'Jennifear', 26, is a well-respected poker player, writer and instructor specializing in Sit and Go tournaments. She has been an active long-term contributor on pocketfives.com and has her own instructional site www.jennifear.com (10% off for Poker Curious members). As one of her former students stated, "she is knowledgeable, engaging and easy to understand". We thought she would have good insight for members on the Sit and Go world.
Welcome to Poker Curious, Jennifear. You are known for your strong instruction in Sit and Go tournaments. Why is that your favorite form of poker?
The attraction to SNGs for me is that they are math-based games, and that's my strength. Using math, as long as you are able to range your opponents well, you can figure out which hands to shove or call with tremendous accuracy.
In addition, SNGs are one of the lowest variance games of poker. Due to this, you can play at three times the stakes than you can in MTTs with only the same risk of ruin!
How did you get into poker?
I never planned on playing for real money, and the fact that I did was a complete accident. I watched the WPT UltimateBet Classic in 2002 and was hooked. I went to UltimateBet with the intent of playing with play chips, which I did for three months! Then, something unexpected happened. They had a "high hand" jackpot that went off every 90 minutes, and I flopped a royal! I won $4.75 real money for my good fortune, and headed right to the cashier's page to make a withdrawal.
Minimum Withdrawal: $25
I was SO PISSED! I didn't really need the five bucks or anything but the idea of getting something for nothing was really nice!
I started grinding at the cash games (.01/.02 NLH) and realized just how easy that game was. I built my roll up to $100, took out my $25, and then discovered SNGs. I've never looked back.
Many players fear sharing their secrets or would prefer to play and profit on their own. What was the attraction to poker instruction?
I got into coaching by accident too! After seeing a few bad beat posts where people complained that they "always got their chips in as a favorite", but never won, I decided to show the world how to win with aggression without always "being ahead". I offered a lesson via pocketfives on MSN chat with two intentions. To get as many people to sign up for sites thru pocketfives as possible, and to have some fun. I ended up playing with a full chat room of 50 people, and I was overwhelmed. It worked out great though. Everything I tried that day worked. I couldn't lose, and was able to help a lot of people. I started getting requests for private lessons, and it all took off basically through word of mouth. I try to help people whenever I can because I learned a lot of my game with the help of the poker community, and I am paying the community back.
I didn't realize how effective poker coaching would be for my own game! As of now, I coach about ten students per week, four hours a shot. I dare say I review as many hands as any player alive in any given week. Also, since I am coaching players at all levels, I will sometimes get asked a question that I don't know the answer to offhand, and have to go find the answer myself! So while I am teaching others, I am not only reinforcing the basics, I am learning quite a bit!
Another fine benefit to coaching is that there is no variance in it. Although I have been very fortunate in my poker-playing career, there are ups and downs. With coaching, I'm never going to have a losing day.
How has sharing your 'secrets' affected your own play?
There are two sides to this. Pros have often been chastised by other pros for sharing their secrets, and this has happened to me as well. Doyle Brunson claimed that he was urged not to print his Super/System book because it would give away his secrets, and make the game tougher. What really happened is that a lot of people purchased the book, and the game grew! A lot of people criticized training sites like PokerXFactor for sharing their secrets, and again, the game grew!
As far as my own game goes, some players that have been my students will be more aware of what moves I'll make, but I will be more aware of their style as well, so it evens out.
Can you briefly describe how and what you do in one of your training sessions?
Yes. Everybody's lesson is different. I ask a lot of questions in a questionnaire, ask for a student's hand histories, and review their stats. Based on this information, I determine what the student needs to learn most, and create an action plan. With some people I may use a hand replayer and review their hand histories with them, pointing out certain areas that require improvement. With some people, I may focus on ICM and show them how it works using a presentation, and how to use it to their advantage. I use Windows Live Messenger and a screen-sharing program to make a presentation.
You consistently play as PunkinBear on multiple sites, what are the advantages and disadvantages to being well known at the table?
I'm known as a regular, so other regulars will know my endgame ranges to a certain degree. This hurts me, but also helps me determine what hand range they are likely to call or shove with, and that helps me counter with hopefully devastating accuracy.
Some newer players who know my screen name associate "good player" with "tight player" so they assume I will have the goods. This helps me play a few hands in situations where I wouldn't normally raise.
Username Games Played Av. Stake Av. Profit Av. ROI Total Profit
PunkinBear 6,507 $21 $5 33% $34,368
How has being a woman in the male dominated poker world affected your perspective?
