He hasn’t even reached the legal drinking age in the United States, but the 20-year old Dutch online grinder is the current number one on the prestigious PokerStars Tournament Leaderboard. In an in-depth interview, DonBartos speaks about the life as an online MTT and Sit and Go grinder. After listening to DonBartos speak openly about the swings, it’s pretty clear that being number one on this leaderboard, previously won by the likes of shaundeeb, johnybax, aprilsfool, AltyAA, dhilton12, is no guarantee for a million dollar bank account.
You are number one on the PokerStars TLB right now, what does it mean to you to be at the top of that leaderboard right now?
Is it a realistic goal to set that you want to be the number one on the TLB?
It’s going to be a very hard goal for sure and I won’t be very disappointed if I finish third or fourth at the end of the year. It’s going to be a long shot, but I definitely have a chance to win it.
What makes you think you have a chance at winning the TLB? Is there a specific strategy involved?
It’s mainly just playing a very sick volume and also playing all the micro stakes tournaments as well. Not skipping those games is very important, while most of the high stakes tournament players don’t play those. I still play the $2 and $5 MTTs and you need to do that to win the TLB. There are only about 100 players that have a shot at winning the Tournament Leaderboard. Those are all very sick players that put in a ton of volume but I still think I have a very decent shot at it.
What’s the difference between you and those other 100 guys that have a chance? Are you significantly better, do you put in more volume or is it just variance?
The first two months I played more than those players but the last two months I didn’t play that much. The first two months I played between 60 and 70 hours per week and it’s not healthy to play that much. That put me in front of the other guys but I don’t think I have a skill edge against them. Most of it is just volume and the discipline to go for first.
Do you know the other players in the top of the leaderboard and do you play against them in every tournament?
The guy in second, TheLipoFund, is a pretty sick player. In the top ten there are a couple of very sick players that you see in every tournament all the time. The other guys in the top are there due to variance or because they win a lot of Sit and Gos. It’s going to be pretty hard to beat all those guys, but I’m going to try.
What does your day look like when you’re grinding online?
The first two months I had a pretty messed up schedule. I woke up at like 4:00PM and played till 4:00AM. That’s not really healthy and while you make a lot of volume you don’t really live much. Since last month I switched to waking up around 10:00 or 11:00AM. The weather here in Malta is starting to get really good and I usually spent a few hours just chilling on the balcony. After that I work on some coaching stuff and do everything for my stable. I’m staking around 30 players right now and I start grinding myself at around 4:00PM. I will keep playing till around 1:00 AM and then I’ll go to bed.
I’m guessing you’re playing the same MTT schedule every day and add Sit and Gos to that?
Yes, that’s mainly what I do. Sometimes I start or quit a little earlier but I almost always play the same MTTs, and I add 180-man Sit and Gos to that.
What’s your hourly win rate like? As you are the number one on the leaderboard I’d like to assume you are among the biggest winners?
No, it doesn’t really work that way. You get points for tournaments and it’s mainly focused on the number of entries. For instance, you get more points for a $2 MTT with 7,000 players opposed to a $100 MTT with 500 players. In the $100 tournament you can win more money but the amount of entrants is more important for the TLB. I’m on a pretty huge downswing right now on Stars, but luckily I had quite a big score on another site. So I’m still doing okay for the year, but I’m definitely not the biggest winner or anything like that.
So do you have an indication of what your hourly rate is when you’re grinding online?
I think it’s really, really hard to say. The last two months I’ve played mostly MTTs and also on other websites. With that it’s almost impossible to say what you’re making per hour. If you play Sit and Gos, like I did the first two months, and it’s what I’m going to go back to right now, you can play around 50 games per hour. You can win around $1.50 or $2 per game and you can make anywhere between $75 and $100 per hour. If you add MTTs to that you could make a little more than $100.
As an MTT and Sit and Go grinder is it possible to set goals?
I wouldn’t really set money goals. For this year I set some VPP goals but they’re not really that important to me because rakeback is only a very small percentage of my winnings. Of course I also set the Tournament Leaderboard goal, which was Top 10 but I’m shooting to get a bit higher.
So you see those goals more as just guidelines for the year?
Exactly. The Tournament Leaderboard has a $50,000 first prize but besides that you can’t really have any money-wise goals. It doesn’t really work to have money goals because I could set it at $150,000 and then win the Sunday Million the first week of the year. That would mean I’m done for the year (laughing).