PokerStars Zoom tables have proved tremendously popular among the poker masses, and one player that’s taken advantage of the fast-paced action is Ivey League coach Mirza “Zaza” Muhovic, who regularly plays up to 24 tables at a time. In fact, Muhovic is one of the PokerStars’ biggest winners at the $5/$10 no-limit Zoom tables.
Muhovic, who took up poker seriously back in 2010, has risen swiftly in the poker community over the last few years and has become one of the toughest mass-tabling regulars. In addition to Zoom, he often plays up to $10/$20 no-limit hold’em and has developed a reputation as a fearless competitor.
Ivey League pegged Muhovic as a coach, where he seeks to teach “players how to develop their own thought processes and apply creative thinking to poker.” Aside from his videos and online blog, “Zaza” has remained relatively reserved, but that all changed when he opened up to PokerNews in the latest installment of Online Chat, which seeks to introduce the poker masses to the players behind the screenname.
PokerNews: When did you realize you could actually go pro playing poker?
Muhovic: I started out playing as a hobby while I was at university. I started watching training videos on CardRunners and PokerSavvy, that's where I began to learn strategy. I spent two to three years studying videos and learning from them, allowing me to slowly progress. I started out playing cash games and would play some MTTs on the side.
I was basically a donk and knew nothing about bankroll management. I was just trying to run it up as fast as I could. I ran it up to $15,000-$20,000 a few times and I would do that playing within my limits, 100 NL or 200 NL, then I would jump limits and start playing $5/$10 and some $10/$20. I was basically gambling it up and busted six or seven times that way. My story didn't start at $2 no-limit hold’em, I didn't grind through the micro stakes with a conservative bankroll approach. I would bust my roll, deposit $200-$300, rebuild, and eventually I became established.
The Pokerstars $5/$10 and $10/$20 Zoom pools are recognized as some of the toughest in the world. How have you managed to hold your own in such tough games?
One thing I am very good at is adjusting and recognizing patterns in other players, and that is why I have been able to play so many tables and still be successful. I have a system, but my fundamentals are very solid so I find myself not being as rigid as other players.
You don't like to use some of the more advanced poker analytic tools, so how do you study and improve?
Usually talking to friends online. We will come up with game plans, try them out for 3-4 weeks at a time, and see how it works. If things work out, I will continue to fine tune those game plans. I learn much better by doing practical exercises hands on rather than classroom-type settings.
You often multi-table and don’t seem to emphasize game selection. What does it take to be successful with this type of mindset? What are some of the pitfalls that keep players from being successful doing the same thing?
Your knowledge has to be a lot more precise when mass-tabling. You have to be able to make decisions, adapt and see patterns much faster six-tabling. You have to be really sure about the decision you are making, which means your knowledge has to be extremely thorough. You truly have to understand what you are doing and why you are doing it, understanding and implementing entire ideas and concepts. When mass-tabling, stay focused on keeping the pressure up. Often people will play a lot of tables and start playing more passively, this is often a mistake.
Another thing to watch out for when you mass-table, you will often encounter players that will start tables with you but they will be players that only play four to six tables. You have to be comfortable when playing these types of players since you will have more losing days than you normally would. One has to be mentally tough. You have to be able to get beat down and come back with a fresh mindset, which is something most players are not capable of doing. Be ready to lose, take a break, play again that day and be ready to lose some more.
If you could go back in time to when you were first starting, what advice would you give your younger self?
Patience, bankroll management, and being humble. These are the most common things I see people struggle with in poker. Being humble is important because it keeps your mind clear; you need to check yourself constantly. It's important to have confidence, do not doubt yourself all the time. This is why you study, to improve and give you confidence, but too much can be a recipe for disaster. The only players who will last over the long run are people who will analyse their game without bias.
This is the beauty of this game, this is why it will never be boring, the game keeps evolving. Your knowledge is constantly being questioned and you have to look at yourself with a clear mind and truly see what is happening. If I go back six months and watch some of my videos, I know there will be things I was doing that I would think, “Wow, this is not optimal.” That is why it is such a tough industry to stay on top of.
One thing I've noticed with new players is they need to be questioning themselves more; they never question what they are being taught. They never try to force their coach to explain what they are teaching. Therefore, they never truly understand the reasoning behind the answers they are getting.
Who are your heroes in poker?
Off the top of my head, my heroes are Ben “Sauce” Sulsky and Alex “Kanu” Millar. They have an unmatched competitive drive. They are always willing to play the toughest player, which is why they are part of an elite group of players.
Where do you see poker going in the future? What would help to improve it's future? How do you see the future of the Zoom games going?
Table selection has become very dominant in today's games. People are starting to talk about table selection as low as $0.25/$0.50 no-limit hold’em, playing and sitting out once the weaker player leaves. If this continues the poker economy will be in trouble. The more we advance, the more poker gets analysed, the more we learn, the more we table select, the less fish are out there and the smaller the edges get.
People forget, poker is supposed to be fun, especially when it comes to recreational players. It is of the utmost importance that recreational players feel like they are playing in a friendly environment and having fun, that they are not, is becoming a big problem. This is why the Zoom games could be the answer to the problem.
PokerStars has suggested making universal Zoom pools at all stakes except for high stakes. This is a very good idea. It will finally force people to focus on playing poker. Players who are making their money table selecting will be challenged to become better, and forced to improve. What they are doing right now is draining the poker economy and killing it, this is why other table starters have my respect. When you do table start you create a place for recreational players to come, promote action and keep games running.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's a selfless act, I am a professional, but I will say versus other table starters, that there aren't huge advantages to be had. I love playing poker and I'm not going to sit down and wait for fish to join, I refuse.
Sauce, a high stakes poker legend, said it best — he misses the days where he could just sit down and play without all the table politics. It is being worked on though; PokerStars is doing a great job of taking an active interest in the community and trying to improve these issues; they are listening to what people are saying. I believe this will continue and hopefully we move to universal zoom pools or something equally as good. This is why I believe they are the best site.