Interview With Jim WorthBy Steve Marzolf
Lauded for his chops online, Jim "Krazy Kanuck" Worth has also won more than $250,000 in live tournaments and pulled down a contract with UltimateBet. He took some time from his online-playing schedule to talk about proving his credibility, busting his bankroll and the best way to condition your game.
- How did you first get into poker?
- Well, I started playing back in '92 because I used to live in northern Ontario on the Michigan border, and I used to go across to the Indian casino and play craps and blackjack. After about six to eight months of losing my ass at that, I discovered a poker room and took a walk in there.
- Were you making money?
- You know what, I played in the brick and mortar casinos until about 2001. And that's when I discovered online poker. When I left the brick and mortar scene for more online, I can't really gauge whether I was a winning player or not. I remember walking out of the casino with $1,500 or $2,000 in my pocket and other nights walking out at five o'clock in the morning stone cold broke. So, I remember a lot of nights saying, 'Holy shit, you just blew your week's earnings.' It wasn't until I started playing online, to be honest with you, that I discovered I wasn't as good as I thought I was. I think a lot people have one of two reactions to online because it's so fast that any sort of leak that you have in your game is going to be amplified dramatically. So, they're either going to think that 'Oh, online is rigged.' Or they learn that they might be making mistakes and start adjusting to it. So, I started losing money really quickly online and started making adjustments to my game and kind of leak-proofed my game.
- What was the point when you 'went pro?'
- Well, I moved to Toronto from Calgary because of family circumstances, back in 2002. My intention was, when I moved from Calgary back to Toronto, to start up another coffee company and keep on working. So, I had a personal upheaval that point in time and I just started playing. Shit I played online poker for three months probably 16, 17 hours per day.
- Just for something to do?
- Well yeah. I just moved to Toronto. I didn't know anybody. I didn't feel like working. My head was not into starting another company. It just wasn't right. You know, you just go through times in your life where you want to focus on whatever, so my escape at that point in time was playing online poker. And, in those three or four months, I won board races at UltimateBet, at PokerStars, at ParadisePoker. I just won everything that you could win on the net in four months. I turned so many heads in terms of how many tournaments I was winning at UltimateBet that they asked me to go down and speak in 2002 at the Bellagio at this mini-conference. They asked me to speak in front of like 300 people about online poker, which was quite a compliment to be asked, but it was probably one of the scariest things I'd ever done in my life. They also asked me to play in the World Series that year, and I did well in some events. Things just started coming together, so I decided in the middle of 2002 to give playing full-time a run for a year and go from there. And, plain and simply, I've never looked back from that day. What is ironic is that this personal upheaval completely set my life into a different direction, and now that I look back, it's probably the best thing that's ever happened to me.
- Do you play more online or live games now?
- Well I still say hours, I definitely play mostly online. I prefer playing live tournaments - other than this year's World Series - but for day-to-day play, I definitely like playing online because of the convenience. I mean Monica, my girlfriend, and I both play full-time. She was a dental hygienist when we started seeing each other about three years ago.
- And you corrupted her?
- I did. I forced her to sit down at one game and got her absolutely hooked. About nine months ago she retired from being a dental hygienist. She's full-time by a sponsorship by the new Ultimate Blackjack Tour. She's doing extremely well. We're a full-time poker couple online. It fits beautifully because we can get up, take care of the kids, go work out, come back, play in the afternoon, spend the evenings with the kids, and then when they're in bed, we can play the tournaments at night. It's quite a nice life.
- Where does your major income come from?
- Well this year hasn't been the live tournaments yet, but that only takes one half-decent tournament to do it. But I would say the vast majority of my income comes from sit-and-go play and from smaller ring-game play. And then I try to freeroll at tournaments. I try to win as many buy-ins as I can online and, if I cash in the major events, it's pretty much gravy because I've gone into those events very cheaply, mostly from satellites online.
- Do you keep the math pretty tight when you play?
