Taking a Shot

John Eames Tournament Strategy

If you search the annals of poker history you will find a lot of the same advice from most of the people who have climbed to the summit of the poker mountain. One piece of advice that I have heard countless times is to take a shot. So on September 11th, 2010 − 19-years to the day that I joined British Rail as a spotty 16-year old kid; I left a job that paid me an annual salary of £65,000 to take a shot. My proverbial shot was to become a professional poker player and I had my sights set on 6 max cash games. I knew I needed a lot of help and believe in the value of finding someone who can mentor you through the process: someone who had been there, seen it and bought the t-shirt. I enlisted the help of Jared Tendler, mental game coach to some of the very best poker players in the world and Alan Jackson, 6-max cash game coach working in Phil Galfonds stable over at Bluefirepoker. A few months on and there influence and my hard work has turned me from a losing player into a winning one.

I have also been traveling around Europe covering some of the biggest tournaments as a live reporter. Watching and recording thousands of hands from some of the worlds very best has its impact on you. The more I watched the more I wanted a piece of the action. There was one player in particular that I seemed to bump into wherever I went and he always seemed to do well. His name was John Eames a 22-year old professional poker player from Southport in the UK. During WPT Venice I begged Eames to show me the ropes and to turn me into a tournament specialist and fortunately he agreed. Each month we will provide you with the strategies and thought processes behind one of Europe’s top tournament players as he tries to transfer his knowledge from his brain into mine.

So here is my story as Eames tries to turn my Dreams into everyday life as I continue to take my shot.

So who is John Eames?

In October 2007, a young 18-year old lad called John Eames, had dreams of becoming a professional snooker player. There has always been a strong bond between snooker and poker in the UK and a lot of the professional snooker players are avid players themselves. So it wasn’t long before Eames himself started to play poker as a hobby both online and in the local casino’s around the North West. One night he entered a satellite on UltimateBet for the Aruba Poker Classic and won himself a seat into the $5,000 Main Event. He was the highest UK finisher in that event when he finished 19/548 and earned himself $18,605. Step into the, Beam Me Up Scotty Machine on the deck of the Starship Enterprise, and select 2011 as a destination and Eames has since won a staggering $1,113,127 in live tournament earnings alone.

So how did it all begin?

“I had played snooker all throughout my childhood and I was expecting to be a professional snooker player when I left school.”

So while some kids were plotting world domination starting with a job emptying bins you were planning on becoming the next Steve Davis?

“Yeah, I was playing everyday after school so in the end school just became an inconvenience. I just wanted it to end so I could do what I wanted to in life when I reached 16. Then when poker came along it fit perfectly. I didn’t have a job, no commitments and I was pretty much setting myself up for that type of life anyway.”

So how did the snooker dream end and the poker dream plant itself into your sub-conscious?

“I was doing a bit of sports betting on snooker events when I was 18-years old because I had a good knowledge of the game. These sites used to advertise online poker and I knew the rules so I started to play. Then at the same time I played a bit with some of the lads that I traveled the snooker circuit with. Then I started to play in the live events at the local casino and won a few hundred quid after my second visit and I was hooked. I didn’t care if I played live or online at the time I was just fascinated that I could win these sums of money and fascinated about learning more about the game.”

Money is fuel for a poker player – so where did you get your fuel?

“There was no magical moment. No huge score. I built my bankroll up over a period of time winning a lot of smaller tournaments both playing live and online. I just played more and more and got more consistent and built the roll up that way,”

Tell us about your first live cash way back in 2007 at the Aruba Classic.

“I won the satellite and headed out there, more for the holiday really, and then I ended up having a fantastic experience. That was probably the point where I realised that I wanted to do this full time. It was such a buzz competing for so much money (the winner took down $800k). That $18k added 50-60% to my bankroll and then I went on a good run over the Christmas period and made over a $100,000 playing in online tournaments.”

Your first six-figure score came last year in a side event at EPT Vienna. How did that feel?

“It should have been a three-day tournament but day two started at 13:00 and we played through until 08:00 so I didn’t have any emotions because I was knackered! It was a big weight of my shoulders. A lot of my friends had already had some big scores and it was good to get one myself. That tournament was more about the money than the prestige for me because it was a side event. I was still proud to win the tournament but I saw it more as a bankroll boost. It was purely a big lump of money and a weight of my shoulders.”

You are part of a circle of friends who are all top quality poker players like Jake Cody and Toby Lewis. Does this put more pressure on you to perform and get results?

“Obviously I am really pleased when they win stuff. It was getting to me a little bit but then the way I saw it was it was only a matter of time. You need to be aware that you can go a year or two without winning any live tournaments. So I guess it was bothering me but hopefully I have started to catch up now.”

Do you ever worry about the longevity of being a pro poker player?

“As long as things stay the way that they are i.e. All the tours that are running now are still running in the future then I will still be playing. I don’t see how the game can get any tougher than it is now. It has to reach a plateau at some point. I have a stop-loss for my bankroll and I could always get backed if necessary. It depends on money really. While everything is going well then there isn’t a problem.”

You have recently earned your biggest score to date when you finished 3rd in the Main Event at EPT Copenhagen.

“Although it is seen as one of the toughest stops of the tour this can also be an advantage because you don’t have to adjust to players who play in a very strange way. Seat draw is a huge thing in these tournaments and things generally panned out well for me in this respect. When it finished I was expecting to be upset because I could have won it but upon reflection I feel good. I started the final table in 6th place and finished 3rd so I am pleased overall. I had never even cashed in an EPT before so that was a monkey of my back.”

So what next for John Eames?

“I am going to carry on doing what I am doing. My family is behind me 100% and are very proud of me and I love what I am doing which is important.”

And obviously turning Lee Davy into Phil Ivey!