The Pros: Tony Dunst, Igor Kurganov, and Brian Altman
Craig Tapscott: What are just a few of the principle challenges you’ve confronted prior to now when touring from metropolis to metropolis worldwide (pre-COVID) taking part in the poker circuit?
Tony Dunst: I’ll lead off with a easy one, which is jet lag. I discover it actually troublesome to play affected person over 12 plus hours of dwell poker if I’m not nicely rested, and the older I’ve gotten the more durable it’s develop into to rapidly regulate my inside clock. Even going from the west coast to east coast for a match is difficult, as a result of all of the sudden occasions are beginning when our inside clock expects to nonetheless be sleeping. Naturally, this will get extra pronounced whenever you begin speaking about flying over oceans and attempting to shift your complete schedule by a number of hours.
I discover it takes me a couple of week to completely regulate to a change of that magnitude, and for the primary few days I’m often barely sleeping and sometimes feeling sick to my abdomen. If I can arrive someplace early and provides myself time to harmonize I’ll, however that choice isn’t at all times obtainable. It’s fairly widespread to have a significant occasion inside a day or two of touchdown.
Another main problem is coping with the normal banking system, which I’m joyful to see is slowly changing into out of date. Not solely does it often take a bit of time to determine how and the place you’ll ship the cash, it’s regular to have to leap by hoops with your personal financial institution to ship or withdraw giant sums. Plus, you’ll seemingly get vig’d fairly laborious when changing foreign money.
It’s commonplace to have wires get refused or returned due to some small discrepancy on a type you crammed out, and that may depart the funds in limbo for days. I’ve even been in locations the place the native authorities doesn’t can help you take cash overseas and the native foreign money converters don’t have the money readily available to trade with you (and I’m not speaking about big sums right here). Once issues reopen, I’m wanting ahead to with the ability to journey the circuit with out carrying money or sending wires, and easily utilizing cryptocurrency to rearrange the mandatory funds at no matter native on line casino I’m taking part in at.
Igor Kurganov: I’m very grateful for all of the alternatives I’ve had in poker and hesitate to complain about any “challenges” I’ve skilled. Life has been excellent to me. That mentioned, one factor I’ve struggled with at instances is how troublesome it’s to determine a routine given how typically I’m on the highway. Even extra in order that as a match participant, as a result of I don’t have a lot say over the variety of hours I’ll work in a day, what meals I’ll eat and when, and so forth.
It’s laborious to determine good habits until you may make them, nicely, habits. Things simply don’t stick nicely after they’re not a part of a routine. Generally, I’ve had a bit extra management over my mornings than different elements of the day, however that solely will get you up to now.
One different factor that’s a bit tough is that, as knowledgeable poker participant, you’re mainly working a one-person enterprise. Logistical, administrative, and accounting duties take up a good period of time on high of what you spend on the desk. In follow, that has meant that I’ve ended up triaging pressing priorities a lot of the time and have discovered it troublesome to get to gadgets on my “important, but not an emergency” listing.
Brian Altman: Traveling from metropolis to metropolis taking part in poker all around the world takes a toll in your physique. One of the most important challenges for me has been sustaining a wholesome routine whereas on the highway. Several years in the past, I began prioritizing sleep. In my youthful years I’d keep up late and wouldn’t depart a poker sport if it was good. I’ve at all times taken a long-term strategy to poker, so marathon all-nighter periods simply aren’t one thing I discover sustainable. Now I’m much more disciplined in sustaining an everyday sleep schedule, not simply on the highway however in my day-to-day life.
Another factor I incorporate into my routine on the highway is weight/resistance coaching. Most of the time I’ve entry to a gymnasium, but when I don’t, I’ll do body weight workouts like pushups. Even only a brief exercise within the morning units the tone for the remainder of the day.
Maintaining a nutritious diet can also be actually necessary for me. Many of the poker stops on my schedule are locations I’ve already visited, so I already am accustomed to the eating choices. I’m a creature of behavior, and have a tendency to eat the identical meals on the similar locations. If I’m capable of streamline the choice of what I’m going to eat, I can concentrate on the extra necessary selections on the poker desk.
Ultimately, whenever you maintain your physique it interprets into pondering extra clearly on the poker desk, which interprets to raised determination making. Poker gamers is probably not seen in the identical lens as skilled athletes, however we are able to definitely study from and emulate the measures they take to organize for competitors.
Craig Tapscott: The previous yr has been very troublesome as a result of pandemic, with isolation and lockdowns. Can you share a bit about your challenges over the previous yr, and maybe share an expertise or relationship that has developed during the last yr due to this shift, one which has added worth to your life and maybe your sport?
