Craig ‘craigruby’ Rubinstein is not what you first envision as the prototypical New Jersey online tournament grinder. The 41-year-old father of two has only been playing full-time for less than a year but has come on strong over the last few months and recently cracked the top 10 of the PocketFives New Jersey Rankings.
Rubinstein comes from a live cash game background but decided to take advantage of the availability of online poker in his home state after leaving his job as the assistant director of a sleep-away camp.
“It was not a conscious decision (to start playing online), but I had more time on my hands to play. My kids were in bed by 8:00 and I needed something to do with my night and poker tournaments filled that void.”
Rubinstein found initial success in his new venture when he won the PokerStars $50,000 guarantee “Sunday Special Big Game” for over $13,000 in April. Even after his big score, Rubinstein realized there was a distance to go for him to remain competitive long term.
“I didn’t know what I was doing in terms of tournament strategies, bankroll strategies and game selection. I played all tournaments on different sites and just wanted the experience of playing tournament poker.”
As part of that process of remaining competitive, Rubinstein sought out a coach and found one in Michael ‘Gags30’ Gagliano, a fellow member of the PocketFives top 10. Rubinstein says one of the things he looked for in a coach was a player who looked at the game differently than he did, and Gagliano perfectly fit the bill.
“Our coaching relationship has turned into a good friendship. I am able to go into our sessions with a plan and attack challenges that have come up. Just being able to text him questions over the summer (while Gagliano was in Las Vegas) was beneficial.”
Even with the added boost of having a great poker mind like Gagliano at this side, it wasn’t until a Labor Day trip to Delaware that really kick started Rubinstein’s recent run. Rubinstein was coming off of a subpar summer and in the midst of a downswing. He soon discovered that time away from the game was exactly what he needed.
“Five days away from poker was the longest I’ve spent without playing in months. I had a different mentality when I came back from the vacation and saw immediate results,” Rubinstein said.
At this point in his life, Rubinstein wants to continue playing poker for a living for as long as possible and more importantly, have his kids be proud of the work he’s doing. In that spirit, Rubinstein has started to play more live tournaments and has a primary goal of winning a title.
“I’m not doing this for the time being. I want to be able to make this a career and make enough money to support my family and my lifestyle. The number goal is to win a live tournament. I haven’t been able to finish despite being close. I want to put the trophy on the mantle and have my kids walk in and see that daddy won.”
Rubinstein recently traveled to St. Maartens for the World Series of Poker Circuit stop there after qualifying via online satellite. While he didn’t come home with his sought after victory, he will continue to be a familiar face on the live circuit for the foreseeable future.
“There is no competition I can get these days like I can with poker. I like the fact that if I succeed, it’s going to be because of me. When the pressure is on, I’ve always risen to the occasion.”