Jonathan Little is one of the most recognized names in the poker world today. The two-time World Poker Tour champion is also a successful author of numerous poker books and also runs multiple poker training sites. Recently, Little was drafted into the Global Poker League as a member of the Las Vegas Moneymakers and is looking to help the league sportify poker.
Little almost scored his third career WPT title this week at the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open. He fell just short of his third title with a 12th place finish. He is awaiting the start of the WPT Tournament of Champions while eagerly anticipating his first matches in the Global Poker League on Thursday.
PokerUpdate Editor-in-Chief Shira Stieglitz caught up with Jonathan at the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open on Wednesday and spoke with him at length about his involvement in the Global Poker League. They also discussed Hold’em X, keeping poker innovative and Little’s newest venture in poker coaching.
Listen to the interview here:
PokerUpdate: You’ve been in this game professionally for a decade now, over a decade, you’re considered a veteran of the game, is there anything different that you see from then to now?
Jonathan Little: Well when I first started playing, there were a lot more amateur players who came into poker because it was just another gambling game at the casino. They could sit down and try their luck to win a lot of money, kind of like the lottery.
Now a lot of good players are significantly better at the game, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But at the same time, you do always want new people coming into any game because in any game people consistently leave and, for that reason, I think a lot of the casinos and the media need to work hard to get people excited about poker again. Things like the Global Poker League are a very good initiative to spread poker to a new audience and to make poker appear to be more of a respectable sport than a dingy gambling game.
PokerUpdate: Speaking of the Global Poker League, you were drafted by Chris Moneymaker to be part of the Las Vegas Moneymakers team. Can you tell us about your experience so far? Strategies? When you are going to be playing?
Jonathan Little: Well my first game is tomorrow. It’s a heads-up match. Hopefully I do not embarrass myself versus Joao Bauer. He is a good online kid, I don’t know much about him but a good Brazilian online kid from what I can tell.
We play three heads-up matches and get points based on whether you win or lose the match. Hopefully I win all of them. If I win two of them, that’s okay. My team has been doing poorly in heads-up so far. I believe all three times we were 1-2, so hopefully I can at least match that.
It was a huge honor to get drafted by Chris Moneymaker. I actually worked with Chris in my book, Excelling At No Limit Hold’em (read our review of the book here), where I had eighteen other professionals write about their area of expertise. We had a good relationship before the Global Poker League draft and at the PCA this year, I was talking to him about draft strategies and talked about it on Skype a bit.
He wanted me to be on the team because, he said, I was one of the few people who actually wanted to play and was excited to play and had the same vision that he did – that the league was going to be a great thing. There’s a lot of value in getting people on your team who really want to be there.
PokerUpdate: We saw on Twitter, that you were very excited when you put yourself on the list of possible draft nominations.
Jonathan Little: I was, I think the Global Poker League really could be a great thing for poker. I’m excited about everything they do. I know they have the game Hold’em X and I tried it a little bit on Twitch and I played a decent amount when they put out the initial trial game.
PokerUpdate: I played that a lot when it first came out.
Jonathan Little: It’s fun and that’s a good example of a way to keep games fresh. In that game they can change things about the game easily that continuously innovate the game. The issue with poker is that poker is somewhat of a stagnant game. The rules don’t change very often and if they do they’re just little tweaks. In a game like Hold’em X, I’m sure there a lot of people who don’t know what Hold’em X is but there are ways to change the game to make it new and fresh every time you play.
PokerUpdate: I think that’s something a lot of people feel that poker, as a whole, as you said the rules don’t really change, the game remains the same. So having these new initiatives, kind of give poker a new look and feel to it.
Jonathan Little: You have various looks and feels and also different formats. The only way you can change poker, as it sits in the casino, by having different structures. A new structure they’ve been doing at Borgata is effectively a satellite where people buy in for $350 and the top 10% get $3,500.
They’re called Survivor tournaments, and you have to survive X number of levels. It’s just a different way to make the game new and interesting to people even though it’s really just a satellite. It’s not necessarily just a satellite to those players but it’s a new thing.
