This conversation with Common13, a player from Ukraine, took place on January 18. We had a very nice conversation then, but working on the material was paused for obvious reasons.
Now we have discussed the state of things with Lesha — and decided to release this interview anyway, with respect to the work done by both sides.
— Hi, Lesha. Say a few words about yourself, in the poker context.
— I came to poker about six months before the famous “Black Friday”, one of my friends hooked me. At that time, pokerstrategy offered $50, and if I had played there a lot, he would have received bonuses for me. But at first I refused: to hell with your poker, I'd rather play chess. By the way, he is also originally a chess player, it was on this basis that we met online, we were on the same team. Then we met offline too, at a chess tournament. We became friends with him, I even managed to stay in his place, we built families in front of each other, and so on. Now he doesn't play neither chess nor poker — couldn't handle the variance and finished his career.
— How did poker turn out for you?
— It was easy to start, I studied a couple of articles — and went right into battle. But my 50 bucks quickly turned into 5, it became clear that you need to learn the game, otherwise you will have to make a deposit. It's not that it was some crucial money for me, at that time I had a good job, but it was still annoying.
— What kind of job did you have at that time?
— Financial director in a rather serious news agency, number one in Ukraine.
— Was it scary to leave there to play poker?
— I believed in myself.
— And what was this confidence based on?
— I felt that I was very close to success :) At this stage, I saw poker as a pleasant means of alternative earnings. And then Black Friday happened, and everything became much more complicated, it was not such easy money anymore. I realized that in order to stay afloat, you need to learn the basics of poker more deeply.
— Have you studied it yourself or with a coach?
— Basically, by myself. I had two stages in poker: the first one was when I tried to do it on my own, and the second one was when I had already worked out in a team. During the second stage, I was already in Hyperschool. Before Spin&Go appeared, I studied quite a lot of disciplines: SNG, MTT SNG, hyper turbo. But Spin&Go began to actively replace those, so it was on this discipline that I concentrated, and it’s in this discipline that I am engaged in coaching.
When Spin&Go appeared, everything became very sad in hyper turbo, and I took a short pause. A friend came to me and asked to help him with his business. The business was related to taxis: in fact, I was fighting with Uber in the Ukrainian market. I helped him with the company, he successfully sold it — and I returned back to poker.
— Can you tell more about your school?
— Coaching attracts me much more than just grinding, it's not my thing. However, I like to raise players and get feedback. Someone comes with a 1$ stake, and after classes he plays 25s— it's nice, you feel that the work has not been done in vain.
— What’s so special about the pleasure of coaching other people?
— The pleasure of the process itself, I always have the energy and mood to do it, no matter what external circumstances.
— How did you come to this?
— After the closing of the Young Lions school, where I studied for six months, I switched to Spin Legends, started to train. And when this school ceased to exist, too...
— What a pattern :) First one closes, then the other!
— Yeah-yeah, destiny guided me :) After Spin Legends, 15 people stayed with me, and we started studying. Someone fell off, of course, and someone even scammed the pool. For small amounts, ruining their hypothetical career literally for nothing. I don't understand why people do this. Poker is a business. Every poker player is a businessman. And how you do this business is how successful it is. When a businessman is faced with a choice: a bird in hand or two in the bush — he always chooses two in the bush. That is, potentialities. And a small scammer chooses a bird in his hand. With such a psychology, it is hardly possible to become a professional, financial success with such a worldview is also doubtful.
— An interesting concept. Isn't business when you create some value for someone other than yourself?
— Well, yes, you do create value.
— Which one?
— What is a poker player? This is a person working in the service sector. You provide services to hobby players who are trying to beat you, you entertain them. When you're dealing with regulars, you're all competing for the opportunity to play with a hobby player. And whoever plays better against the regulars is more likely to get to play with hobby players at a distance.
— Getting the right to entertain them :)
— Kind of :) If you think about it, it is hobby players who bring “bread” to poker players.
— But not at the highest stakes, where the field is very narrow. If the others play 250-500s, then the 100s regular with this background looks like a fish.
— Fish, that's a big word. Rather like a weak regular.
— What stakes are you playing now?
— 50s. I do not play higher, because life has turned out so that I cannot accumulate a bankroll for higher stakes. At the same time, the guys at my school play 100s.
— Aren't you considering backing?
— No, because then in the end you will need to grind, and I don't like it.
— How much time do you spend on poker on average?
— It depends on how you look at it: there are moments when you are specifically in the game, and there are moments when you are training, decide to stream something, record a video. On average, 5-6 hours a day.
Since the new year, I decided to take some absolute beginners who do not yet know anything except the rules — in order to raise them to normal stakes and then attract them to the pool.
— What model do you use to work with players? Are they paying a recoil?
