Interview: Eric "Rizen" Lynch
Eric "Rizen" Lynch has been a fixture at the top of several major online tournaments over the past few months. He placed 1st at a recent Sunday Million Guaranteed tournament, collecting $156,000 for his efforts. He is 27 years-old and resides in Kansas. Proud parents of a 16-month-old boy, Eric and his wife are expecting their second child later this year. eric rizen lynch
Eric "Rizen" Lynch
5tx7z.hosts.cx: When were you first introduced to poker and when did you start taking it seriously?
Rizen: Like most people, I was introduced to poker when I was young. I used to play penny poker at a friend's house in grade school with his entire family. Lots of crazy variations, but it was still poker. I didn't start to play hold'em until 2003, when I started getting regularly invited to a home game with some co-workers. After that I deposited $50 on Party Poker to play some low limit cash games and just messed around for a bit. I got lucky, realized I played bad, and bought a few books and started studying the game. I didn't really start to take tournament poker seriously until mid 2005, until then it was primarily limit cash games.
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pt.o: Why "Rizen"?
Rizen: Quite honestly, that handle came around 1997 when I was a senior in high school and playing a lot of Diablo online. All of the names I usually used were taken, so I just kind of figured any name with a 'z' in it would probably be free, and Rizen was the first thing that came to mind. I've been using it pretty much ever since.
pt.o: What is your favorite place to play online poker, and why?
Rizen: I prefer PokerStars. They have the best combination of software and tournament selection online, as well as an excellent support staff. Honorable mention to both Ultimate Bet and Paradise Poker. Ultimate Bet probably has the best interface online (hands are dealt fast and the game is kept moving) and Paradise probably has the best spread of tournaments online for people who enjoy playing high buy in tournaments.
pt.o: If youíre not the best online tournament player, who is?
Rizen: It's hard to not say JohnnyBax. After everything he's accomplished he's still playing at a very high level. To me he's still the best. Colson10 might be playing the best poker online at this moment in time though, and there are probably at least 4-5 other guys I could mention in the same breath playing excellent poker now, including foshio, Shaniac, ActionJeff, BeL0WaB0Ve, and Sheets. I'm probably leaving out a few people. There are a lot of people playing at a very high level right now which is pretty exciting for people who follow online poker.
pt.o: Since winning the Sunday Million on PokerStars, do you plan to start playing more live events? Which ones are on the calendar?
Rizen: Yeah, I want to do some more live events. I've already played in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and LA Poker Classic WPT events this year. I'm registered for 4 preliminary WSOP events and the main event as well. Honestly, I'm not sure what's in store after that. I don't want to do too much traveling as the birth of my second child comes closer, but playing more on the live circuit is a goal of mine.
pt.o: What do you most credit for helping you become a world class online tournament player?
Rizen: In a lot of ways just hard work and patience. I've been blessed with the ability to be able to maintain focus on things for hours at a time, almost obsessively (some might call this a fault). Even in work and school I was always able to concentrate at a high level for extended periods of time which helped me a lot in those avenues and now helps a lot in poker. I did read a lot of books as I was learning, and spent a lot of time on poker forums gathering information. I'm of the opinion that you should pick up information from every source available to you, and right now there are a TON of resources out there, a lot of which weren't available when I was learning the game. Like with anything else though, you're going to see a lot of bad advice along with the good, and you need to look at everything objectively and think for yourself rather than trust that everything you read is gospel.
In addition to all that, there are excellent training sites out there. I'm going to make a shameless plug for the one I'm a guest pro at and have training videos for, PokerXFactor.com
pt.o: Do you have a day job? If so, what? And if not, what did you do before turning to poker?
Rizen: I'm a father :). I consider that a pretty important day job. Before playing poker as my primary source of income though I was a software engineer, and still do some freelance work in that area from time to time. Right now though I'm really enjoying the flexibility that poker affords me to spend a lot of time with my family and watch my kid(s) grow up.
pt.o: Does your wife watch the big money final tables from over your shoulders? How does she feel about your current profession?
Rizen: She hasn't really watched me play for a long time (she thinks I fold too much anyways). We discuss how things are going a lot, but generally I like to focus on the tables a lot, and I also run 4 to 6 tables at a time a lot, which can be a bit of a bear to watch. She wasn't super sure about my poker playing at first, but as time has gone on she's been very supportive of my play, and we both really enjoy the flexibility that not having a traditional 9 to 5 job affords us.
pt.o: Any general tournament tips you can share with our readers?
