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The PokerNews Interview: Josh Arieh

The PokerNews Interview: Josh Arieh 0001

A high-flying, outspoken, aggressive player in his younger days, Josh Arieh broke on to the scene by winning the $3,000 Limit Hold'em event at the 1999 World Series of Poker in his mid-twenties. Over the next several years, he would finish second behind Johnny Chan in $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha in 2000 and third place in the Main Event in 2004, which has been played and replayed a thousand times on ESPN. He then finished third at WPT Borgata later that year, and would then score another bracelet in Pot-Limit Omaha in 2005.

These days, the Bodog-sponsored Arieh prefers to spend time with family and online, but still surprises people in big events – sometimes in disguise. In fact, he nearly won the recent PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker main event.

PokerNews: You seem to be a bit less present out on the circuit. What have you been up to, and is playing less going to continue to be part of the plan? If so, why?

Josh Arieh: Yeah, I've definitely played a lot less lately. We've got three girls at home now, and I'm trying as best I can to help around the house and play poker from home. I basically just play the bigger tournaments – around seven or eights tournaments a year outside of the World Series. I don't know – I'm not up for that daily grind that used to be. I'm getting a little older and slowing down (laughs). I don't want to live that lifestyle anymore. I'm having a ton of fun home with my family and watching my kids grow up – I don't want to miss my kids grow.

PN: You have a daughter that is now in high school. What's that like, and has it changed you?

JA: It makes me feel old! Other than that – it's tough. It's tough hearing her and her mom argue all the time. I'm steadily playing peacemaker. I'm trying to learn how to be a good dad, and I don't think I can be a good dad when I'm on the road three weeks out of the month playing poker tournaments. You can make every excuse in the world saying that you're out on the road making money for the family, but I think I have a much bigger impact when I'm at home and being a part of their lives rather than being gone all the time.

PN: You live in Atlanta. We seem to hear about a poker bust once a month or so, in or around the Atlanta area. Are there games in Atlanta, and do you ever play live when you are home?

JA: I think I've played live two times in the last three years. When I do, it's just a bunch of guys that get together at a random time, you know – no regular game. I've gone to a couple home games, and – it's not worth getting busted. I play online at Bodog, and I just enjoy that. I can play many more hands from my desk and quit and go upstairs and put the kids to bed. I've playing online poker for almost ten years now. I really enjoy it. I really like the convenience of it, so – I play for a couple hours a night at Bodog, then I turn the computer off and I focus on my family. I can play as many hands in that two hours as I could if I played eight or nine hours in a live game. I don't have to worry about getting busted or getting robbed.

PN: How has it been with Bodog?

JA: It's great. I love being affiliated with Bodog. You can play any limit from super-small penny and two pennies up to no-limit tables and Pot-Limit Omaha tables where you buy in for $2,000. And the games aren't near as tough as other places because of the fact that there's people that have accounts for sports betting, they cross over to the poker side and they try their luck at poker. I've always noticed the difference. It's a laid-back atmosphere. On the other sites, people rarely chat, and you can tell it's strictly business. But at Bodog, it's laid back. People are chatting, cutting up, making fun of people, having fun with people; it's totally different from any other site out there.

PN: What do you usually play on there?

JA: I have a table, it's 3-6 No Limit. I'll spend anywhere from five to 10 hours a week playing at that table. I really love playing Pot-Limit Omaha. You catch me at the 5-10 Pot-Limit Omaha or the 10-20 Pot-Limit Omaha tables.

PN: Do you ever play in the big tournaments on there?

JA: Sometimes I play the Sunday $100,000 Guaranteed. But I don't play many tournaments. I don't really play that many tournaments online.

PN: Recently there were rumors that you were the player who finished sixth in the Main Event of the Poker Stars WCOOP. Are you 'nitbuster', and why do you think this has created an issue?

JA: (laughs) I am nitbuster. I finished sixth – I had a great shot of winning. Vanessa Rousso beat my two kings all-in before the flop with A-Q. And then in my last hand, I got all in with a big pot with A-Q against A-J and I lost both of those. I really thought I was going to win! It's the best poker I've played in a long, long time. I really enjoyed the way that – everybody was complaining about playing for 20 hours straight. And I've always told everybody that's what I want to do. I want to play a tournament thats, start to finish, no breaks – if you have to go to the bathroom, then you get dealt out a round, or you just have to put your blinds up or whatever.

