Patrick Leonard interview: “It’s ridiculous how lazy poker players are”

Patrick Leonard is the lead instructor at PokerStrategy.com, a strategy writer for  PokerPlayer magazine and one of the biggest winners at the $500nNL+ Zoom cash games on PokerStars. Impressive.

Even more impressive are the string of tournament results since the turn of the year. In February he chopped the Sunday Warm-Up for  $94,000 and just a week later  final tabled the  Eighth Anniversary Sunday Million  for another $110,000. Most recently the man known online as ‘pleno1′ added another $50,000 by taking down the Big 162.

We grabbed a word with Patrick Leonard to talk about his successful transition to online tournaments, what he does to improve his game and why poker players should put down their Playstation controllers…

PokerPlayer: Hey Patrick, how’s it going? What are you up to at the moment?
Patrick Leonard: I’ve just got back to Budapest after going to Vienna for the EPT, which was a lot of fun. Vienna is probably the city I’ve been most ‘wowed’ by on first arrival. We played in the Hofburg Palace, which is without doubt the best venue  I have ever played at – such a cool place to play.

We know you’ve had some great success recently, does that make you more inclined to make trips to stops like EPT Vienna?
I was supposed to go to San Remo then Monte Carlo before Las Vegas this summer, but I think I am just going to stay and grind online – I miss it too much when I go away! The value on the trips is huge, there is so much money to be made, but in general the hourly is not so great. If I play online I can play 20 cash tables or the same equivalent in MTT’s. I can eat at home, play sport, do whatever.

On EPT trips you’re paying ‚¬30 for a Sandwich in Monaco and ‚¬250  a night on hotels. Then you can’t even play online so you’re basically just waiting around for a tournament to begin or spending ridiculous amounts of money. It’s definitely fun to do, but it’s not very practical.

Congratulations on the great run and the two big online scores, why do you think you’ve turned a corner this year and really hit the next level?
Well I previously didn’t really play many MTT’s to be honest. I started playing more around two or three months ago. I went on a trip to the Sky Poker UKPC and actually really enjoyed thinking about playing with 23 big blinds and how I could best exploit  people with those stack sizes.

I had devoted the last four or five months on cash games where I was one of the biggest winners in the Zoom games on PokerStars and I have unfortunately always had the mental route of trying to find something else to win at when things are going well, which doesn’t make so much sense.

It must have been strange to go from grinding cash games to playing some of the biggest final tables in online poker?
The three big final tables I played were all so different too. In the Warm Up I was by far the most aggressive, in the Million I had the  plan of playing TAG and in the Big 162 I had to play like a nit. I think the main mistake MTT guys make is that they can’t change the gears so well, they are generally nits or incredibly loose. Being a cash game player I am used to  having to adjust to all styles and situations, so I think it allowed me to have a pretty big edge when deep in all tournaments. Also short-handed I am way more experienced as they basically will always play with nine  players for 99% of their game time whilst I am used to playing short-handed. I think cash game players have a pretty big edge a lot of the time in tournaments.

Can you tell us a bit about the $8m Sunday Million run? How did you manage to go so deep in a tournament with 50,000 runners?  
I was basically chip leader or in the top three stacks throughout, from  very early on until there were about 50 left. The pay jumps were pretty small and I had the $1m first place prize firmly in my sights. I took a lot of high variance lines and went for chip accumulation. The field was incredibly good and they let me run it over.

Going into the final I was in 5th, my stack was probably worth over 300,000. I didnt really want to get into a situation where I was calling it off for my stack. I wanted to jam a lot and put people into spots where they had to consider that if they call and lose, they could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars. I made a tight fold with 6-6 very early but when it folded round to the aggressive big stack in the small blind, I had to call when he jammed as I had A-Q. He had Q-9 and team Hungary was fistpumping behind me, but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be and he flopped two Nines.

That pot was worth around $300-400,000 in equity which is ridiculous, but I’m fully aware of variance and I cant complain about finishing ninth in one of the biggest MTT’s of all time.

