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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.”
Poker is about the individual. One player per hand. One spot at the top of the tournament. But perhaps now, more than ever, poker players are turning to each other, pooling their resources and knowledge to help each other move up in stakes and take down tournaments. Like boxers and MMA professionals, only one person gets their hand raised, but there is a team behind that athlete that helps them get to where they are. This is something Jordan Drummond knows all too well. Drummond is the founder and CEO of BBZ Staking and Coaching, a business with a goal of providing support, both financial and informative, to professional poker players who are looking to make their own poker dreams a reality. Drummond knows a little bit about what it takes to get to the top and the support systems needed to get there. The four-time PokerStars Supernova Elite boasts $10M in lifetime profits, but back in 2010 Drummond was a long way off from excelling in poker as he found himself selling door-to-door, nearly homeless and looking for his next steps. “I had started out playing poker with friends,” Drummond said. “We started out just playing around the table and I did well in those games. Just little house games and things, but it was competitive. We played for really, really small stakes - just a game with buddies. We were kind of obsessed with it for a while.” When Drummond was 19, prior to Black Friday, he was forced to move to Canada where he was looking to make ends meet and take the next step in his life. “I came up to Canada and I did the door-to-door thing for a little while. I actually started out at a 7/11 - I was working like 80 hours a week,” he recalled. “We couldn’t do door-to-door sales in the winter and so I’d been studying poker a little bit, I’d been watching videos.” So with winter upon him, his friend sent him $10 online and he began playing $0.10 games. He was crashing with a friend and without the ability to do his job he started to really grind. He played $0.01 360-man Sit & Go's. He ran it up - enough that he was able to cash out his whole roll and pay for food and expenses and help his friend with rent. Then the next month, a friend gave him another $10 and he began to run it up again. “I got to 2K within 30 days or something and I was like ‘Oh fuck, I just made $3,000 in a month.’ And I wasn’t making that much a month working,” he said. “I had a $3,000 bankroll and I had been playing seriously for 40 days. I said ‘I’m going to get Supernova this year.” That was 2010. He didn’t get Supernova that year, but he came close. Close enough that he made six-figures, obviously after that Drummond was all-in. After finding success in his own game, Drummond began coaching those close to him. He invested in a small staking platform, Sit & Go Reasons, and soon he was working with up to 15 people. “Then Sit & Go Reasons basically got nuked with Black Friday,” Drummond said. “Black Friday was horrible for everybody, and it was horrible for me. I lost a lot of money. But I was in position, being in Canada at the time, to kind of hit the ground running where other people weren’t able to do that. That was fortunate and lucky.” Drummond used his door-to-door sales experience and as he says “went door-to-door to a bunch of different stables that had gone broke” and began picking up players that had good fundamentals. So right around 2012 BBZ Staking came to be. Drummond has spent the better part of the last decade putting his money back into poker players and using his insight into the game to keep his own investments profitable. Back when BBZ first started, they relied on conventional poker training and coaching, but now in the ultra-competitive landscape of 2019, the company uses everything at their disposal, including solvers, to keep those who rely on him on the cutting edge of poker tournament coaching. “Staying [up to date] to the technology is kind of mandatory. You can't compete if you don’t do that in high stakes. The notion that you can is just wrong,” Drummond said. “So if you’re not doing this on your own, you’re not going to win. That’s a fact. You will lose. “I have guys who depend on me right? The same guys that I’ve been working with for a long time and these guys rely on me to be the information. I do the studying and they do the work, right?” And some of those guys who have worked with Drummond are some of online poker’s more feared tournament players and include the likes of Conor ‘1_conor_b_1’ Beresford, Guntis ‘lovefee’ Aleskins, Parker ‘Tonkaaaa’ Talbot and Jae ‘Yugiohpro’ Kim. “I need to make sure that I know everything that I can know so that the guys who put their faith in me and who bet their futures on me are able to compete at a level that enables them to win the type of incomes that they’re used to winning.” The coaching available at BBZ is incredibly in-depth. Spots are broken down with an extraordinary level of detail and analyzed for maximum profitability. Drummond and his coaches go through every configuration to give his students the best snapshot of how to play specific hands, in specific positions, at specific stack depths against a variety of opponents bet sizes. Recently, BBZ has expanded their coaching to allow non-staked players access to coaching sessions as well as the site is in the midst of expanding their video content library for more on-demand sessions. “I’m using a $10,000 computer specifically for the purpose of running high-level simulations,” he said. “In order not to be left behind, to do all of the work that we do on your own - and play full time - I mean, maybe you could do it, but I think it’s getting harder and harder.” It’s clear that Drummond takes great pride in the high level of education he’s able to give to his students. But BBZ is more than that for him. “The thing that separates us from everybody else is authenticity,” he said. “Every other platform that I know of pays the person who produces the content upfront. That person gets a check for producing 60 minutes of content whether it’s good, bad or ugly. The content that we put out, all of it, is being fed to a multi-million dollar bet - by me - on professional poker players being able to win money. You might not agree with what I put out, but what I put out is genuinely what I think is going to back my guys to win and compete in 2019.”
