This week we have a special guest. We have Faraz Jaka, 2009-2010 WPT Player of the Year, who was featured on CNN as the millionaire poker player who owns almost nothing. You can follow him on Twitter and check out his blog at www.farazjaka.com
RFZ: Tell us about your first big cash in a poker tournament and what you did 48 hours after winning.
Faraz: My first big live tournament win was in LA at the LAPC $1k side event. I won it outright for around $100k. I actually flew to LA from college and had to rush back for a test! I missed my flight back that evening as it was a 2 day tournament and the only flight that could get me to my test on top one about a $900 direct flight form LA to Chicago! Of course you can’t put a price on grades so I paid the $900 and zoomed back to the University of Illinois for my test!
RFZ: Was there ever a moment when you thought your poker career was coming to an end? If so, how did you manage to bounce back up?
Faraz: My Sophomore year in college I took my bankroll from $10,000 to $170,000 in just one week! I was playing nosebleed cash games like 100/200 nl for a $20k buy in which were the highest stakes around online at the time. With that said I had no concept of managing a bankroll and I needed a bankroll about 5 or 6 times the size of that to be playing those stakes. Naturally I went broke over the course of the next 9 months. It was heartbreaking and an emotional roller coaster to win and lose $170,000 at the age of 19 when I never had more than a thousand dollars in my bank account a couple years prior. It took me a little over a year to bounce back emotionally. I had a period of depression and had to take a semester off from school. Looking back this was one of the best experiences I could have ever had. Seeing the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in such a short period teaches you a lot about yourself and life in general. Being able to get myself out of this emotional and monetary hole and build back up gave me the confidence that I could do whatever I put my mind to. It also taught me that happiness is a function of many different things and money is a very small part of that.
RFZ: You don’t own any homes, cars, or fancy watches. Do you ever splurge on yourself? If so, what was your biggest purchase?
Faraz: I own an investment property and looking to do more of the same every time I have a big score. I also dabble in some startup investments once in a while as a lot of my circle are tech entrepreneurs. My goal is be able to afford my desired lifestyle with my investments doing the work for me. As far as splurges, there really isn’t anything too crazy I spend on. Sometimes I’ll splurge on restaurants here and there as it’s a hobby of mine or maybe a new slick final table outfit but it’s definitely calculated and budgeted out for so that I’m not overdoing it. From all of my travels I’ve found that some of my best experienced had little to do with money. I’ve definitely had some crazy fun nights getting tables at clubs around the world and that kind of thing. Those nights were fun, but I’ve been there and done that. By continuing that kind of lifestyle I’m not gaining much in life long term once I’ve already had a few of those experiences. Most of my experiences that have had a major impact on my life were traveling the beaten path and visiting places most people don’t talk about too often.
RFZ: What is your two biggest money saving tips for anyone who is traveling?
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Faraz: Definitely budgeting and tracking your expenses is huge. It’s seems like a very obvious thing to say but most people don’t track their finances. Plan out your trip, figure out exactly what it will cost and then figure out how you are going to pay for it. Also always account for the unexpected an extra budget set aside for when things go wrong like an unexpected hospital bill etc. Secondly I would say RESEARCH! These days all the information is out there on the internet. You can have fine dining, an awesome wardrobe, and just amazing experiences in general at a very fair price. Take advantage of tools like tripadvisor and yelp and don’t just look at the stars, actually read what people have to say. Sometimes you’ll see that people gave a low rating for a place because of something that bothered them but doesn’t bother
RFZ: The 2015 WSOP is coming up, which is a two month series. How do you manage to keep your head straight when playing in tournaments every single day?
Faraz: The WSOP is definitely an intense month and a half. A lot of pros get drained during this period but there are definitely things you can do to stay focused. When you’re in vegas you end up having a lot of non poker friends who just happen to be in town that have a very different priority than you do… PARTYING! I used to give in way too much, now I realize that learning how to say no is very valuable. When you try to mix work and pleasure you do a bad job at both. It’s better to fully indulge in your work and then fully indulge in your leisure time. It’s like multi tasking it’s just not as efficient as doing one thing at a time (in most cases). On top of this its important to just have a good routine. I make sure I choose a place to stay where I will have gym access every morning. I get a workout in and sometimes some meditation and yoga as well. I try to get to vegas a day early to do all my grocery shopping it make sure I have good healthy clean food to eat every day. All these little things go a long way when you are at the tables playing 12 hours a day for weeks on weeks.
RFZ: Would you rather fight 1 horse sized duck or 100 duck sized horses?
Faraz: I’d definitely take my chances with 1 horse sized duck. I think i’d have a better chance of just trying to outsmart the damn freak of nature. 100 duck sized horses seems like it would be quite a bit of madness.
RFZ: Tell us your biggest “oopsie” moment while playing live poker.
Faraz: Oh man… this one time I flew to Barcelona from college for my first European Poker Tour event. I qualified from the internet playing a 500 euro qualifier. It was a 5k euro buy in with first place well over $1 million USD. I made day 2 with an average stack and was pretty jet lagged from the night before. Back then we had those old school cell phones that didn’t update the time automatically unless you had cell phone service (which I did not). The alarm in the room was built into the TV which wasn’t in english. So I called down and made a wake up call with a man that didn’t speak very good english. I usually always kept a back up alarm but in this scenario I had no way of having a backup alarm. Next thing I know I wake up and its 2 hours past the start time of day 2! I rush to the casino and get there in time to find pocket 2’s from first position with a 7 big blind stack left. I shove all in, the big blind calls with A2 and flops trip 2’s and I get sent back home to AMURICA! I flew home later that week during on my birthday the 9th of September. When i got back home I found 7 wrapped gifts from all my friends and roommates sitting in front of my door. All 7 of them were alarm clocks……..