Rizen: Well, another shameless plug. I talk a lot about my strategy and overall play in my videos on PokerXFactor.com. I could probably say something about not overplaying middle pocket pairs or 'tight is right' here, but honestly the best tip I can give is to just constantly try and improve your game through every avenue that's available. The most important traits you'll find as a poker player really isn't how to play AK from early position, but learning how to maintain focus, patience and discipline at the poker table (both real and virtual). Anyone can google starting hand requirements and follow a basic chart, it's the people who really soak up all the knowledge they can and learn the proper adjustments to make for situations who are going to be successful.
In addition to all of that, I cannot possibly emphasize enough the important of finding other players at or around your skill level who also are passionate about the game to talk about things with. It really helps to have peers going through the same things you are to bounce ideas and hands off.
pt.o: Do you ever play SNGs or cash games? If so, what type?
Rizen: I used to do a lot of SNGs, but now I'm more of a cash game player. I typically play NL ring, both 6 max and 10 max. I'm still learning the game a bit since it's a completely different beast from tournament play, but so far my results at the $2-4 and $3-6 NL tables have been pretty good, and I feel like I'm starting to come into my own as a cash game player. I still make more money on tournaments, but cash games are starting to come close in terms of $/hr. I don't really anticipate ever making the switch to a full time cash player, because I love tournament play. I do think it's important though for me to try and become a well rounded player, both in terms of cash vs tournament games and different game types (Omaha, Stud, etc).
pt.o: What is your favorite daily online tournament and why?
Rizen: Probably the $100k guaranteed $30 rebuy on Paradise Poker. The tournament just has a really soft field of players and I generally enjoy rebuy tournaments more than freezeouts. It probably helps that as far as daily tournaments go, I'm pretty sure I've made more money in that one than any other.
pt.o: How does it feel knowing a fair portion of the top competition in online MTTs is guys young enough to make a 27 year-old feel like the resident old guy?
Rizen: Doesn't bother me one bit. It wasn't THAT long ago I was these guys' age. I personally could have never handled the success I've had now when I was that age. Some of those guys handle it well, others not so well. I hate to generalize about any group because what I'm about to say can certainly be true for ANY player, but I have noticed that in general the younger group plays a lot more aggressive and uses a lot more math for their decisions than some of the poker veterans out there. I'm actually a HUGE math/theory guy so there are some similarities to my style and I understand pretty well what they are doing. A lot of the younger players haven't learned how to control their emotions at the table though as well, and when I can, I like to exploit that. I hate to generalize a group though, and there are a lot of great, young players that don't fit that description, but I find that a lot of them do.
pt.o: What do you like to do away from the felt?
Rizen: This sounds really cheesy, but honestly I just try and enjoy being a dad. I play beach volleyball (yes, beach volleyball in Kansas) once a week, but for the most part the free time I have I spend with my family.
pt.o: Do you prefer large fields or small fields?
Rizen: I like them both. I play a lot of both large and small field tournaments. I feel the smaller fields help reduce variance some, and since you get to the final 2 or 3 tables more often you get to keep your bubble and final table play sharp. That way when you do find yourself deep in the large field tournaments you have the confidence and short-handed/bubble experience to make the most of it and close it out. I have a pretty good track record for closing once I get deep, and I think a lot of that has to do with the experience I've gained playing (and beating) the smaller fields on a daily basis, but nothing beats the feeling of a huge score in a large field tournament like the PokerStars $1 Million Guaranteed.
pt.o: What is the most common mistake that mediocre tournament players make that is keeping them from playing at the top level?
Rizen: Impatience and lack of focus. Sure, there are often leaks in the way they play hands too, but quite honestly it's the times they decide to play 47s from the big blind because they haven't seen a hand in 3 orbits and are 'bored' or the time they look down and see 99, best hand they've seen in an hour, and there is a raise, a re-raise, and an all in in front of them and they still call just because, well, they have 9s! Poker is a game of situations, not cards. It can be a brutal game at times, and it's easy to get frustrated, but the worst mistakes we make are the ones that would be obvious to us normally, but after 4 to 5 straight hours of play can start to look pretty good if we're not careful.