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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Weekly Interview Series: Greg "HokieGreg" Tiller

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Fellow Lock Elite Pro Greg "HokieGreg" Tiller is my next interviewee for my new weekly interview series.  You can read the interview below.

Hey guys. I'm pumped for this interview. Anything I can do to help out JHub! He's a great guy. Though I've only known him a few months, I've already learned a ton from him. What a F'ing pro. Alright, time for some "aha" moments!

How did you get started in poker?  How old were you?  What did you play?  How did you progress through the stakes and different games?

The Short Version:

I'm ANYTHING but a natural talent. 

I started out as an epic delusional fish, then a marginal winner in microstakes 6max cash, I busto'd rolls multiple times at small stakes, learned a million lessons, and finally started to slowly put it all together and make a real career out of it. I've been playing husngs for about 4-5 years now, but i spent at least 3-4 years before that donking it up in other forms of poker (and online blackjack!). 8 years of trial and error later - I better be able to show something for it!

The Long Version:

I started playing poker in 2002, when I was 19. I played the standard college home games with friends (5-10$ sng's…sometimes we'd play "high stakes", i.e. $20!!!). I was obsessed with poker immediately. The thought of winning $100 in just a few hours playing a card game was prettttty sexy to me! (obv i thought i could have a 100% winrate if i played well!)

After 2 years or so of home games, i made my first deposit of $25 to UltimateBet. I spent the next 2-3 years being a marginal winner/degen in low stakes games. I would occasionally try to run up my winnings in Party Blackjack - guess how that ended up?

Through a random internet search in 2006, i found the twoplustwo forums. I read a lot of the articles, lurked the forums for a year or so…really started to get an idea of what it took to be a winning player over the long term in poker.

The first form of poker I really took seriously (i.e., no more blackjack/sports/chasing losses higher) was 6max 10NL cash on PokerStars. I started with a $50 bankroll and would buyin in for the minimum. I played about 75k hands and ran the $50 up to about $600 before starting to take shots at 25NL. I ran my roll up to about 1.5k…then the inevitable happened: had a fight with girlfriend, tilted off entire roll in one night, and "quit poker" (i probably quit poker 20 times over these first few years, haha…who hasn't?).

So in February 2007, I "quit" poker, broke up with my girlfriend, and moved back in with my parents (was in school full time, and had a bull shit part time job). It was a pretty humbling step backwards. Initially, I really did intend to quit poker completely as I was fed up with my self-defeating habits. After some thought, I realized that over those 125k hands of 10NL-25NL, I had proven to myself that with discipline, hard work, and consistency, poker could be a form of investing, and not just gambling. 

I redeposited $50 to stars and started playing the $5 regspeed husngs to build a roll. I knew husngs were really soft at the low stakes, and were probably a game I had a decent winrate in already. I also liked the idea of being able to play 45-60 minute sessions and taking a lot of breaks (I really sucked at playing much longer than that at the time). I ran good/played well…had something like a 20% roi at low stakes for the first few hundred games. Eventually I found myself at the $22s with a $400 bankroll and a lot of confidence (some delusional). I started reading the husng forum on 2p2, and soon after finally opened a 2p2 account and began posting husng strategy. I ran the $400 up a bit more, and then decided to start a blog to hold myself accountable and motivate myself (hokiegreghu.blogspot.com, now www.hokiegreg.com).

The 33s on stars are where I really started to become convinced that I could make a lot of money through poker. I knew I had a lot of improving to do before I could make enough money to justify poker being my only source of income long term, but I felt that I had developed the correct work ethic and discipline to continue to improve over the very long term. I was making something like 2.5k a month at the 33s - though I became complacent with that amount of income and stuck at that buyin level for too long. I met a lot of other motivated, aspiring poker pros at this time as well - PrimordialAA (Lock Pro Elite), chicagory (owner of HUSNG.com), and so many more that I'm forgetting. I started talking strategy with them on AIM a lot. Most of us kept blogs following our progress. Establishing a network of like-minded, motivated poker players was really helpful in my progress, and still is today.

Since then, I've made it further in poker than i ever dreamed of. I never really expected to play higher than the $220 level, but i've played and beaten up to the $2200s (and a small sample of 5ks, including some matches vs Isildur :O). I signed a Lock Pro Elite deal earlier this year and am doing well in the tough post-BF poker world. All of my successes have come from those early lessons I learned at 6max cash - if you can avoid the multitude of self-defeating traps in poker, and you combine that with hard work, self-analysis, humility, and discipline…it's actually quite realistic to make a legitimate career out of this game.

