Steve “betrthanphil” Tripp, 22, from Ontario, Canada, has been grinding online poker for quite some time, amassing more than $826,000, the majority of which has come on PokerStars. With that said, his biggest cash came on April 25, 2010, when he banked $193,803.85 for taking down FTOPS Event #9.
As part of our new Online Chat series, which features in-depth interviews with online pros from around the world, we caught up with Tripp who talked to us about his start in poker, moving up in stakes, and his long-term plans in the game.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, such as where you’re from, what your family is like, and what you did before poker?
I grew up in the small town of Elmvale, Ontario, and now I live in Lindsay, Ontario, with my girlfriend Holly. I was always really competitive, which I probably got from my mother. I was a pitcher in softball and hardball and loved being on the mound with the game on the line. I also played basketball, tennis, and badminton in school. Any sport I played, I would always want to be the best, so I would put lots of time and practice into them all — probably goes back to my competitive nature.
After high school, I went to Nipissing University, not really because I wanted to, but more so to make my family happy and proud. It's not like they pressured me to though, my mother and two sisters were always very supportive of me and my choices in life, but I knew going to a university would make them a little happier than if I just decided to go for poker right away. It turned out to be a great decision, as that was where I met my girlfriend of almost four years now.
How did you learn to play poker?
Growing up, I loved playing cards. I remember when I was young my mother and her sisters and brothers would go to my gra's, that is what we call our grandmother, house and play cards or dice. The kids were never allowed to be around the table as they were gambling, not for lots of money but still gambling. Somehow though I got in there at a young age, maybe because I had my own money from my paper route and they wanted to teach me a lesson to not gamble in the future, but either way, I got into the gambling pretty early in my life.
Unfortunately for them, I remember winning a lot of the time. So when the poker boom happened my friend Rory had the idea to have a poker night at his house, with the old red, blue and white chips. We had like five guys that night I think, can’t remember who won, but that is where it started. After that, another friend, Kory, started to play online and got me into it and I started to put a lot of time into learning the game.
Can you tell us your progression in poker? For example, what stakes did you start at and how did you know when it was time to move up?
When I first started online, I didn’t even have a computer, so almost everyday I’d walk to my grandma’s house and use her old computer to play. I started with play money, then learned about freerolls and just put in a lot of time to win so little. Eventually, my birthday was coming up and all I asked for was $50 on PokerStars, I just wanted a shot at it to see what I could do. At this time, bankroll management was non-existent to me.
The first thing I played was an $11.00 18- or 27-man sit-n-go. I’m fairly confident that I busted that initial $50 fairly quickly, so I came up with the idea to get my mother to play poker, I knew she was competitive and would like it. Also if she started to play that would increase the likeliness of me getting money online. It worked like a charm and she still plays today, however she ignores any kind of things I try to teach her.
I was always a shot taker when I first started out, only playing cash games but would climb through the levels fairly quickly. I would start with like $20 and get it up to $500 and would be playing $1/$2 with that $500, even taking shots at $2/$4. Looking back, it wasn’t very smart but somehow it worked out for a while. I ended up playing $10/$20 with an $8,000 roll and building it to $20,000
Eventually when I was going to university I had around $20,000 to $30,000 to my name, plus I was paying for my schooling which was like $13,000 or so a year. Without anything to hold me back anymore I quickly lost a majority of that playing the high stakes where I had won it all at. Throughout university I went up and down more often than I could count. I was broke a lot, but fortunately I had good friends and family to help me get by with rent and food.
I was so determined to master a game that probably can’t be mastered. I put in a lot of time at the poker tables but I was missing something for many years and it was putting in time to learn the game away from the poker tables. Once I told myself that maybe I don’t have it figured out, and stopped blaming my losses on bad luck, I started to read books and watch videos online. It was like a light went off in my head as I was absorbing so much about the game that I had never really thought about before.
In April 2010, I finally got the ball rolling, still at this point though, bankroll management was non-existent. A friend of mine had always asked if he could stake me in something so I went to him and asked him for $100 stake online and I put it on Full Tilt. I made it last awhile but eventually was down to my last $26. I went in a $26 tourney and ended up winning it for around $7,000, so I gave him his 50 percent and had $3,500 to work with. That next Sunday, April 25, 2010, I did what I thought was a full Sunday grind. Playing the Sunday Million, the Warm Up on Stars and some of the bigger stuff on FTP including a $320 FTOPS. Nothing was going well, and eventually I was down to just the FTOPS, but built a stack that would carry me pretty deep into the tourney. Made some big hero calls in this tournament that all worked out, and eventually ended up winning it for $195,000.