- I keep the math in the background. I'm not a strict math player. I'm more an instinct player. Probably the biggest lesson that I've learned in the past years playing full-time is trusting my instincts. There is almost a sixth sense that everybody in the world has in terms of instincts for situations, just a gut feel. There are a lot of players who know the odds a lot better than I do, but my instincts have been honed from countless hours, both live and online. That gives me an edge over a lot of players. When you are playing online, you really only have your instincts to go by.
- As huge as pro poker is and as new as you are to the field, do you feel a lot a pressure to nail down credibility as a top pro?
- Absolutely. Being thrust into the spotlight because of my online playing, you kind of feel the weight of people and media around you, watching. And you can be making money hand over fist in cash games but not cashing at tournaments and thus losing credibility. I mean, it's great to win a tournament - it's a lot of fun - but to feel like you have to win a tournament to remain legitimate ... I could be having the best year of my life right now and not do really well at a major event and people think that you're a shitty player just because you're in the limelight.
- What did it feel like to sit in the World Series with that pressure?
- There are opportunities that can come from your poker game in the outside world, like income opportunities, endorsement opportunities, whatever. So, if you're looking at making it a career, you need to produce. It puts some pressure on you. That makes busting out of a major event like the World Series that much more heartbreaking.
- Have you had a bad point where you went broke?
- I've never been to the point of losing anything, but I have busted my bankroll online. Basically I play by a pretty rigid structure. So that's probably why I've been successful in terms of bankroll management. The times where I have busted my bankroll online have been times where I have completely ignored that. There have been two or three times online in the past four years where I've started out a really bad day, broken every rule in the book, and I've chased it and ended up busting my bankroll.
- How much money do you think you have dumped on one of those bad days?
- My worse day ever was about $15,000. It's unheard of for me because for about a two-year period - no one ever believes this, but I keep records - my average was four days per quarter where I lost money. And if I lost money, it was rarely four figures. It was usually in the mid-hundreds. And when I lost money, almost 99 percent of the time, it was on Sundays where the only thing I played in that day was the big-buy-in tournaments all over the net. One of the reasons I won that long without swinging too badly was because I followed my own set of rules to the letter. It was the gospel. Sometimes I feel, 'Well I'm better than these guys ...' So I chase it and move up and see people playing at even bigger games and go from there. Ironically, any time that I've stepped into the biggest games online, it's usually when I'm not in the right frame of mind to do it. I end up losing.
- So, tell me where the name Krazy Kanuck came from.
- I used to ski race when I was a kid. And the heroes in my world were the Crazy Canucks, the ski racing teams: Dave Irwin, Ken Read and those guys who were the best downhill racers on the planet at the time. So, when I started playing online, it was just a natural thing. I used to ski and it was just a pretty cool name. I tried to get it on the first site I used to work on, which was Paradise, and I couldn't get the name because the C's were gone. So, I changed it to K's and it was available. And I just ran with it. The media, the people I met on the stage just loved the name, and it really stuck. Nobody at UltimateBet calls me by my real name. It's either KK or Krazy or Kanuck.
- What poker projects are you working on these days?
- I've been working on a casual, instructional DVD/download thing. I'm entertaining an idea with somebody on a book. And I've been asked to be part of a fantasy camp with Chris Moneymaker and Layne Flack, which is sponsored by Playboy, which is going to be a lot fun actually because the closing party is going to be at the Playboy mansion in January.
- Any parting words of advice for new players?
- There isn't any place in the world to learn the game in today's changing environment like you can online. There is no question that the game has changed dramatically in the last three years. And it's been because of online poker. So if you want to compete in today's aggressive environment, you've got to learn how to play the game aggressively and how to play it against those big fields. And, the only place you can do it is online. It's like the best professional hockey player 30 years ago. One of the best ones would probably have trouble competing in today's league because the players are better conditioned. It's the same thing in poker. If you don't adapt and practice it, you're going to get run over. The only place you can do that is online.
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