Can you introduce yourself to Somuchpoker community?
I am French. I was born in 1986. I play online poker for a living. I focus my energy on Cash Games, both Pot Limit Omaha and No Limit Holdem. I first came to Asia in 2009—Macau and Thailand in May, then Vietnam in September. At the end of 2009, I decided to move to Asia, and in June 2011, I moved full-time to Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam, where I still live today and for the foreseeable future. I married a Vietnamese woman who I met several years ago, and we have one child, born in early 2013.
When did you start playing poker?
I started playing poker in April 2006 and learned the rules. I then turned pro on October 1, 2007, just about one year later. I started to play with real cards. I didn’t know the rules at all, so my friends had to teach me (laughs). At this time, I’d never heard about (“sets”, “full house”, etc., so I had to learn from the ground up, and then I could play small home games with friends—games of, maybe 5-10 euros buys-in. When I was winning 10 euros, I was feeling like the king of the World (laughs). Which formats / variants / stakes are you playing? I play mainly Pot limit Omaha, No-limit Hold’em, $2/$4 and up on Pokerstars. I’ve played a few 25-50, but my main games are $2/4 $3/6. It’s much tougher to get really good games at 5-10 + .
Raphael reached $1M of profits on Pokerstars before rakeback few months ago.
You are playing mostly online? What about live poker?
Now I play exclusively online: there is more money to be made, and that’s the point (laughs). I’ve played a lot of live games before. I will maybe play live games again, but in Vietnam you don’t have many opportunities. For that, you have to go to Macau, or travel back to Europe. Back in 2008 and 2009, when I was still in Europe, I played in many cities, such as Prague, Budapest, Berlin, and Barcelona, and I’ve been to Macau a few times. I played some APTs and travelled for tournaments, but I mostly played the cash-games.
Why are you living in Vietnam?
Well, I left France to try a new experience, a new country. I did lots of travelling in 2009, first coming to Macau and Thailand in May, then Vietnam in September. At the end of 2009, I decided to move to Asia full time, between Vietnam and Phuket, and lived in 2 different poker villas. The last one was with 4 other French players who I knew from Lyon, such as “BigOuf”. In the meantime, in the summer of 2010 was the French “Black Friday”, where you couldn’t play on .com sites anymore. So for me, it was not really an option to come back and play on the French sites. Finally, In June 2011 I officially moved to Ho Chi Minh city, where I still live today and for the foreseeable future. I can’t remember the last time I had to wear long sleeves, because the temperature never drops below 15 degrees Celsius. I married a Vietnamese woman who I met several years ago, and we have one child, born in early 2013.
Raphael and his son
What do you like the most about this country?
I like south-east asian countries in general, Vietnam just happen to be one of them and it's a very convenient place to play online poker as a foreigner. Also HCMC is a nice big cosmopolitan city where you can everything you need. You can also do that in Thailand, but it’s more complicated.
What do you hate the most about this country?
The traffic and the policemen. They don’t know how to drive. The constant honking is annoying. Yeah, traffic and pollution are what I hate the most. Also, for a city of 9 million people, it has to have one of the worst electrical networks in the world. There are problems every week! Ok, I might be exaggerating (laughs), but just a little bit. I used to have a lot of Internet problems, but I went with optical fiber a year and a half ago, and since then, it is much more reliable. The electricity really is the main problem (laughs). As long as the electricity is smooth, everything else is fine!
Do you travel a lot in Vietnam?
I mainly traveled in 2009, when I was visiting the whole country. I went to Hanoi, Halong Bay, Sapa, Hoi An. But now I don’t travel anymore. You take your car and drive for 10 mn in any direction, and it looks completely different. In downtown Ho Chi Minh, you cannot always recognize it as Asia. It looks the same as a big city in Europe or the U.S, but once you go to the countryside, it is much more different for sure. I mean, I need to have electricity, hot water for showers, A/C. I like the comfort of the big residential buildings. I couldn’t live in the countryside, no way! A day or two per year is okay, but even a week is too much. No, that’s not my cup of tea!
What are your ST / MT / LT goals ?
Short-term: Make money. Middle-Term: Make more money. And long-term: make enough money to retire on a private island. It’s a job. The day I stop making money is the day I stop playing. How did you organize yourself to reach these goals? First thing is: you have to be professional. It’s not for the weak and feeble-minded. Poker tourism doesn’t work. You have to be ready to play every day and play a lot. There is no other solution. I play every day, every morning, and most afternoons. I’m very disciplined. That’s the key. Days off are for the weak. After my last holidays, I worked 75 days in a row.
How many hours do you work?
How are you working on your game? (coaching / books / videos) Nowadays, it is quite variable, but somewhere between 110 and 140 hours per month. The whole job isn’t playing on a table. Lots of other things are involved: I read forums, watch training videos, produce some, review game sessions, do analytical training. I do these other activities for at least one hour a day, or maybe two. I used to think about the game every day, at every moment. I distinctly remember pondering about 3 betting strategies while b*****g ******* in Budapest.
Can you mention one turning point in your poker career?
The first time I ever set foot in a casino. It was in Lyon, on the 24th of August. My net worth at the time was less than 1k, and the game was 5/10. I had 500 euros cash with me and somehow decided to put it all on the table (lol, bankroll management). I played like 1 hand in the first 3 hours and blinded down to 300 euros when a dude announced that he would put 100 "in the dark" on the next hand. He did, and I got dealt KQo. I tanked for like 3 minutes. KQo has to be a big favourite over 100% of hands right?, I took a leap of faith and decided to go all in. I won that hand. I do not remember what he had. A couple more small pots, and then the life-defining hand happened. I somehow got 44 vs 33 and A7 on A43xx all in by the turn and tripled up and later booked a 1600 euros win for the night. If I had had 33 instead of 44 in that hand or lost the KQo all in earlier, I would probably be a chemical engineer/chemist today. That’s the way to become a professional: get lucky. (laughs)
According to you, what is your biggest strength as poker player?
Logical reasoning and recognizing the patterns of opponents. But different players can succeed with different sets of skills. It’s not universal. Self-discipline, again. And mental resistance: I’m not a very emotional person. I don’t feel strong emotions. Whether you win or you lose, it’s like a day at the office for me. The goal is to be a robot, a machine.
According to you, what is your biggest weakness as poker player?
My brain is too slow. I can’t process as much information as the top guys. Some have much more brain speed than I have and can play many more tables.
Which advises would you give to someone who wants to play poker for a living?
Do not play poker for a living (laughs). It’s not great career planning.
How do you see poker in the future ? It’s hard to say. A lot of things are going on with legislation in EU and US. It’s hard to predict. You should make money now. In 5 years, I don’t know. It’s unpredictable. You have to make money now!
Your biggest losing day? Online: 30k. Live: in Macau, 54 000 € ($60k) in 48 hours.
Your biggest winning day? Earlier this year. I think made like 55K. It was a massive fish from Brazil.
What is a good year for you financially speaking? 200-250K USD. To reach at least 200K per year is always my goal.
About 2014: I made in 2014 an overall profit 316.4k$, 512k hands played, table winnings +268.2k (EV +199.0k), overall winrate +4.6bb/100
Your biggest pot in Cash game ? 36K € in Macau. (41K USD). But I lost that day.