The reason there was controversy – it's kind of a long story, but I'll try to sum it up pretty fast. Five years ago, I think it was the first World Championship of Online Poker. There was a guy that was paying me $250 a week – his name was OnlineChamp. And he had a forum called OnlineChampPoker or something. And he was paying me $250 a week to answer questions. This was back before there were any bracelet winners playing online. This was back when you were either an online player, or you were or a live poker player. There were very few people that were both, and I was one of the people that was both, because I lived in Atlanta and didn't play live that much. What happened was, it was me and another guy that I knew at the final table – I'm not sure if it was the final table of the tournament or if we were in a live game of like, 30/60 or something. There was a hand that came down that he suspected that we were talking to each other over Messenger, because of the way we didn't bet on the river, or something. And then he was upset with me, because I wasn't posting on his forum anymore, so he went on all the messageboards saying we were cheating. Basically, he was bitter because he was losing, so he spread this rumor that we were cheating. It wasn't true, and PokerStars knew it wasn't true.

PokerStars saw all the people that would come to my table when I was playing as 'ATL Angela,' and people were coming to the table and saying all these things. PokerStars knew it wasn't true, because they had somebody that looked at the hand history and realized that, no, they weren't cheating. So then they let me change my name and I changed my name to Razorbax. I don't know how I got my name changed again, but I did. So anyway, but yeah, it brings up old skeletons, but it's also from a guy that's bitter because he had been losing and going broke and I wouldn't post on his forum for free. There's more people out there who have had run-ins with the guy – OnlineChamp – he's been around playing poker online for awhile.

PN: Do the fans treat you better these days, or do you still find your treatment by ESPN and Norman Chad in the 2004 WSOP broadcasts hounds you a bit with the fans?

JA: I don't care. People are going to think what they want to think, and then there's going to be people that – there's going to be people that don't understand competition. They see me on TV, and I was pretty outspoken, and acted childish a few times, and I don't care. I don't care what anybody thinks. Put me in the same position again and I'm going to act the exact same way. It was very emotional; it was a life-changing event. My emotions got to me, and I threw in a little strategy about trying to get my opponent off base, and it worked. People can think what they think. I have a close circle of friends who know how I am, and that's all I really care about. I don't care what an average fan has to say about me. It doesn't really matter to me.

But yeah, there are some people out there – I get people who come to my table at Bodog and talk all the time and say, "Oh, Josh, you're a blank blank blank." I tell them, "Thank you very much, come again." It doesn't bother me. I really don't care. My girls love me, and I take care of my girls, and I have really close friends who I feel would do anything for me. I think that's what life's about. It's not about what the distant guy two million miles away has to say about you.

PN: You recently played on the High Stakes Golf TV show which will air on ESPN soon {Ed Note: the last official word was an October 21st air date}. What was that experience like, and did you have to stand over a $1 million dollar putt, or anything crazy like that?

JA: Yeah, I did! There was one five-footer that was worth a million. It got my blood going. It was pretty tough. You think that – I've been in competition my whole life. I started in baseball, then worked my way through pool playing for my whole bankroll, and then playing poker with most of my bankroll is on the table – but when you get to a spot where you're putting for a million dollars, or you're swinging the golf club for a million dollars a hole – it's pretty tough. I mean, it's – you can say all you want, you think it's not going to affect you, but your heart starts racing and you really get to find out a lot about yourself.

It was the most fun – it was a blast playing with Doyle [Brunson], these guys are the greatest gamblers of all time, and just to be able to compete against them – these guys may not be the best at golf, but they're by far the best competitors in the world. You can line up anybody you want. You can line up Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, and when you level the playing field when it comes to sheer competition, it's amazing the way these guys just excel. Dewey Tomko, Doyle, Phil Hellmuth, Erick Lindgren – it's an honor to be out there. Billy Walters. You name it. The greatest gamblers in the world are out there, and it was an honor to compete against them.

PN: Are you allowed to say how you did out there?

JA: No. I wish I could, but…

PN: Well, we'll all find out when we see it on TV.

JA: Yeah, it's going to be a great show. A lot of excitement – it should make for great TV. I just hope I get invited back next year.

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