Getting to know Team PokerStars Online's Richard "Tzen1" Veenman
Richard "Tzen1" Veenman isn't like your typical member of Team PokerStars Online. Veenman, who signed on to represent PokerStars last January, splits a part-time IT job in the Netherlands with his chase toward Supernova Elite on PokerStars every year. And, unlike most online poker pros who specialize in no-limit hold'em games, Veenman spends the majority of his time on the virtual felts min-raising opponents at fixed limit hold'em cash games.
Veenman is very active on Twitter and chronicles his poker endeavors in his blog at Tzen1.com. We recently caught up with Richard to discuss why limit hold'em is his game of choice, how his life has changed since joining PokerStars, and more.
Like many top poker players, you began your competitive gaming career playing Magic: The Gathering. Tell us about how you made the transition from Magic to poker.
I haven't made the direct transition from Magic to poker like many other former Magic players did. When I used to play Magic I was very competitive in it but I was still young and the poker scene as we now know it wasn't there yet. I was 12 when I started playing Magic and did pretty well but I stopped playing in 2000 when I was 18. I did move into other games but my main focus was pursuing my career in IT. I did already play poker back then but they were fairly small home games. I tried it online back in 2001 but there wasn't a real drive to get better at it since there wasn't a lot of information about the game and also not many people were playing it back then.
There has never been very long stretches of time in which I wasn't trying to be competitive in a game. When World of Warcraft launched I started my own guild with a lot of good friends and played that on a competitive level for almost three years. When the poker boom began in the Netherlands around 2005 or 2006, it was a logical next step for me as I already knew the game so I was way ahead of most other people who only just knew the game from TV. The thing I took from Magic was probably the strategic element which both games have. The thing I took from World of Warcraft was the fact you get better the fastest by reading and sharing information through forums and other communities. At first I was still only playing live but as soon as I created an account on PokerStars I moved most of my play to online and that was basically the start of my poker career.
You spend most of your time playing fixed limit hold'em games on PokerStars. Is that your favorite variation of poker or do you play it solely because it's your best game?
It is my best game for sure and when it comes to cash games I prefer it over any other game. I do like to play some razz or deuce-to-seven triple draw as well but I play those games mainly for fun. I've thought about switching to other games many times before but I just really like the fast pace and multi streets action in FLHE. If you are grinding for 12 hours on 16 tables and you don't like the game you are playing I think it's really hard to stay motivated just for the money. I think that's why in the end I also always stayed with FLHE.
I do still like to play tournaments as well and no-limit tournaments are way more fun than fixed limit. There is no better feeling then winning a tournament so for sure I will keep playing tournaments, especially during the PokerStars SCOOP and WCOOP. Unfortunately, because was on holiday, I couldn't play any of the TCOOP tournaments.
Are there any players and/or friends that have helped you become the poker player you are today?
The thing I have with games is that I don't only want to play a game by myself. I always want to play it with my closest friends. That's what I did when I was playing Magic and World of Warcraft, but the same also counts for poker. I picked up poker together with my friends and at the beginning just talking about the game got me motivated and enthusiastic to learn more about it. Nowadays, most of those friends only play the game occasionally for fun but one of my best buddies is still playing. Being able to talk about poker with one of your best friends is really the easiest way to keep eager to learn and stay motivated to play. I still talk with him almost every day and in the year I made Supernova Elite he kept calling me when I was slacking to make sure I didn't fall behind pace too much. We've also been going to Vegas every year since 2004 and probably without him I would have never gotten this far in poker. We've been to the PCA together this year as well and we will go to the WSOP later this year.
You've been a member of Team PokerStars Online for a year now. How has that experience been for you? Any memorable or exciting experiences?
Being a member of Team PokerStars: Online has been an awesome experience. Being able to represent a company which is No. 1 in the market and is known by almost anybody just always gives me goose bumps when I talk about it with other people. I think it's still a dream of many poker players and I'm very happy that I've been given the chance to promote PokerStars via my blog and Twitter. It was a turbulent year for poker but in general I only had positive experiences as member of PokerStars Team Online.