What have you been working on to help you achieve success like this?
I guess it’s just hard work, I’m not afraid to make a mistake. Despite being in the top 10 winners on PokerStars this year in MTT’s and cash games I’m sure players from both pools will think I am awful. What’s awful in people’s  minds today could be revolutionary next year and similarly, what’s good now was awful last year. I’m always trying to stay one step ahead of the curve and if I make a mistake then it’s not the end of the world as long as I learn  from it.

I post hand histories to friends on Skype and on public forums on a daily basis and I choose hands where I think I may have done something wrong. I’m not afraid of two people on Skype telling each other that they think I  am awful or that being the general consensus. If the result of me posting a very dubious hand on Two Plus Two is 100 people thinking I’m awful but me learning one tiny thing then I’m more than happy to keep posting.

We have heard your work ethic is ridiculous… how do you manage to put so much into your game? Especially considering most poker players are renowned for being quite lazy…
Yeah, it’s pretty ridiculous in my opinion. Not how much I work, but how lazy poker players are. This is a job remember. We have probably 10 years to make as much money as possible and then hopefully all retire. Some guys are content grinding FIFA14 all day, playing golf on a Saturday and then playing a super high variance schedule on Sunday, trying to bink enough for them to be comfortable for the next 12 months.

I’m experienced in staking and coaching other poker players and I’ve seen some ridiculous stories. In my opinion, playing less than four days a week is slacking. As far as studying goes, I think probably less than 5% of people study enough. Out of those 5% of players  that study enough I think most of them will study too much. You learn from making mistakes and you need to play to make a mistake. The thing right now is having a RunItOnce account. There’s dozens of guys who have accounts  on RunItOnce and allow it to give them some mental clearance from their lack of studying over the years.

What’s your daily routine like when you’re working this hard?
I wake up in the morning and the first question I ask myself is usually “tournaments or cash?” Then I decide when I’m going  to play and plan my meals, exercise and friends around it. I think too many players ask themselves “pub or club?” Don’t get me wrong, one of the best things about poker is being able to have freedom, but its all about balance. If you want to play hard then you definitely have to work hard too, especially if you want this to be your thing long-term.

I’m by no means the most intelligent person in the world. I did OK at school, I’m definitely not the hardest worker in the world, but I’m not lazy. I really, really, really love poker and hope I can be an ambassador for this game. There are so many young lads in England and throughout Europe who have what it takes if they put in a little bit extra work. There’s a lot of students who can make a good income playing poker to support themselves and I’m trying with my site (www.wugwug.com)  to give out as much free information and advice as possible.

What’s it like living in Hungary and why did you move there?
I love it. In my opinion it’s the best place for a poker player to live. Firstly there is a very good group of poker players here. There’s no bitching, everyone is good friends and we are all playing different game types so we can sweat each other and  importantly not battle against each other!

We make sure we do a lot of social stuff, we go out a lot, play sport together and unfortunately have a rule where if you win $25k you have to buy dinner on a Tuesday! With players like  Jonathan Karamalikis, ‘Birs320′, ‘Twirlpro’, Adam Picken and lots of other under-the-radar heroes, there is always somebody who has recently binked and we all enjoy each others success.

Budapest itself is an amazing city. The climate in summer especially is great. It’s a very compact city so you can get wherever you want quickly and its two hours on a train to Vienna, an hour on a plane to Prague and close  enough to England for it not to be a problem.  I came here initially with my girlfriend but I definitely have no plans to leave any time soon.

You were going for Supernova Elite this year. How easy is it to balance such a big grind like that with other commitments like working for Poker Strategy and our mighty fine magazine?
I started the year with the goal of making SNE and making $100,000 profit outside of it. I felt like I could work hard, make $200,000 variance free and class it as a good wage. The stuff like writing for PokerPlayer,  making videos for PokerStrategy.com and coaching a lot of people wasn’t a hinderance. It kept me on track and made me work with deadlines and with commitments. If the only thing I had in my life was playing poker I could have that extra hour in bed or that extra game on FIFA14!

Unfortunately (or I guess fortunately) I have eclipsed the profit figures pretty early into the year and thus I’m not so sure about striving for SNE. I’m basically going to have a huge SCOOP, play everything for those 2 weeks and then re-evaluate again.

Do you plan on playing full-time for as long as possible or do you have other goals?
I just want to keep composed, keep my head in the game and continue re-evaluating to make sure I can make the next step.

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