There aren’t many poker players like Scott Palmer. It doesn’t matter in which way you look at this 22-year old poker professional; he’s going to stand out no matter what. Most US-based professionals quickly moved somewhere; to keep playing online poker after Black Friday happened. However, Palmer did not. Some of them even stayed in the US and decided to take up live poker, but more than a few events, Palmer never played. He still sees himself as a long time professional but most amateur players probably logged more hands throughout 2012 than this multi-millionaire. His hands are getting itchy about getting back into the High Stakes action, but for now it’s just talk from the man known as urnotindanger.
The interview I had scheduled with Palmer started at 4AM local Baltimore time, the time of his choosing. Palmer started off by explaining why he was even awake at this cuckoo hour.
Three weeks out of the month I will stay up until the middle of the morning, but it’s mostly because I’m used to it from poker. Back when I just started PLO the only games that would run were between 3:00 and 6:00 AM. That kind of messed with my schedule and after poker went down in the U.S. I started playing StarCraft 2. If you want to follow any of that action you need to stay up in the middle of the night as well, because that’s all taking place in South-Korea.
So the big question of course is, what have you been up to in the last six months? We saw you briefly at the World Series of Poker but after that it has been really quiet around ‘urnotindanger‘. You mentioned StarCraft, is that something you invest a lot of time in?
Well basically I’ve been on the computer a ton, even before I played poker. After playing poker it’s pretty tough to just stop being on your computer that much. So StarCraft was nice because it’s very similar in a lot of ways and it was something else I was already used to. Also, about the World Series of Poker, I went back to Canada for a month and a half and played online. I didn’t really do too much though. I basically broke even.
That must have been a big switch, from playing poker full time to just playing Starcraft for fun. Had Starcraft, or video games for that matter, always been a passion of yours?
Kind of, it’s something I’ve done a lot. I’ve always liked computer games a lot and it was fairly simple. Then when I found poker, I found it to be pretty similar to video games. So I stopped playing video games and just played that. When that went away I just went back to what I was doing before. I kind of view online poker just as a video game, along with stuff like StarCraft.
When you play video games it’s mainly for recognition and winning itself. Making money in that business is a lot harder than poker but on the other side it’s never going to cost you anything if you lose. What attracts you in that whole video game world and how does it keep your interest without the money being a big factor?
When I play poker it’s not really for the money. Obviously after the session, if I win a lot, I’ll be like “Wow! Nice!” because it went well. But to me it is more about beating people. I’m an extremely competitive person and being able to beat the best players means more to me than making money. At the same time, making money is pretty nice. It’s a nice benefit. I’ll say that.
Would you say losing a game of Starcraft has the same effect on you as losing a big pot when playing the Nosebleeds?
I wouldn’t say that, but I have gotten extremely mad from losing games. But not necessarily as upset as after a bad session or losing a big pot I shouldn’t have. It’s relatively close, but not exactly the same.
Is a video game like Starcraft tougher on your mental state because you know there’s less variance, and if you lose you’re the worst player?
That’s the one reason why it really sucks to lose, because you don’t really have anyone to blame but yourself. With poker at least you can say, “Oh shit I got unlucky,” or something like that to make it not as bad. It’s also kind of nicer too though, because if you lose you can look at the mistakes you made, as in poker you can obviously look at the mistakes you think you’ve made, but you can never be totally sure due to variance itself. That’s why I think that a lot people, when they first start playing, have a hard time getting good. They will play a couple of hands poorly, or do something stupid which ends up working out, and from that point on they think that that’s the right play.
You played very little online poker after Black Friday, can you say you miss the game and is it on your mind at all?
Yeah it’s on my mind a lot, more lately it has been. Maybe that’s because I haven’t played it for about two months. I do miss it a lot, especially when I haven’t played it for a while. For instance before I got home from Canada, I just really wanted to leave, just because I probably played for two and a half to three months straight. Which isn’t a lot, but I guess that’s the threshold for me not to miss the game anymore. That’s long enough for me to take another long break from the game.
Where do you think your ceiling would’ve been if Black Friday never happened?
