Number 25 in the PocketFives Online Poker Rankingsmeans you’re only five spots away from cracking the top 20. But for J.D. jdpc27Wheeler (pictured), a return to the top 20 is just the first step towards reclaiming what was once his: being #5 worldwide. Wheeler held the near-#1 mark in our Rankings in the final month of 2011. Last weekend, he took down the bwin $100,000 Guaranteedfor $25,000 and edged out a pool of 549 players. The same day, he won the 888 Poker Deep Stack for another $25,000.
Not too shabby.
PocketFives: Thanks for joining us. Tell us about your ride through the $100,000 Guaranteed on the Ongame Network.
J.D. Wheeler: The tournament structure is really good, so I was just picking my spots carefully during the middle stages. As the tournament went into the later stages, I won a huge flip and then a couple of big pots where I trapped my opponent. I quickly found myself as the chip leader with four or five tables left.
It turned into a roller coaster ride from there. At first, I was just kind of running over the table. Most of the players on that site don’t know how I play or have that much history with me, so it allowed me to play a little more aggressively than usual. Eventually, a couple of players played back at me, I lost a couple of pots, and actually entered the final table in the middle of the pack.
J.D. Wheeler: I think to remain one of the top players in the game, you have to consistently pay attention to what others are doing and reevaluate the things you are doing. Probably the biggest changes I’ve made in my game over the past year are working on my post-flop play and getting comfortable with playing all stack sizes. If you get complacent in this game or begin to think you’ve learned everything you need to, it will pass you by.
I also think a lot of my recent success is simply related to running better and hitting the upside of variance. When you are low on money or playing a little above what you are rolled for, you don’t always play your best and the suckouts and losses hit you much harder.
There is a freedom and a confidence that come with being up money and doing well, which I think lead you to continue doing so. Early in my career, I was kind of a bankroll nit, as I was always afraid of going busto, and maybe robbed myself of many opportunities to have already hit that defining score in my career.
Nowadays, I just swing for the fences. So, I’d like to say that some of those things have as much to do with my recent success and consistency as my play. From a training standpoint, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the road with some of the top tournament players in the game. It is invaluable to have guys like BrynKenney, telks, and moorman1 to discuss hands with.
Meeting a great group of people who you can trust and discuss strategy with while on the road definitely makes it much easier. If my bank wire doesn’t go through, I can borrow some money from them. If I make a bad play, that group of guys is not going to let me get away with it. I think hanging around other elite players forces you to play your best, as you get embarrassed to tell them about a hand you botched horribly. It also makes you more honest about the leaks in your game and how to go about closing them.
J.D. Wheeler: The big joke is that I’m going to teach him to win an online tournament before he is eight. It’s a love/hate relationship. He seems to really like it and is drawn to it, but I’m trying to balance that with letting a kid be a kid. There isn’t much in the parenting manual about when you teach a kid about poker.
He is really smart and seems to have the mind for poker and an interest in it. I think you are being a great parent if you teach your kids the things you know best and are the most successful at. So, I think I have an obligation to show him the game if he wants to.
PocketFives: How have you been able to balance raising a family with playing poker?
J.D. Wheeler: When I only played online, it was much easier. Black Friday has forced me to travel a lot more and it’s much more difficult now, but I try my best to balance it with things like frequent phone calls and Skype video chats. I fly back and forth from tournament stops to home a lot more, which kind of hurts the sleep schedule, but it’s worth it. On my last tournament trip to Europe, I actually brought them with for three weeks.
I think as a parent you have to be honest and open with your kids. Explain to them what you are doing and why you are doing it. Then, try your best to communicate often and keep up with what is going on with them in life and school while you are gone.
J.D. Wheeler: I’m just thankful for everything that has come my way. I have worked really hard over the last few years to improve my game and it is good to see the results backing up that hard work. I still think my biggest scores and successes are ahead of me and not behind me.
I’m thankful that I’ve had guys like bparis(pictured) and Iknewwwit continue to push me when I had doubts. I’m thankful I have such a talented group of MTT friends who I can reach out to for advice on poker and life and who keep me in check when I’m not playing well.
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