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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Weekly Interview Series: Matt Stout

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Fellow Lock Elite Pro Matt "all_in_at420" Stout is my next interviewee for my new weekly interview series.  You can read the interview below.

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?

I actually learned how to play five-card draw and then stud from my sister starting when I was just four years old. We never played much growing up, it was just one of the many card and board games we played occasionally. Then when I was 19 and in my sophomore year of college my buddy Nick Luisi IMed me and asked if I wanted to play some ".25-.50 limit hold'em" and I had no clue what he was talking about. He said it was poker, so I said "I'll be there." I literally get chills thinking back to that IM now, because it was a turning point for the better in my life no matter where I go from here. I made $4.25 in about five hours. I remember eating a Wendy's bacon cheeseburger from the dollar menu that I bought with my profits on the way home and thinking about how awesome it was that profit from poker had paid for the meal. I was BEYOND hooked.

I started playing $5-10 games around my college, along with a $30 monthly re-entry tournament. When the games around my school weren't enough I started playing online. I forced myself to accumulate a million play chips before I started putting real $ online. Then I proceeded to get crushed for $1000 I couldn't afford to lose in $5-10 MTTs and SNGs online. 

Eventually I got the hang of it and started winning within a year with a lot of study and practice. I won $26 and $75 MTTs online for $3k and $5k respectively to build my online roll while I was still under 21, even though I lost a lot back in cash games. That's how I learned that $5/10 NL probably wasn't the game to play on a $6k roll!

After two years of playing pretty heavily I turned 21 and had a pretty sick run in Atlantic City. I built up a bankroll with weekly AC tournaments and took a shot at the WSOP-C Caesars AC event in March of 2006. I bricked the first $340, but won a SNG into the $560 second event. I ended up chopping that final table with Matt Glantz for $34k (who has since become like an uncle to me in poker), and my career had officially begun. I went on to win two seats to the $10k main event in $200+r satellites that week, played one and sold one, and my bankroll was officially on swoll. =)

I kept grinding live prelims and satelliting into main events and eventually took a big chunk of my roll and threw it online when I decided I'd rather focus on tournaments full-time and didn't want to fill in the gaps with live cash games anymore. I found success in the high stakes MTT's almost immediately, and I take great pride as being known as one of the best players at successfully bridging the gap between online and live success.

How have you gone about improving over the years?  Have you watched a lot of training videos?  Have you read a lot of books?  Have you done a lot of calculations?  Have you talked strategy with a lot of other players?

 It's a bit of everything you mentioned, really. I'd say in terms of how much of each, it'd be: talking > videos > calculations > books. That's not to say it's the optimal blend, but that's reflects what I do the most of in reality. I definitely need to do more work on my game and have been a little more complacent than I should be, which is completely unacceptable in such a competitive game where players are getting better and better.

How old are you now?

I just turned 27. 

Do you currently play any games besides MTTs?

I play a little bit of NL cash games, but never get as much satisfaction out of succeeding in them as I do making deep runs in tournaments. That's made it difficult to really develop my skills in them over the years.  I'm working on my PLO cash game, especially short-handed, because I think it's the wave of the future and because I personally enjoy the game a lot. I'm planning on working on my stud games this year, because I love 8-game mix tournaments and Stud/Stud8 are the only games I think I need huge improvement in to be competitive. I also want to work on my heads-up game, both in SNGs and cash.

How many tables do you usually play online?

I usually play about 6-10 comfortably, and try to cap it at 15ish. I've played up to 23 at a time when I was trying to chase a PocketFives Triple Crown, though. My brain wanted to explode.

How many hours a week do you usually play?

For the first few years of career I played insane amounts...probably averaging around 80-90 hours a week. There's an addiction element to it that most successful players write off and ignore, because if you're making money at it there's not really a problem...in a way. This has a huge impact on a lot of players' social lives though, impacting relationships with friends, significant others, and even families. 

Some players become so engrossed in poker that it becomes difficult for them to carry a conversation with anyone who doesn't understand what it means to checkraise someone on the river. It's more like being a workaholic than an alcoholic or "degenerate gambler", but it's an addiction nonetheless. I've spent the last couple years trying to play a lot less poker and focus more on my family, friends, and interests outside of poker. It has been rewarding, both in terms of the relationships I have with people outside the poker world and for my game.  It makes poker feel like less of a grind, because I'm not in there just busting my ass every day. Just about any time I take a few days off from poker I really start to crave it, which is a constant reminder of why I chose this career.

How would you describe your style of play in MTTs?

Anywhere from nitbox to spazztard, depending on the situation. I find it hysterical when people tell me they've had arguments with other pros where one person talks about how nitty I am, and the is shocked and insists that I'm a spewbox. It means I'm doing something right!