It’s hard to say in a game like poker where anything can happen. When Black Friday happened I was playing Gus (Hansen) a lot on $500/$1,000 PLO Cap, and there was some $200/$400 and $300/$600 PLO running because Guy (Laliberte) was playing a little bit too. So basically if had ran hot I could’ve won a lot of money. The games were pretty good but I don’t think they were as good as they are now. If it stayed how it was, the games would’ve still been good and I think I still would’ve been playing nosebleeds. It’s so hard to really answer that question just because I’ve gone on huge heaters. Even after I played nosebleeds I had three months where I broke even and I considered myself a pretty big favorite in the games I was playing. So in poker it’s impossible to guess what could happen.
Do you think this break you’re taking now is a good way to recharge yourself for another long stretch of online poker?
I definitely don’t think so to be honest. When I went to Canada about six months ago I had three brutal weeks to start with. It was crazy how bad I actually was and I ran bad as well, so that didn’t really help. I could definitely tell that I was making mistakes, I noticed them but I wasn’t really fixing them quickly. I just had problems adjusting and thinking quicker in between hands. I felt like I played a lot slower.
So you think you will have an edge quickly again on the biggest games if you would get back into it?
I don’t know. The game definitely has switched on how a lot of people play it. I think I would still have an edge on the softer games but the hard games that do run have gotten harder. The fish on the high stakes are fishier than they used to be. I mean, fish are fish but there are slightly more now on the high stakes.
Let’s say you could play from your location right now. Would you want to jump into a game with players like Durrrr and Isildur1 or can you put your ego aside and start out on lower stakes or would the urge to play be too big?
I definitely have the urge but I probably wouldn’t. It really depends though on what game is running for the most part. It’s obviously nice to play but if I don’t feel confident enough I probably won’t.
In an earlier interview you said that you might have the most money stuck on Full Tilt Poker of any poker player. Now that the DOJ has made a deal would you be willing to give us a little more insight on how much you are actually waiting on?
I rather not say the exact amount because I’m not 100% positive on that. From what I’ve heard only one person could have more money on there. That kinda sucks and if I don’t get that money you will not see me at the Nosebleeds again. Unless I run really hot of course, and if I get the money back I will almost certainly be back on the Nosebleeds again. It’s a huge amount, but I don’t want to say the exact amount.
Does that mentally hold you back, that you have all this money stuck that could help you play the games you were used to playing?
A little bit. I had a pretty bad mindset after Black Friday. For instance, I wasn’t sure how long it was going to take to get the money back, if ever. I should have just immediately tried to move and play, which was the smart thing to do. I was also thinking, if I move and play I need to get staked in order to play the stakes I was used to playing. My hourly win rate would be way lower and I figured there wasn’t going to be that much action, but not moving was a mistake anyways. I should’ve just gotten into the games immediately because no matter what, it’s always good to know, and very valuable, to know how people are playing. I don’t want to say, that because I didn’t have my Full Tilt money that I didn’t play, it’s more my own laziness. I also thought that the lower win rate would make it almost not worth it to move, but that of course is not the case. I was just being extremely lazy.
Do you think that in the long run it’s costing you even more than just the time but also practice and money?
Yeah definitely. It was just the fact that I was looking at my hourly before and what I could be making after. That was a lot lower but of course I was also missing out on a lot of practice. It’s huge to basically stay in shape for poker. Before Black Friday I played poker every day for five years straight. I feel that even if you would take a one, two or three-day break that it hurts your game. The more you do it, the better you get, and the more consistent you get at it.
Would the money being released be an immediate motivation to move to Canada quickly to play?
If I get the money I would pretty much want to move right away. Even if I did get the money I would probably not play the highest stakes for a month or so anyway. But it would definitely want to get me more involved in poker.
Before Black Friday you also played a lot side by side with Dan ‘Jungleman’ Cates. What was that like?
That was one of the best parts of my professional poker career, definitely. That was pretty much my high point. It’s hard to say otherwise. I used his knowledge extremely well and I learned a lot from watching him play. Because of that, I watched him play a lot since I knew he was better than me. We weren’t really playing PLO until way later and I mostly watched him when we were playing No Limit. Not even just seeing how he plays, but his thought process really helped my game.
Would you say you would’ve never reached that high level without his help?
