The last time I saw Dusty ‘Leatherass’ Schmidt he was at Dusk till Dawn in Nottingham. Schmidt was a member of PokerStars Team Online and was commentating and playing at the Big Game.
It was during this period that FBI slogans adorned our computer screens when we logged on to play online poker at PokerStars or Full Tilt. It was a nightmare for Schmidt.
Everything in his life was about to change, but little did he know, by how much.
Here is the man with the leather ass.
“So much has happened since then. I can’t even believe it when I think about it. My then two-year-old daughter is now six, my son hadn’t even been born yet, and now he’s four. I divorced their mother and now have a beautiful 26-year-old girlfriend who has added so much happiness to my life. She’s been great with the kids during the two and a half years we have dated.
“Career wise it has been a bit of a grind. Money used to come so easily pre-Black Friday and now everything is so much harder for a U.S. based online poker pro. But all is still good, though. Sure, six-figures aren’t coming in every month, but poker still affords me the lifestyle I always dreamed of so really I can’t complain.”
I believe you have some interesting ideas on why poker players win rates have thinned over years and what could have been done differently to prevent this?
“It’s a concept I have not fully flushed out yet, but I have given it a lot of thought. If we rewind ten years, the standard pro played an 18/16 style. Everyone was really tight, and there wasn’t anywhere near the amount of bluffing there is now. When we bluffed, it was usually a solid semi-bluff with a ton of outs or on a very scary card for our opponent’s range.
“Fast forward to today and we have computer models that show whether you can profit with K8o vs. K7o from the blinds to a button min raise, for example. No one wants to give up an edge of any kind and we frequently fight for every pot no matter how large or small. While you would think this all sounds good and well, this mentality has hurt the win rate of every single pro out there.
“The reason this style of play has hurt us so much is two-fold. The more pots we play, the more rake we pay. To put it in simple terms. If we were to agree to a match where we were only allowed to steal and defend with a small percentage of our ranges (which would recreate a 2006 like heads up match), we would keep far more of our money on the table and out of the poker room’s pockets. The wider we steal and defend, the more the poker room raking a $1 a hand loves it.
“To add to this problem, the more pots we play and the more we bluff, the more correct it becomes for a weaker player to do the things they have always done since the beginning of time; play too many hands and call down too wide. Now that the standard pro has K7s from the CO instead of KQs like he did in 2005, now when the weaker player calls down with KJ on a King high flop with a brick run out, he makes two or three streets of bets when he used to lose two or three streets of bets. We used to laugh when a guy called three bullets on a K9522 board with KJ because we always had AK+ and now it’s a good call down!
“As a whole, us pros really have our priorities messed up these days. Ten years ago it was all about growing the account balance and cashing out big bucks. It was more of an old school gambler’s mentality where you only wanted to win the money you set out to win. It really was that simple. Now our egos have padded the pocket’s of the poker rooms we all pay more rake to and let the fish get off the hook for what would’ve been big mistakes they were making.
“I love the line in Wolf of Wall Street where Matthew McConaughey hilariously says about what being a Wall Street broker is all about: “The name of the game is to move the money from your client’s pocket, and into your pocket.” The 2005 version of poker players were much more effective at this. Today we all paper cut each other’s profits to death because we are too busy trying to take money from the wrong people.”
I believe you have been robbed 12-times, mugged twice, and held up at knife point and gun point twice, and your Dad got shot – talk about those times.
“My family had a wholesale non-food distribution business. The name of the game was to buy products from China and get them on the shelves of every grocery store we could. It was a full-service business, so we had drivers who went to each store on their route each day to be sure the products were displayed neatly. It was a good business that served my family well for a lot of years.
“Since we couldn’t get into the big time chain grocery stores, often we were dealing with Mom and Pop establishments who had between 1 and 15 locations usually in the worst areas in Southern California. I worked every single job in the company until I left the business for poker in 2005.
“I was in the worst neighborhoods 50 hours a week and gained a lot of experience on what the ghetto is all about. It is an awful place I never want to go back to. Being around losers all the time can really bring you down, and I knew I was better than all that.
“What happened during that time has left me pretty sour on folks from the ghetto. Our office was robbed 12 times! Two of those times were by employees of ours who stole our products and then had the audacity to go to our clients and offer them a better price than we could offer!
“Twice I was in a grocery store where I had to run and hide because a guy was waving a knife or a gun around while telling the cashier to give him everything she had.
