Jargo Alaväli is on a plane halfway to Croatia from his native Estonia and he’s pissed off. The 29-year-old poker pro isn’t dwelling on some bad beat or a hand he misplayed, but rather a coaching seminar that he had to miss because of the flight he’s on. It’s the first time he’s had to not attend the daily seminar and it breaks a promise he made to himself when he committed to getting better at the game over a year ago.
Alaväli started playing poker for fun while in university long before he considered making a career out of it. It was just him and his college buddies playing with nothing but pride on the line. Eventually one of those buddies promised to transfer him $10 on an online poker site and he ran that up quickly after winning a $2.20 tournament for a little more than $1,000.
This isn’t some amazing fairytale where he never deposited again and built a career off of that first $10. The $1,000 disappeared as quickly as it had arrived and he was still focused on his studies. That didn’t stop his friends from encouraging him to play more though. Randar ‘LilBigKahuna’ Sikk, a lifelong friend who was already a regular winner in the 180-man sit-n-gos on PokerStars, told him he had talent and if he wanted to put in the work to get better it could turn out to be a better-paying career than the IT one he was studying for.
“He basically told me, ‘You have to start playing if you like the game because you can make a lot of money out of it,” Alaväli remembers. “He asked me once a year if I wanted to get started … I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m first going to finish up school and then I’m going to start. Then I gave it a shot.”
Not exactly. Alaväli didn’t get his degree. He finished the semester before jumping into playing and learning full time. Sikk took him under his wing as a student and Alaväli deposited €100 of his own money to start the grind. It was a lot of money to him at the time, but he’s never looked back and built himself a bankroll since that allows him to make a good living playing mid-stakes MTTs.
Just over three years ago, Alaväli wanted to take his poker learning to a new level and was struggling with what the logical and correct next step was for him as he continued to develop as a player.
“Should I use more solvers? Should I not use solvers? I got lost in terms of direction where I should be going with my own game and how I should look at the game,” Alaväli admits.
While doing his due diligence, Alaväli landed on BBZ Staking, which along with the staking, also offered coaching led by one of their co-founders Jordan Drummond.
“It took off pretty fast, but it was basically because I was just working so hard. All I did was wake up, study, play for eight to 12 hours and then I’d study for another hour or two, running sims, answering hands, and posting hands (in the BBZ forum). Did everything I can to just get better every day,” Alaväli said.
And that’s when the promise was made. Drummond was hosting live coaching seminars every single day and Alaväli promised himself that he wasn’t going to miss one – no excuses.
“It just seemed the only way to do it at that point. ‘You’re going to attend every day’. It’s free for stable players. I just figured I cannot miss any of these as long as there is so much value. For one year there was just so much value in those because Jordan was doing most of them,” Alaväli said. “I just didn’t see it being an excuse for anybody to miss it. Because you can watch the coachings on the phone. As long as you have internet you can manage to just set yourself into a position where you can always watch it. Back then we didn’t have replays.”
Results continued to come for Alaväli and the student eventually became the teacher. In mid-2018, Alaväli started thinking about creating a course of his own. He wanted to put together something that he felt wasn’t being properly addressed in the poker education marketplace.
“There wasn’t any solver-based content out there and everything was opinion-based. There was no multiway solver to even know what your opening ranges should look like at final tables,” “The idea came to me basically because all the money is in the final table yet nobody really knew how to correctly play at final tables. Now there is MonkerSolver you can solve game for three-handed, six-handed, nine-handed strategies and that’s what I did; got six-handed MonkerSolver solutions, studied them, and created a course based on solver solutions.”
Coming up with the idea was one thing, actually executing on it was another. Alaväli wasn’t quite sure how to structure the course and present the content in an easy-to-digest way.
“Basically, the first plan was let’s get the solutions, let’s hardcore study the solutions and see from there how we can come up with the most simple logics and ideas for anybody to apply to their game,” Alaväli said. “It was October, November last year. We said, ‘Okay, let’s get it done and see how we can market it because the marketing and selling of the product is another big problem for us.”
Around the same time, Drummond reached out to Alaväli about some other ideas. The conversation eventually turned to the ICM pre-flop course Alaväli was working on and Drummond expressed interest in bringing it inside the BBZ website. Over the next four months, Alaväli put the finishing touches on the content while helping integrate it into a re-designed BBZ website.
The ICM Pre-Flop Masterclass officially launched in March and since then Alaväli has been focused mostly on coaching and improving the course while still finding the time to play as many MTTs as his schedule will allow.
“It just drives me to know more about the game and just try and solve the game,” Alaväli said.”But playing is also fun. You have to be playing as well to understand what’s going on in the games in general. I still need to play enough and be at the top of the game because I’m coaching so many players and I just need to be able to coach them. If I didn’t play, it would be in a weird situation where I’m not playing, but I’m only studying.”