The 19 year old Julien Nuijten from Amsterdam became world champion in Magic at the age of fifteen. Since then he has traveled around the world to play the biggest Magic tournaments. Recently he found a new hobby: poker.
And, played some poker last night?
Yes, this interview comes at a good time. Last night I won the biggest pot of my poker career. It was sick, I won a total of $17,000 from one player on Everest at the $25/$50 tables. He played really weird poker and kept on betting the pot with bad hands. Very weird, but obviously very nice for me.
What exactly is Magic The Gathering?
Magic The Gathering is a card game that is in some ways similar to chess, but can also be related to poker in terms of strategy. There is also a fantasy part to the game, and the game also has a complete story to it, but I never really got into that. For me it was just always about the playing the game.
When did you start playing Magic?
I started in middle school when I was 12, as many kids in my school were playing the game as well. I got interested and I seemed to be good at it.
"Good" is an understatement. Three years later you became world champion.
Yes, that was in San Francisco. Actually that was my first big tournament, although I had played the Dutch Championship and a Grand Prix before. The prize money wasn't bad either. For the world championship I received $35,000, and at the end of the year I got an additional $17,000 because I was quite high up on the tournament leader board.
You speak Dutch with an American accent.
That's because of the many Magic tournaments. I've probably been to America at least 15 times to play tournaments. But I am 100% Dutch. Although, my father is from Martinique, but I've never known him. My mom raised me and my big brother. I have a great mom. She works as a kindergarten teacher.
Did you ever think about studying after high school?
I took a photography class for some time. That was a lot of fun, but poker was going pretty good, so I stopped with that.
Were you immediately good at poker?
No, definitely not. In the beginning I was just fooling around on the internet. I played a mix of various things. $1/$2 Limit, $0.25/$0.50 No-Limit, tournaments up to $50, those sort of things. Only since early this year (2007) have I really started to be serious about it. I deposited $2000 on Everest Poker and started playing 100NL tables. It didn't take long for me to realize that there was quite some money to be won with playing poker. I am convinced that everyone can be a successful poker player on these limits, as long as they put enough time and discipline into it.
Those are your keywords?
Absolutely. Most people just play for fun, and its these people from which us "regulars" make most of our money. We win a little from all the recreational players, and the rest from each other, that's how you have to look at it.
What does your Set-Up look like?
I play on two 22-inch screens and have PokerTracker and GameTimePlus running. The later program is the Everest version of PokerAceHud. I started playing 2-3 tables, but by now I regularly play 8 tables at the same time.
You have discipline, so you've never been tempted to play higher limits although your bankroll doesn't allow it?
Never. I had a simple scheme: only once i won 20 buy-ins at a certain limit did I allow myself to go up a limit. I played for months on 200Nl tables. The move to 400NL was very difficult, it seemed very difficult to beat the game, so I basically skipped that limit and quickly moved up to 600NL and 100NL. I don't know, it seems like all the professional grinders are playing the 400NL tables. It's a very annoying limit.
By now you're playing the $5-$10 and higher
Yes, since last June actually. I've had to encounter a couple of downswings, but in general it went pretty good. My bankroll would allow me to play the 5000NL tables now, but I only do that sporadically, like last night.
In my opinion 1000NL ist he highest limit where you can catch proper fish. On 2000NL tables I lose my edge to a great extent. There are some really good players on those limits, which makes it a lot harder to play winning poker.
What exactly is your edge?
I don't know exactly. Maybe that I'm a little tighter than most other players, in the sense that I play with a stricter hand selection. And I think that im quite aggressive in position. Calling with suited connectors out of position, for example, is something I rarely do. On the 1000NL tables you see a lot of players doing fancy moves, like check-raising on the river. I play pretty solid in that respect.
You also play regularly at the Holland Casino
Currently i go about twice a week, on tournaments nights. I always go with some friends, but I never gamble. I have never spent a cent on a fruit machine or roulette. I just enjoy playing some poker and have a beer or two. Of course I get to see far less hands compared to playing online, but I don't mind that.
