This is the second and final part of an in-depth interview series with poker professional Jeff Gross. In the first part Gross spoke about high stakes cash games in Houston, his family and how he made it to the highest stakes.
In the second part Gross speaks about the relaxed atmosphere during Super High Roller events, how winning a tournament means more to him than just the financial gain, the One Drop tournament this summer and some prop bets.
The atmosphere in High and Super High Roller events always seems to be a lot more relaxed than in the smaller ones and Gross has an idea why this is the way it is.
“I’ve been talking to some of the Germans about this recently, about how the $100,000 events are becoming more and more relaxed. It used to be tense, and I remember not wanting to play a hand while right now I would say the $100,000 buy in events have a more relaxed atmosphere than the $10,000 ones. Everyone’s having a good time and we all know each other because it’s a small group of 30-40 guys who play in these types of event.”
“The players in $100k events are not putting their entire bankroll on the line and most of them are used to playing in huge cash games where it’s very normal to see $100,000 and $200,000 pots. So while $100,000 is a lot of money it’s all relative to someone’s financial situation. When looking at a $10,000 Main Event it’s safe to say you have a lot more qualifiers and people putting a bigger percentage of their net worth on the line, and therefore the tension might be a little bit higher at the table.”
“At the end of the day it comes down to being successful and winning money, and tournaments are just a way of keeping score. People often say that Chip Reese was one of the best cash game players of all time, but he was not very well known because he rarely played in tournaments. I think it ultimately comes down to the money and I would rather silently win the money in cash games then have the occasional big tournament win. Tournaments are a lot of fun though and it doesn’t hurt to get your name out there some. Tournaments are also great for family and friends to track your progress and let the know that you are alive and kicking.”
“Because of the competition format I really like tournaments, Michael Jordan wanted rings, Tiger Woods wants trophies, and Phil Hellmuth desires bracelets. That’s the fun of it, being able to chase things like a GPI leader board, bracelets and other titles. It’s not all about ego but later, when I look back on my career; I want to be able to say that I was on top of my game. I understand that tournament results are more important to some people than others, but with the GPI rankings in place, sort of like the BCS rankings in College Football, it makes it that much more interesting to follow poker and compete for a spot at the top.”
Gross strives for greatness in the things he does, and in a few years he hopes to look back on a successful career and some nice trophies to show for.
“I would like to look back on a career that includes a WPT and WSOP title. Part of me wants to play cash games only; it’s more profitable and less stressful. For at least this year, and perhaps the next one, I want to see where I’ll land on the GPI if I travel the circuit and give it my all. I feel like I’m finally breaking through with tournaments and I believe I will be successful balancing both. At some point I’ll probably segue into other things besides poker and play primarily cash games.”
Jeff Gross and Bill Perkins during the £50,000 Super High Roller at EPT London
While Gross remains tempted to just focus on playing cash games there’s always that feeling deep down inside that he wants to compete with his friends when it comes to having tournament success bragging rights.
“A lot of my friends like McLean Karr and Matt Waxman have won bracelets and WPT titles, so they have that trophy, those memories and that’s important to me. I want to look back as a champion and as the best at what I did. It’s like Ricky Bobby said, ‘if you’re not first you’re last’. I’ve had plenty of seconds, thirds and fifths and I’ll put more work in to see it through. It’s like drilling for oil, you’ll find some eventually and I’m calling this year the title year. I called it here, I’m going to play a lot of events and win a major title.”
The fact that the German players have been dominant in recent years and that’s also something Gross noticed. The American pro speaks about how he learns from them and how studying his own game on TV is also he thinks really helps him.
“I’m very much aware of who’s doing well and what’s working. I know the Germans, who’ve been very successful spend a lot of time working on their games and pooling information on other players, I think is really smart and one of the best ways to improve. We are all friends, but they are not part of my core group of friends. There’ve been times where I’ve talked about hands with them and I feel like talking to very successful players is the best way to get better. If you think that a certain play you made was good there are always people with other ideas that are very much worth listening to. Everyone has his or her own fundamentals and you pick up stuff from everyone you talk to along the way.”
“The benefit of playing in the Super High Roller events is that you get to play and hang out with those guys a lot. Philbort (Philipp Gruissem) just won two Alpha8 events and Fabian Quoss just won the Super High Roller at the PCA and the results speak for themselves that the Germans are doing something right. They are also running well of course, but it’s also about putting in the time to get better. For instance, I came second in the Party Poker Premier League November 2013 and before that I studied all the footage of the previous season to pick up not only some info on players but strategy for the format before playing there,” Gross said he takes his craft very seriously and believes every bit counts.
Jeff Gross and Michael Phelps in an interview with PokerNews.com during the 2012 PCA
“Whenever I play at a TV table I also try to watch myself after to see if there’s things I can improve and if I am giving up anything at the table. Even though I think I’m a solid live player I feel like I can improve my own table presence. When I see other players do certain things, like how they carry themselves, table presence, timing and how they bet I feel like I can improve those things. I could name 10 players that I think are the best in separate categories. So I try to emulate what they do best and then implement it into my own style. As an example, someone like LuckyChewy (Andrew Lichtenberger), in my opinion, has the best posture at the table of anyone, while he’s in a hand. I can keep going with other names, but the bottom line is that I’m working really hard this year on improving all those different aspects of my live game.”
While someone like Mike Watson is mainly quiet at the table there’s Daniel Negreanu who talks a great deal, and we wonder in what category Gross fits.
