Interview with Mr.Vendetta based on live stream
Let me start the formal part and present myself and you. I’m one of the founders of Hyperschool and the ex CEO. Now I’m the head of the development team. Sometimes I do streams, on special occasions.
Today we definitely have such an occasion. So, everyone, please meet Martin, he’s a high stakes player on Pokerstars. You may know him already by the fact that he won x200 on 1000 stake in February 2023. That was cool but this is not the only thing. He’s also a coach in CardGrinders — the team we have been collaborating with for already a couple of years.
Hello, Martin! Maybe you would like to add something about yourself because there’s not so much information about you on the internet.
That’s how I like it! Thank you very much for the introduction and for inviting me. I’m Mr.Vendetta on Stars. Maybe it’s something to add as I guess many people rather know me by a pokerstars name than by my real name. Beyond that, not so much to add about myself at this point.
– How did it happen that you have been playing on that high stake? What was your path to get there?
I've been playing spins professionally since 2018. It's been a long time already. This year, at some point, I’ll cross the 5 year mark.
Back in 2018 I started at the low stakes, I joined a team called SpinLegends back then. I learned a lot and moved up through the limits over time. I’ve been playing high-stakes (250+) for 3 years now. On the 1000$ stake Pokerstars rarely has any traffic. Usually you sit there but nothing happens. Over the month I usually get to play 50-100 games on 1000s, not much more.
– Have you tried any other poker rooms or do you play only on pokerstars? And why?
No, there are two reasons, actually. Reason number 1, which is for me the most important one — I believe that so far Pokerstars is the most safe platform to play on. Their anti-cheat prevention is now the best, compared to the competition. This is something that is personally very important to me. I would be very upset if I were studying hard and grinding a lot — and then would be playing against bots. And I think the risk of that on Pokerstars is the lowest.
Number 2 is of course the traffic. Especially on high stakes, it’s already hard to get any action. But on other platforms it just gets harder. You may already know that Partypoker has completely removed 250+ stakes and you can’t really find any other platforms where you have more than that.
And then, last for not the least, if you want to make it to the top in the spins world — you have to play against the best opponents. It is probably the case on Pokerstars as well, it’s the top of the competition. And that is how you learn the most.
– Who are your favorite opponents? Who’s the best and who’s the worst if it’s not a secret?
Oh, I wasn’t prepared for that question! I’m not gonna give any bad opponents, truly. As for strong opponents — there are quite some. If I name just a few I might miss out on some others. So the question is tricky.
– Unfortunately, your opponent in x200 on 1000s – nice2meet885 – could not make it to come to us, he has a challenge and it’s very important to complete challenges as we all know. But maybe he’ll watch the stream, because if you talk about the hand history of this tournament he might be interested. At this point I wanted to ask if you’re afraid that you’d said more than you wanted? Something he could use in the strategy against you.
First of all, there’s a little anecdote about that, when after the game he came to me and asked me to reveal my hand, just this one time, because he really needed to know.
Beside that, if you play against really strong opponents, your goal is mostly to play a relatively balanced strategy, close to equilibrium strategy. There will not be any major exploits.
So the answer is no, I’m not afraid of that. I can only play as solid as possible most of the time against him. And if he can just open any solver, there’s no need to look at my hands for that.
– How many tables do you play and how many games per month?
Mostly less than 12 tables. Ideally less than 10. I like playing 8 tables, that's where I feel really good. If it’s more than 8, I feel like it’s stressing me out a little and I can’t do that for too long, my decision making qualities start to suffer. And again, on the high stakes you rarely have a chance to play this many tables. Nowadays I mix down to 100, I open everything from 100 to 1000s. This way you can get 8-9-10 tables.
Quantity of games per month: you’re all familiar with monthly Pokerstars challenges, so it’s relatively fixed in terms of volume. For me it mostly depends on how many of the highest or lowest stakes are open. Usually for me it's something between 3-4k games to make my monthly progress challenge.
– A question from the chat: “Does he think that Spin flashes might die soon? Since it’s almost impossible to make money at his stakes if 95% reg ratio on 250s.”
No, I don’t think that at all. Surely, the games are tougher than they have ever been. But that’s the trend. Especially since Pokerstars added the higher rakeback again, it attracted more and more grinding regs. Games have become tougher at all stakes. But at some point they can’t become any tougher, and if you're capable of playing better than your average opponent — you would still be able to make money.
Of course, in an extreme scenario this could lead to everybody making no profit whatsoever. But we’re currently far from this situation. I know that quite some regs are currently struggling with break even results on all limits, including some people in our team — but if you’re constantly studying, improving and managing to be better than your reg opponents, I think you can still make very solid money, especially at high stakes.
– You’ve mentioned your students. Could you tell more about your stable, what is your key approach, how is it all organized?
CardGrinders exists for about 3 years, we currently have around 50-60 players, across almost all stakes. Most of them are on the higher end of the scale. Piupz and myself are the coaches for the advanced team there. We have a cooperation with Hyperschool, obviously, to outsource the variance. Great working with you guys, always very professional.
We offer staking, on top of all the content and education and we have a great community going.
– How can someone get your training?
We currently have open slots available in the team. In case someone is looking for a place to get coaching, check the website and send an application if it seems appealing to you. If you start on the lower stakes, it may also be interesting to you that we offer a trial month. So even if you end up not liking it, you’re free to leave.