So you've never sat down at your PC drunk and went on tilt?
No, that's not something I would do. That's also why I don't gamble. Winning $5000 in a poker game is worth a lot more to me than winning $5000 at a roulette table. I think that's just part of my character. I don't have the drive to desperately make more money quickly.
Are you in contact with other high-stakers?
Yes, coincidentally I met the entire Everest Clan at the MCOP. I have a lot of contact with Erik Zamboer, Joris Jaspers, Pocketjoe, Thomas Kok, those kinds of guys. Thomas taught me the most in the beginning. He introduced me to Everest and told me about bankroll management.
Do you guys play hard on hard against each other at the Everest tables?
We sure do, especially because we know exactly how the other one plays, which often lets you play more aggressive. We definitely don't soft-play each other, that's for sure.
We saw you in the MCOP Main Event. What do you, as a cash-game player, think of tournaments?
They are definitely fun to play. Of course the luck factor is a lot higher, because you often only have 20 big blinds in front of you. At cash tables your always have at least 100BB, that's a huge difference. The variance is also something that you can't really get rid off, since you can't play 1000's of tournaments. But I do enjoy playing them a lot. At the MCOP I lost a coin flip, 99 vs. AK, but hey, that happens.
What is your name Online?
On PokerStars i play under "Pandachan12" and at Everest I'm "Alabamakid". Why these names? Pff, i thought "Pandachan" was kind of funny, but that name was already taken. In my DVD collection I saw Twelve Monkeys standing around, so that's where the 12 came from. Not really a special story behind it, haha.
Have you never done anything crazy with some of the money you won?
Not really. Look, winning that $17k last night was fun, but its nothing more than an upswing. I can just as well lose that money again next week. Of course I would like to buy a house sometime from my poker winnings, but for the time being that's not happening. Once I live by myself, that's when ill start to pimp a little, but not too extreme.
Do you ever watch higher limits?
I do, but why should i start playing there? Then I lose my edge. I don't know why players like "durrr" and "sbrugby" play there. They probably like the challenge and the money doesn't interest them that much anymore. Brian Townsend ( sbrugby"), would have never gone broke playing 5000NL tables, but on those sick limits it did happen. If you end up losing 20 buy-ins in one day, that can be pretty rough.
Do you keep up to date with the poker world? Do you read sites, do you watch High Stakes Poker?
Yes, I find that quite entertaining, but it doesn't have a lot to do with good poker. If you give me 2 Million to go play at that table, then ill do it, if Jamie Gold is there as well haha. He is just on money tilt and makes the most arbitrary moves.
You're going to stick around the 1000NL?
Sure. Guys like Jorryt van Hoof have also played the highest stakes before and still play 1000NL regularly, and takes that very serious, I respect that a lot.
What are your ambitions? If we see each other in 1 year, what is your life going to look like by then?
Pff, that's hard to say. I hope that by then I've earned 1 Million with cash poker, haha. I don't know. I like traveling, and I've been to America and Japan over a dozen times when I played magic tournaments, so id like to keep on doing that, just with poker.
And besides poker?
I'm thinking about that at the moment. Being a poker player, you don't really give a lot to society and I don't like that very much. I think about that regularly.
But for now you're just going to keep on playing poker.
Definitely. I haven't even played as many hands this year, maybe about 320,000. It is also a skill to have long sessions. I usually only play when I feel like it. Sometimes I have sessions that last 8 hours, but that doesn't happen very often.
Do you help other with their poker game?
Sometimes i have friends watching me when i play and i try to explain why I do the things i do. But poker is an ego-game. Everyone thinks they're the best, so it's hard for many players to take advice from others. I also wouldn't necessarily recommend the life of a poker pro to young players. It is hard to become a winning player, but it's even more difficult to stay a winning player.