Graduated law school at the age of 18. Decided to pursue his real passion, ala Matt Damon in Rounders. Now, Dutch Boyd is a household name in the realm of poker, and between running with The Crew and building a new website, he graciously took a few minutes to answer some questions…
PokerLizard: How did you first become interested in poker? When did you first become serious about playing?
Dutch: I learned to play poker from my Grandma Sue when I was about ten years old. She taught me and my little brother Bobby how to play five card draw one night when we went to visit. Bobby and I played heads-up for tootsie rolls all night long. A few years later, when I was about twelve, I was a huge Nintendo fan. I used to love this game called Uncharted Waters (published by Koei). You’d play this hero who’d have to sail the world and establish trade routes and such… it wasn’t a very popular game, but I really dug it. Anyway, there was this bar that you could go to in the game where you could try and make money playing blackjack and poker. I was making more dubloons playing poker than I was setting up trade routes. After making so much money, nobody in the bar would play you. It was a crazy cool game.
I started getting serious about poker a few years later. I was in my second year at law school and me and two other law school buddies went to go see Rounders. That movie sucked me in so hard. It was the first time I’d ever heard of holdem. We went back to my place and played a little three-person freezeout for a dollar each. The next day I went to the library and checked out Thursday Night Poker by Peter Steiner and read the whole thing in one sitting. I started playing online for free at a site called 2 AM. You’d play for free and you’d have to click banners once you ran out of chips. They’d start you off with a thousand chips and once you ran it up to a million they’d actually give you a $100. I played every night after law school (and sometimes during the day if I decided poker was more important than class). I ran up my thousand up to a million about a dozen times that semester. They finally had to change the rule that you could only win the cash once because me and a few other players were so consistent. Once I had a few hundred, I switched to real money on Planet Poker.
PokerLizard: In the 2003 WSOP, you finished in 12th place. How has your life changed since receiving all of the ESPN publicity? How strange is it being recognized on the street?
Dutch: I don’t think my life has changed that drastically. One big change that comes to mind is the way that poker is perceived by my family. Before I was on ESPN, I think my mom was pretty disappointed that I had given up law to be a poker player. On top of that, my mom is pretty religious and she looked down on gambling…. that changed though, because after I was on ESPN the pastor of her church asked if I’d play in her home game.
As far as being recognized goes, that’s pretty strange. One thing that being on ESPN has done is shown me that the poker stars of the world are just people. I used to really idolize guys like Johnny Chan, Layne Flack and Daniel Negreanu. I remember the first time I ever saw Huck Seed at a poker tournament… it was at the Grand Slam at the Hustler club in LA. I was so star struck. A few years later and I’m the one getting recognized outside of Jamba Juice. It’s a very weird paradigm shift.
PokerLizard: This year ESPN did several pieces on you and “The Crew”. How did the crew come about and how has it helped your poker? Do you guys all have stakes in one another or is it just a 100% non-business relationship?
Dutch: The crew started last year in 2003 right after the WSOP. I had met Brett and Joey a year before. We were all in Vegas, all pretty much broke, and all ready to make something happen. So we decided to combine our bankrolls and find a cheap place to live. A few days later I had won my seat to the main event in a satellite and cashed for $80k… so instead of a cheap place in Vegas, we went out to Los Angeles. I brought in my little brother Rob and another buddy named Deirdorf. We picked up Scotty and Tony a few months later.
We all shared winnings for the first part of it… we’d put in about 5000 hands a week online each and we’d read and analyze each other’s hand histories. After we each had enough to stake ourselves, we stopped sharing bankrolls and winnings. I definitely feel like that period accelerated our learning curve pretty drastically. Having a good group of poker players to bounce ideas off of and play against is pretty important… you’re only as good as the people you play against. We still trade pieces of each other, though, if we’re in the same tournaments… but now The Crew is mostly non-business.
PokerLizard: Also at this year’s WSOP you made the final table of the Razz tournament finishing 2nd to TJ Cloutier. What advice would you give someone interested in learning to play Razz? How frustrating of a game is Razz? It seemed to even make Howard Lederer a bit angry.
Dutch: Well, I had never really played Razz before that tournament… but it’s basically played about the same way as stud hi-low. You just forget about the high hands. So for someone interested in learning the game (and I’m not sure why you’d want to become a Razz specialist), I’d recommend reading the stud/8 books and playing as much stud/8 as you can. As far as the game being frustrating, I guess any thing is frustrating when it doesn’t go your way.
PokerLizard: Any news on your online poker site “RakeFree.com”? I noticed that another site seemed to take your business model. What did you think about that other site?
Dutch: RakeFree.com is still a very live project. I recently moved to just outside of Fresno to work on it. We’ve got an office now and we’re doing some development. I really think that a model like the one described on the RakeFree website is the future of online poker. The online poker sites are just taking too much money from the players. It can’t last. They justify it by pointing to how much it costs to run these things… but it doesn’t cost all that much at all. The biggest cost by far is marketing. It really gets to me every time I look at my online bankroll at one of these sites. They take so much from us players, and we just let it happen because we don’t have a choice.
