Max Silver, according to his brief (but quite accurate) Twitter bio, plays “poker for fun and monetary gain.”
Currently topping the UKIPT Season 4 Leaderboard, the Brit has enjoyed a recent surge of hefty MTT cashes, everywhere from the Caribbean to the Isle of Man. His many successes in poker, past and present, seem nearly predestined in hindsight by virtue of talent and hard work.
But in this candid two-part interview, Silver divulges that this has hardly been the case and explains how he emerged from a prolonged downswing.
You were in touch with many good players starting out.
Did you make that happen or was it a bit of luck?
I started out like most people, putting $50 online with no concept of good poker or bankroll management. Needless to say this was repeated a few times before I decided to try and work out what I was doing wrong.
I had already been a member of the Something Awful forums for a couple of years. A short time after I started my foray into poor bankroll management I stumbled upon their “Poker in the Rear” forum, which sadly is now defunct.
I didn’t really know anyone, but I was reading and commenting on posts by lots of future and current stars of the game, like Vivek Rajkumar, Leo Wolpert, Steve O’Dwyer, Alex Venovski, and most importantly Jason Somerville.
Jason was already making free videos for the forum. Seeing him crushing and thinking about poker on a whole new level was really exciting to me. Shortly after that, Jason announced he was looking for applicants for a multi-month group training program. I jumped at the chance to apply and was lucky enough to be accepted.
Over the next few months we had almost daily organised group sessions exploring concepts that form the foundation of my poker game today. Jason taught me how, not what, to think, but also allowed me to create my own thought process which I feel has moved my game onwards as I’ve progressed. Outside of the organised sessions we constantly dissected hands.
It was a massive help.
Did your support structure have an idea of how invested you were getting in the game? Was there any friction there?
My parents have always been incredibly supportive of my poker career. I think at the time they may have been slightly sceptical, and rightly so.
I wasn’t yet making any serious money from poker and they may have seen it as a bit of a waste of time. But I was actively pursuing other things. I wasn’t a full time poker player until June 2011.
Since my career took off, my mother has been by far my biggest fan, even going so far as to text me advice when I play.
The advice is usually on the more conservative side so I tend to ignore it!
Did you have many real jobs before working for Pocket Kings?
Just one. After an extended period of illness in my teenage years I turned to video games to fill the time. I got heavily involved in the Counter Strike: Source scene, eventually starting to write for the now defunct, Cadred.org. Over the next year or so I moved up in the ranks, eventually landing a full time job as Editor-in-Chief.
I travelled all over the world, writing on various eSports events. It was a really fun time. But in 2009 the market contracted heavily and there just wasn’t as much money in the industry.
I had a brief hiatus between jobs, during which I was learning poker. Then I was contacted by a recruiter hiring for Pocket Kings. Poker wasn’t going amazing at the time, so it was a no brainer.
How did you develop your appreciation for the value of money?
I think I’ve come a long way in my spending habits.
A lot of that stems from both working and leaving home at a relatively early age. I was always determined to be fully financially independent once I made the choice to work versus continuing my education and have never really looked back.
Nowadays, I both have more money and more appreciation for the things I buy. I don’t tend to do a lot of frivolous spending but I’ve manage to justify to myself that spending lots of money on a passion is fine.
One of my passions is food and I have no problem with dropping a few hundred euros on an unforgettable meal. But I’m not going to spend a ton of money on a fancy sports car when a much more reasonable car will do the job just fine.
The choice to go pro was something I weighed heavily before I made up my mind. Before I worked at Pocket Kings I found the swings in poker really affected my mind. On a good day I’d be great, but likewise on a bad day I’d be in a foul mood.
Once I started the job, even though at times I was winning and losing far month than a month’s salary in a day, suddenly nothing really mattered anymore. I had a stable job paying me money I could rely on and had something else defining my value as a person. I was good at my job and enjoyed it immensely.
I also appreciated the socialness of a work environment. Having worked at home previously I was very aware how lonely working for yourself, by yourself, for large periods of time, can be.
If Black Friday hadn’t happened I could conceivably have stayed working full time for another 6 months to a year.
Picking up on food, you blogged, “One of my biggest passions outside of poker is food and I end up applying a lot of the same principles to food and cooking as I do poker.”
I am at a loss to apply poker principles to cooking. Could you give an example? Three-bet the fish?
I think just as it is in poker, learning from your mistakes is essential.
The why is very important. Yes, following a recipe can give you great results. But just like watching a training video and copying what you see, without understanding the why, what happens when you face something unexpected?
Salt on a steak makes it tastier but knowing salt tenderizes the muscle fibres, helping the steak retain moisture and flavour, means you can apply the same concept, or not, to other proteins and ingredients.
It’s very rare nowadays that I’ll cook following a recipe. Most of the time I’ll think of something I want to try, look it up, and then taste it as I’m making it, constantly adjusting seasoning and flavours.
The Full Tilt Poker Blog would like to thank Max for being generous with both his time and his patience. Check out Part Two