“Another time after work my Dad and I went to play golf at a course in the ghetto. A group of gang members came to a fence behind the tee box on the 4th hole and shot my Dad in the ass of all places. My Dad was fine, but it was a crazy time. One of the muggings was with a famous golfer named Kevin Na while we were in Atlanta. That was a crazy experience too that resulted in us running for our lives back to our hotel rooms.
“The main thing I took away from this is that I have very little tolerance for those who live their lives like losers and cause problems for people. These crimes were committed by people of all races except for Asians. So I don’t go around blaming a particular race for all that happened. Instead, I learned that the ghetto is a very awful and ugly place, and you should just stay away from those people as much as possible.”
You have said you have played golf with over 20 police officers. What are the few things you have learned about the issues they face on a daily basis?
“What I have learned is that it is a very hard job if you’re not in a nice neighborhood. If you are in a nice neighborhood, then I’ve heard it can be a little boring.
“The most interesting stories always came from the cops in the ghetto. All I’ve ever heard is that they were terrified every day they went to work. Any traffic stop could go awry in a hurry considering how often they pull someone over who has a warrant out for their arrest or is a gang member. It made them uneasy every day and often left a bitter taste in their mouths about the people living in those areas.”
Picking your nose and eating it, or eating bacon, which is better and why?
“That’s a damn good question! I guess it’s a matter of perspective here. Can we really argue with the person who says it grosses them out less to eat their booger than a pig’s belly? Or can we really argue with the person who says it grosses them out more to eat their booger than bacon? If we just think about those two choices for what they are and not what we have been conditioned to think, it isn’t as clear cut as most people might think!”
Describe the world through Dusty Schmidt’s eyes.
“In my utopia, people would do the right thing by each other. I feel like we live in a world where everyone is pretty selfish. I am especially disappointed with very rich people as a whole. I feel they don’t do enough with their money to help other people out. There is too much empire building going on and not enough of, “Hey, I’ve got $50M now, I’m good, let’s help others.” Instead, it is all about turning $50M into $50B.
“Even though they will never spend it all, they do it anyway. So basically they work for free. If you don’t ever spend it, you may as well not even bother making it. I have no understanding of why more people don’t just retire and pursue their other passions. Instead they horde billions of dollars while so many other people suffer, even their employees. I wish the rich would take more pride in how many people they helped and less pride in how many zeroes are in their bank account.”
What emotions does your divorce bring up for you? What were the toughest parts of the process?
“The toughest part was dealing with her during the divorce process. Whatever nightmare you could imagine someone being, just times that by 10 with her. But during that time the sense of freedom I experienced was so powerful that it made whatever I was dealing with worth it. I really love being divorced and wear it like a badge of honor. Like a Purple Heart award or something.
“I think if most guys are honest about their marriage, they’d probably tell you it sucks. If 50% of people are getting divorced, you know at least half of the people still married are miserable. Another 10-15% are probably less than ecstatic, and then you’re left with 10-15% of people who are happily married.
“Getting married is an incredibly stupid thing to do that I will probably do again some day! But one thing I will never, ever do again in my entire life is get married without a prenuptial agreement. To all the men out there, even if you have $4.62 to your name, and you’re about to get married, get a prenuptial agreement. Getting married is like willingly getting your entire life roll in with K4o against KK; you might want a backup plan.”
What is it about divorce that will make you a better man?
“I think regaining your independence is the main thing. I never realized how much I truly valued that until I got a divorce. In a marriage, you’re making most of your decisions together. And we all know the saying, “Happy wife, happy life.” And that is part of the problem right there. You don’t hear women saying “Happy husband, happy life” and not just because it doesn’t rhyme.
“They don’t say that because they don’t give a shit how happy you are. That’s the truth for most women anyway. Men these days are so busy trying to keep their wives and girlfriends happy. They’re lying down in every argument, letting her buy that handbag even though it costs an arm and a leg and just, in general, letting their wives run all over them.
“The decisions are not being made together, the women are giving their opinion, and the men know it isn’t worth it to battle them, so they just lie down and do whatever she wants.
