Andy Bloch may be best known for trying to break the Vegas bank with the infamous MIT Blackjack team, but he is quickly making big waves as a pro poker player. Andy has 3 major tournament victories and 30 major tournament cashes amassing over $700,000 in winnings in his relatively short poker career.
PokerLizard sat down with Andy to discuss how an MIT graduate and law school graduate decided to take on the poker world and become a member of Team Full-Tilt.
PL: Before Tournament Poker became so huge, you were primarily known for your Blackjack skills, even producing a video on how to beat the casinos, the MIT Blackjack Team Card Counting Secrets w/Andy Bloch DVD. What was the catalyst behind your decision to take on the world of high stakes poker?
Andy: I started playing poker before I was part of the MIT team and over time I gradually increased the stakes I played. I was thinking about moving on from poker, then the World Poker Tour came along and I decided to give it a shot. Since then, I’ve made two televised finals and five other money finishes.
PL: How did your parents react when you decided to become a professional gambler after getting Engineering and Law degrees?
Andy: I became a professional gambler in between MIT and Harvard Law School. I was playing with the MIT blackjack team on weekends and working designing computer chips during the week and getting bored. When the project I was working on got canceled, I decided to quit and play some poker and blackjack while I looked for something else. I didn’t plan for gambling to be a long term career, so my parents weren’t too worried although they didn’t know what to tell their friends! Then I decided to go to law school (paying my way through by playing blackjack), and my parents were proud and happy. But after law school and passing the bar I didn’t take a law job and went back to gambling. Fortunately, the WPT and ESPN elevated the public perception of poker players and I’m now a minor celebrity. I think they enjoy when their friends tell them they keep seeing me on TV.
PL: Do you enjoy cash games or tournaments? Why?
Andy: I enjoy tournaments more than cash games, because there’s a bigger sense of accomplishment winning a tournament.
PL: You seem to be a math oriented player that likes to push statistical edges over the competition versus a feel player, is that an accurate assessment? If so, Which Poker game do you feel best suits your talents?
Andy: My play is a mix of instinct and mathematics. My instincts will tell me when my opponent may be weak or strong, whether a bluff or value bet might work, and I will incorporate those possibilities into calculating the best play. This approach works for any poker game, whereas a player who plays on feel alone will generally need to gain a lot of experience before mastering a new game.
PL: You started WPTFan.com, how did this site evolve into one of the largest Poker Sites/Forums on the net?
Andy: Back when the WPT started airing, I thought there should be a forum for people to chat about poker on TV, something the WPT was not offering on their website. Basically, I built it and people came. I haven’t done much to promote the site, preferring instead to watch the community grow organically, just pruning a few bad posts here and there. The simple design and limited ads make it easy to use even on a slow connection.
PL: In your opinion, what 3 characteristics does it take to become a “World Class” Player? Do these characteristics differ if one wants to be a world class tournament player vs. world class cash game player?
Andy: To be a “world class” poker player, you need intelligence and self-control combined with a willingness to gamble. Self-control is a little less important for tournament players than cash game players, because in tournaments, if you start to lose your self control, the most you can lose is your buy-in – and, aggressive, even reckless play is often a good strategy in tournaments, whereas it will make you go broke playing cash games.
PL: You recently won the $1,000 buy-in Limit Hold’em tournament at the WSOP Circuit event in Las Vegas. How does your strategy differ in a limit tournament from a No-Limit tournament?
Andy: In limit tournaments, you don’t have the big implied odds you need to make calling raises with hands like 67 suited profitable. But once I get involved in a pot in limit, I’m going to be very tenacious and I’ll probably see the hand to the showdown. Some people say that bluffing is more important in no-limit, but that’s not necessarily true. Even though bluffs are less likely to work in limit, you are risking less to make those bluffs.
PL: What advice would you give someone hoping to become a great player (not necessarily a pro player)? Any advice for someone who wants to become a pro?
Andy: My best advice is to be self-critical, whether you win or lose. After every play, ask yourself whether you could have played the hand better. Try to learn something from every hand.
Don’t go pro until you are consistently making enough from poker that going to your regular job is silly.
PL: How did you get involved with the Full Tilt Poker team? (For my own curiosity…did they name it Full Tilt due to the Tiltboys, PokerLizard note: the Tiltboys are a group of friends that play poker together in California and travel to vegas frequently, you can read about their adventures at Tiltboys.com)
Andy: I was extremely lucky to be friends with Chris Ferguson years before he won the World Series in 2000, and he asked me to join up with him before the site even had a name. A Tiltboy was indeed responsible for coming up with the name.
PL: What makes Full Tilt Poker different from the myriad of other sites?
Andy: Full Tilt Poker has the best software and great programmers who are constantly improving it. But what really makes Full Tilt different from the other sites is the involvement of the pros. A couple of the other sites have two or three pros, but Full Tilt has 10 to 20, who are all committed to playing on the site and giving the other players the best playing, learning, and entertainment experience possible.
PL: We consider you one of the best poker players that the casual fan hasn’t heard of. How much do you think your life will change once you breakthrough and win one of the televised events?
Andy: Fame has it’s cost, and I often think I’m fortunate that I’m not yet so famous that I have people chase me into bathrooms for autographs. Overall, I haven’t had much luck in the final 3 tables of a tournament in over 2 years. One day, I will break my current 6-time losing streak when all-in in the final 27 players in WPT tournaments and then I may finally win one. Maybe I’ll quit poker then.
PL: Are you blown away by the sudden popularity of Poker?
Andy: I used to say that if TV could make golf and bowling watchable, then poker was a no-brainer if someone really tried. I thought that the WPT might have grown faster than it did, but poker on TV is still growing and may end up being as big as football, baseball, or basketball.
PL: How does your online strategy vary from live games?
Andy: Obviously, you don’t have the same tells on-line as you do live, so you have to rely mostly on betting patterns and history. I play on-line mostly for fun. Although I try to win, I don’t try to crush my opponents. I spend a lot of times answering questions and chatting rather than observing players and taking notes.
PL: What do you like to do for fun when you’re away from the tables?
Andy: When I’m not playing poker I like to spend time with friends and family. I also spend a lot of time on my computer, writing emails, web surfing, and programming.
PL: What do you enjoy most and least about the professional poker lifestyle?
Andy: Travel and the flexible lifestyle, both most and least. Travel can be fun, but there’s often too much of it, and the lifestyle is too flexible.
Obligatory PokerLizard Question: If you were Matt Damon in “Rounders” how long would it have taken you to kick your girlfriend to the curb and get with Famke Janssen?
Andy: I would have finished law school, kept my girlfriend, and still played the World Series of Poker. Basically, I did just that.
Congratulations on your success and Thanks for your time.
If you would like to play poker with Andy or any of the Full Tilt Pro’s just look for the Red Highlited Tables in the game listings. Also, if you would like to see what Andy has been up to or ask him a question, please check out his website AndyBloch.com
To get a 100% signup bonus with Full Tilt Poker, Enter the Bonus Code: “PokerLizard” in the Bonus Code Field (not the Player Referral Field).
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