The poker world tends to qualify certain events and results as “good for poker,” or “bad for poker.” Most of these things rely heavily on variance, and we tend to forget that there are also very stable and reliable people that are “good for poker”. Dan O’Brien is one of those people in the poker world. Open honest, and always with a smile, he’s a lot better for poker than random incidents of luck. As a representer of the game, and a successful one at that, he’s been around the block a few times. Today you can read what goes on inside the head of the man who's just shy of two million dollars in live tournament earnings. Today O'Brien speaks about his attitude towards poker, being staked by Jason Mercier and both the Instapoker and Open Face Chinese Poker app.
Let’s start off with something I’ve been wondering about for a while, do you even have your online poker accounts set up outside the US?
No, I haven’t done that. I haven’t had much desire to, and the only thing worth for me to travel for is SCOOP. Last year I was doing some other stuff and I wasn’t too worried about it. This year I would like to get my account set up and play some of the bigger tournaments while I’m traveling. Depending on how the online landscape looks like in the US, I might go up to Canada for the winter next year to snowboard and play online. I would really like to live somewhere where I can snowboard so it’s either going to be Tahoe, Breckenridge or Whistler up in Canada. If there’s online poker in Nevada, and it’s decent, I’ll probably just go to Tahoe. If not, then I’ll head up to Whistler, but we’ll see.
One of the things that stand out to me about you is your positive and up-beat demeanor. Is that something you need to have or do in order to deal with everything surrounding being a professional poker player?
I think it has a lot to do with my personality and how I try to approach everything. It is also a choice on how to look at things, because it’s easy to let yourself get caught up in the fact that you’re not doing well. You might even be doing pretty well, but everyone around you just seems to be doing better. Especially with tournament poker, it can be really, really difficult on your mental state sometimes. If things aren’t going well they might not be going well for a long time. Especially when you’re like me and not grinding every day, and just playing let’s say around 50 big buy-in tournaments per year. You might go a year, or two years, without really doing much. I think it’s important to be consious of how you are looking at your job, at the tournaments and also just life in general. For me obviously, I’ve had some good times and I’ve had some bad times, but if you think about it, I’m pretty fortunate to do what I do. I love playing poker, the people that I get to meet and hang out with, and there’s really nothing to be too upset about. Tournament poker in general is kind of a crapshoot. There’s tons of skill in it, but the fields are big in the tournaments that I play so you’re not going to be able to do well too often. You are just going to have to go into it like, “I’m going to enjoy myself and do my best, and if I happen to make a ton of money that would be awesome.”
So it’s not a performance you’re putting on when you look all happy and positive while being on a bad streak?
Obviously you’re going to get down every now and then. For the most part no, I’m pretty happy and I love living in Las Vegas. Even after, let’s say, going to London where I didn’t do anything and lost every tournament that I played. Beforehand I didn’t really want to go because I was enjoying the Vegas weather and getting in shape, but still there’s nothing to be upset about. I went, did my job, took my shot and then went home. It’s good to be home and I was looking forward to seeing my roommate, my friends, my dog and just getting back into my routine of being healthy.
Do you feel like the way you are approaching poker, with playing around 50 events a year? Is what you had imagined doing when you decided to become a professional player all those years ago and do you think you’re maximizing your potential like this?
I know I said 50 but when I think about it some more it’s probably closer to 75. I’m definitely not on the crazy tournament grind. I travel a lot and I play a lot of the big events, so it is a lot of work. But I’m definitely not working to my potential because I’m not playing 150 tournaments a year on the live circuit. I’m also not moving to play a ton of online tournaments, but that’s okay because this is what I want to do right now. At some points I’ve been a little more on the grind, but even so I’ll be more on a cash game grind than a tournament grind. That’s because playing smaller tournaments doesn’t really appeal to me all that much. Most of the times it’s just not worthwhile it to spend three or four days on a $300 event. I’m just really happy with what I’m doing right now and I’m exploring other options as well. I’m doing some other poker related things as well like the Instapoker app, commentary for the WPT, and I’m writing a spread in Bluff Magazine starting in May. So I’m trying not to focus on the grind of poker. I’ve been doing that for a long time and I really, really do love poker but I just don’t love playing every day. I’m just focused on some other things in my life such as being healthy and enjoying myself. I definitely could be putting more into it, but I think right now I’m putting exactly as much into it as I’d like to.