables with the chip lead is extremely valuable," said Koon. "Raw aggression deep is certainly something that is rewarded at the end. Being able to leverage other stacks and continually pick up chips is one of the most important parts to winning a poker tournament. This one wasn't a finale table where people would just lay down, though. Most of these players seemed very competent so I had to tread pretty lightly the entire final table."
Was there more satisfaction to winning a tournament when the opposition is as strong as this?
"My main motivation for playing poker is the challenge and competition," said Koon. "I love the big tournaments. My average buy-in has always been much higher than most tournament regulars and my volume is generally always lower. What makes me enjoy logging in and playing is needed to utilize every tool I have to win. A win is a win, but there is nothing sweeter than taking down a big guy."
Koon confessed to being a little "out of the loop" when it came to spotting who was who online, but any time away seems to have done the trick. Now based in Vancouver, he has "stolen" a few tips from Ben "Sauce123" Sulsky as to his home set-up, with three Apple Cinema displays and a stand up treadmill desk to utilise while playing. But Koon is all to aware that staying sharp takes effort.
"I really don't know how the SNE guys do it," he said. "I'm generally very rested because I only play a few days a week, so that helps. I also eat a very clean, a well thought out diet that is geared towards helping my brain stay sharp. Mad props to the guys that can do it 300+ days a year, I sure couldn't."
Some of that may well be modesty on Koon's part. He's a man in perfect shape, with a routine he outlined to Brad Willis of the PokerStars Blog at this year's PCA. It's one of kale shakes and bulletproof coffees that will make you think twice about adding more sugar to your afternoon tea.
For Koon though it's all about routine and being in good shape. So while he might marvel at the Super Nova Elites, he's not short on discipline.
"I have a morning routine (read Brad Willis's account of that here)," he said. "It basically involves me doing a sequence of things to get my central nervous system firing efficiently before I start trying to do any normal tasks. It is also extremely important that I have food ready for the day. If you're in the middle of a session you need to stay focused on poker, not on ordering food. Each session I play, I try to approach the exact same way."
That includes his reaction when he wins.
"I honestly don't really react at all," said Koon. "I just try to stay grounded and in the moment. Poker can be a machine that sucks you in, making you anticipate 'the next great thing'. It's important to stay balanced and grateful for your current situation, even when it's not the Wednesday after taking down Super Tuesday."
Like I said, it's one of those results we like to write about, and an attitude anyone would do well to imitate. In this case it's one that soon enough is likely to see Koon making headlines once more.
Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.