I wouldn’t say that because I was already playing $5/$10, which I got up to all by myself. Those are obviously not huge stakes, but I was already doing very decent. Maybe I wouldn’t have gotten to the highest stakes without him but I probably could’ve become a consistent winner on $25/$50. It’s really hard to say how much he actually helped me, but I will say that my heads up game got a lot better because of him. But at something like 6-Max I don’t think he really helped me, I was already quite decent at that.
What are some of those small differences that he helped you elevate your game from a $5/$10 winner to someone who played the Nosebleeds with confidence?
I actually don’t think there’s that much of a skill difference between the Nosebleeds and a good $25/$50 game. There definitely is a little bit but it’s mainly having an overall better strategy than your opponent. It wasn’t a specific thing that made me play better, or something mentally, but he just made my overall game slightly better. Understanding how he thinks about hands and how to think about ranges heads up helps with making less and less little mistakes. Eventually, once you get to those stakes, it’s not about making mistakes but about making the correct ranges versus ranges. He just did a very good job at teaching me how to set up heads up ranges.
Is he, Jungleman, the most talented poker player in the world? He taught you a lot while you became one of the best high stakes players in the months before Black Friday?
He’s an extremely intelligent person, the smartest person I’ve met. I helped him a little bit with his game as well and for every five things he taught me I maybe taught him one thing in return. I did learn a little bit about the game myself since I played so much poker.
Is there one highlight from your time playing with him which you can recall? Maybe one session or a certain hand you really celebrated over?
I can’t really think of it. A lot of times people think about a certain player and one specific hand or game he played in as being the biggest thing of his career. There wasn’t anything like that for me. I’ve both won and lost huge amounts in my career multiple times, so there’s nothing that specifically stands out.
So there’s no screaming and running around the room when you three-outer someone for $300,000?
I usually don’t say much while he’s (Cates) pretty vocal. If he’s on tilt he gets pretty annoying, I won’t lie. That’s pretty frustrating, but when he’s running good he does the same. Unless I’m running extremely terrible I don’t do too much. Even if I get really lucky I don’t really do too much, I don’t know why. I’ve also never destroyed any keyboards or stuff like that after losing a lot. The same goes for Jungleman I think, but he’s probably come closer!
Oh, now that I think of it I once threw a whole bunch of poker chips against the wall after losing a $380,000 pot against Gus Hansen. I was already stuck $600,000 at that point and that’s the only time I recall doing such a thing. Despite being down about $800,000 during the session I ended up losing around $300,000 to him. In that specific hand I actually got it in really bad so I had no right to complain. (laughs)
In the poker community people love talking about who is the best. Do you believe in such a thing, that one player is the best?
Poker is so weird. It’s a lot like rock-paper-scissors. One person will beat the next person and that one will beat the first person. Some people are definitely better than others and are able to adjust faster. In many cases I think that one person might win over the first 5,000 hands but in the long run the other will be able to do a better job adjusting to his opponent.
I don’t really think though that there’s one specific player who’s the best at a certain game. Even back when I was playing there wasn’t such a player. Everyone had their mistakes and you just had to catch them on a bad day. A lot of times people you thought were very good just ran super hot against you. I forgot who it was, but a long time ago I played versus someone heads up who I thought was really good. I talked to my friends about it and they all thought he was terrible. I kept playing him and after a while I realized that he just had it every single hand. Poker is such a funny game where something like that happens. I feel like it’s impossible to say who’s the best but I guess you can go by who wins the most. But then again, that doesn’t mean much.
If there was something like the “durrrr Challenge” where you could play Phil Ivey at No Limit Hold’em, would you consider playing him and do you think you would have an edge?
I think I would but I’m not too sure. Ivey, I think, has a better chance to adjust than durrrr does. Even if I had an edge versus him at the start I would still be worried. I played durrrr enough to know how he’s going to react to certain things. So I feel like I would have an edge versus him no matter what. Versus Ivey I would be a little more concerned after about 10 to 15,000 hands. If I could I would still take it, even though I haven’t played him that much.
So durrrr is not as good at adjusting as you are?
I don’t know what his game is like now but back in the day when we played he didn’t really notice his own mistakes, I’ll say that. Whereas Ivey, when I did play him very briefly, tried to, I wouldn’t say trick you, but he made it harder to do the same thing consistently.