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

 I have a Dell Vostro 420 desktop with two monitors, 30" and 24". I use Holdem Manager and haven't set up MergeKeys yet. I used to use TableNinja as well.

Do you focus more on live or online play?

That depends. I've always been one of the very few players who goes back and forth between live and online play a ton. I just go with whichever one has the best tournament action at the time. I try to estimate travel expenses, amount of buy ins, and expected ROI (hardest part obv) across my options and plan accordingly.

You have had some nice success in MTTs.  What was your biggest cash & how did it feel to win that much money in one tournament?

$266k for 3rd place in the 2009 WPT World Poker Finals $10k event was my biggest cash. I took two sick beats at the final table including one for 2/3 of the chips in play so it was a bit of a bittersweet win, but no day where you win a quarter million can really be considered a bad day. I was really happy with the result, and the fact that I knew I'd played my best in just about every spot at the final table helped in getting over my unlucky breaks.

What are your short term & long term poker goals?

Short-term: To keep making a good living post-DOJ for now...that's about all I can ask for at the moment.

Long-term: I plan on dying with a bracelet and a WPT title. 

Do you have any plans of branching off into other forms of poker in the future?

Yes, especially PLO and 8-game. (Talked about this above tho).

At this point in your career does poker feel more like a hobby or a job?  Do you still enjoy the game as much as you used to?

It's definitely a job and not a hobby, but I still have a strong passion for the game. I can't say that I enjoy grinding out NL MTT's as much as I used to, but I still enjoy doing it and miss it when I take time off. That's one of the main reasons I made a conscious decision to stop playing so much poker as soon as I began to feel the slightest bit burnt out from years of grinding. I also try to make sure to have the occasional drunken, dealers' choice, wild card home game with friends to remind myself of what makes me love poker so much.

How long do you plan on playing poker professionally?

I don't have a definite plan on this, but I do plan on eventually going back to college and possibly getting a MBA/JD (masters in business/law degree). Chances are that even when I start to pursue other avenues in life, I'll be playing a good amount of poker on the side and still taking it just as seriously.

You were previously working on starting a charity poker tour.  Is that something that is still in the works?  If so, could you tell us more about it?

There's a group of us, including Mike Frazin and Stu Nitzkin, who put together a proposal regarding the proposed Charity Poker Tour being aligned with the World Poker Tour, since the WPT had plans on expanding its charity efforts anyway. We worked closely with my good friend and WPT Executive Tour Director Matt Savage on the proposal, and are still waiting to see what comes of it. We'll likely try to align ourselves with another tour if that initiative fails.

You have been a pro for Lock since the summer of 2009.  How has your experience at Lock been as you have seen them progress from the Cake network, to the Merge network, to what they have grown into since Black Friday?

It has been an amazing ride. I always believed in the site, but to see the exponential growth that Lock has achieved has been incredible. I was one of the very first pros to sign with the site, and one of even fewer to stick by Jenn's side through the hell we went through switching from the Cake network to the Merge network. Continuing to believe in her and represent the site through that turmoil has made it that much more rewarding to watch them turn into one of the biggest sites in the USA after Black Friday.

When you aren't puking on 17th century antiques at Lock retreats, what do you like to do in your spare time besides poker?

Low blow. Will I ever live that one down? Sometimes a man arrives at a LockPRO retreat after a very long flight and is ready to party...a little too hard. =)

I actually love visiting family, especially my 9 nieces and nephews. Taking them Christmas shopping is one of the things I look forward to all year. I go to a lot of concerts, especially rap concerts. I'm a die hard New York Rangers fan and have been to a third of their home games so far this season despite living in Vegas and Costa Rica (both >2500 miles from Madison Square Garden). I just got my first tattoo, which was the Rangers shield on my right arm. I used to play ice and roller hockey before I got into poker, and am planning on getting back into it soon. And I know it sounds like a plug, but I really like doing poker training/coaching. It's really rewarding to see my students improve their game, even though a couple of them have become top MTTers who I now have to play against on a regular basis.

What are your favorite movies and TV shows?  Who are your favorite bands/musical artists?

Talladega Nights and The Big Lebowski are my favorite comedies. Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption are my favorite dramas. My favorite TV shows are Family Guy, Tosh.0, World's Dumbest (Criminals, especially), and the new Impractical Jokers. TruTV kicks ass in general. My favorite artists are Sublime, Biggie, Eminem, Jay-Z, Incubus, Kid Rock, and Tool.

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

For more on Matt Stout you can access his website here: http://stoutpoker.com/ where he blogs and offers coaching through one on one coaching and training camps, and follow him on twitter @MattStoutPoker

In case you missed it, here's the 2 previous interviews in my weekly interview series:

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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 contact below.  For a full list of Lock pros please visit: http://lockpoker.eu/pro

Thanks & GL,


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