Over the last week, we've been catching up with some of the mid-stakes online grinders to see how they've been faring since the events of Black Friday essentially left them unemployed. Unfortunately, Jason "Appst08" Brauda fits squarely into that mold. After a four-year career as an online pro, Brauda has recently been forced to reassess his poker future and search for other means of income. Check out his insights about poker, politics, and the "real" world.
All right, Jason. Tell us about yourself and how you got started playing poker.
I'm 25 years old, and I live in Charlotte, North Carolina. I've been playing poker for about four years. I started off playing home games around town with some buddies I used to work a high school job with. They basically got me into the game. I didn't even know about online poker or anything like that, and they said, 'Yeah man, you need to get one of your debit cards out' — this was obviously back in the day. I started reading some forums and just basically worked my way through there to meet some really cool and helpful friends.
What were your immediate thoughts when you first heard the Black Friday news on April 15?
Like a lot of people, my immediate thoughts were that I just didn't know what I would do. A lot of people were just upset they couldn't grind anymore, and they thought everything would be back in a couple days. But I knew this was a long time coming. Eventually, I thought, something like this would happen.
What's the one thing that upsets you most about this whole situation?
I was most upset the friendships I'm losing. I've met so many people. I feel closer to some of my friends that I talk to online every day about hand histories and share information and get better at this game than I do with some of my friends in real life that I knew from high school. It's just not the same as seeing somebody from the hours of 6:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. all week online. I was most upset about losing friends like that.
How are you occupying your Sundays now?
I have no clue what to do on Sundays. I used to grind sit-n-gos on Saturday, too, before I went out. And I have no clue what to do there either. I've been watching a lot of basketball. I haven't been betting on it, surprisingly. But really I'm just trying to stay optimistic about the whole thing. I'm not trying to go out and do something completely degenerate and go crazy. I've actually definitely been hanging out with some friends I haven't seen in a while, because it's easy to blow people off. You know, Sunday is a good day to go out and throw the football with your friends or go play some basketball in the park, and I haven't been able to do that in the two years I've been grinding Sundays.
What's the next step for you and others in your situation? Become a live pro? Is that a logical transition?
I think it's going to be a really hard transition for a lot of people. I just feel it's a much more patient game. In live poker, you have so much fold equity with a given stack, and you have so much more time at a given blind level. It's a much slower game. You know, this game is all about adjusting. The whole overall game is much tighter than it ever is online, so five-betting and six-betting with light hands is not really profitable in my opinion. Players just need to adjust and adapt and they'll do fine. But a lot of people won't because they've had so much success in such a short amount of time, they just don't know any better way to do it.
People that are going to try to move to Florida or Vegas or move overseas — I really think they should weigh the pros and cons of that carefully. You know, take a step back and weigh out what they want to do before they make rash decisions.
So is it time for a lot of people to get a job in the "real" world?
I really think so. The top-notch people that really can adjust to this live game, or have the capability to move overseas can survive. But most people will need to find another way. I know it's hard; it's going to be difficult for me. But I've already started rearranging things. I have a couple of backup plans, and I had already been thinking about going back to school and finishing up my degree for the last six months. I had been making decent money at this game, but some people were making lots more. I was making money to get by, and I didn't have to go get a part-time job — which is great — but I never thought of this as my 15-year plan.
Talking to a lot of my friends, they just don't know what to do. They're texting me, 'I'm bored,' or 'I can't believe this happened,' or 'When do you think it's coming back?'
Instead of responding like that, you need to take the initiative to go out and do something, try to figure out what you're going to do next. I feel like online poker is going to be gone for at least a year or two. You just never know. I always have a backup plan. I initially left college because I was making money like I'd never seen in my life. It's a hard feeling to explain to, like, regular people. But people in the poker industry know. When you see money you've never seen in your whole entire life, it's hard to take other things ahead of that. Even though school is a priority, you've got to put poker ahead because of the money factor and how it benefits you financially.
Living in North Carolina definitely limits your chances to play live poker. Are you still coming out for the World Series of Poker this summer?
I'm obviously going to go out to the Series, and I honestly plan on going out to the Series every year. I feel like this will make people cherish the World Series even more than they already do. When you only travel to two or three live tournaments a year to see your friends, that's the chance to remember the good years you had grinding every day online.
I'm trying to come out for the $5k, I'm just debating that. But I'm definitely coming out for the first $1k, and then staying until the end of the month. Maybe fly home, and definitely try and come back for the Main. I'm anxious to see the field size for that. I feel like all the $2,500s and under are going to be a lot bigger this year, but I'm not really sure average Joes who throw a hundred bucks on a satellite for the Main Event aren't going to be around this year. It'll be a little different field this year.
Are you typically politically inclined? Do the recent developments make you more so?
It actually really does encourage me to be more active. I really have tried to get into the threads and the news articles about what's going on. A couple of my friends are just totally out of it, and they haven't read up as much as they should. Being informed is the best way to handle this. I think there needs to be some legislation to handle this.
Do you have any thoughts on who bears the most blame in this whole mess?
I think the government takes so much time to sign these plans and put them into action. There's so much money out there, and we are U.S. citizens. We should be allowed to do what we want with our money. When you're 18, you're allowed to vote, you're allowed to go to war, you're allowed to do a lot of things. We should be allowed to do whatever we want with our money and our free time, both for the full-time pros, and the amateurs who are just signing on on Friday nights.
The government definitely needs to act faster, and they need to have a plan. The poker sites definitely did a few things wrong, though, so it's hard to say who's 100% at fault.
But I think we need something federally legislated. If it's legislated through the states, it's going to cause major problems. But if they were federally legislated, I think some of the major land-based casinos could compete online, too. I feel like these casinos that intend to open up sites in the future are going to offer a lot of unique perks. Think about it: offering free rooms and comps with your frequent player points instead of a Full Tilt beanie — that'd be outstanding. We've been pushed back a little bit on online poker for now, but I feel like in the future, it's going to be better for everybody.
Would you be in favor of legislation that allowed Americans to play online in a closed network with other U.S.-based players? A dot-US site?
I would be in favor of anything that brought online poker back. It's a billion-dollar business, and a lot of people love it. Of course I love to play with everyone across the world, because that's what makes it so exciting for some people. You can sit in your living room in your city of 15,000 people in South Carolina, and be sitting with someone from Korea. That's what's so appealing for a lot of people. But I'd be in favor of any legitimate legislation that allowed us to play again.
One last thing. If I'm right, you have a picture of Alex Gomes as your profile picture. What's the deal?
That's actually me to the left of him leaning over. That was the first World Series event I ever played, and I actually went deep and got 72nd in it. That photo was from PokerNews on Day 1, they were trying to take a picture of him. But that's the only picture I have of me playing live.
Many thanks to Jason for taking time to share his insight with us. We'll make sure we snap some better photos of him this summer. Over the coming weeks, we're going to continue to keep our finger on the pulse of the poker community and share the thoughts of other players who find themselves facing a similar conundrum.