It’s Shronk Daddy. It’s 15 questions. It’s all the poker knowledge you can handle

Featuring : Amit “amak316” Makhija

Amit Makhija is one of the guys that made the transition from online to live like it was no big thing. In the same span of a few months he took 2nd in a WPT event, 5th in a WSOP event, and won the $5k six-max FTOPS event. He doesn’t seem to be losing interest in either live or online play, so you can expect him to be crushing for a long time. I sat down to find out how he crushes (spoiler: he didn’t tell me).

Justin Shronk: Let’s start out with where you were born and where you grew up: family, friends, all of that.
Amit “amak316” Makhija: I was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin. I have a family of five who have all been very supportive of my decision to play poker for a living. I have one older sister, one younger brother, and both of my parents. I’m very, very close to my family and friends.

JS: When did poker start to become a big part of your life?
AM: I started playing poker in high school in home games with my friends. We used to play $5 and $10 sit n’gos with about eight of my good friends once every couple of weeks. It was always a lot of fun and I was very interested in the game instantly, and it didn’t hurt that I was the biggest winner of our small group. At this time I started playing play money at PokerStars. I didn’t start to play for real money online until my sophomore year of college at the University of Minnesota. I won a freeroll on a small site that no longer exists called Tropics Poker for $100. I moved this money to PokerStars and begun grinding $5 sit n’gos. From that point on I was really trying hard to get good at poker, I read every poker book and grinded my roll up without depositing, but it took a TON of my time.

JS: At what point did you really start to become a student of the game through forums, in-depth strategy discussions, etc.?
AM: I was a student of the game since I started playing online; right when I won a freeroll for $100 I was completely aware of the fact that I was both terrible at poker at the time, and that poker was a beatable game. Right from the start I was reading books and reading forums and trying to get my hands on any information anyone was willing to give me.

JS: Who would you say you’ve learned the most from?
AM: During my senior year of college I had just started playing tournaments when I started talking poker with Yevgeniy Timoshenko (“jovial gent” on Stars; “bballer88” on Full Tilt) and he is one of the best players in the world. Many of you don’t know him yet because he is just twenty years old but he already has accomplished everything there is to accomplish in online tournaments (over $1M in profit) and has almost $1 million in live cashes without even being of legal age to play in the US. He is a very talented player and he took me under his wing when I first started playing online MTTs. He had me beating the biggest buy-in online tournaments in just a couple months. Training videos have also helped me a lot; videos on CardRunners are the best (Isaac Baron, Jeff Garza for MTTs, and Cole South videos for cash)

JS: You have a ton of accomplishments online – multiple wins in the $100 rebuy, and a super impressive wire-to-wire win in the $5k FTOPS event for over half a million dollars. Do you still feel like there’s more online you want to accomplish? Or is it not about accomplishments and more about that there’s just still a lot of money to be made there?
AM: Honestly, online for me is all about the money. I don’t play online to accomplish things. I don’t care about rankings and I think people that spend a lot of time trying to become “highly ranked” are leaving a ton of money on the table. Most of the ranked players on Pocket Fives are mediocre at best and half of them are making less money a year than a $1-$2 NL grinder. That being said, I will always continue to play online, there is plenty of money to make online in Sunday tournaments and cash games. If the legislation improves and more fish flock back to online poker you will not see me live nearly as much. I love playing online.

JS: To say you’ve transitioned into the live arena with some success would be a huge understatement. Is there something specific about your game that let you transition so well into live tournaments, or do you think most great online players will eventually be successful live?
AM: I do think most great online players will be very successful live. The problem most of the successful online tournament players have is that they spew too much and make poor adjustments when playing deep-stacked. To win a live major you have to play great poker on 80bbs+ for multiple days, most of the guys that crush online MTTs would be big fish playing deep-stacked poker. I think the people you will see crush from the online world are the people that are good online cash players and good tournament players. I have worked very hard on my deep-stacked game and think that’s why I have made a smooth transition. Very few people that play a lot of live majors have the ability to play the deep-stacked stages well, and the 30bb-and-less stages well too.

JS: Is poker something you see yourself doing long-term? Do you have other life goals? Or do you not really think about that right now and you’re just gonna ride the poker thing til the next thing comes along?
AM: I’ve never seen poker being a long-term career for me, more of a way of opening up doors. That being said I love the game and I wouldn’t be disappointed if I end up being a lifelong professional poker player. My plans are to start a business in a couple of years, but I have no immediate plans. For 2009 and 2010, I’m pretty sure you’ll be seeing me at almost every live major and hopefully making some noise.

JS: You recently told me that while deciding to go to Biloxi for the World Poker Tour event, you really didn’t want to go but you “just love WPTs.” Is it just that you love playing live? Or is there something specific about WPTs that you really enjoy?
AM: I love the WPT structure. Every time I enter a WPT event I am confident that, barring a very gross setup or a bad beat, that I will be deep in the tournament competing for a title. I think the WPT’s are slightly tougher on average then EPT’s but I enjoy the structure 100x more.

JS: Are you playing a lot of cash games and/or branching out into any games other than Hold’em?
AM: I’ve been playing more cash lately than MTTs. I have probably played less than twenty MTTs online since winning the $5k on Full Tilt. I have been grinding the 25-50 NL games online lately, and 25-50 and higher live whenever I’m at a tournament stop. I feel like I’m growing a lot as a player the more I play cash, and I feel like I am learning a lot. Before the 2009 WSOP I plan on studying and learning PLO. I hear it’s a great game, and I want to be able to play some non-Hold’em events at the World Series.

JS: What are some of your overall goals in poker?
AM: For 2009 my goals are simple, I’d like to become one of the best players online at the 25-50 NL level and I would like to win a live major. I would also like to finish top five in the CardPlayer Player of the Year. That being said, in general my goals aren’t results driven, I just would like to grow as a player, and play my A game at as high a percentage of the time as possible. If I do that I’m sure 2009 will be a satisfying and lucrative year.
Ok, short answer segment.

JS: Who is the best NLHE tournament player in the game right now?
AM: Isaac Baron.

JS: What is the biggest mistake you see the “live” pros consistently making?
AM: I’m not one to dog the live pros as I feel most of them actually play quite well, but I think most of them could learn a lot about “push-fold” poker and playing a short-stack.

JS: If you had to stop playing poker forever, but could stake five people, who would they be?
AM: Isaac Baron, Isaac Haxton, Scott Seiver, JC Tran, and Vivek Rajkumar

JS: Who do you hate playing against?
AM: Vivek Rajkumar, he seems to ALWAYS get the best of me, it’s so sick. I fold whenever he’s bluffing I call whenever he has it. I’m just hoping it’s variance, but maybe he just owns my soul.

JS: Where is Amit “amak316” Makhija in ten years?
AM: Hopefully a casual, well-respected player that only plays a few big tournaments a year while being a successful businessman, kind of like a Dan Harrington.