PokerNews caught up with Jared Vengrin to discuss his recent win in the Full Tilt Poker $750,000 Guarantee. He also discusses moving to Austin, Texas, and what he'd be doing if he weren't playing poker.
First, congratulations on shipping the $750k last week on Full Tilt! How are you feeling and what have you been up to these days?
Thank you very much! I've been feeling absolutely phenomenal ever since the big win. I took a full week off from poker following the 4:30 a.m. victory and have used the time to explore and enjoy Austin, Texas. I just recently moved to Austin with Kendra, my girlfriend, in February and after a long settling process it has been great to enjoy all this city has to offer.
I also have the task of figuring out all this city has to offer because four or five of my poker playing friends are all considering moving to Austin. So in the next year or two the amount of poker playing talent in this city is likely to increase. I want to make sure I can be a good host once they start arriving.
Your brother Matt "plattsburgh" Vengrin said there is a good story behind your bankroll before this winning the tournament. Can you give us the scoop on that?
Despite my strong belief that bankroll management is on par with, if not more important than skill in order to be a long-term winning play, I have still had my fair share of ups and downs. I have been a consistent in mid-stakes tournaments for the last two years, but due to a number of expenses such as student loans, living expenses, the occasional night out and moving from Montreal, Quebec, to Austin, I was never able to commit all winnings to moving up in stakes and as a result my bankroll would normally fluctuate between $5k and $10k.
So now that you have $132k to your name, does this change things? If yes, how so?
After a unsuccessful week in Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker, where I split action on a number of tournaments with my brother, I returned to Austin with a $5k bankroll and a huge desire to grind online. The first night out I felt like I played great, couldn’t make any runs, but I still finished up my session feeling great about my game. Two nights later, I made a number of runs and ended up shipping the fifty-fifty on Full Tilt for $7,000 and felt even better about my game. Then, three days later by some miracle fluke, I ended up entering the $750k for 90% of myself. The CliffsNotes on that far-too-long answer is that my online funds went from $5k to $140k in just under a week. $132,000 is a massive amount of money to anyone but despite a constant shit-eating grin on my face since the win, not much has changed in my day-to-day life. I am now able to play a wider range of tournaments, which is great, but after setting aside a sizable amount for the IRS and paying down student loans, that win amount looks a lot smaller.
Tell us why you were in Montreal and what brings you to Austin? Why did you choose to go there?
I was in Montreal for just under four years for university and I am extremely lucky to have been able to spend my college years in such a multicultural city. The reason I ended up in Montreal is that my freshman year I was a student in Albany, New York, and despite only having $200 in my bank account, my good friend convinced me to go with him for a weekend in Montreal to visit another high school buddy who was a freshman at McGill. At 19, I found Montreal to be this magical place where the drinking age was 18 and my $200 was exchanged into $260. Needless to say, I applied to transfer the instant I got home and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I met my current girlfriend in Montreal and after graduation we decided to move together to Austin.
So tell us what big poker pros are in Austin and who of your friends plan on moving there?
We moved to Austin without having ever visited the city. Originally, we wanted to move to San Francisco but over the course of our research found out that Austin is far better for job growth, the cost of living is about half, rent is far cheaper, the weather is great, we had heard amazing reviews, and I think we were ready to take a chance on a new city. As far as I know, the biggest poker player in Austin is probably Apestyles [Jon Van Fleet], though I don’t think I would recognize him if we were to cross paths. My good friend Pete (toilet22 on Full Tilt) from Montreal is currently looking into the immigration requirements to move down here from Canada. He and I essentially learned the game together in university and have moved up from $3 90-mans to higher stakes simultaneously. Another friend from my hometown and his WSOP roommate are currently looking at apartments in Austin and my brother is planning a trip out here to visit with a strong inclination to move down here himself.
I'm from New York, so the direct flights on Jet Blue for $160 get me home if I need to, and the direct flights to Vegas can have me there in less than three hours if there is ever an upcoming tournament that I want to play. So location-wise its perfect, the winters here feel like a day at the beach compared to how frigid Montreal can get in February, everyone is incredibly friendly, the live music scene is great, and South by Southwest takes over the city for a month of the year. What more could you ask for in a city?
If you are not shipping $132k every weekend, what adventures would you be getting into?
Well, thankfully, shipping $132,000 just one weekend opens up adventure options quite a bit. I would say around Austin it’s great to enjoy some of the more unique entertainment opportunities offered. Seeing an Austin Robber Derby match was a first for me, taking advantage of the numerous and inexpensive dining and bar options is great, seeing a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse (they serve food and drinks throughout the movie), or beating the 95+ degree heat at Barton Springs Creek.
Outside of Austin I am eagerly awaiting my return to Costa Rica so I can jump back on a surf board. My girlfriend and her family were kind enough to let us stay there for just under three months this past winter and going from surfing every day to snowstorms in New York has left me itching to jump back on a board. I'm hoping this win in the $750k will allow me to qualify for more live events, which I would use as an opportunity to travel to countries and cities I wouldn't normally have the opportunity to experience.
Where is your favorite place you have been and what is your dream destination?
This past May I was able to join my girlfriend, her parents, her uncle, his partner and a captain and his first mate on a 50-foot catamaran for 10 days in the Caribbean. My girlfriend’s uncle, who is a quickly improving poker player himself, chartered the catamaran and was extremely generous to invite my girlfriend, and in turn me, on this once-in-a-lifetime trip. We touched foot on St. Maarten, Statia, St. Barts and a number of other smaller islands. I have had a number of great vacations but there was something special about going to sleep just off the coast of a tiny island and then waking up the next morning in a completely different, but equally breathtaking, setting.
We were able to explore the islands, scuba dive, snorkel, enjoy everyone’s company, the guys outplayed the girls in Catchphrase and we ate well on and off the boat. My dream destination would be right back on that boat with all of the same people plus my siblings. I've only got to win the $750k a handful more times and I can be the one returning the favor by chartering the catamaran.
Who are the top three MTTers of all time and why? Also, who would you least like to your left in an MTT?
1. Phil Ivey — Probably the only player who is so universally accepted as top class that he doesn't even require a "why."
2. Gboro [Steve Gross] — I haven't played against him very often but I think his results over the last few years, both live and online, speak volumes about how skillful this guy is. Lots of players are surging and sinking constantly, gboro always seems to win consistently.
3. I'm a big believer that it’s hard to distinguish the top 100 players and rank them in any qualified order. It's incredible how much of a difference busting 10th in a huge tournament and winning can make in peoples' perception of how skillful a player is. That said, the question asked for top three, so I'm going to say Doc Sands [Dave Sands]. Similar to gboro his results speak volumes and despite not winning a bracelet this summer he seemed to be top 10 on the PokerNews updates in a bunch of tourneys this summer.
The question of who I would least like to have on my left in a tournament is a toss-up between my brother and my good friend Pete. Both know my playing style very well and in those instances, position is priceless.
If you weren't a poker player what exactly would your profession be?
Before taking down the $750k, I was strongly considering enrolling in grad school at UT's LBJ School of Affairs, I even had a meeting with admissions to figure out what steps to take. That is a long-winded way of saying that I had a direction but not a specific occupation in mind. Poker offers a truly unique work opportunity that is not possible for a vast majority of my peers. The flexible hours, profit potential, and thrill of competition are perks of the job that make sure to appreciate daily.
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