A Week in the Life of Toby Lewis

TAGs: Berlin, EPT Berlin, European Poker Tour, European Poker Tour Berlin, Interviews, Lee Davy, toby lewis

a-week-in-the-life-of-toby-lewisToby Lewis is a very happy man. He’s in love and he’s loaded, and that’s not a bad combination for a man in his early twenties. Lewis has developed his trade to such an extent that he is able to smash it up both live and online. He is a former European Poker Tour (EPT) winner, when in 2009 he won the title in Vilamoura, after defeating a final table that housed Sam Trickett, Martin Jacobson, Frederik Jensen and the former Manchester United and England center forward Teddy Sheringham.

To find out how a professional poker player ticks, we approached Lewis to talk about his trip to EPT Berlin and this is what he had to say.

How was the EPT Berlin trip for you?

It wasn’t one of the best in terms of poker. In fact, it was a whitewash, but I had a lot of fun. I played six tournaments with buy-ins amounting to €14k. Luckily, I won a seat on Stars for the main event, so had all my accommodation paid for. They also give you €500, which you can use towards flights and other things.

How do you measure success?

Undoubtedly, it has to be financial, although it’s a shame when you think like that. Everyone knows that there is a lot of skill, and luck, in poker and sometimes there is just nothing you can do about the latter. Even if I were playing my ‘A’ game, in Berlin, it still wouldn’t have been good enough at times. So, unfortunately, I guess I measure my success on the amount I win – but I don’t really like that fact.

I guess money is fuel right?                            

When I first started playing in EPT’s it was quite a stretch, and I had a lot of sweats, but these days I keep the cost of the trips as low as possible. The variance is really hard to calculate as you could go a whole season without winning a tournament.

Once upon a time a satellite win meant you got into the tournament on the cheap. It’s not quite like that these days is it?

No not really. I was trying to win a Monte Carlo seat for two weeks and there was a 200 re-buy or 700 freeze out every night. After I finally got one I had probably spent more than the €13k package.

Did you play live cash games while in Berlin?

No I just stuck to the tournament. Also, there were a few people I had not seen in a little while so I went out for a few nights. There was so much going on I didn’t have that much time for playing cash games. I used to play them when I traveled the circuit, less so nowadays though.

How do you prepare for a big tournament?

I very rarely go out the night before a tournament, if so, just to go for a meal with no drink and go home to catch up on my sleep. You have to be really focused, the EPT’s are so long now. You have to be very mentally prepared to grind out for five days or whatever it may be. In Madrid last year, when I went deep, I think I got to 30th place. I was going to the gym every morning beforehand, which really helped me. I should start doing that again. When you are going out for a meal and couple of drinks you don’t feel like getting up quite so early. Food is also important and one of the things about being in Monaco is you can order breakfast to your room every morning and it is very efficient.

When playing a six-day tournament in an EPT is there a certain methodology in your mind of how you are going to play certain days?

It’s very table dependent to be honest. I do try and be quite tight to start off but also try to get pots early on to gain a loose image. If you lose a few pots at 50 or 100 it is not that bigger deal, if you still have 25k from 30k it’s not the end of the world, whereas, if you start splashing around at about 200/400 you are nearly out of chips. The discipline is the hardest part for a lot of people. At the start of the tournament a lot of them start three or four handed because a lot of people have turned up late. This presents the chance to set a dynamic with people you are playing against e.g. if you are in a lot of pots with them early then sometimes they don’t realize that when you go back to 9 or 10 handed you are going to have it way more often, especially the weaker players.

Do you have any set goals for each day in terms of the amount of chips you will be happy with?

I don’t but I think I do it without thinking. To be honest, I just try and get through the day. A lot of my deep runs in tournaments e.g. when I come 13th in WSOP last year I had 16k from 30k at the start of Day 2 and finished Day 2 with 250k! Maybe if I started with 100k that day I would have busted! It doesn’t matter so much these days in Day 1’s, especially when there is so much play. The tournaments are getting so much longer these days. They are more like marathons, not sprints.

How much online poker have you played this week?

I played last night and Sunday. Normally, I play on Tuesday, as there is the 1k on Stars. I don’t play every day anymore, since the tournaments got smaller online. I try and keep a better life balance, as it is very bad for you to play online every day.

Does your financial position mean you don’t have to play so much?

It does and I also have horses so I can hopefully rely on them to earn me money.