Tony Dunst: My manner of coping with touring or taking part in dwell poker in the course of the pandemic was to attend till I used to be absolutely vaccinated. I acquired my second vaccine shot in early April, so I used to be excited to journey to Fort Lauderdale for our World Poker Tour occasion at Seminole Hard Rock, which was superb. I’m additionally lucky that residing in Las Vegas gave me entry to authorized and controlled on-line poker right here within the US, so taking part in on these websites consumed plenty of my consideration throughout quarantine. I used to be already captivated with learning poker earlier than the pandemic, and the compelled isolation of that interval solely strengthened my resolve to refine my sport.
I wouldn’t say any relationship ‘developed’ during the last yr, however somebody I spent a ton of time speaking to and learning with was Andrew ‘Luckychewy’ Lichtenberger, who’s arguably been essentially the most influential particular person on my enchancment as a participant during the last 15 years. At this level I think about Chewy a good friend, mentor, and enemy no. 1, as a result of I actually suppose he’s the perfect (inside our common player-pool) and you may’t be the perfect till you beat the perfect. He’s had sturdy outcomes for over a decade now, however I believe he’s actually going to erupt over these subsequent few years, and I really like seeing the success his work ethic brings him.
Igor Kurganov: To be trustworthy, COVID didn’t seriously change my strategy to taking part in poker professionally, a minimum of at first, largely as a result of I’d already lowered my journey frequency by quite a bit earlier than the pandemic hit. I believe the period of time that individuals have been compelled to remain at residence really elevated curiosity in on-line poker, with plenty of video games added in March and April of final yr, and it was simpler than normal to play a excessive quantity.
To some extent, although, I believe that COVID and the dimensions of the hardship it unleashed nudged me to kind of take a step again and have a look at whether or not I felt like I used to be utilizing my time in one of the best ways by being a poker participant. It goes again to that “important but not an emergency” listing I discussed earlier than; the attitude that COVID introduced made it simpler to see that there have been issues on that listing that mattered to me extra, issues I wasn’t getting round to as typically as I’d have preferred.
For some time I’ve been step by step rising the period of time I spent engaged on REG (Kurganov’s charity, Raising for Effective Giving) and efficient philanthropy, however throughout COVID the query for me grew to become, “why am I not spending all of my time on this?” I didn’t have reply. And so, I started to see that after 10 years of taking part in, the best time to give up poker was all of the sudden now.
Brian Altman: Prior to the primary wave of restrictions final March, I used to be hopping across the west coast taking part in some tournaments. I had arrived in Vegas just a few weeks early for my delayed World Poker Tour closing desk and to play just a few different tournaments. As issues began to unfold, occasions acquired canceled and I noticed I could also be staying in Vegas for much longer than anticipated. Luckily, I used to be in comfy lodging and had all the things I wanted. The unique three weeks was a five-month keep.
During this time, I made the shift to taking part in on-line. I’ve plenty of expertise taking part in on-line, as that’s how I initially acquired concerned with poker, however for the final decade, most of my play has been in-person. The on-line panorama is way completely different now than it was pre-Black Friday. Training instruments and learning assets are considerable. Online gamers are extra well-studied and technical than dwell gamers, so leaks in your sport get uncovered a lot quicker. I took this time as a possibility to enhance myself as a participant by play and examine.
I’m a really impartial particular person, however the isolation side throughout this time was fairly difficult. However, common contact with buddies and households through Facetime and Zoom helped ease this expertise. Listening to podcasts, occurring each day walks, and having a constant on-line poker schedule gave some construction to my days and helped me really feel productive.
I’ve a better appreciation for dwell poker after a year-long pause, and I’m wanting ahead to taking part in extra sooner or later. As extra states inevitably undertake regulated on-line poker, I’m hopeful to discover a good stability between on-line and dwell. ♠
Tony Dunst is a two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner and World Poker Tour principal occasion champion with $4.1 million in profession dwell match earnings. The Wisconsin-native joined the WPT broadcast crew in 2010 as host of the Raw Deal phase, ultimately shifting into the commentary sales space to interchange Mike Sexton alongside Vince Van Patten.
Igor Kurganov is not any. 1 on Russia’s all-time poker cash listing with $18.5 million in dwell match earnings. The excessive curler crusher is a European Poker Tour champion, and gained a WSOP bracelet alongside his girlfriend and fellow poker professional Liv Boeree. Kurganov co-founded Raising for Effective Giving, a corporation that educates poker gamers about altruism and fundraises for chosen charities. Since 2014, REG has raised over $14 million.
Brian Altman grew to become the primary participant to ever win the identical WPT principal occasion twice, taking down the Lucky Hearts Poker Open in each 2015 and 2020. As a results of his spectacular exhibiting on the tour, he was topped WPT Player of the Year. The Massachusetts-native has greater than $4.5 million in profession dwell match earnings.