It’s a familiar story to aspiring poker players.
Slow days spent working long hours, and nights spent playing and dreaming about poker.
That was how Runchuks’ story started about 13 years ago.
In a job that while well paid was slowly exhausting him.
But rather than his story concluding on the sofa with various boxsets, Runchuks, a gamer all his life, was a no-limit hold’em tournament player.
That part was key.
Because it would take him out of that well-paying job, to live in a new country, while transforming himself into a poker pro.
This is the story of how he did that, and what it felt like to make that leap of faith.
It’s also the story of what happened next, starting with a new emphasis on his poker career that could help you with a new game on PokerStars.
But back to the start. Page one if you like. Because for Runchuks, his poker career started with a book.
It was Dan Harrington’s masterpiece Harrington on Holdem.
Having got the big playing a few freerolls, Runchuks dived right in, getting results almost immediately, winning a couple of small tournaments, and then some bigger ones.
And so, with tournament success under his belt, his attention turned naturally enough to cash games.
I don’t remember when I first sat down at the online cash game tables, but I remember that I got crushed. I couldn’t seem to get a break. Doing great in tournaments, spewing it on cash games.
But at least he understood why. Harrington’s book was for tournaments.
I guess I took the hard way to find out that cash games are very different to tourneys.
The fascination with cash games remained.
After all, this was the height of the poker boom, where televised cash games featured poker’s all stars wielding bricks of banknotes in Las Vegas casinos. They were setting new standards for what was possible – and impossible.
I remember seeing Durrrr, Ivey, Antonius balling at the nosebleed tables. First time I saw it, I though “surely that’s not real money”. I mean the guys were sitting with half a million-dollar stacks.
Personally, losing a couple hundred dollars still hurt me. I was emotionally quite attached to results. I remember when I had the first biggish score, those winnings had a tangible value. Like ok, so that’s a new TV, that’s a trip abroad.
Even after turning professional the emotional attachment didn’t disappear overnight.
It was this inspiration, colliding with an exhausting work schedule, that brought things to a head.
Or to put it another way, burn out.
And he wasn’t the only one.
It coincided with an economic crisis ready to turn the world on its head, sending business and governments went into panic mode.
Runchuks meanwhile quit work and took a vacation. Then he played some poker… and started winning.
In retrospect I got lucky, the variance could’ve been against me and in that case, I would probably just accept [a job] offer and stayed in a conventional career. But… two big winning months made me think that maybe doing this professionally makes sense.
It wasn’t just being able to pay the bills. It was the lifestyle too.
On top of the excitement and enjoyment of playing, it was a challenge. Plus, there was no boss, no colleagues, no clients. That was freedom.
It was like a Matrix moment: blue pill or red pill. I chose the unknown. Boy am I happy that I did.
From then on it was full time poker. But it was a choice that created unexpected problems.
How to handle poker and a social life.
Making a living wasn’t hard. My results were good, my work ethic was good as well. The hard part was finding balance in my life.
I went back and forth between playing nights and playing during the day. Plus, I was tried to play most of the weekends. It’s hard to combine that with a regular social life. All my friends had 9-5 jobs and weekends off.
Strangely enough, he found a solution during a vacation on a small island in the Mediterranean.
By then Malta’s poker community was in full bloom.
Players hauling laptops and monitors were arriving from around the world, taking advantage of the climate, affordable rents, and the freedom to play as much poker as they liked.
For a new professional like Runchuks it was perfect.
For about a year I was playing both PLO and Hold’em. I was doing good in both games up to $10/$20 tables.
It’s indication of how soft the games were back then rather than how skilled I was. I was enjoying playing PLO much more than Hold’em, so gradually I switched to PLO only.
Of course, it’s not all rosy all the way. There were good swings, bad swings and everything in the middle – it’s just part of the game so to say.
One thing that was changing though was his game choice. There was hold’em of course, but more and more he was switching the Omaha, and setting about learning everything he could.