What’s your set up like?

I have two screens: a 27” iMac and a 27” Thunderbolt. So I keep my entire Internet browsing, Skype and lobbies on my Thunderbolt. I can tile 16 across the iMac and another four on the Thunderbolt. I try not to play more than 20-tables but they are all set configurations on Stars so they just fall straight into place.

Have you made any more changes to your online schedule lately?

I have cut turbos out this year, I am not playing turbos online anymore except for the hot turbos on Stars – I still think they are good value. The $200 turbos are nearly unbeatable with rake, as it is $15 rake on a $200 tournament; it is way too hard, so it is not viable. A few of us have the same opinion; some people have had a decent amount of success playing Turbo’s so where they find success they will want to keep playing them – but not for me.

What’s your view on mass multi-tabling?

I think everyone has a limit. I first started off playing two, then four and so forth. I couldn’t begin to think about what playing 20-cash tables would be like – almost impossible. I know some people play 30, which is crazy, I think it is a learning experience, the more you play the better you get at it.

What sites do you play on?

On Sundays, I play on seven or eight sites and then four or five midweek. I use Parallels on the iMac for the Windows based sites. It slows things down a little bit but I am not on the Internet as much on a Sunday as there is so much going on throughout the day.

Do you grind alone or with people?

I just grind alone usually. We have Skype conversations a lot of the time. I only grind on my own when I am home, which is not that much. When I am in the UK, I like to grind on this set up. Anybody knows they are welcome to come around here but it doesn’t always happen.

Do you use a Hud?

I do but I don’t need to use it, it is an aid rather than a necessity.

Is there a particular stat that you use a lot?

Not really, as I don’t use stats that much as I don’t put in enough time to look at them, especially with regs where I tend to remember what they have done against people in the past. Some people like Brammer recognize people from the avatar they use. If I mention someone to him he says “It’s that guy with the red card avatar”.

Do you review your game?

Yes, as I hate losing. At the moment I have lost a few days in a row so I am watching videos and chatting to Moorman or Brammer. Checking on my lines making sure I am doing the right thing and just getting unlucky rather than playing badly.

How much did you lose playing online last week?

I don’t know because I don’t keep track, but I know I lost.

Have you stopped keeping track because it affects your game or because you don’t feel you need to?

I don’t think its necessary for me. I play off my own bankroll so I don’t have to explain anything to anyone. As long as I’m winning over the long run that’s all that matters, which fortunately I always have. Downswings happen all the time, so I find knowing the numbers doesn’t help. I think it can cause people to start chasing losses.

How many horses do you have these days?

I’ve got five at the moment. I still back Craig {McCorkell} but I’m not sure if the other guys will want people knowing so I’d rather not give names. Only two of them play high-stakes; the other three play mid-stakes.

Is there a process you go through when selecting them, or accepting their requests?

It’s really important to pick well so you have to check their stats and results, but the main important thing for me is my relationship with them. I have to trust them and so I often know most of my horses well before we start doing business together.

Would you take someone on that you don’t know that well?

Possibly, it depends how they talk about the game and the feeling I get from them. I’ve made plenty of mistakes and won a lot so you have to be very careful when choosing a horse. I’ve turned some extremely talented poker players down just because the way they manage themselves isn’t in my mindset.

What qualities are you looking for apart from obvious talent?

You need someone who will work hard, both online and live. Lazy horses rack up make up and don’t care when it get’s to the point where it worries you.

How much were your horses up or down last week?

Again I’m unsure. It’s not a weekly thing, or even a monthly thing. I am a great spot, financially, at the moment so it’s not a concern. If Craig comes to me and says he wants to play in the €25k in Monte Carlo then I’ll probably say, “Go for it,” and then I’ll take a percentage and tell him to sell the rest himself. Whereas one of my other horses may want to go to Montreal to play in the WPT and I might say I’ll take all of it.

It’s all about trust and I trust my guys. I once had a horse that I didn’t trust and I had to send him money everyday and it was horrible.

You might be successful but why are so many backers in a mess because of huge make up deals?

Make up deals aren’t great to be honest. Horses are often playing just to claw some money back or their backer and are not getting anything for themselves. When I have had people in the past, who have started to lose, or I’ve had a bad feeling about them, I’ve just cut them loose. It’s my money and my business at the end of the day.

Like I said, I don’t gamble or chase losses.


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