The general assessment of most New Jersey online poker players is they are of a younger age and started playing a few years on either side of Black Friday. Robert ‘ActionBob’ Hwang first started playing online before most of his NJ opponents ever clicked a mouse.
As it goes in poker, Hwang’s nickname is of the ironic variety. Over 20 years ago at Foxwoods, Hwang says he had folded for two hours straight then picked up seven callers the next time he opened, leading a player to sarcastically refer to as him “Action Bob” and the nickname has remained since.
In 1998, Hwang was competing in Limit Hold’em on PlanetPoker, Delta Poker, and a few other websites during the infancy of the online game. Even before Black Friday took place in 2011, Hwang was one step ahead of the game in deciding what his next move would be as a professional player.
Prior to Black Friday, Hwang moved from Northern New Jersey to his current home of Barnegat in order to play in the live limit games available in Atlantic City and has a unique perspective on the downfall of online poker, based on his early start in the game.
“‘Black Friday’ in my book was the UIGEA back in 2006. This was a big turning point where the games when from being very soft with everybody having easy access to depositing and withdrawing funds, to gradually getting much tougher,” said Hwang. “I was never the big online tournament grinder back then. I played some tournaments online but my focus was more on limit games online and live as well as live tournaments. I had always enjoyed playing live tournaments and still do.”
The 46-year-old Hwang occasionally pops his head up in the New Jersey online streets and tends to find success when he does. Last week, Hwang finished second in the NJ Summer Series 4-Max event and earned over $5,000 for the result.
The peak of Hwang’s live tournament volume was toward 2010 and he has cut that time out in recent years to spend more times with his twin children, Laura and Matthew. This has led Hwang to increase his online volume when he has the available time.
“Over the last few years, I’ve had to really scale back my live tournaments as I am very involved with my twins Matthew and Laura especially with my son’s baseball where I do a lot of coaching and volunteering. This rarely leaves me two days in a row free. This along with the slowdown of limit games during the week is what got me playing more online tournaments. But even with the easy access of online poker I still struggle to find the hours during baseball season.”
The growth of online poker in New Jersey and available resources for players to develop their game in less time than if they were playing live. The results are showing up for the state with Thomas Pomponioand Scott Blumsteinwinning the Colossusand Main Event, respectively, at the World Series of Poker this summer.
Hwang recognizes the talent that surrounds him when he sits down to play in NJ and has an appreciation for how hard they are working to stay ahead of players like him.
“I’m not sure if the NJ players winning these big events at the WSOP was a result of the level of play they see here, but I do know there are a lot of great young players like Scott here in New Jersey. It’s hard for an old man like me to keep up with them. They seem to keep getting better as many of them are a tight knit group (and are all great players in their own right) and they just get to talk strategy with so many great poker minds.”
Players with Hwang’s experience who have stayed in the game for numerous decades are a dying breed and he is utilizing the availability of online to sharpen his game whenever possible. Hwang’s game remains in good form as he continues to live life as a New Jersey dad while representing the old guard every time he logs on.