Tonight is a mid-summer evening like any other in a small beach town in Costa Rica. The Pacific Ocean tides rise and fall in their usual cycles, the rainforest atmosphere becomes clear at dusk, and the volcanic rock along the Guanacaste shore begins to gleam in the moonlight.
Armed with a computer, mouse and Internet connection, Alex “Assassinato” Fitzgerald starts an online poker tournament session following a meal of fresh fish and soursop-flavored water. Before the night has concluded, he will have won a considerable sum at the virtual tables.
As he signs out of his favorite online poker site, Alex puts some finishing touches on tomorrow’s poker instructional class with one of his students, then makes sure his latest Twitch stream is archived for his premium live streaming subscribers. A quick check of his 2014 poker-themed Battle Rap shows nearly 20,000 views.
The 6’5″ Fitzgerald, who has made Costa Rica his home for the past few years, only has a few hours to sleep off his winning session before rising early and organizing his latest webinar for PokerHeadRush. He grabs a typical local lunch of poultry and beans after class, then heads to a nearby movie theater to watch a movie with his wife — absorbing the Spanish language subtitles as much as the on-screen action.
There are plenty of United States ex-pats currently living in Costa Rica, but few are able to maintain such a busy schedule while also managing the relatively healthy lifestyle Fitzgerald has grown accustomed to. Costa Rica has become one of the prime destinations for professional online poker players who were affected by Black Friday.
When asked about his fateful decision to make the move abroad, “Assassinato” is filled with much more excitement than regret.
Moving to Costa Rica was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I love my wife, my family here, and my friends. The beach, the rainforest, the mountains, and the city are within an hour of me. There’s always something going on. I love the cuisine. Living here is cheaper, and it’s a very secure country. My brother-in-law is a cop, I’ve seen them train; I wouldn’t want to mess with these people.
The setbacks really don’t have to do with the country. It’s hard to stay in touch with my family. Sometimes I really feel out of place here. I fumble with my Spanish more often than not. I’m used to living in a cold footnote to Seattle, not a place this vibrant and warm. Sometimes it all overwhelms me.
While the typical schedule of a pro online poker player located in Central America trends towards a nighttime schedule, many may be surprised to learn that Fitzgerald’s daily routine begins before dawn in many cases.
My schedule changes pretty often. It’s one of the things I like most about my job, it’s never the same thing. Right now my schedule is wake up between 7:00 to 9:00 AM. I clean up after the dogs, feed them, and make a simple breakfast for myself. I watch the news while I eat. I get into the office and usually do a couple hours of lessons. I answer pertinent emails and do the networking thing. I do my podcasts.
I eat lunch with my wife and assistant at 12:00. I let my food settle while I work more at my computer. Then I go for a run, do some work with weights, and take a shower. Sometimes my wife has patients at the clinic she’s attached to our house, so I can’t really sweat up the gym/physical therapy area she uses, so I have to do the free weights later.
At about 2:00 to 3:00 I go back to my office to write for a couple hours. I write much more than I ever publish or sell, but I seem to sell more than most people who do it as a side job, so I enjoy it. I’m trying to delve into new genres but the process is arduous. I’m really still learning, and it’s clear I have a long way to go. I just got my first novel back from an editor, with a note to rewrite 80% of it.
I take a short break after I’m done writing to just cool down. Sometimes I sit and do nothing, while trying to breathe deeply. I don’t know if it’s meditating, but it seems to help my brain from spinning of its axis. I try to watch a training video or take some notes while lounging, but I’ve been worse about it lately.
At around 5:00 or 6:00 I play on Americas Cardroom for three or more hours, while Twitch broadcasting the whole thing. I try to play a mix of tournaments, 6-max cash, and HU cash. Eventually I’m going to try to move into new games. At around 10:00 I go to my room and read while laying next to my wife.
Fridays and Saturdays I take off completely. Sundays I play poker for 8-12 hours. When I’m on the road to play poker tournaments I try to see as much as I can in whatever city I’m in, and have fun. Being on the tour can be stressful, but not everybody gets to travel, so you have to make the most of it – for them, if nothing else.
“Assassinato” spends an average of 8-10 hours per week providing poker instruction to his students, a responsibility he thoroughly enjoys. Although the emergence of Twitch Poker Streaming severely affected his premium poker coaching product initially, it has given the former EPT San Remo final table participant who has over $3 million in career online tournament cashes a global fan base.
I’m liking [live streaming] more now. I really did not want Twitch.TV to come out. I knew it would happen eventually, but I was doing well selling my downloadable videos of me playing. There was no place to get something like that for years, and I knew people wanted it.
When Twitch did come out my video sales predictably slumped. Why pay $50.00 for something you can get for free? I knew there was going to be a rough patch, but I didn’t expect it to be so severe.
Overnight people acted as if all poker coaching would be free forever. They thought guys like me who have trained for ten years to do what I do just wanted to get viewers on a Twitch channel.Companies around the world started asking me to show up and teach them for pennies, when nothing of the sort ever happened before.
After a few months people started realizing poker coaching was like anything; you have to pay a little something to get the good stuff. I think it’s wonderful that new players can watch so many players play live for free. It’s a wonderful opportunity for them. I’m starting to see my sales go up steadily again, and many people have met me through Twitch, so that’s been great.