This is a great question, but tough to answer because I have never really thought about it, and only had one perspective all my life. I've never seen myself as a "woman poker player", but rather as a "poker player". Putting a twist on a famous Jennifer Harmon quote, "You don't have to lift weights to move a mouse, so online poker should be a non-sexist game".
In live games, it gets interesting. Partially because of my gender and possibly because I am very short and look like a young teenager who certainly doesn't give off the vibe of a solid, aggressive player. I've noticed that I am bluffed more often and expected to have the goods when I raise, and I use that to my advantage.
How many hours a day, on average, do you play online? What type of schedule do you keep? Do you play live as well?
I coach an average of ten lessons per week, so I don't play that often. Maybe 15-20 hours per week, but more recently I've had the chance to play more often, which has helped me play more MTTs.
I play live these days only on occasion. Usually at the Seneca Niagara casino in Niagara Falls, NY, which is near my hometown. I'll probably play more live games when it becomes customary to show up without makeup and they start letting you play a bunch of tables at the same time!
What is your balance of time between coaching and playing?
About 70/30 in favor of coaching.
What is your poker-playing environment like? Music, monitors, distractions, etc.?
I have a gorgeous setup with two big monitors and all the state of the art computer equipment, yet I do most of my playing on a 17" laptop. Go figure.
I won't play when distracted, and I'm very anal about not having any types of distractions while I play. Sometimes I'll be playing while on instant messenger and not talk for 10 minutes straight just because I was focusing so much.
What is the most you have won and lost in a day?
I've won $9900 and lost $1770.
How do you handle downswings?
I've been through and seen so many of them, and I understand the math behind them, so really I don't deal with them at all. I'm always playing games that are well within my bankroll because I'm a bankroll nit so I never have an occasion where I need to drop levels. I play my A-game. On a very rare occasion, I feel disturbed by the events of the day, but I'm only human, so that will happen. Luckily for me, even when I'm not at my best, my F-game isn't that much different from my A-game. This is one of my greatest strengths.
As a poker player, what would you consider as your greatest strength and greatest weakness?
My greatest strength is my discipline. I don't take shots, and I am well bankrolled for any event that I am going to play. I rarely tilt, and focus on the quality of my decisions. My motto is MDFR, with stands for "Make Decisions, Fu....er... Forget Results!" and I live by it. I can look at my results and review my games, and I am able to self-analyze objectively, which is very hard for most people to do. I'm a student of the game, and never afraid to ask for help even if asking might make me look stupid. Between the number of hands I've reviewed and played, I have as much hand analysis experience as someone who has been playing poker live for fifty years.
Another great strength is my ability to calculate probability and odds, quickly, even for complex situations.
I think that my biggest weakness is that sometimes I am a bankroll nit. I could make more money per hour by playing a higher average buy in. This has become less of a problem in recent months, as I have adjusted my average buy in greatly.
Another weakness is that I have spent a large percentage of my poker life playing turbo events with 1500 chip starting stacks, so I haven't had as much experience playing deep stack poker as I'd like. I still play a good deep stack game, and adjust, but as I play more MTTs, I am gaining that experience.
How much does math vs. psychology/game flow/tells influence your game?
Math is rarely at war with the other people aspects of the game, but rather they work together. So it's rarely a case of choosing between a math-correct decision and a people-related decision. If you have a strong read, you can work that into the math. Gus Hansen and Matt Matros are two examples of players that mix the math and people parts of the game very well.
What, if any, poker tracking and software tools do you utilize?
I don't use any software while playing. Even PokerTracker, which is used commonly among good players. I found that using it caused me to use the numbers as a crutch, rather than paying closer attention to the game and coming to my own conclusions. I recommend this software to others; it just does not work well with me personally. I've recently tried TableNinja for mega tabling 20+ SNGs at a time, and I think that could be software that I use in the future, so long as the sites allow it. I recommend SNG Wiz, SNGEGT, TableNinja, and Pokertracker to anyone who asks me what software they should get.
How do you identify and then plug a leak?
Whenever I have the slightest doubt about how I played a hand, and can't come to a definitive conclusion, I run it by a few close friends. If that doesn't yield the desired results, I will post it on a forum or two and see what answers I am given, then show the thread to a few others that I trust. If I find that I am making the same mistake repeatedly, I will search high and wide for the best information available on that subject.
What player/s do you most fear/respect playing and why?