– I like that you’re focused on coaching, staking, poker and you choose to share the variance in the pool. But at the same time I know that you guys have a huge upswing, you send a lot to the pool and plus 200$k now. How do you feel about that? Have you any thoughts of leaving the pool for example, since you’re doing so great?
That is an interesting question that I get asked more than I should :)
I think personally I’m slowly approaching now to half a million that I will have sent to the pool at some point. But this is just how it is. I mean I don’t have any hard feelings about that – it would be totally irrational. The idea is to reduce the variance, right? So obviously when you take that deal you’re willingly accepting that in case of an upswing – you pay. That’s why you get paid in case of a downswing. That’s just how it works.
You flip a coin basically - needless to say that we all should stand by our words and keep up our ends of the deal whatever happens.
I don’t have any intentions of leaving the pool. I think it’s a great tool to outsource the variance. And beyond that statistical independence is a real thing - which means basically that if you had an upswing last month it doesn't say anything about what will happen next month. It’s still equally likely that it’s going to be a downswing next month.
In other words the past doesn't matter when it comes to evaluating the expected value of my pool membership.
– What do you think about the open swing during the month? There are some opinions that it’s not great, because when you see a downswing you’re not so motivated to play. But someone may win a jackpot on the last day of the month and make it all profitable for everybody. And someone stopped playing in the middle of the month, he will not receive this additional value.
That’s an interesting question – especially this month it was funny. When I hit that 200k$, the next day a high stakes reg sent me a message that he is going to start playing now, just because of me. He wanted to take the whole month off but then he decided to play his challenge within only a week because of the huge pool upswing. So it has an effect, granted. But personally I don’t really see much damage potential, I don’t see how it is a negative thing for anyone.
After all, it only might affect whether other people play more or less. Obviously, everybody would be the happiest if everybody played the most. Because then we would have a huge volume and a very small swing, on average. But I don’t think that it matters too much if someone plays a little bit more or less depending on the pool swing.
– Are you exclusively sticking to Spins? Never played MTTs or Cash?
No. My belief is that nowadays it’s incredibly hard to be on the top of any format. No matter which one, all the formats are highly competitive. If you want to be one of the best Spin players — you will have to devote 100% of your time to that. That’s my belief. It’s the same for Cash games and for MTTs – it’s all super tough. So dividing attention between formats have never seemed rational to me. I think in the end you just would not be able to make it to the very top, in either format, if you do that.
– Do you use HUD while grinding spin flashes?
Yes, I play with our CardGrinders HUD.
– Which HUD stats could be useful for flashes?
Oh! Well… that’s a long list!
I think our HUD has 200 stats or something. Let’s say – a lot!
– One more hot topic which I wanted to discuss. You used an alias option, and right after you won a jackpot, some guy in discord wrote thanks to Mr.Vendetta. It was obvious. How did you feel about that? And why did you hide your screenname and results in the first place?
First of all, I totally understand that it is a very controversial topic. I can see arguments for both sides easily. Personally, I like using it.
Already a long time ago I noticed that I play better and I have a better mindset over the course of the month if I’m completely detached from my results. Between the first day and the last day of the month I do not check any of my results. I don’t know how I am running. I shut out any information about that.
Since I’m a little bit exposed in our team as a coach and also in the poker community, it happened sometimes in the past that people have been watching how things were going for me and made comments or sent me direct messages about my current upswing/downswing. Sometimes even opponents who tried to get into my head. So for me playing with an alias takes away the opportunity for anyone else to interfere with my sanity – and this is primarily why I use it.
– Interesting. That’s a new reason for me why players may use an alias. Let’s come back to the questions from the chat. What software do you use to improve your skills? A long list?
Actually not even that long. PT4 is the base line that most people use, including me. It allows filtering the hand histories to almost all spots you might want to review.
When it comes to improving skill at some point of your career you should consider working with a solver. At least it’s my opinion. My coaching philosophy is that strategies nowadays should be built around GTO which makes working with a solver essential. I believe that it will be very hard for anyone nowadays to make it far without a profound knowledge in that area.
Personally I use GTO Wizard as my solver of choice to do GTO calculations and analysis.
– What is your daily routine? How much time do you devote to theory, playing, coaching?
Oh, wow! Ha-ha! I don’t want to bother you with my life routine.
When it comes to the poker part of it, I think I’m grinding on average like 3 to 4 hours a day, 7 days a week, until the end of the month. I usually finish my challenge a bit early because I like to take a few days off afterwards.
And then probably around 1-2 more hours for studying my own game and coaching players at CardGrinders.
– How should the study routine be different for a 25s player and for a 250s player?
The major difference is that the higher you play – the less you play against recreational players. The importance of understanding GTO becomes higher, the higher you play — which is maybe intuitive. The lower you play the more important it is to understand population dependencies and how to exploit them properly. I’d say the 25s is a limit which is a bit of a transition nowadays, because games have become tougher than they used to be. In the past 25s used to be much softer, but now they are already full of relatively solid players.
However, it’s still a limit where you can achieve very high win rates if you’re exploiting the population efficiently. You can start working with a solver at 25s, but more important than that is to get access to a source that can help you understand how to exploit the average opponent you are constantly playing against.
On 250s that’s just not a thing anymore, there you will have to do very individual exploits, because on average your opponents will be very solid. You will not face so many classic population players anymore.