“It was incredible being able to do whatever I wanted again. The first couple months pretty much all I did was golf and date. I was loosely dating about seven or eight girls. It was awesome. I have a very large house with eight bedrooms and tons of wall space. She took all of the garbage pictures and decorations, so I was left with a house that felt like an empty canvas. I decided to fill the house with 100s of framed posters and pictures of everything I loved in life. All of my favorite movies, sports heroes, snapshots of epic sporting moments and beautiful women in bikinis cover my house wall to wall. It’s like a sports bar in a way. I challenge a married man to pull that off!”
What are the difficulties of splitting the role of parenting after divorce for you?
“That’s unquestionably the hardest part. It’s not quite as bad as I imagined it when I was contemplating divorce, but it still sucks. The only reason I hadn’t left my wife years earlier was because we had children. The fear of them being away from me and possibly even with her future boyfriend or husband most of the time was terrifying for me.
“That fear was the only reason I was with her because for the last three years we were together; there was no one I would rather be around less than her. I truly hated her. I put on a face and made efforts to try and feel different about her, but mostly I hated her and still do.
“During the school year, I see my kids on Wednesdays and every other weekend, in addition to extra time during their school breaks. During the summer, we practically split custody of them. It’s hard because when I have them I can’t work. So during the summer I don’t get in much of a groove with poker. On the flip side, when I do have them we spend a lot of quality time together. And most importantly, we do whatever we want to do.
“When I was with my ex-wife, she would take an extra hour packing things for every possible eventuality. Then she would want to take them somewhere completely boring that actually made me dread the day. Now with no interference, we just go out and have fun. We play a lot of sports together which is a blast. And that is the best part because my ex-wife got so fat and out of shape that she didn’t want to do anything that involved moving her body. So it was fantastic to be able just to take them to do whatever we wanted to do and be unafraid to exhaust ourselves a little doing fun activities.”
What are your views on religion and spirituality?
“I am a proud agnostic. I’m 99.99% atheist but that .01% I guess must represent my humble side. In all seriousness, I have no belief in anything supernatural.”
Who are the people who are the most influential to you and why?
“Tiger Woods has had the strongest influence on me throughout my career. I have always looked up to him since we were kids competing on the Southern California junior golf tournaments. We never directly competed because he was five years older than me, but I paid close attention to his scores and his accomplishments.
“Tiger has always spurred me on in my pursuits. Once I moved along to poker, I tried to be the “Tiger Woods of poker.” He gives the game everything he has, and I have always tried to do the same. It has served me quite well. People these days say we worship athletes too much, but I would say we still don’t worship them enough. There is so much to learn from the great sportsmen that if earnestly applied, will help almost anyone achieve things they may not have felt they could ever do.”
Do what you love or do what earns you the most money and why?
“That’s a really great question. Making a lot of money doing something that you aren’t head over heels for will provide you the opportunity to do the things you really love. But you also spend an enormous amount of time working, so it is imperative you find something you enjoy doing.
“If it is a close call, at all take the money. But if you have a choice between something you love that makes only a livable wage and something you hate that makes you a lot of money, do what you love.”
If I gave you 10,000 hours to work on anything what would it be and why?
“Another great question. I would probably take a sport like football or golf and break it down into a book to a degree like no person has ever done. Then I would take the information I compiled and go to the best golfers or team owners and convince them that I could turn what they are doing on its head. I would love to be the Bill James of a sport. I would love to be celebrating a Super Bowl win or a Master’s title with the player(s) and do so knowing that I actually made a tremendous difference. I love sports, and I do think that in some form I will return to golf either as a player or a caddy. I just love being out there with other athletes. I love being a part of the show.”
Give my teenage son some advice.
“Give some thought right now to what you want to do with the rest of your life. Don’t do what most kids do which is to wait until college or after college to decide what you really want to do with your life. Decide now and give yourself a head start. And no matter what it is, go for it!
“If you want to play for Manchester United, train your ass off every single day and block out what everyone else tells you. Even if it is a pipe dream and you never make it, you’ll learn so much about yourself and life in general during the process. If there is a more attainable goal, go for that just as hard.
“Too many kids these days have no direction. They are not picking what they want to do at an early age as they should. When you are a kid, you have so much time to invest in things that you won’t have the time for later on in life.
“When you are a teenager, there is so little to worry about relative to being an adult. To be able to have a lot of time to dedicate to something while also having little else to worry about in life is a tremendous opportunity so many kids toss away, instead opting for video games and hangouts at the mall. Nearly everyone who is the best at something started their pursuit when they were a kid. You’ve got to get that head start, or you’ll be playing catch up your whole life.”