We meet the elusive high stakes crusher and PCA qualifier known as “aminolast”.
Of the many different types of stories PokerStars Blog loves to share with you, there are two in particular that consistently get our collective blood flowing:
Bringing you the backstories of enigmatic online crushers, about whom very little is known.
And following online qualifiers in big PokerStars live events as they go for glory.
For this story, we’re ticking both of those boxes.
At the time of writing, Alexandre “aminolast” Raymond is one of the few remaining online qualifiers left in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) Main Event. He won his entry in a $530 online qualifier and got some spending money alongside it.
But he also happens to be an online tournament crusher who regularly battles at high stakes. After a few Googles of his name, however, we couldn’t find out much about him.
We wondered, was his mysteriousness intentional?
“Not really!” the affable Raymond tells on the first break of Day 3. “I just haven’t played much live poker in my life.”
In fact, he estimates he’s only played around 50 live tournaments ever, two of which he won.
The first was a C$220 buy-in tournament at the Playground card room in Montreal, near his home in Quebec City, which he took down for C$80K in December 2019.
But for the six years prior, aminolast was grinding at low to medium stakes.
Raymond first discovered poker during his first year of university back in 2013, when he was studying administration in finance. For a while he didn’t have a job to support his studies, so he made the most of the free time he had by learning and playing a lot of poker.
“I went straight into tournaments as they interest me the most,” he says. “You can buy in for a small amount and you’re locked in, whereas if you play cash games your buy-ins just flow. I liked that if you buy into a tournament for ten bucks, it’s just ten bucks.
“Being good with numbers and all, I felt I was slightly better than my opponents at the time. Obviously, there was a lot less study material back then. From 2013 to 2019 I was slightly winning all the way but not enough to make a living.”
Within that timeframe, Raymond estimates he was up around $30,000 over 30,000 games. “A dollar a game, basically,” he says. “But there were some low buy-ins in there too.”
What really helped him improve quickly was the introduction of Twitch poker. “Seeing other people play gave me a better perspective on how others approach the game and what to work on. That definitely helped.”
While still grinding low to medium stakes, Raymond put in a ton of hours (“I’m really passionate about the game,”) and reigned in his emotional responses to unpleasant outcomes.
“When you’re a less experienced player it’s a lot more frustrating to lose flips, have bad beats etc, and you’re not sure if you made the right decision,” he says. “Now, with the available tools, you can go afterwards and see if you made the right decision.
“It’s a lot more reassuring, not only because sometimes you’ll find out you made the right play, but also because if you didn’t, you can possibly correct that. Back in the day, you had to rely on your network and it was harder to improve.”
Then came his big live score. And immediately after came the pandemic.
According to Raymond, all of a sudden there was a flood of new players playing online poker who were inexperienced. He worked hard over the following months and aminolast finally had the results to show for it.
He left his job in finance in June 2020 and officially became a poker professional.
UNDERESTIMATE AT YOUR PERIL
Raymond’s second live tournament victory was a $1,500 event in Panama for $120K in December 2021, two years on from his maiden trophy win.
By this point, Raymond had risen up the online ranks and was regularly competing in the highest stakes daily tournaments running on PokerStars.
“I like the competition and playing against the top guys,” he says. But he doesn’t let his ego guide any decisions.
Raymond’s decision to play a $5K buy-in Titans event, for example, is based on how close he is to securing his rakeback through PokerStars Rewards.
“I played the Titans this past Sunday, but it was more from the perspective of if I play this, it will boost me to get the full 65% rakeback,” he says. “So it’s not like I think I’m going in there and just crushing this thing. It’s strictly a financial decision based on [PokerStars Rewards].”
It’s for that same reason that Raymond played the online satellite he won to be here at the PCA.
“I decided to play a few satellites because of my rakeback challenges, and they helped me get past it,” he says. “It was more like I just won a tournament for $17K as I was going to play the PCA Main regardless. This isn’t actually the qualifying bullet I’m currently on, I had to re-enter.”
The second time was clearly a charm as he’s now in the money and aiming for the $1.5 million first-place prize. But despite his confidence online, Raymond admits he still suffers from some butterflies in his stomach when he plays live.
“You feel like you’re naked when you’re not in front of a computer screen,” he explains. “As I’m less experienced live, I’m a bit more jittery than the typical pros, so I try to watch out for that.
“But I also think that some of the players underestimated me because there’s not much information about me out there.”
Well, after this article comes out, aminolast’s anonymity is officially over.