We sat down with John "UMDTennis" O'Rourke recently to discuss poker, his recent success at the tables, why his schooling is so important to him, and more.
Congrats on being player of the week on PokerTableRatings for the $25/$50 no-limit cash games. Earning $65,000 in seven days is extremely impressive, some people don't make anywhere near that in a year. Tell us how you are feeling and what has been going on in your life?
Thanks! It has just been a great year all around. Poker has been going really great. In the fall I had been struggling a bit with it and wasn't playing as much, as I had just started grad school. Around winter time, when I had a break from school, I really focused and was talking with some other players who are good friends and great players like Evan Panesis and Ryan Fees. They helped me a ton. In January, I was mainly playing $2/$4 and $3/$6 and was trying new things out. Everything has been going great since then and I've been able to keep moving up and keep having great results while still focusing on school.
That's quite a jump from $2/$4 to $3/$6 to $25/$50 no-limit, especially in five months. Have you been playing out of your bankroll and taking shots?
I had been grinding $2/$4 - $3/$6 throughout the fall, as well building my roll. As most poker players do, I learned a hard lesson about bankroll management early on in my career and was determined not to take shots without an adequate bankroll early on. In February, I started playing $5/$10 and went on a heater there. From then, I would only play really good $10/$20 and $25/$50 games and sell pieces of myself in those. Now I can afford to play $10/$20 and $25/$50 games on my own and feel very comfortable about my bankroll.
Can you give the readers some tips on bankroll management? How many buy-ins should you have in no-limit to move up to the next limit? Also, another big factor is "tilt control." Please give us your thoughts on them?
I think the most underrated skill as a poker player is bankroll management. It's so huge. As I mentioned, I learned a hard lesson in it early on and I think most players have. It's common early on when you're making all this money and you can never envision the types of downswings that are possible. Bankroll management ties into tilt control here because it's easy to say, "Oh I'm just going to take a 3 buy-in shot at the next limit," but next thing you know you're down 10 buy-ins at stakes above your normal limit and you don't know what happened.
Granted there are some spots where you can't pass up playing higher than usual, but I would recommend selling some action in those scenarios. It's tough to toss around a firm figure in terms of buy-ins for a given limit but I would say if you're playing micro-stakes, to use really aggressive bankroll management, say 30 buy-ins for the next limit before taking a shot, because it will be relatively easy to rebuild and you want to move up as fast as possible. Once you get to mid-stakes, though, with how aggressively games play now, I would want at least 50 buy-ins, probably more, to be playing a given stake regularly. I do think its fine to take shots at good games with less than that if you know yourself and know you can set a limit and stick to it.
Great insight! You told me you're not at the World Series of Poker and are attending grad school. How many poker players would miss the WSOP? You take your school very seriously. What are your thoughts on poker and school and how do you balance them?
Yeah, it's tough not being able to be out there with all the WSOP tournaments going on and having to hear about everything from all of my friends out there, but luckily I will be able to get out to Vegas for the Main Event and that's the only tournament I want to win anyway. It can be tough to balance, but usually it goes in cycles where I have a lot to do for school one week, so I won't play much poker. Then the next week, I won't really have much for school and can play a lot. Sometimes it's good for me because I get a lot of small breaks from the tables, so I come back feeling refreshed and focused rather than just being on one continuous grind.
School is important to me because I definitely wish to explore the job market and see what is out there, so I need to do well. One thing I would like to add here is that I see so many guys who are currently in college write about how they are contemplating dropping out to play poker. Some haven't even had that much success yet, and I think it's a huge mistake. College was the best four years of my life. There is plenty of time to do well in school and play poker on the side. Come graduation, then you may have a real decision, but any sooner than that is a no-brainer and I think you'll regret it someday. I think the fact that a bunch of guys are going back to college now after dropping out to play poker is evidence of that.
What is your major and what kind of job are you looking for? Can this job relate to poker in anyway or will poker have prepared you for that type of job? If so, how?
I'm getting my master's in finance and a dream job would be in trading. Trading and poker have many similarities: the statistical analysis required, bankroll and risk management, making decisions in a fast-paced environment with uncertain information, etc. Trading jobs are very, very difficult to obtain though from what I hear. I think having a poker background will hopefully help me a lot though, since I can relate it as having experience and proven success in that type of environment. I also hear from my brothers and cousin (who are all brokers in NYC) that a lot of traders love to play poker, so that will give me something to talk about, and I think I could relate it well in an interview.
Correct, there was an article last month showing that major Wall Street companies require or teach poker during training. They said if you don't play poker it is a red flag, basically it's not like reading The Wall Street Journal. Time for some head-to-head questions. If you're not in the library grinding your life away on the books, or sitting clicking a mouse 24/7, what can we find UMDtennis doing?
Sports are my favorite hobby, especially some bocce or lawn bowling. Love a good game of Scattergories or Loaded Questions with the "brahs." I'm also a Speedo model but don't tell anyone.
Evan "MacDaddy34" Panesis told us you're quite the partyer, if this is true, what is your favorite type of drink?
[Laughs] I'm a big beer guy. Dogfish Head is my favorite, but I love any IPA. I try to stay away from shots these days but tequila is my favorite. Not sure why tequila gets all the hate. I think I tried forcing myself to like it since everyone else always hated it and eventually convinced myself that it is actually good. Whenever its someone’s birthday I get them my personal favorite, a "gorilla fart," which is tequila with a splash of mayonnaise. Delicious!
If you could live anywhere outside of the U.S. for one year? Where would it be and why?
I've always wanted to live in Australia for a year. Never been but everything about it sounds amazing. I love the ocean and they are supposed to have some of the best beaches and best waves in the world. It would also be nice not having to worry about a language barrier. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for going to random different countries where you can barely communicate or get around and think that can be one of the best experiences you can have. At the same time, though, I think a year would be a little long to be in a non-English speaking country.
Lastly, who is your celebrity dream crush and why?
Well, I have a girlfriend and I consider her a celebrity, so I'd have to go with her. Stop trying to get me in trouble! I'd have to go with Taylor Swift. How could you not love her? I'm pretty much a sucker for any girl who makes poppy catchy music that I shouldn't like but secretly listen to while I'm grinding (and instantly change to rap music whenever I hear my roommates walking by).
Oh God lol, I bet you like Miley Cyrus too!
[Laughs] Yeah, that was my other choice but thought she'd be too young!
John, thanks for stopping by, we wish you the best of luck in poker and school!
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