Right before Black Friday you lost a relatively small amount in the Isildur1 Challenge on PokerStars. What’s your feeling on that looking back now?
I was mad I actually did that. During that $100/$200 PLO was running but I couldn’t play because of the challenge. Honestly, it was cool to do but there was no real point to it. We already played around 50,000 hands on Full Tilt before that so the challenge wasn’t really a huge thing. It wasn’t like “Whoever wins this considers the other the better player.” It was a challenge I got offered to do and I figured why not. Obviously it wasn’t the smart thing to do in my opinion since there were like seven good games running at $100/$200 PLO. The way they set up the challenge made it impossible for me to play those at the same time. About the challenge itself, he played the style he usually plays. I felt like he got slightly luckier than me but he also played a little bit better.
If you get your Full Tilt money back would you consider challenging him to something similar or maybe bigger now that he’s a part of their team?
Probably not. There’s a lot easier action to get than him but I wouldn’t mind it since he’s a lot of fun to play. He doesn’t really care and he’ll play forever and that’s what I love to do too. At the same time he’s extremely tough to play under the right circumstances for himself. That’s not to say that I just try to play him when he’s tilted but if you can play him when he’s tilted, or not thinking clearly, that’s way better obviously.
Is that what you meant to say in an earlier interview when you said that there’s more to poker than just sitting at the table?
Yeah. For instance, you’ll never play Phil Galfond when he’s not playing his A-game. That might not be true right now because he’s playing and learning a lot of mixed games. But when I played him it was very clear that he was always really fresh and thinking a lot. Whereas when you play for six to eight hours or longer it’s pretty easy to just go on autopilot and not think too much. The thing with someone as good as Isildur1, is that he can kind of get away with auto piloting a lot. It is a mistake not to always play your A-game but he still probably had an edge versus a lot of people he played.
Do you think Isildur1’s A-game is better than your A-game?
At the moment for sure, it definitely is. To be honest not really, when we played back in the day I won consistently other than PLO.
Would you ever ask Jungleman for his opinion while a hand was going on? Or is that something you would morally decide not to do?
We didn’t really ask stuff during hands, it was mostly afterwards. But for instance, it would be directly after sometimes. I guess that could be kind of wrong because we could be playing a heads up match and the advice wouldn’t be, “You should play the hand like that,” but “He’s playing like this, he’s doing this and this is how he views me and how should I play the hand?”
Maybe that’s a little bad during a heads up session but in general it was more out of curiosity than gaining an edge through his knowledge. I don’t think that when I’m already playing four tables that what he says during one hand will make me play much different. Most of our talking was after a session because it’s very hard to think correctly while you’re already playing. Personally I think that’s the best way to get better when you’re already playing at a high level. While you’re playing you can’t really think your best, as when you’re outside of it you can look at your hands without any biased judgment about what mistakes you’ve made.
Based on what you just said, do you think that the Isilidur1 versus Brian Hastings thing was less of a deal as what it was made out to be?
People probably won’t like to hear it but that was his own fault. You have to expect that to be happening anyways. If he didn’t expect them to be sharing hands he’s a lot dumber than I thought he was. Do I think it’s wrong for them to share hand histories? I don’t really know. Sharing hand histories among poker players is something that is so normal. Sharing a ton of hands on one specific player, which you only play at very high stakes, is a little different, but he should’ve basically known that was going on. I guess Isildur1 just thought he had an edge against it no matter what, but it’s pretty tough to have an edge against three people who are specifically picking your game apart.
Would you ever consider doing something similar with your friends?
Probably not. I would rather just try to beat that player myself. When Jungleman and I played we knew how certain players played. We would tell each other what we thought their leaks were, that was pretty normal. When you’re playing for that much money it’s a reasonable thing to do but I wouldn’t just sit there and specifically watch one player play and tell other people about what I’ve discovered. I would rather just beat him myself.
On the 2+2 Pokercast you said that you picked up on PLO really quickly after jumping into a $25/$50 game. Do you think PLO is that simple for someone with your No Limit Hold’em skills?