I had been playing all night and it was 8 a.m., had some of my closest friends with me at the time, they all seemed a lot more excited than I was though. I mean I was extremely happy but I think I always just kind of expected to do well. I had put five years of my life in the game at that point and I think all I was really thinking was, "about time.” Since then, I’ve been taking the game very seriously, always trying to improve, looking over hand histories, etc. I’ve also become a pretty big bankroll nit. I treat every penny like it’s my last and losing just isn’t an option.
What’s the most you’ve ever lost in one day? How did it happen? Likewise, how did it make you feel or what did you do?
I think the most I’ve ever lost in one day is probably around $15,000 playing $25/$50 online. I’m not sure if I’ve ever lost more but I remember that day pretty well. I wasn’t upset or anything because I know I played well, and when I was playing $25/$50 I tell myself, “If I’m gonna be mad if I lose a couple buy-ins, I shouldn’t be playing.”
My big swing hand where everything started to go wrong was against Randy “nanonoko” Lew. He was directly to my left and had been getting in some three and four-bets against most of the table. I had been staying out of his way up to that point. I had lost one buy-in to him early, getting it in with a flush draw and gut shot versus his two pair, but since then had won that back. I pick up on the button and make it $150, he three-bets from the small blind to $500 or so, and I make it $1,200. He snap puts in $5,000 or so with . He flops a flush draw and rivers the ace. Those things you can’t be mad at though, I’m completely fine with how both of us played the hand. I know he is aggressive, but sometimes the cards just don’t fall the way you want them too.
All you can do is make sure your still playing your best game after that and try to dig yourself out of that hole. You don’t always have to do it right away either. If you are always looking at your bankroll, and every time you see it decrease you pressure yourself to make it back quick, that’s usually when things will go downhill for you. You have to look at it long term, more focus on being up a certain amount each year, than trying to make something in a day or a week.
What’s the most you’ve ever won in one day? How did it happen? Likewise, how did it make you feel or what did you do?
Most I ever won was the FTOPS for $195,000. I was really happy about it because I could finally do what I’ve always wanted to do, which was help out my family and improve their lives a little. I gave $10,000 to my mother and $5,000 to both my sisters. They have been so supportive of me throughout the years and have always helped me when I needed it. I was just happy to be able to give back to them. Next step is winning a major event so I can really help them out with their futures, and their kids’ futures.
Will you be going to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas this summer? If so, will this be your first year there? Will you be playing primarily cash games or tournaments?
I'll be going to the WSOP on June 5. Already got my plane ticket and am very excited. I went last year and that was my first time there; unfortunately, I didn’t cash in any of the five or six events I played, but I did win a $1,000 tourney at the Venetian for $50,000.
This year I'll be there much longer and a lot more prepared. I have high expectations this year and can hopefully make a deep run and hopefully win my first WSOP bracelet. I’m playing over double the events I played last year and will be more focused than I ever have been before. I will play some cash too, I like playing live cash a lot more than online cash. I always seem to do a lot better live.
What is your game of choice online? How about live?
My favorite tournaments online are the $109 rebuy and the $1,000 Super Tuesday. Live I just like to play any tournament with decent structures, and starting stacks. Something with 10k to 15k starting stack and 45+ minute levels.
I enjoy live a lot, probably more than online. I enjoy the social part of live, which a lot of online players don’t even attempt to be a part of. I rarely listen to music at the tables because I feel like you miss a lot of info that you can gain by just talking to the person next to you. A lot of the online players are really math based and forgot about the social part of the game, just rely on the math. I’m in the middle, I know the math and I enjoy and use the social part to my advantage.
Are there any players you fear online? Or any players you highly respect?
Fear? Probably not, however I do respect quite a few players. One being Griffin “Flush_Entity” Benger, he works really hard at his game and is a great person to shoot the shit.
How did you come to choose your online screen name?
When it was coming up to my 18th birthday, I always thought I’d be around the poker community for a long time, so I wanted to make a name I’d be happy with forever. I probably spent two to three months coming up with names and when it was all said and done this is the one I liked the best. “Betrthanphil” just made so much sense to me because at the time there were just so many notable players named Phil like Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, Phil Galfond, Phil Laak, Phil Gordon, and Phil Collins can even be added to that list now.
Do you plan on playing online poker as a living for an extended period of time, or do you have other career aspirations?
This is what I plan on doing unless things start to go wrong. I don’t see that happening but you never know. That is why I finished university, so I had something to fall back on. The game has given me a lot at such a young age — more than I could have ever asked for. I just hope it continues to give and not take.
*Picture courtesy of CanadaPoker.com.