At the PCA we had a Team Online get together and I finally got to meet all the other Team Online members which was really great. PokerStars had also organized a Team Online scavenger hunt, where people had to find 15 Team Online Members to earn a ticket for a six-max sat-and-go which could win you a $10,000 Tournament Ticket. When we got out of the meeting room where we had this get together there was this young kid who saw all the Team Online members standing in the same spot. He looked at us, looked at the card he was holding with all our pictures, looked at us again and you could see the twinkles in his eyes. Unfortunately we had to tell him that the scavenger hunt would start two days later. That was a really memorable experience and I've had many more at the PCA and during last year.
How did the working relationship with PokerStars come about?
I've always been an active blogger and in 2010 PokerStars was looking for people who could represent their online team. In 2010 I also made a run for Supernova Elite in a game which not a lot of people still play these days, fixed limit hold'em. I think putting those three things together was exactly the thing PokerStars was looking for. There were of course already many PokerStars Pros who represent the site but a lot of these people are live players who only play online occasionally. PokerStars, however, is an online poker site so it just makes a lot of sense to also attract Pros who are really an example of the core of what PokerStars is all about: grinding online. PokerStars liked me for what I did and I liked them for what they stand for so when I was asked if I would like to sign for PokerStars we got to an agreement pretty quick.
What were some of your poker goals going into 2012?
My main goal for this year is to make money. It's really as simple as that since in the end that is still the most important thing. My normal grind will still be fixed limit cash games and lately I've been cutting down the amount of tables I'm playing in order to play a little higher again. I would be happy if I could finish this year as a winner at the low or mid-stakes again but I'm also planning to have some fun along the ride. Playing the SCOOP and WCOOP and going to the WSOP again this year to play some tournaments are definitely the things in which I have the most fun in poker. I also want to try a little harder in qualifying for EPT's, something I haven't really done the last couple of years so I'm curious how well that will go.
You work part-time job as an IT-architect for a financial company. How do you manage to balance time between work and poker?
Basically it is the fact I have a job on the side that really creates balance. When I told my boss that I wanted to work part-time he wasn't really happy about it. My hope was that when I proved myself I could make enough money in poker, I would switch to poker full-time. However, since the moment I did both things part-time, I have loved it and I'm not really planning on changing it anytime soon. I think in the end any five-day job becomes a grind, it doesn't really matter how much you like it or how much money it makes you. I was lucky enough that I could keep a good position at work while working part-time, but since I've been doing it part-time I'm loving it more than ever before. I've never tried poker as a full-time job but I think if I would play poker for five days a week, in the end it becomes a boring grind as well and the bad swings in poker could also probably affect your mood a lot. It's the fact I have both jobs that keep me in balance.
To balance the time between these two I plan ahead a lot in a big excel sheet. I keep track on how well I actually meet my own planning and making it visible to yourself is really the most important thing to be able to keep balancing things. The obligations I have at my job should be as important as the obligations I have to myself when it comes to playing poker. Most of the time I pretty good in meeting my own planning, however there are times when you chose to do other things. That however is one of the best things about poker compared to a job, you have more freedom so there is no problem if you sometimes take that freedom and enjoy life.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time away from work and poker?
Since September I've been really into tennis. It's something I loved doing as a kid but since I was 16 I haven't been able to play because of two hernias. Strange enough, I think I've never been so fit in my life and I tried to play tennis again in September and for the first time I didn't had any pains in my lower back. The reason I'm this fit is because I picked up cycling a couple of years ago and that's something I still do as well. I've already planned some big cycle tours again with my friends for this year and although my country is really flat, I love doing it.
To relax I watch a lot of TV series. I also watch movies of course and I still like to go out on the weekend with my friends. I'm also a big fan of watching sports on television, especially big events like the Olympics, soccer championships and the Tour de France. Since we have all three of them this year, 2012 is going to be a great year!
A little bird told us that you like to dance. Is that true?
Yeah, I guess that's true. I was never really a dancer when I was young but I did always go to clubs and just bounced a little on the beat. I'm a big fan of dance music and in the Netherlands we have really huge outdoor dance festivals in the summer which I always go to. In Vegas I also like to go to the clubs and listen to R&B and hip-hop and I'm not sure how I managed to suddenly dance to the music. I really love music and when I hear a beat I want to move and when I've had a couple of drinks I'm not really shy to get onto the dance floor. I also learned how to "shuffle" and since that's probably something typical Dutch not a lot of people see that abroad, so I always get a lot of funny faces when I "shuffle" on the dance floor. I just love going out and have fun and music just always gets me going.