What has worked best for you over the years in regards to improving your game?

Establishing a network of like-minded, motivated poker players is the best thing you can do for your game. Having friends that could relate to the ups and downs of the game was really helpful for me early on - especially before I started developing mental game skills…every day was such a F'ing battle! 

I also learned a bunch from the 2p2 HUSNG forum, HUSNG.com videos by Mersenneary, Bluefire.com videos by Galfond and Jason Senti, and Mersenneary's work in the FastTrack Forum on HUSNG.com.

I think the most overrated form of studying is reviewing sessions on your own. I don't necessarily think it's -ev, but it's unlikely it's optimal either imo. If you have a leak, especially early on when your poker thought process isn't very developed, it's just going to look "standard" to you when you review. Get a friend to review with you, get second and third opinions, etc.

How old are you now?

I'm 28, and my birthday is June 21, 1983 - email me at gtillerhokie@gmail.com so I can give you all my mailing address so you can send me a gift. Thanks! (As I'll mention later - If you want something, just ask for it!)

How many tables do you usually play online?

Ok guys, pay attention!

I rarely play more than 3 tables. Multitabling is a skill, and one that I never developed past the ability to 3 table. 


I am going to share a secret with you all. 

The key to improving is CUTTING BACK ON TABLES. Stop the mass-tabling, especially if you are at lower stakes. Practice doesn't make perfect in poker, practice make permanent. Cut back on your tables and focus more on improving your decision-making. The $/game that you gain from improving your strategy decisions will eventually outweigh the money u were making from rakeback. The average poker player is getting better every day - don't let your game stagnate and eventually find yourself far behind the curve. 

I had a few long stretches where I played too many tables throughout my career. I still worked on strategy a lot outside of sessions, so my game continued to improve, but it could have improved a lot more if I was able to think and implement new thought processes while I played. Cutting back tables is the most valuable lesson I learned in the past 2 years or so. The majority of the most successful HUSNG players 1-2 tabled on their way up - Livb, IceVenom, H2olga/Lotte Lenya, Spamz0r.

The key to your long term success is your short term decision-making.

***I am at a point in my career where when I play my session I am really only concerned with maximizing my hourly rate - so that's why I've cut back on the 1-2 tabling and play 2-3 as much as possible now.

For more info on improving non-strategy skills, check out this article I wrote: bit.ly/nonstratskillz 

How many hours a week do you usually play?  How many total hours a week do you usually spend on poker-related activities?

It really changes on a week-to-week basis. I definitely spend 35-50 hours a week on poker-related activities (coaching, social media, studying, playing, etc). Before BF I was working towards SNE on Stars and was spending 90% of my time playing, and the rest studying. Post-BF, things obviously changed a bit and I've gotten more creative with maintaining a reliable income, so I spend a lot more time building my coaching brand through social media, private forums, and hourly coaching. 

If you want a glimpse into what I was like when I was just grinding full time, check out my SNE thread on 2p2. I kept it from November 2010 until Black Friday. I think there is a lot of quality content there: bit.ly/SNEThread

What kind of a computer setup do you have for playing?  Do you use any poker software?

I am SUCH an Apple fanboy. It is more expensive than PCs, but it is so reliable...just the nuts. I have a 24" iMac desktop with 22" external monitor. 

I regularly use Pokerstove, PokerTracker3 (I used HEM when I was on PC few months ago), and PokerProTools.  

What are your short term & long term poker goals?

Short-term goals:

- Learn as much as I can about building a brand through social media. 

- Help a lot of players improve their game by releasing a bunch of free content through my blog and HUSNG.com. I was going to be a teacher before my poker career took off, so it's just something I love being involved in reguarly - even if it's for free, though I do think their are some big benefits to being very active with social media as a poker player (check out this article by JHub if you don't believe me, check out Jhub's blog post 'promoting yourself as a poker player').

- Start playing live MTTs and working on MTT strategy very regularly. While I love HUSNG's, it's SUCH a niche market in the poker community. I want to be able to reach a broader market of poker players through my coaching and social media, so I think the transition to MTT's will take care of that. Also, I just love challenging myself and trying new stuff. I'm excited about it!

Long-term goals

- Make a lot of money, and don't spend it all. 

- Adapt quickly with the rapidly changing poker landscape in the US. 

- Focus my work on things I'm passionate about (challenging myself, teaching, travelling) - don't let poker feel like a job.