“I can do the whole “talk” thing to get people going, but sometimes it’s also nice to be stoic. It’s just very table dependent and I think that it’s important that you’re able to switch it up where need be. I think I’m capable of doing both styles but it’s important to know when to turn it on or off. It’s also one of the things that make poker very interesting, the fact that nobody is the same.”
Gross already expressed that 2014 is going to be a big year for him, and we asked him what his thoughts on the million-dollar One Drop tournament are.
“It’s actually on my goal sheet this year and I declared I’m playing it this year. I’ve had people express interest and I’ve also contacted some people about selling action. I’m affiliated with the OneDrop organization and I’ve gone down to Honduras to see what they do. I know Guy (Lalibeté) and the foundation really well and fully support them. So I do not only want to play the tournament, I also want to be personally involved. I think I’m capable of winning the tournament and it’s a very good one considering it has businessman and poker professionals. I’m very comfortable playing against all the professional poker players and I’m expecting half of the field to be businessman and that makes the tournament very lucrative. Right now I’m about 85% sure I’ll play the tournament but I’m not putting up a million of my own money of course.”
Jeff Gross partying with his best friend Michael Phelps. Photo credit @m_phelps00
Prop betting is synonymous for Gross’ lifestyle and right now he’s involved in quite a few. Gross explains how some of these bets originated but that he’s not willing to sacrifice the fun in life in order to win some money or shake an unhealthy habit.
“Right now I’m doing no alcohol for a year, no flour for a year, no checked bag for 16 months, the tattoo that’s on my back and last summer I jumped off the Stratosphere, which was pretty tough considering I’m very scared of heights,” Gross said.
“The no-alcohol bet started last year on May 5th and this year I’ll be in Cabo for a charity golf tournament that day. That bet is for $50,000 and I’ll be in a good location to celebrate that the year is over.”
“No flour is the hardest, since you always have to look out for it. Whenever I go to restaurants I always have to ask to make sure there’s no flour in their meals and sauces. I have figured out that there are still a lot of things that I can eat, like meats, chicken, salads and even rice. I do have to watch out though because it’s an easy one to lose,” Gross said, but he’s not being tricked by his friends to make an accidental slip up which would result in him losing the bet.
“It’s good that I don’t have to worry about being tricked into losing because the people I bet with want me to succeed in life. Bill Perkins for instance, who I have the no alcohol bet with, always buys pieces of me when I play in big cash games and he wants me to do well and live a healthy lifestyle. If I would lose he wouldn’t say no to the money, but it’s more about me for sure.”
“There are prop bets that come up all the time but right now it’s enough for me. I don’t want to live in solitary confinement. The no alcohol bet was good because I party a lot, at least in perspective to what’s considered normal. It’s just a thing where I don’t have to get up at 9:00 am every morning, so over dinner and when going out it becomes easy to have eight Vodka sodas and some shots. Every night becomes Friday night and that is not ideal. Because of the bet, and working out a lot more I’ve become much healthier and aware of what I’m doing. After the bet is done I’ll probably have some bigger party nights, but they’ll be much less frequent.”
Of course we had a prop bet idea of our own constructed and suggested the following thing to Jeff. How much would it cost for him to wear a suit for every public appearance for an entire year? Going to the gym, and staying at home, would be allowed in normal clothing but every time he leaves the house he would have to wear a full suit with proper shoes.
“I’m not looking to add any crazy bets right now, but that would probably be somewhere in the six figures so let’s say $100,000,” Gross said, and right now we’re curious, any takers?
Jeff Gross with Antonio Esfandiari and Bill Perkins before boarding a private jet. Photo credit: @MagicAntonio
Right now Gross’ sponsored by Ultimate Poker even though he doesn’t spend a lot of time in the two states where his employer is active. Gross greatly appreciates the opportunity he’s gotten from first legal US based online poker website.
“They’ve been very lenient with the things I do because I travel so much for poker. I don’t spend enough time in Las Vegas to play a decent amount of hours online, but they understand that I’m representing the brand in some of the bigger tournaments in the world. When I do play online, in Nevada and New Jersey, I play on Ultimate and I’m looking forward to see how it evolves. They’ve already had some nice software updates but I’m expecting many more great features to be added this year. I’m impressed how they do their business and how far they’ve come already after online for only a year. If you look at PokerStars and all their bells and whistles it looks very impressive, but we shouldn’t forget how long they’ve been working on making it all work so well,” Gross said.
Finally Gross gives his take on the ever-changing online poker landscape in the United States. It was once an unregulated free for all, which changed into a major crackdown by the DOJ resulting in the uncovering of Full Tilt Poker’s problems. Right now, state by state, poker’s returning to computers all over the US and Gross thinks that this will ultimately result in the biggest WSOP Main Event ever.
“I feel like there will be another boom in the US eventually. If poker comes back everywhere right now I feel like there will be some scars from the Full Tilt Poker scandal, but eventually that will pass. If states like New York, Florida and California allow legal online poker without being segregated, I believe that’s something that will happen eventually, we could see a bigger WSOP Main Event than the one in 2006. Personally I don’t think it’s impossible to have 10,000 players in the Main Event within the next five years.”
“Winning an event like that is on the list of goals, but numbers wise it’s a little further out of reach of course. It’s funny though, because guys like Joe Cada, Ryan Riess and Greg Merson all won the Main Event. Both Joe and Ryan are from Michigan while Greg is a Baltimore guy that I am friends with and we play in the same home games in the area. So while winning the Main Event seems kind of silly to picture, final tabling or even being the eventual winner isn’t so crazy. As Russell Wilson would say, “why not me?”
Photo credit: PokerNews.com