The story of Jeff Sarwer is a really interesting example of evolution of a chess champion who became one of the most promising poker players of his generation. It is worth to take a closer look at the professional CV of the Canadian player to recall the valuable advice he provided to a JohnnyBet journalist in an interview that turned out a poker player manual.
1. The chess player that rocked...
Jeff Sarwer’s biography is truly staged for a film. It begins with chess, the rules for which he learned when he was 4 from his two years older sister. The prodigy siblings were excellent at playing chess and loved appearing in the media, who were obviously quick to pursue the adorable subject of two underage chess pros. At the age of 6, Sarwer was training with Al Carlin, later on (in New York) he sneaked into the Manhattan Chess Club with his sister, in 1986 at the age of 8 he won the Under-10 World Youth Chess Championship and in his spare time, he was winning with several dozens of people at the same time during speed chess playing shows. Nonetheless, as is the case of a life that mirrors a movie, success in sports and career was not necessarily complemented by a happy private life. Sarwer’s father was in trouble with the law and after returning from New York to their hometown in Kingston, he was accused of violence towards his children who were taken away from him and sent to foster care. Jeff decided to run away and return to his father, just like his sister. When reunited, together they illegally moved to Europe which thwarted the chess master’s plans for many years – though he played under the nickname of Ray Philips, he was able to play under his real name only in 2007 in Malbork. As if this was not enough, at some point Sarwer broke off relationship with his father and became involved in business, settled in Gdańsk and now lives in Helsinki with plans to become the chess grandmaster.
2. Sarwer plays poker as well!
This is the eventful life of Jeff Sarwer in a nutshell. However, the above would not be complete without the poker part, a very important one for the Canadian. For at some moment in life, Sarwer started to become a really successful card player. The turning point came in 2009 when he finished third at the European Masters of Poker tournament in Tallinn, winning USD 37,589. He visited the capital of Estonia a few times after that, the last time in February 2015 when again he ranked third at the Kings of Tallin competition (main prize: USD 18,736). It does seem that after a few years of mediocre results, Sarwer becomes a dangerous opponent with triumphs up his sleeve. Those who meticulously follow the Canadian’s poker career certainly remember his best scores: 3rd rank at the European Poker Tour (EPT) Vilamoura in 2009 (USD 232,704 – Sarwer’s highest prize won), 2nd place in March 2010 at EPT in Berlin (USD 149,207) or his success at the following month’s EPT in San Remo (more prestigious place than sizeable prize – USD 16,575). But after that something came to a halt and Sarwer was either playing with average results or was difficult to be found altogether. Is this run of bad luck over yet? It’s hard to say, but you cannot deny this player great opportunities. Sarwer has a potential many players can only dream of.
3. Play and analyse
“When playing online, it often happens that we fall in a certain groove and want to keep playing. That’s good, you need to play a lot but you also need to analyse your game as much as possible” – this short quote is Sarwer’s answer to JohnnyBet journalist’s question on how to become a good poker player. This simple advice exposes the chess background of the player, the related patience and the ability to treat the hand as a whole which can be analysed and dissected. The starting point of Sarwer’s poker philosophy is the belief in the necessity of systematic skills perfection based on a critical view of oneself. This is very important considering online poker rooms which according to Sarwer differ distinctively from playing live. “I would suggest to anybody who would like to become a good poker player to play online,” he says further in the interview. The question however remains: how to perfect your game online?
4. Equity analysis, low rates and YouTube...
According to Sarwer, gaining experience in playing online poker should not increase incrementally. The basic idea is to gain experience, perfect your skills and maintain a critical approach to your level. The Canadian suggests to use software for analysing and understanding of equity (among others, PokerStove) as part of initial phase of online poker playing. However, this type of tool is not everything. It is also worth to follow poker players games registered and uploaded on YouTube. You should also play systematically which is the best evaluation of progress. How to start? Sarwer claims that entering online poker must be cautious – play very small buy-ins (e.g. at around one hundred) and micro stakes (USD 0.01, USD 0.02). If you are able to generate a profit with limited funding, this is a good prognosis before further and more advanced games. At this point, Sarwer recommends using a hud (e.g. Poker Tracker) which enables to collect statistics to follow every hand to be then analysed precisely.
5. The power of the community
Sarwer believes that using software is an indispensable element in raising your poker player’s qualification, but at some point further analysis is possible only within some kind of an Internet community centred around poker. Discussing and joint analysis of the specific hands, catching elements others oversee or laborious looking for details someone else had noticed. This is the way to learn how to use the software and learn to plan your moves in advance. “You need to know how to plan not only for pre-flop, but all four streets, you need to plan for the pre-flop, flop, turn and river,” comments Sarwer and adds that being involved in poker communities is a chance to start out if you don’t have any friends who play poker professionally. This is one of the main advantages of continuous learning via Internet – it provides enormous opportunities.
The poker path of Jeff Sarwer started a long time ago when he played chess. The Canadian remained a chess player even at the poker table. His card philosophy is focussed on strategy, method, patience and analysis. This enabled him to become a really good player who offers good advice and has an interesting career to follow.