You have stated that you have changed your views on some of the things you wrote in your excellent article"Playing Poker For a Living: It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint" (http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/185/heads-up-sng/playing-poker-living-its-marathon-not-sprint-pooh-bah-1078795/).  Could you explain?

I've rethought a lot of my main points from that article and I still believe in the general point of "warm up, push, cool down, rest, repeat" but what has become more clear to me is that the actual amount of time someone can push themselves while avoiding burnout varies drastically person to person (and in different types of work). 

How are you feeling in an out of sessions? Are you tilting easier or being more negative than usual? Are you motivated? Etc. Try your best to be honest with yourself about your mental state when you are playing. Self-awareness is one of the most important skills for a poker player. 

I just wouldn't put any strict rules on X days / X hours per week as a blanket statement for all players. Everyone's different. I just think most of us need a break with some kind of consistency. 

Basically, if you are having to force yourself to play bc you don't want to, I would consider trying to find ways to remotivate yourself and if that doesn't work - take a decent break. If the break doesn't help, figure out what you do want to be doing and put 100% of yourself into it. 

I think passion is the key to attaining real sustainable success (not just financial success). That's probably the biggest thing I've been thinking about recently, and a lot of the reason I'm starting to branch out into mtts/hucash, getting super involved w social media, and getting back really active in the poker community - it's what i'm passionate about. I like challenging myself with new things, I'm a very social person, I love teaching. It's important to know who you are and what you value.

The general point of the article I still stand by 100%: To maximize your chances of your sucess over the very long term, it's important to not run yourself into the ground by never taking breaks. Warmup, Push Yourself, Cool Down, Break - Repeat. Just realize we're all different, be self-aware, and find a schedule that works for you.

How did you go about getting a Lock Pro Elite contract?  How has your experience at Lock been so far?

I was running a HUSNG camp in Austin, TX with PrimordialAA (Trip Report: bit.ly/TripReport). He signed a Lock deal that month and it inspired me to contact the Lock CEO and see if I could get one too. I had no idea at the time how +EV getting a deal would be for me - it's pretty much the only reason I'm able to live in the US post-BF and still make a living similar to what i was making on stars pre-BF. I think too many people spend their lives waiting for people to give them an opportunity. If you want something, ask for it. The worst that's going to happen is you are going to be told "no". 

My experience on Lock has been great. Lock held a retreat at a castle in Bagnols, France (just outside of Lyon) for all of its pros in October. 7 course meals, hot air balloon rides, archery tournaments, etc…absurdly baller. It was an amazing trip and I met a bunch of really great people. I'm proud to represent Lock Poker.

What do you like to do in your spare time besides poker?

I love working out. I go to the gym 6-7 days a week. I've lost about 50 pounds over the last 1.5 year - it's really become a bit of a healthy addiction. 

I follow pretty much every major sport as well. I'm a fan of the Washington Capitals and Baltimore Orioles. 

I read a lot. I was a History major in college, so I read a lot of History stuff - right now I'm reading "The Rise of Globalism in the US since 1945" by Stephen Ambrose. I also am a sucker for self-improvement/inspirtational books - I highly recommend 'The Power of Now' by Eckhart Tolle.

What are your favorite movies and TV shows? 

TV series >>> movies! The Wire, Deadwood, Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, Sopranos, Entourage.

Thanks for reading and please feel free to follow up with questions!

Thanks for taking the time to do this & good luck at the tables.

For more on HokieGreg you can access his blog here: http://hokiegreghu.blogspot.com/, his facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/HokieGreg, his training videos:http://www.husng.com/ and follow him on twitter @HokieGreg

To get a 150% signup bonus & VIP benefits (http://jaredhubbard.com/lock%20vip.htm), signup for Lock here: 

In case you missed the past weekly interviews, here they are:

If you have any recommendations for which Lock pro you would like to see me interview next or any questions you would like to see asked please comment below.  For a full list of Lock pros please visit: http://lockpoker.eu/pro

Thanks & GL,



  1. Great interview. Thx for sharing Greg.
    It sounds like you are pretty well rounded outside of poker (gym, reading, sports, other hobbies, etc.). Perhaps that is the key for some of your fellow pros to avoid burning out (as opposed to concentrating on hours played, etc.)

    GL at the tables and more importantly, Go Hokies!

    - VT alum '91 (yes, I'm old)

  2. ya i definitely believe life balance is a huge key in maintaining success over the very long term. the 'playing poker for a living:' article linked in the middle of the interview expresses my thoughts on that topic in a lot more detail. let me know what you think.

    go hokies!