British poker player Jon Clark got his start in poker like many his age did. He was in the latter half of his teenage years in college when he was introduced to the game by friends. Clark took an extreme liking to poker and the rest is history, as they say. “For me, my poker journey started when I was at college,” Clark told PocketFives. “I got introduced to the game by a group of friends, of which no one really had a clue what was going on. We did however start building a love for the game and would find ourselves playing on multiple occasions weekly.” [ptable zone="PokerStars NJ"] [ptable zone="GG Poker"] [ptable zone="Global Poker Article Ad"] Today, Clark can be found regularly in the streets of the virtual poker world, playing as 'luckyfish89' and battling with some of the game’s best. He had a huge 2018 that included a PokerStars SCOOP title to the tune of $169,850 ($104,935 plus $64,915 in bounties) and then closed out the year with another six-figure score in December. The latter was a 19th-place finish in the partypoker MILLIONS Online event that rewrote the online poker record books. Clark scored $109,175 for that finish. Clark described he early days playing poker as a “healthy addiction,” saying that he and his friends got into the game before they were old enough to go out to local pubs, so it was poker that provided them an outlet for fun. Clark added that he didn’t really know what he wanted to do in life and that he bounced between a few jobs. He found that poker would be what he really wanted to do. “Eventually, we discovered there was a poker club in our town and things progressed and the love for the game continued to grow,” Clarke continued about his early time in poker. “I got to a level where I was making a small amount of money playing low buy-in tournaments. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life at that stage, but I believed that I had it in me to progress to a high level and pursue a dream.” He was all in on poker, but then the club he was playing at got shut down. “That’s kind of where I started panicking a little bit,” Clark said. A friend showed him the online poker ropes, a friend who was doing fairly well online and Clark felt that if his friend could do it, he could as well. “A stage came where our club was shutdown, which caused a bit of despair, leaving me with no idea on what I was going to do,” Clark said. “One of my friends from college, ‘Jareth3542,’ had been having some success in the online world, something I hadn’t really tried out yet. I started asking him a lot of questions and it got to a stage where he started staking me at micro stakes.” Clark’s start in online poker was a little slow to start. He said he wasn’t making much money at the beginning, but it was enough to get by and enough to keep him in the game. At the time, he was still living with his parents. His friend was involved with BBZ Staking and Coaching, getting staked by their team. After a handful of months staking Clark online, the friend helped Clark get into the stable. “I started at the very bottom, playing $0-22 buy-ins,” Clark said, “I was by far the weakest player in the group and had a lot of work to do to have a chance of survival in this industry. We were receiving group coaching Monday through Friday and this is where I started getting a much better grip of the game. After adding one-on-ones to my schedule with the likes of ‘bigbluffzinc,’ ‘Niet2maar3,’ and ‘BanicIvan,’ my game really started to progress and my buy-in limits were increased. Within a year I was playing weekly 1K buy-ins, EPTs, etc. “All of those guys had an impact on my progression,” Clark said. “Notably, though, it is Jordan Drummond (bigbluffzinc) who has helped me the most over the years. His coaching techniques and ability to articulate his thoughts in such a way have been huge for me. I don’t think you will find many people out there with a better ability to coach this game.” Clark has more than $2.4 million in online tournament earnings, highlighted by the two previously mentioned six-figure scores, and then in the live realm he has $185,369 in earnings. The PokerStars SCOOP event Clark won came in 2018. It was in the SCOOP-18-H $1,050 NLHE Progressive KO, Thursday Thrill SE tournament that attracted a field of 1,344 entries. Clark battled his way to the final table where he wound up facing ‘owilson25’ in heads-up play. Clark started heads-up play with about one-fourth of the chips that his opponent had, but he fought back to get the victory. This win was a big success for Clark and put his name in some headlines around the industry, but it was another victory that Clark views as his breakthrough. “Notably, my real breakthrough moment in poker was when I shipped the PokerStars Thursday Thrill in 2016, for just shy of $100K,” Clark said. “For me, this is one of my most memorable accolades in my poker career and really gave my future and confidence a huge boost. Winning the Thursday Thrill SCOOP in 2018 for just shy of $170K is my fondest poker memory and finally getting my first six-figure score after being so close on several occasions. The feeling of winning an event of such prestige was unbelievable.” Clark has now been with BBZ for more than four years and he’s worked his way up through the ranks to become a coach himself. “Over four years after joining the stable, I now find myself in a position where I am hosting two of the weekly group sessions, with as many as 30-40 people on the call on some occasions,” Clark said. “For anyone who wants to take their game to the next level, I would strongly advise getting involved. I also offer one-to-one coaching to the guys in the stable, as well as externally.” While the coaching he does is certainly to help others advance their games and hopefully enjoy the same career success that Clark has had, Clark also believes that becoming a coach has helped to improve his game. It’s turned him on to new ways of thinking, new tools, and more. “Running these coaching sessions was the point which really encouraged me to get my act together with the utilization of poker tools, such as PioSOLVER and MonkerSolver,” Clark said. “I was a bit of a late bloomer with these. I have been studying a huge amount in these areas this year and it is having a big impact on mine and my student’s ability.” One of the things that is very much evident when you speak to Clark is his truthfulness. If you’re looking for a poker coach, you’re going to want someone who has the ability to tell you the honest truths. In the end, that’s only going to help a student progress. Clark’s honesty came from him realizing himself that he needed to improve, to get with the times of poker, so to speak, and that’s now a lesson he looks to teach to those he coaches. “To be honest, I think I only got by without using these tools in the past as I was doing so many one-on-ones with Jordan,” Clark said. “For many people who don’t use these tools on a regular basis or at least have a top-tier coach or work with guys who do run simulations, the strong likelihood is that they will fall behind and wither out. This game is forever evolving and if you don’t stay ahead of the curve, your days will likely be numbered.” After much success in 2018, Clark is looking forward to enjoying more of it in 2019, of at least giving it his all to have another great year. He’s specifically excited for the PokerStars WCOOP series that is on the horizon. “I am looking forward to tackling the upcoming WCOOP and am aiming to go that little bit further than last year, where I picked up a third-place finish in the 2K PKO for $67K,” Clark said. “I tend to rise to the bigger occasions online and I have no doubt that I will be in the mix for some big prizes. Poker has helped me evolve as a person and I am very grateful for finding such an opportunity in life in which I thrive to improve daily.”