I was pretty sorry to see that the other site you mentioned failed, as I would have liked to see it do well even though I feel like they ripped off my idea. It doesn’t matter how low your rake is, though, if your software sucks and you don’t market well enough to get a few tables running. An empty cardroom is going to stay empty. But I feel confident that RakeFree.com, once it’s launched, will be a success. We’re working hard right now to develop a player base. Right now I have thousands of people who’ve joined the list to be notified when the site goes live. All of the marketing value that we got from wearing the visor on ESPN was priceless. We’re still in the beginning stages, but I’m very excited about the project.
PokerLizard: Which is your favorite Poker game to play and why?
Dutch: Razz, since the only time I ever played it I won $40k. Besides that, though, NL Holdem tournaments is my favorite… nothing in limit events can really compare to the rush you get in NL.
PokerLizard: How often do you play online? Does your style of play vary significantly from your live action play?
Dutch: I play almost every day online. I’ve pretty much stopped playing any sort of ring game and I focus strictly on tournaments. I think one of my strengths at the table is my ability to quickly pick up on poker tells, so that aspect of the game is very different. In live play, you can get an awful lot of information about an opponent’s hand if you know what to look for. Online, you can’t tell much at all about what a person has in their hands except by keeping notes of their betting patterns, and also maybe the time they take to act. BTW, I’ve got a few essays that I’ve written about reading players on PokerTells.com.
PokerLizard: Which poker books / software have you found to be the most beneficial?
Dutch: For books, I’d say the one that most advanced my game was Thursday Night Poker by Peter Steiner. I haven’t read it in years, though, and I’m not sure if I’d agree with everything in it. Besides that, I’m a big fan of Super System. I like Caro’s Book of Tells, Sklansky’s Theory of Poker, and Lee Jones’ book.
As for software, one thing that I feel improved my game was playing Masque’s World Series of Poker. It’s a really old title and the AI isn’t that strong… but it’s kind of cool. The other one that I’d recommend is the Wilson tournament software.
PokerLizard: Do you use headphones at the table, if so, why and what are you currently listening to?
Dutch: When I propped, I used headphones every shift. It’d be a way to make the grind go a little bit quicker. Now, I don’t play live ring games much any more… and most of the tournaments ban headphones (which I think is pretty lame). But when I’m playing online I’ll usually listen to some music. The album that I’m really into now is by The Streets and it’s called Original Pirate Material. I’m a huge fan of that album. Also a fan of Eminem, Coldplay, and Massive Attack.
PokerLizard: You worked as a prop for a while in the California casinos, what is a typical day like for a prop, what exactly dos a prop do and how do they get paid? How difficult of a job was it?
Dutch: Well, being a prop is a really tough job… but it’s also the best way, I think, to build up a bankroll if you’re a winning player. When you prop for a cardroom, you are an employee. You have to get your license to work in the casino, pass a drug test, and then you get your shift assignments. I worked graveyards from 2am to 10am at Garden City in San Jose. The pay is good. You get $500 a week after taxes if you prop the 6-12 and under level. I propped the 20-40 level, which meant I’d sit in anything up to 20-40. Propping the bigger games brought in $1000 a week after taxes. Anything you win or lose is on top of that (or taken away from it if you have a bad week).
So basically, propping is just like playing on your own except that you have a boss who tells you what to play and where to sit. You still play with your own bankroll, and if you lose a lot and you can’t afford to play then you’re of out a job. To tell you the truth, though, I didn’t really like propping. The whole point of playing poker for a living is so that you can come and go as you please. And when you prop, you often get stuck in some pretty shitty games.
One thing about propping that is nice though is that it’s actually a job, so you have benefits like health insurance. It’s a good gig if you have a family.
PokerLizard: For those that don’t know, you graduated from Law School at the age of 18. How did your family react when you decided to eschew your legal training to play poker? Any plans to return to law?
Dutch: My mom wasn’t too thrilled, but like I said up above… once I got on ESPN she came around. I still might go back to law for awhile… I’m thinking of taking the California bar in 2006.
PokerLizard: How was your mother able to raise two children, on her own, who both attended college in their early teens?
Dutch: It beats the hell out of me. Anytime I feel like my life isn’t going so grand, I think about the hard times that my mom faced when we were growing up. She worked as a cake decorator and we were on and off welfare for years. It was really hard for her. But she pushed through it. All growing up, my mom was really pushing education. It was really important to her that my brother and I read a lot… she taught us to read when we were 2 and 3 years old. She’s a very strong woman and I owe her everything. She wrote a book a few years back about how we got to college so early. It’s called About Face. It’s out of print now, but you can buy it on my website at DutchBoyd.com.
PokerLizard: Do you still have fun playing poker or is it just a business to you now?
Dutch: Well, I often get sick of it (especially when I’m not doing well). Once you’ve played as many hands as I have, nothing really surprises you anymore at the table… so it kind of becomes repetitive… the “grind”. But even though I get sick of poker sometimes, I still start jonesing for it if I don’t play for a few days.
PokerLizard: 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.
Dutch: Not long. I’m a sucker for a hot girl who can play poker.
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