I have to do more live lessons and webinars now, because of course the market is now flooded with live footage, but that’s been fun anyway. I also love to talk with my subscribers when I’m deep in tournaments, give them free training videos on their birthdays, and do fun stuff like that. It motivates me to get to the computer. Grinding isn’t so lonely anymore.
The evolution of poker training has been sped up due to audio-visual platforms such as YouTube along with the live streaming aspect of Twitch. Only a few years back, the most well known online poker coaches played for a living and then independently sold their voice-over videos to training sites.
Nowadays, active poker coaches with a larger viewership offer a much wider variety of services.
At Assassinato Coaching we offer a wide range of products to our 1,000+ clients. I’ll start with the value-added but more expensive options, and move down to the more affordable options.
We do one-on-one personal consultations and group lessons, for both individuals and backing stables. My personal lessons are $210 per hour, but deals can be arranged for backing stables when they buy in bulk. Group lessons are $200 an hour.
My personal lessons are the most intense in the industry. I don’t string my students along. I don’t have time for that. You’ll leave with a complete tune-up of your game with all the materials needed to get you to the next level. I often give free copies of webinars to my students so they can study without my presence.
I do webinars for larger groups. You can give me a topic you want deconstructed and I will show up with a Powerpoint and hand histories prepared. I also do public webinars I organize. You can attend and ask me all the questions you have, or you can buy a recording.
I do training videos for Cardrunners as well. If you use promo code FREEMONTH you can get 80% off there. It will be $30 for two months access to 2,000+ videos. Apestyles is also there, and he’s the best online MTTer on Earth now. Matthew Janda does videos for them as well, and he’s one of my favorite theorist.
And of course if you want 60-day access to all my Twitch streams it’s only $4.99 a month. This is a crazy good value when the SCOOP and WCOOPs come around, because I play every event live on the stream with commentary. If you don’t have time to watch all the vids you want you can order permanent copies of the streams for $19.99 for a month of videos.
So what does a premier online poker pro and instructor aim for when it comes to his short and long-term goals?
My only real goal is to be better today than I was yesterday. I really just focus on the process. Everything in life is a practice, a meditation. “The way you do anything is the way you do everything,” as someone far more intelligent than I am once said. My goal is not to become the best poker player on Earth or any of that. I want to become a better and more stable person through poker.
If my goal is to improve myself through my profession every bump in the road becomes an opportunity. If I’m just out to make money I’ll grow frustrated, because there’s so much work involved in this business before you make anything substantial. I try to save as much as I can, live below my means, and enjoy the little things day-to-day. There’s a last time for everything, and you likely won’t ever know when it is, so you better cherish it now.
Assassinato’s most loyal fans have already watched his epic Rap Battle versus Plan Nein multiple times, while those who only watch his live poker streaming shows can see the influence Hip Hop has had on him. Watching a pro poker player stand up on a live cast and express his ideas with hands and gestures is something to see.
When we asked Alex about his upcoming Rap Battle plans, he had this to say…
I’ve had about three battles fall through since [the battle versus Plan Nein]. I was supposed to be back in Dallas the next month, but it didn’t pan out. I’ve been in touch with a larger league, but we haven’t worked out a venue or an opponent yet. I even went so far as to offer some larger opponents to pay their fee myself, so the league didn’t have to come up with the money. The money would be well spent to me, as I’d really rather battle for the experience than to try and move up tiers dismantling scrubs. I’m not sure when, but I’ll be back in the pit soon. I love it too much. There’s too many possible battles in the works for one to not finally get locked in.
Battling has taught me a lesson in humility. In BS freestyle battles growing up I always won because I was just the dirtiest mind. I also didn’t care about a scrap, so I’d get up in the guy’s face. I boxed, I wrestled, and I played football; getting hit wouldn’t be like going to a foreign country. I had that projection because I fronted for death metal bands for a time/ I’d had a good deal of practice projecting. I’d win catching people off guard, screaming in their face, and saying something you couldn’t really come back from.
In the actual arena though, on these Youtube channels, I’m nothing. There’s no shaking The Saurus, or even an up-and-comer like Plan Nein. I let that kid have it, and he couldn’t have cared less. He never let his concentration be broken. Crowd reacting or not, he just kept going. When the other guy clearly doesn’t care what you’re saying then it comes to rapping, and I didn’t have it. I didn’t write my rounds with technicality in mind, and that got me, clearly.
So I actually took a lesson with a distinguished battler. He was into poker, so I gave him some pointers, and then I let him rip apart my performances. It reminded me what it was like trying to figure out poker for the first time. The newness is exciting but it’s also overwhelming. There’s so many foreign concepts to think about, and it’s daunting, talking to someone whose second nature is spitting.
But I’ve been getting it in lately, and I like what I’m hearing. I’m starting to get it. I have a lot more to learn, but I’ll be moving the crowd more this next time.
On a personal note, I would like to thank Alex “Assassinato” Fitzgerald for his time and his assistant, John Wood, for setting up this interview. Most professional online poker players are even busier today than they were years ago with daily 12-hour grinding sessions due to a more educated player pool and increased responsibilities.
Contact Alex Fitzgerald for Coaching: [email protected]
Follow Alex Fitzgerald on Twitter: @TheAssassinato
Alex Fitzgerald Twitch Channel: twitch.tv/theassassinato
Alex Fitzgerald Strategy Articles & Videos: pokerheadrush.com
Alex Fitzgerald Weekly Podcast: oneouter.com