There are countless factors that go into making one simple decision like whether to raise or fold at the poker table. Does your opponent’s line make sense? What does your opponent think you have? Why did he take 10 seconds to act? How much should you bet? Why would you bet so much, Toto? Then you think to yourself, “Wait, I’ve seen this situation before.”
For 70th-ranked Dainis ‘ex6tence’ Budovskis, it’s all about thinking before you click. Before you commit chips, muck cards, or tap the table to check, you have to be sure your action is the right one. Otherwise, you’re flushing your EV down the toilet.
Budovskis hit $3 million in career online tournament winnings three days ago. He has only been playing professionally for the last half-decade and said that 2015 was his worst year yet. His solution wasn’t to hang up his cleats, walk away, and forget he once was in love with poker. Instead, he ardently worked on his game and whipped his mind into a state not seen before.
Budovskis believes math has always been hist strong suit. As such, he has a leg up on the competition in poker, which is largely a math-driven game. He added that besides being prolific in math, staying fit has also given him an edge over his poker brethren.
“I like all kinds of sports,” he said. “At the moment, it’s fitness that keeps me in shape since playing poker does not involve an active lifestyle.”
Budovskis is the top-ranked player in Latvia and has won a SCOOP bracelet, the 888 Mega Deep, PokerStars Big $162, and PokerStars Saturday Super Knockout over the years, just to name a few. He has over 400 top-three finishes in online MTTs, 38% of which are wins.
Sustaining his success after a lackluster year meant that focusing on his game was paramount.
“I always knew that players who review their hands and think about every spot they weren’t sure about will make more profit than these who don’t,” said Budovskis. “When you run good, you think you deserve it. After that when you are on a downswing and look into the hands you’ve played, you understand that it’s not just a downswing. Instead, average and weak play make our downswings bigger.”
Specifically, the Latvian looks at spots he wasn’t certain about and calculates the odds in order to be 100% confident the next time the situation comes up. He uses software like Hold’em Manager, PokerStove, and ICMIZER in order to do so. In the long run, if he takes his own advice, he should be a more profitable player no matter what challenges variance throws at him.
Every day, he looks for the biggest pots won, biggest pots lost, and key end game situations. The $3 million man then examines each hand, making sure he plays optimally. Massaging his game also involves watching videos from the training site Run It Once, mostly content from high-stakes cash regs.
He explained that he has recently found a number of leaks in his game that he has tried to plug as a result of his studies.
“Overly aggressive play, spewy play like three-betting too wide, re-stealing too wide with no information on how aggressive my opponent is, and opening too wide were all really hurting my game,” Budovskis said.
“Now before I open, I take a look at everyone at my table in a different light. I think about whether this is a good hand to open in this spot and, if so, I will. It doesn’t matter who’s sitting with me. I need to think about whether the hand will make me a profit in the long run in this spot against these players, not just whether the hand is good to open with or not.”
As his new catch phrase goes, “Think before you click.”
Not everyone can be as successful as Budovskis has, and some of the reason likely has to do with mistakes players make while reviewing hands.
“I doubt the most players know how to calculate their spots and find an answer to that,” he said. “If they don’t know, I’d recommend hiring a coach. That pays off big time and most coaches don’t ask for the price they are worth.”
“What I’ve noticed with a very big percentage of regs is that they have a problems with stack dynamics: how to play with 10, 20, 30 big blind stacks, and so on,” Budovskis said. “For example, they stack off too deep or make some -EV move like three-bet/fold a lot when the three-bet takes 30%+ of their stack.”
In the first month of 2016, Budovskis was sick of struggling. His solution: review hand histories every single day. The result: he binked a few high-stakes turbo MTTs and recorded his largest score ever, a TCOOP High Roller final table for $50,000.
“That gave me back some of the confidence I lost in 2015,” he said. “But, there is still a lot of work to do. I can do better than just final tabling. It’s all about fighting the laziness and working hard. I’m looking forward to 2016.”