— I came to the conclusion that it is psychologically difficult to pay recoils, so I am implementing a subscription fee system. There is an older group (we have been working with them for more than two years), and newcomers who are just joining — and this scheme is with everyone. If you pay a subscription fee, you are motivated to study.
— And how do you find students?
— The first line-up, as I said, was brought to me by the closed Spin Legends. Then, word of mouth works, I don't make any special efforts to find students. I want to scale, going to make a website and continue streaming.
— How many subscribers do you have on twitch?
— Two hundred people, something like that :) But I'm not streaming for such a long time – I've been doing it since the end of last year. I want to systematize my streams, build a schedule.
— Are you the only one who trains at your school?
— The older group, yes. For the youngest, there are guys from already raised students. Inviting a coach from the outside would go against my concept: I train according to my own system, it is important to me that others also train according to it. Because I consider it effective.
— What kind of system?
— It is based on a split of ranges and allows even experienced players to take a fresh look at poker, it is easy to learn and understand. And together with studying the trends of the hobby players field and the correct exploit, it allows you to quickly rise to at least 25s. Our goal is to be no weaker than the regulars (preferably stronger) and beat hobby players as efficiently as possible.
— At the beginning of the conversation, you mentioned that you are fond of chess!
— I came to poker from chess, and it was very painful :) Because in chess, if you are cool, you will beat your opponent. And poker is a more philosophical game. There is an element of skill here, but there is also an element of luck. Such games teach humility. In chess, if you don't make mistakes, you will win. In poker, it's never a fact. This is what attracts the broad masses. And to restrain yourself, to learn humility — this is the road to professional poker.
— But if you play in a pool, it doesn't matter what your result is.
— But I started without a pool! But yes, it was for this reason that Spin&Go attracted me later. Not to depend on variance is great.
— Returning to chess: how professionally did you play, what background did you have?
— It all started from childhood. Guys smoked in basements, and I read chess books. Guys went on dates, and I played with old men in the park. I don't regret anything, it all brought me great pleasure.
— What progress have you made?
— My peak was the fulfillment of the norm for the master, and that was the end of it. As a student, I still played in tournaments, but then adulthood began, and somehow it all calmed down.
— And how old are you now, how long ago was student life?
— I'm 40 now. It was half a lifetime ago, so it turns out. Now I'm a fish in chess :)
— What else was there in life besides poker and chess?
— To be honest, everything revolves around poker. I can sometimes play Dota, I'm a bit of a gamer. There are no other realized hobbies, although there are many desires. But there is no time for them yet.
— Name one!
— I want a motorcycle. Every time spring comes, I start thinking about buying one.
— Spring is coming again, by the way.
— I hope everything will work out this time. I just need to complete other tasks. For I bought a house, and the renovation in it has not yet “bought".
— And where is the house? Where do you live?
— Kiev neighborhood.
— You'll finish the renovation, move into the house, play poker and ride a motorcycle. That sort of idyll?
— The idyll for me is not to play poker densely, but to play from time to time. To be on the crest, to try the schemes that I am implementing in training, to engage in the school growth, and so on.
— Is there a long-term plan? Let's imagine that there are no resource limitations.
— I have been in poker for a long time both as a player and as a coach, I have a wealth of experience, and not only in spins. And I have an understanding of what people need. I don't like to train just like that, progress is my main motivation. And the global ambition is to first develop an effective Spin&Go school, because this discipline is most accessible to beginners. And then maybe to develop other disciplines on this platform, involving other trainers and adapting my methodology.
— Well, yeah. And in life, what is important to you?
— The right person to be around. I had two marriages, the first one ended after 14 years. Now I compare my life with the previous woman and with the current one. And I understand that the element of inner peace that a spouse can form, and at the same time internal mobilization, is very important. For example, in my previous marriage, I got tired very quickly, including in the poker context. I don't know what exactly it was connected with, but in a new relationship everything is exactly the opposite: high efficiency, a lot of energy.
— Did these two people express any specific attitude to your poker practice?
— None of them expressed disapproval. Some people, for example, my father, gave in to prejudices, started to be afraid that I would sell the apartment and so on. Therefore, in conversations with him I began to focus more on me being a coach, it calms him down a lot. But there was nothing like that in marriage, I found acceptance. And the feeling of inner harmony in poker is very important, it is very difficult without it. You need to try to find zen.
— Were there times when you wanted to change your occupation?
— There have been, repeatedly. I am a fairly social person, sometimes I want some action, communication, parties, and not to stare at numbers. Poker players in general are quite serious people, with a closed lifestyle.
That's why I started side projects. At one time I had a Facebook page for 100 thousand subscribers, with entertainment content: some fun video compilations where money was gradually received for advertising. Taxi business, again, I developed a very strong activity then. Well, now I'm finding energy in the development of my school.