Interview: Steve Tabb
Residence: Boston, Massachusetts
This week, professional poker player Steve Tabb freed up a few minutes to tell us about his unique career in poker. Tabb is a Top 200 ranked No-Limit Holdem tournament player; however, he is best known for being the most profitable online player in 5-Card Draw and 2-7 Triple Draw.
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PokerTips.org: First off, tell us how you got started in the poker world.
Tabb: I started off playing with a bunch of friends in high school. I always wanted to play poker with friends since I was a little kid, but the opportunity became available when everyone was intrigued by poker on TV. Soon enough home games were organized every week, and I noticed that I was learning the game faster than my friends and winning money more often than losing. As I got to college, I spent most of my time making friends and studying...but after finals ended the first semester, I celebrated by depositing $40 on Absolute Poker and playing strictly $10 and $20 heads up SNGs. To my surprise, I was much better than the competition online... I was winning over 70% of the games I played, which is probably impossible for today's standards. But during winter break, I built my bankroll from $40 to $2000...all of the sudden I had real money to manage.
PokerTips.org: You're known for being a very strong 5-Card Draw and 2-7 Triple Draw player. How did you come to getting good at those games while everyone else was playing no-limit hold'em?
Tabb: When my bankroll increased, these were unique games that I wanted to try out. To my surprise, the games came to me very naturally. I was learning the odds and strategies very quickly and moving up the stakes at rapid pace.
PokerTips.org: What games and stakes do you play now?
Tabb: I now play the highest stakes of 5-Card Draw on PokerStars ($30/$60) along with $15/$30 and $30/$60 Triple Draw. Full Tilt Poker just recently added all of these draw games to their site...this has been a big expansion! A lot more players are starting to get into the game. In addition to online draw games, I also travel for a lot of live no-limit hold'em events.
PokerTips.org: What are some of the challenges you face being a pro poker player?
Tabb: Dealing with variance was tough on me when I first started playing full time. As a student, the extra money I made just seemed like a bonus and I even if I lost it, my lifestyle would stay the same. But since poker now replaces a job that I would have otherwise, dealing with multiple days of bad luck can take a hit on me psychologically. However, I am very happy to say that I have had only had 1 losing month in the past 2 years. I have a very strict bankroll management that allows me to minimize variance.
PokerTips.org: This year, you made a deep run in the WSOP Main Event. Can you tell us a little about that experience?
Tabb: The WSOP was a fantastic experience. It plays more like a cash game than a tournament because everyone is extremely deep. This works as a big advantage for me since I'm pretty experienced playing with deep stacks. I was blessed with weak tables and a lot of strong playing hands the first few days which allowed me to grow a monster stack. For the first 4 days, I was over 200 BBs deep! During day 5 is when the structure starts speeding up and people get involved in coin flips. I was in 2 very major coin flips, and unfortunately, I lost both of them, QQ vs AK, and AK vs JJ, and busted out in 236th.
PokerTips.org: Do you have any poker-related trips coming up?
Tabb: My next trip will be the PCA in the Bahamas. This will be my 4th year going and it is always a blast. I try to travel around once a month for live events. Not only do live events have weaker fields than online tournaments, but it is a great opportunity to network and meet new players, whether they play full time or do something else.
PokerTips.org: Can you share a tip for our readers interested in giving 5-Card Draw a try?
Tabb: When you first start playing, try to mix up your draw 1s, 2s, and 3s as much as you can. You will learn quickly that certain opponents react differently to what you draw. Some opponents will always give you credit when you draw 1 while others will always think you missed a straight/flush draw.
PokerTips.org: You've cashed for over $150,000 this year in live tournaments and grind out a similar amount online each year. Does that leave you thinking that poker might be something you're interested in doing indefinitely?
Tabb: Unlike most poker players, I am a realist. I understand that poker players will continue to get better each year, and that the opportunities I have now for making six-figures could shrink year after year. For now, I am very satisfied with what I have accomplished in poker. With my success, I have been trying to give back through charities and organizations. I have also taken up new hobbies during my days off. I do not let poker control my life; I am a strong believer in a balanced lifestyle. In a few years, I may not have the interest in poker that I have now. If that's the case, I will move on to something else.
PokerTips.org: You mentioned that you are a realist. What does that make most poker players?
Tabb: Lets be honest, most successful poker players are living the dream. They are making good money at something that they love to do. However, in order to live the dream, whether its poker, being a movie star, or a professional athlete, you have to take some big life risks. I am a rare bird for finishing college, simply because I never planned to be a full time poker player. I planned on using my economics and finances degrees to obtain a white collar job out of school. It was not until I was making very serious money and having a bad economy eliminate many of my post-college opportunities that I decided that poker was worth pursuing full-time. That being said, most poker players are dreamers. Some are very successful, but there are many players who do not make it in the poker world and come back home with their tail between their legs...and possibly broke. Poker has become extremely competitive over the past half-decade, and I expect it to only get harder. I do have some friends who have given up on poker and moved onto different careers. I am equally as proud of them as I am for the successful players I know...in some ways, maybe more proud.
PokerTips.org: What do you think you would do if you had to stop playing poker tomorrow?
Tabb: If I had to stop playing tomorrow, I would begin a plan to start my own business. I have a few very good ideas. I would also consider investing in real estate.
PokerTips.org: What is something you've learned as a pro poker player that applies to life in general?
Tabb: Good question! I've learned that focusing on the long run is much more important than what is happening in the short term. If you work 9-5, you will experience bad luck just like poker players do here and there. Perhaps you've worked your ass off on a project but the outcome was not favorable. What's important are your long term goals and intentions, don't become too happy or too unhappy for what is happening in the present.
PokerTips.org: What's the best thing about being a professional poker player? Worst?
Tabb: The best thing about poker is that I doing something that I love, and that I have the freedom to travel and play/not play when I want to. Most people should be happy if they get 1 out of 2, so the fact that I get both, plus do well financially, I consider myself to be very fortunate. The worst is that poker can sometimes leave you feeling disconnected from the "real" world. There are definitely days where I would like to go outside and be active but instead play a long online session at home which can suck sometimes.
PokerTips.org: Finally, Steve, where's the party going to be when you win the PCA and can we come?
Tabb: If I win the PCA, I'm buying a house on Mission Beach in San Diego and everybody is invited. Oh, I suppose a party in the Bahamas would be good too.