WCOOP profile: Inside the matrix with Xaston
Poker champions play the numbers. There is only so much feel or instinct that goes into it. The good players know the math is eventually going to win.
Among those people is Jaime "Xaston" Kaplan, the winner of WCOOP Event #6, a $215 no-limit hold'em turbo freakshow of a tournament. Kaplan won more than $200,000 for first place in that event on talents he acquired reading a few books back in the day.
"I read Winning Low-Limit Hold'em. This taught me to fold bad hands," Kaplan said. "Then I read Super System. This taught me to continuation bet even if I didn't fop top pair or a good draw. Then I read The Theory of Poker. This taught me everything else I ever learned about poker."
So, he's got a solid foundation in the game. He's read the important books. He's made his bones among the best. He's done what he needs to do. Of course, as far as he's concerned, it could all be just a bunch of meaningless bits and bytes.
"I think that there's about a 15% chance that we are all in a computer simulation of 2010 right now, being run on a supercomputer at some point in the future," he said.
Chew on that for a second while we go back over Kaplan's past.
See, the kid learned draw poker before he was eight years old. Some years later, he would learn all the dealer's choice games like Guts and Anaconda. Then his neighbor saw Chris Moneymaker win the 2003 WSOP and introduced hold'em to the mix.
"I hated it. There were no wild cards and you couldn't trade any of your cards for new ones!" Kaplan admitted. "But I was super competitive. All he was better than me at was swimming and pogo sticking, and I wasn't about to let him claim no-limit hold'em as another. So, I bought a book on the game and never looked back."
Now 24, years old Kaplan can look back on that time with a smile. See, in 2009 he took fifth in the WCOOP Main Event for $482,400, to this day his biggest win. Despite that and several other big finishes in his career, Kaplan never had a big first place finish until this week's bracelet victory. It was a back-climbing monkey he was happy to shake off.
It's not always been so easy for the young man. He says that as an adolescent he had some inpatient therapy for a while.
"I thought life sucked," he said, "but then I saw people who had real problems and have loved life ever since."
It's a philosophical diet based on the TV series The Wire, the novel Shantaram, and the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes, and one that's led him to look at poker as a simple game, a three-act play in which he plays the protagonist. He looks at what he has, figures his opponents' range, and then combines the two to make the best play based on that he knows.
"Rinse and repeat," he said.
Thus, it's a happy, easy life Kaplan leads these days. He'd call himself a full-time pro (because he only earns his money playing cards) but he says he's too lazy to even call what he does working. Still he has the money to buy a Chevy Volt in a couple of months and, if he manages to double what he's won so far in this year's WCOOP, he plans to book a $200,000 Virgin Galactic space flight.
As of this moment, Kaplan sits atop the 2010 WCOOP leaderboard. As far as many other people are concerned, he could as easily be sitting atop the world.
But then there's that whole playing-the-numbers thing. If we're to accept Kaplan's self-professed assumption that we are 15% likely to just be part of a matrix-ish simulation, the math would tell us to proceed as if we're not.
But then you have to think about it a little bit. Here we are, a bunch of addled poker players playing a simulation of the game on a computer. Our money and buy-ins go across the table as little packets of simulated information. To a degree, we're controlling the money's destiny and conducting our own little three-act plays on virtual tables in a virtual poker world. And yet, it's as real as the $2 million the winner of the main event will get in a couple of weeks.
So then, even if we are a simulation as Kaplan suggests is a possibility, should we act any differently than we would if all of this were real?
"It's interesting," Kaplan concludes.
For more on Kaplan's victory, see Xaston speeds to expedited victory in Event #6 NL Turbo Rebuys