Interview: Faraz Jaka
Hometown: San Jose, California; Chicago, Illinois
Place of Residence: Homeless for 8 months now
Best Known For: World Poker Tour Season 8 Player of the Year
This week, World Poker Tour Season 8 Player of the Year, Faraz Jaka, shared with us some thoughts on his poker career and business ventures. Faraz has more than $4 million in lifetime tournament winnings and recently joined the growing ranks of poker entrepreneurs by starting a caster boarding media company.
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PokerTips.org: First off, can you tell us a little about your poker background such as how you got started and rose through the ranks?
Jaka: I had never heard of Texas hold'em until freshmen year in college. Some of the kids on my floor wanted to start playing so they taught a bunch of us how to play and we started playing a $10 buy in .25/50 nl game. I did well and learned fast. I reached out to find other bigger games on campus and tournaments hosted by fraternities. Before long, I was rushing to the airport after classes on Thursdays to fly to Vegas to play $10/$20 no-limit at the Bellagio for the weekend and flying back on Monday to check in for some tests, and flying back out to Barcelona, Arbua, etc for tournaments i had qualified for online.
How do you study the game? Who do you discuss hands with (if anyone)?
I never really read books, forums, or watched any training videos. I just kinda started playing and picking things up real fast. Early in my homegame career, I met one of my best friends in the poker world. He had read a lot of books and had some basic fundamentals and math of the game down and relayed some of that info to me. We became bankroll partners, discussed hands, and took trips to Rockford Charitable games in Illinois and of course the weekend trips to the Bellagio.
Once in the NAPT Mohegan Sun on a board of A65ss-3-Ts, you called a player's all-in bet on the river getting about 4:1 on your money with 98, no spades. Your opponent turned out to have 87, no spades, for a missed straight draw, and your 9-high won the pot. Could you take us through the hand and describe your thought process that allowed you to make that call?
I raised UTG with 8d9h for 2k and got called by 2 others. The flop came As 6c 5s and I made a continuation bet to 5.2k. The next guy to act called and the other guy folded.
My read on the player was that he wasn't a particularly good player. Also in the past 5 orbits, there had been 2 occasions where I raised preflop and c-bet the flop, and he just shoved all-in over my bet for a very large amount. One of the times he did this it was on an A high board, i didn't see what he had but felt pretty confident that he had the Ace. This time he had an even smaller stack and just called instead. This made me think it was likely he had some sort of draw or maybe even a pair like 10's JJ QQ or KK.
The turn came the 3 of hearts. I went ahead and bet 5.2k again because i felt like it would put him in the type of situation where he would def shove an Ace or set, fold any pair smaller than an Ace, and probably just take the cheap card with a flush draw since I'm not making him put all his chips in (of course this logic may not make sense vs. a more advanced player but against this particular type of player it definitely did).
The river came the 10 of spades completing the flush draw that was there on the flop. My plan was to bet the river as long as the major draws didn't hit but now the one I thought he most likely had had hit so i didn't have much I could do.
I went ahead and checked and he shoved all in for about 9,700 which was about half of my stack at the time. As he shoved all in my instincts (or shall i say my spider sense :P) picked something up. I definitely sensed weakness.... but what could I do? I started breaking down all the different draws there were on the hand: flush draws, 78, 34, and 47. 47 didn't make sense because I didn't think he would flat that preflop. 34s wasn't too likely but i could see him playing that hand so i left that in there but ultimately decided he would just check the river and be happy with his pair of 3's hoping it was good. So I'm pretty much left with 78 or a flush draw. I started talking to my opponent to try to get some physical reads and the more and more I studied him I decided he was certainly bluffing and did not want me to call. Of course that was only half the battle considering I only had 9 high! Finally I decided to go with the assumption that he would go ahead and check any pair he had and that it was unlikely he even would call my second barrel with anything less than an Ace. A more advanced player may consider turning certain hands into a bluff but again that's just not something i expected out of him.
I went ahead and made the call and VOILA! He flips over 78 for a missed straight draw and my table just starts going nuts.
What did it mean to you when you found out you clinched World Poker Tour Player of the Year for Season 8?
It meant a lot. I kept getting 2nds and 3rds in big events and couldn't snatch a title to throw under my belt. It sucks to think about how you didn't win the maximum amount or go ALL the way as far as you could. It also made for a ton of publicity which of course has its own benefits for sponsorship and entrepreneurial endeavors.
You are known for having turned your attention to the business world by starting a casterboarding company. For the uninitiated such as myself, what exactly is casterboarding? What is your company's mission?
My startup is AxisCasterboarding.com. A casterboard is a board that combines the movements of a skateboard, snowboard, and surfboard and is used on land. It has already been around for about 6 years but is made by toy companies who make the thing out of cheap plastic and market it as a toy. A lot of people think they still look silly but when you see the tricks some of our sponsored pros can do it will make you look at casterboards in a new light! We don't manufacture boards we sell and promote the lifestyle. We started the first casterboarding magazine and webshow. We also have a one stop shop web store where you can buy any and everything casterboarding related. Our mission is to turn casterboards from a toy into a sport. We expect to see boards on the market that look a lot more sporty and grown up with the demand for higher quality and professionalism that we are pushing.
What other business ventures do you expect to fill your time in the future?
About a month and a half ago i started a new company along with 3 other partners. We are making a new, healthy, all natural sports drink. We are just putting the final touches on the recipe and will hopefully have them bottled up and ready to sell in the next 2-4 months. We have a named picked out that we are most likely using but I can't talk about it in too much more detail until we get things copyrighted and are ready to go to market! Keep an eye out for more detail to come from me in the future via my Twitter.
I also own a small equity share in a hop hop production company called S'PPLY N D'MAND PRODUCTION. They make dope beats and have some pretty sick up and coming rappers.
What is one way in which your poker background was an asset to running a business?
The swings of poker have been a great head start getting into business ventures. A lot of people get real concerned with making money soon and get discouraged by failure. From tournament poker, I'm used to losing tournament after tournament but still maintaining composure till i get my big score.
What's on your upcoming travel schedule?
My new beverage company is a full time position for me where as my involvement in Axis is a little more passive where I put in about 5-10 hours a week. With this new role I have pretty limited time for poker and will just be playing a big live event once every month and a half. I'm hoping after a year or two the company is booming and requires less of my time and I can come back to putting in more time into poker. I figured this was the best time to make this change in priority since online poker in the U.S. might not be back for a good 2 years or so.
Finally, do you have any advice for aspiring poker players hoping to reach your level of success?
Don't be scared of looking stupid at the poker table. Experimenting new styles and doing things differently can make you look like a hero one day and an idiot the next. A lot of players can't handle looking bad and making mistakes so they just stick to the safe standard same ol' boring game. When you are experimenting and using unorthodox strategies, you are bound to make some pretty big mistakes, it just comes with the territory. With that said it is good to hear what others have to say and learn from what everyone has to offer. You just have to find that balance and not get too carried away on any side of the spectrum.