I was talking to Matt Savage about a tournament I busted. I though I busted a $2,000 turbo event but I didn’t realize it’s not a turbo event. It’s a one day tournament because, apparently, that’s a different thing. Amateurs hate turbos and love one day events. I don’t know the difference. It’s a way to mix things up and keep things exciting to play.
PokerUpdate: So you had mentioned about playing online and playing in live tournaments earlier. Now that you live in New York, you don’t play online quite as much as you used to as you don’t live in Las Vegas anymore. What is it like to be an online poker pro given the current state of affairs right now in the US?
Jonathan Little: Well the only time I play online poker now is when I go out of the country. I have Canadian residency so that I can have a PokerStars account. You can’t play in America but I go to a lot of European Poker Tour events and so whenever I go there I try to play all the Sundays. I think online poker is very tough at the moment, mainly because so many of the areas have segregated their player pools where a lot of the professionals from those areas have left to play on the bigger pool.
There aren’t big enough games on those smaller sites to justify a professional living there. America did that and that’s why all the good American kids left. I believe also France, Italy and Spain did it and all their pros now live in London or Malta. So the sites that have enough players to attract big games, they are relatively tough and that’s the reason I don’t play online. In the past I would travel to play the SCOOP tournaments and the WPT events but I haven’t for the last few years because I didn’t see a ton of value in it.
PokerUpdate: That’s like PokerStars launching in New Jersey, but it’s a closed pool, you can’t play with the rest of the world. So a lot of people say while they love playing on PokerStars, they feel maybe that they are missing out on something because it’s a closed site.
Jonathan Little: Well in order to have any kind of consistent games running at high stakes, you need a lot of consistent games running at small stakes. You need people winning at small stakes, moving up to a level higher and then you need people winning at that level.
It’s sort of like a pyramid where for every $200/$400 player, there maybe 500,000 $0.01/$0.02 players. And you just can’t have that, so that’s why a lot of the biggest games on those sites are $2/$4 or something like that.
There may be one or two $2/$4 tables across all the sites and a lot of those are just the good players. Anytime they do a new launch of a new game in a new area, it’s usually pretty good for a few years and then it starts to dry up and we’ve already seen that happen in Nevada where those games were amazing when they started and they have significantly dried off.
And you see that in live poker too actually. Here in Florida, poker as it exists currently is relatively new and it’s still pretty soft but I would bet pretty good money in ten years it’s not going to be so good anymore. The amateur players who are actually bad get savvy and realize this is not where they need to be playing and they either get better or move on to something else. There really aren’t many good local areas that have not worked hard to cultivate their game in particular.
PokerUpdate: What are your plans after the Tournament of Champions?
Jonathan Little: After the Tournament of Champions, I’m going to continue to play my Global Poker League games. I have a few of those lined up. We’re not allowed to say when they are because apparently you can bet on the games and on the particular weeks. So if you know the best player in the world is playing a marginal player on week seven, then you could just blast money on week seven and see who is playing.
So, I’m going to play my Global Poker League games and I’m skipping EPT Monte Carlo this year because I am moving apartments in Manhattan. I have to do that two days after I get back home because if it doesn’t get done now, it doesn’t get done. I have to take care of that.
I’ll be going out to the World Series. I think I’m actually going to skip a lot of the smaller buy in events this because I bought an apartment in Manhattan this year and I need to make some money. I think the hourly rate for a very good player for $1,500 and lower events is something like $50 per hour roughly. You can make more than that in $5/$10 cash games which are very easily available and easy to get into during the World Series. I can play $25/$50 no problem for the most part. So I’ll skip most of the smaller World Series events this year but I’ll be playing most of the big ones.
PokerUpdate: I have question about the Global Poker League. Are you excited about possibly playing Aaran Paul?
Jonathan Little: I am. That would be a lot of fun. I loved watching him on Breaking Bad but I don’t anything else he’s done. I’m probably just a casual fan. But that would be a lot of fun. I hope I don’t play Aaron Paul and lose all of my games though, as that would be an embarrassment. If you get drafted to be in this league, you’re probably reasonably good at poker anyway. There not going to draft just a random celebrity that wants to play.