Papoorboy. He is as good as anyone out there when he's at his best. He isn't extremely well known yet, but he had a great run about two years ago on UB and Stars. He won the UB major two weeks in a row, and final tabled it four times in a row, then he went on to win the Sunday big event on Stars, before it was a million guaranteed. This, to me, ranks as one of the top ten accomplishments in online tournament poker.
This guy can just flat out read people. He knows what your bets mean, and what every delay in the timing means. He pays attention and gets in your head. In addition, he is hard to read himself. He mixes his game up so well that sometimes you are left hoping to guess what he has. Just when you think you have all the answers, he changes the questions. He is reading you with stone-cold accuracy while you are guessing what he has. He wins that war more often than not.
I've been lucky to have him as a friend, and along the way teach me a few things and recently I've been able to return the favor, and show him some of the deeper mathematical aspects of the game. Although I have good reading skills too, I am primarily a mathematically based player. He is even better at picking spots now, and his push/fold game has improved dramatically. There are very few leaks in his game, and he can compete with anyone, anytime.
You are a strong advocate of bankroll management. What advice would you give to new players getting into Sit and Go's and tournaments?
The biggest mistake new SNG player’s make is playing above their skill level. Play low buyins to start and don't move up or take shots until you have at least 500 games in at a single buyin level with positive results. Even then, only move up if your ROI is 8% or greater, and be prepared to move down if your move up doesn't go so hot. If you are unsure of whether to move up, do so on weekends only, when the games are softest. Always have at least 65 buyins for any single-table SNG that you play. Avoid games with more than 10% rake. Games with 15%+ rake are rip-offs and very difficult to beat until you really know what you are doing.
I have a bankroll management guide that was posted on pocketfives. It can be found here:
It's a conservative strategy, but it will work without exception for those that are unsure what their win rate is.
Many top players say that one of the keys to success is finding balance in your life for poker, how do you accomplish this and what makes you happy outside of poker?
I've failed at this aspect of life for the last couple years. I have focused a tremendous amount of my energy into poker and poker-related activities. Just recently I have started to leave the house more often and go out with friends more than occasionally. It's about time.
I agree that a balance is necessary to avoid burnout. On this subject, do as I say, not as I do!
What do you consider your highlights so far in the poker world?
It didn't make me a lot of money, but my biggest accomplishment was winning nine consecutive $5.50 10-man SNGs on UB. The odds against accomplishing this were long, even at this level. I was winning 20% of these SNGs at the time, and even at that rate, the chances of winning ten of these in a row was 1 in nearly two million. I probably never will duplicate this accomplishment.
Another highlight is my lifetime SNG and MTT ROI. I'm very pleased with both.
I'm happy to be known as someone to go to for SNG help.
What are you future goals and aspirations in the poker world?
I've never had a $10,000 score, mostly because I haven't taken enough shots. I want one so I'm going to go get it.
I'd love for one of my students to win a WSOP bracelet. It hasn't happened yet, but it would be a tremendous success for me.
I hope, more than anything, to get better, and be lucky enough to continue to enjoy the game like I do today.
What feature do you most like about Poker Curious?
I like the universal nature of it. Pokercurious has everything, and lives up to its tagline of being your source for poker information, culture, and community. You can find interviews, a forum, training sites, rakeback info, and any other type of information you want al in the same place! That's going to save many users a lot of time.
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. Before you go, we have several fun questions inspired by Bravo's Inside the Actors Studio.
What is your favorite fun poker phrase/slang/acronym?
Other than MDFR, my favorite line is "If I only had a dollar for every time I was called a donkey.. Oh wait... I do!". Another is "Macgruber!" which is borrowed from Saturday Night Live shit where a vain time-bomb diffuser is always a few seconds too late because he gets distracted and the whole place blows up. My friends and I use it to describe busting from a tournament. Papoorboy started this trend and I think it helps avoid tilt. I also like the term "hijack" for the position next to the cutoff, aptly named for the ability to hijack the cutoff's opportunity to steal.
If the poker industry disappeared completely, what other career would you most like to attempt?
I used to teach drama at a community college, and I loved it. If poker were gone, I'd do my best to get back into that field. I love teaching, and I love drama, so it's a natural fit.
If you were on death row, what would be your last meal?
I really love life, so I'd spend all my time desperately trying to get out of death that I'd be too busy to eat.
I'll take a plate of jumbo shrimp cocktail and some crab legs, please! If that's not available, I'll settle for a happy meal and a side of Kraft Macaroni and cheese.
When your poker career is over, what would you most like to be remembered for?
As someone who was always willing to help the poker community and promote the game of poker in a positive light.