Thankfully the level of play at PLO at the time was extremely low. My game plan, when I first played $25/$50, was just to pay attention to what the good players were doing and play tight. Basically everyone was bad back then and I don’t really know how I knew that. I guess that somehow I already had some knowledge of the game and if you know simple math you could tell that people were making pretty big mistakes.
Was it more fun to reach the highest stakes at PLO because there was maybe more to the game?
I like playing high stakes No Limit much better because there’s way less variance. When I played high stakes No Limit it was almost always heads up, and that’s my preferred game. At high stakes PLO it was mostly 6-Max games that ran. But it’s afunner game for sure because there are more hands to play. I actually think it’s a more complicated game but that doesn’t make me decide whether I like it more than No Limit. You get to understand what people are doing quicker and you have to pay attention way more. It’s more adjusting as to having a set strategy.
So you’re saying that a similar type of opponent could be much more different from session to session at PLO compared to No Limit Hold’em?
Definitely. At No Limit Hold’em I feel like that even if I would never play again I would still have a good view on how to play heads up, and nobody would beat me for a lot of money no matter what, if I would stick to a certain strategy. At PLO it’s extremely hard to have one set thing work for you because there’s a lot more you can do with the game.
Is it possible to be a successful poker player without being a degenerate in some way?
I think you can but there comes a point where you must have an absolute disregard for money if you want to win. Maybe I’ve just grown immune to it because I’ve been so used to it but even when I was young I didn’t care too much for money. It was not very useful to me for some reason. I’ve never met any high stakes player that didn’t have a disregard for money. So I guess that’s something you need.
Do poker and the easy access to a lot of money, create a degenerate or do the biggest degenerates become the most successful poker players?
The degenerates have better capabilities to play high stakes, just look at Isildur1. He’s one of the biggest degenerates in the world and it sort of works against him but it also helps him a lot.
Have you been involved in any crazy degenerate action like prop bets?
Nothing really unfortunately. I haven’t done any crazy bets for money. If I ever did make a bet with someone it would not be for money but for having to do something stupid.
Okay, but let’s say you were to make a million dollar prop bet with Jungleman right now and he would consider accepting. What would it be?
Probably Super Smash Brothers (laughs). We’ve had a long rivalry at that game and I know I’m the champion!
Do you have any perspective left on what a normal life is like if you wouldn’t have found poker?
It’s a little weird because I’ve been home schooled my whole life. So I’ve had a little bit different than normal life anyway. I definitely think I would have had a more traditional life, going to college and a nine-to-five, if it weren’t for poker.
Do you think you could ever go to work nine-to-five and live a regular life?
It would be pretty hard to be honest. Also that fact that I’m an extremely lazy person, which I think basically all poker players are, makes it a lot tougher to get a real job. Thankfully I would never have to try to do that. I just enjoy the freedom of being able to do whatever I want much more than a set-in-stone nine-to-five job.
Now I just want to go somewhere like Europe, or elsewhere where I’m allowed to play, for a little longer so I can play. One of the reasons I took a break from poker was because I was too naive. I just assumed that because people were making so much money in poker that it would come back quickly. Pretty soon I will get back into to heavily. It’s my job and I can’t really take too many breaks from it. I just stayed too lazy too long, that’s why my break from poker was so long.
In an earlier interview you said that you’ve basically fulfilled all your goals through poker. Are there any ambitions you have for the next year or two?
When I said that basically all my poker goals were basically done. I did everything I wanted to do. Back when I had those poker goals they were all very realistic. The goals I have now are very unrealistic. They are not really goals either; it’s just something nice I would want like playing in the GSL for instance.
Is it hard for you to set realistic goals?
Pretty much. Setting a realistic goal might be better because you could actually accomplish it. In poker for instance, setting a goal that’s pretty hard to get worked out for me. In general though my goals are a bit too high.
If you were to set both a realistic and an unrealistic goal for poker in 2013, what would they be?
A realistic goal would probably be to go back somewhere where I can play and do good at $25/$50 and win somewhere between $200,000 and $500,000. That would be realistic I think. Something unrealistic would be to go on a super heater, win four bracelets and the Main Event of the World Series of Poker (laughs). Playing the Nosebleeds consistently would also be an unrealistic goal but that would also be very nice.
So I guess we’ll see you at the Nosebleeds soon?
Hopefully, yeah (laughs).
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