A lot of my friends though that I’m crazy. I was doing pretty good in the NLHE mid-high stakes cash games and apparently now I’m wasting my time learning new game while I could have used that time for crushing hold’em.
In a way they were right. But I enjoyed playing PLO was so much more enjoyable for me and I love it every day! (well maybe not every day, but close to it).
Unshackled from a desk job, Runchuks set about travelled the world playing cash games, taking advantage of the liberty the game now offered him.
I went to a lot of incredible places and met a lot of friends through poker in my travels. And now I’m back to enjoying the comfort of my home and focusing on online poker.
Then came that shift.
Having gone from amateur to professional, from hold’em to Omaha, it was time for another change. It’s one that can help anyone who has read this far and is curious as to how they might benefit from some of Runchuk’s success.
Having started by poring over the books of Harrington, it’s now Runchuk’s turn to be teacher.
I enjoy the process of studying the game, thinking about the strategies and striving to constantly improve. I’ve spent several years learning how to learn.
I see a lot of poker players finding new interests. Mine is learning and thus naturally teaching. Therefore I started coaching PLO on bluffthespot.com
It explains in Runchuk’s eyes why he has been successful. It’s also how he can help other players looking to super charge their own game, and make that same leap he did. If not to a life of professional poker player, then to becoming a more successful one.
Getting to this point was a lot of hard work. And staying at this level is still a lot of work.
Read on to find out how to learn more about pot-limit Omaha, and how to profit from a new Omaha game now running on PokerStars.
Over to Runchuks…
Compared to PLO the game requires a different approach and thinking process.
The strategies in NLHE are somewhat easier to understand. You can just look at a preflop chart and know which hands you need to play in each situation.
Post flop, you can start counting combinations of each possible hand. This can’t be done in PLO.
Even at the highest stakes we see people employing different styles of play and different strategies successfully. Even some recreational players are quite competitive in these games.
This is what I love about it the most. Every decision is an exercise in analytical thinking.
I see two extremes with NLHE players who get into PLO.
There are some who see four cards and think that almost every hand is playable. Then there are some who see four cards and think that their opponents always have the nuts.
The higher variance in the PLO games is scaring some people and attracts others.
At times it seems that we are just making 50/50 flips on the flop all the time, but beyond that the game is vastly complex and there’s no end to trying find small edges vs your opponents.
The ultimate battle of outsmarting your opponent and being outsmarted.
My first thoughts are that obviously the winning hand strengths are going to be very different.
And considerations about what makes a good preflop hand also change significantly compared to four card PLO.
I recorded a video of my first attempt at 6 Card PLO. Go check it out and we can laugh about it together.
I like that PokerStars keep adding the games to their already widespread offering.
The best way to find out if the game is going to become hugely popular is to let people play it.
I’ve put in a lot of hard work to get to the level where I am now in PLO and I’m curious to see how much of that knowledge can be transferred to 6-card PLO.
It feels great to discover a familiar game with a twist which puts you back to the beginner level. I don’t know if 6-card PLO will become widely popular, I have my doubts, but the game is here to stay.
As with any other game – some will love it, some will hate it. And I’m very excited to give it a try.
While playing professionally for so many years I worked a lot on my mindset, my work and study routines and over time I became very passionate about improving the way I learn.
Passing that knowledge on to other people and seeing them succeed is very rewarding.
So, when my friends asked me if I would want to join BluffTheSpot coaching for profit company I didn’t hesitate.
We have a great team there, NLHE coaching side has several talented and well known coaches and now our PLO community is growing rapidly as well.
As to the podcast. I still have a lot of room to grow as a professional and as a person. I am lucky to be able to reach out to some of most successful people in our business.
I want to talk to them; I want to know their stories and I want to learn from them. My podcast allows me to do just that.
So far, we’ve covered a wide variety of important topics with my guests and it is inspiring that so many of our viewers enjoy our show, broaden their views and find useful tips which help them improve their lives.
You find more from Runchuks online at the following links:
YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZYSmifCZDCefpEKzSIjraQ
Coaching site: https://www.bluffthespot.com/cfp