PokerUpdate: He’s shown up to quite a few WSOP and other events.
Jonathan Little: He’s probably good at poker. The league is kind of an interesting thing, I hope to see it structured a little bit differently next year because there’s not a whole lot of benefit in getting to the playoffs, beyond just getting to the playoffs.
Maybe they could do something where you get slightly more chips in all of your matches if you crush harder in the initial rounds. The way it works, there are twelve teams and eight of them compete in the playoffs. So you are only losing a third of the field. So we’re playing for a lot to lose a third of the field. I recognize that’s actually a good thing in the first few seasons or first few years in the league because you want players to get their time playing. You also want to make sure you have all the kinks worked out of the system before you go to your major events and start playing them at major arenas. I’m excited about the league and excited to see where it goes.
PokerUpdate: You just opened up a brand new coaching site PokerCoaching.com this week, yesterday in fact. Want to tell us a little bit about that?
Jonathan Little: PokerCoaching.com is something I’m going to try for a year. We’ll see how it goes. Essentially what it is, each week there are going to be some hand quizzes where I’m going to be analyzing scenarios but you’re going to have to say which play you think is right and I will analyze the options that I give you.
https://t.co/QUa0h8GBtQ is now live! Check it out and let me know what you think. I'm excited to get to work!— Jonathan Little (@JonathanLittle) April 19, 2016
For example: everyone folds to you in the cutoff seat and you have AJo. Should you fold, should you limp, should you raise to 2.5 big blinds or should you raise to 4 big blinds. Then you click on the button to say which one you would do and then the video moves forward and then I explain which one I would do, rank all those options based on their score and then give you points based on your answer.
Your goal is obviously to get all the questions right. So say you do raise with AJ and the big blind calls and the flop comes 973. He checks. Now the video pauses again. What should you do? Should you check, should you bet 2.5 big blinds, bet 5 big blinds, or bet 7.5 big blinds? We’ll go through that and analyze all the scenarios of each street on a bunch of hands.
Also, each week, there will be an open ended homework question where I ask a question that is relatively broad and I want the students to think about this before we do our monthly webinar where I will be going through all the students’ answers and I will be reviewing each players’ work to see what they are doing. I will be going through all of it in a live interactive webinar each month with the people who are in PokerCoaching.com.
For example, everyone folds to you on the button, you have 50 big blinds and you have two good players in the blinds. what is your plan with all of your range? So, you have to say first, which hands are you raising with, which hands are you limping, and which hands are you folding? Then if someone calls, which hands are you continuation betting with on which boards. It starts to become a very big question. It’s not just, I raise with these hands and see what happens.
That’s how a lot of amateur players think. Or they think I have 97 suited, what do I do? It’s not how do I play my whole range in the spot and how do I separate things out based on how the hand plays out. A lot of the best players are thinking about how they play in every situation ahead of time so whenever they encounter it, they know what to do and what not to do. It’s not like they are figuring it out on the fly every single decision.
PokerUpdate: And last but not least, if you win the Tournament of Champions, what are you doing with the corvette?
Jonathan Little: I’ll probably drive around in it a little bit but you really don’t need a car in Manhattan. I won a prop bet a long time ago where I needed to cash one million in a year and then I would get a $50,000 car. I won, so that was good. I got a Lexus.
I had it in Vegas and I loved it but when I moved to New York, I kept it in Vegas, at my house and I realized I just don’t drive this car very much because my poker has slowly but surely moved away from Vegas. I was going to Vegas about six months of the year and now I go there one time, during the World Series each year. So, after two years of paying $5,000 a month for insurance, I decided to get rid of it. Now I don’t have a car, and I really don’t need a car.
Thanks to everyone for the support today. I appreciate it! Let's win the @WPT Tournament of Champions instead!— Jonathan Little (@JonathanLittle) April 20, 2016