INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

Hey everybody, Robbie Strazynski here for Cardplayer Lifestyle at EPT Barcelona 2018. The European Poker Tour, sponsored by PokerStars.es. And this is PokerStars ambassador Jaime Staples. How are you, man?

I’m great, happy to be here.

Yeah, it’s been a long time. As a matter of fact, exactly two and a half years since we first met, since we first saw each other. And as I think it’s the Stone Temple Pilots that would say, you’re half the man you used to be. Thank you.

That was pretty good. Not bad.

I say that because Jaime lost 115 pounds, something like that?

Yeah, right around there.

Since I last saw him. It was part of a bet that he did with his brother Matt against Bill Perkins, everyone knows about that. And it helped Jaime, it’s kind of a new and improved version of you? And it helped change, not only your appearance, but also your life. And that’s what I want this interview to be about, those life changes that you’ve done. Are you ready?

I’m ready.

Me too, because I’ve got a script. He doesn’t have a script. So, we’re going to go like this. Basically, the before and after. Everyone likes the before and after pictures, but I want to ask you before and after experiences and day-to-day and stuff. What did your morning routine used to look like, and what is it like now?

So there was no morning routine back in the day, and I think that was part of what led me to be sort of unhealthy, is I didn’t have a very structured way of going about life. So it’d just be wake up and start playing poker whenever, and that was sort of it, right? But then, over time, and going through the Ultimate Sweat last year and continuing on this year, it’s very much trying to be conscious of my physical health and how I can set myself up for the day. And then also my mental health too, like not getting too wound up and anxious about things. So taking time to do things like walk, go to the gym, meditation, plan my meals throughout the day, things like that.

So “setting yourself up” and “planning,” those are some very key words. So, food-wise, then, I’ve got to ask you, how are things different? When you go on these trips to live events, do you bring some special items or supplements or do you go local supermarkets and get healthy food? How much planning is involved in that?

Well, it was very different… last year’s bet was extremely intense on the cutting weight side. So I was eating about 1,300 calories a day for the majority of the year.

That’s not a lot.

It’s not a ton. It wasn’t very fun.

But you get to have a pizza at the end of the year. An entire pizza.

Staples pizza

It was a pretty good pizza. So, it was very restricted, and I didn’t have a chance to eat very much. It was very high in protein, moderate fats, and very low carbs. This year is a little bit of a different approach in that we spent more time working in the gym, so trying to gain muscles so that we can burn more calories naturally through muscles.

But that is about BMI, or body fat percentage?

Yeah, body fat percentage. Under 10% body fat for Matt and I, which is very intense. I have a long way to go; it’s going to be as hard if not harder than the first bet from here. But we’re going to do our best.

You stand to still gain another $150k though, right?

Yeah, absolutely.

Hopefully it’s worth it.

So this year, I have a few more carbs that I can work with. But I’ve found, you know, last year I traveled the world and lived in six or seven countries, and I went to a bunch of stops. And I was able to eat at restaurants the majority of my meals and still have that calorie deficit. So for me, it’s not necessarily planning going to the supermarket, although that would be more efficient on the pocketbook, but I really like going out and getting that chicken skewer, because it feels like a reward. It feels like I’ve earned something nice to eat even though it fits within the plan I’m following.

So there’s still an emotional attachment to the food, sort of?

Absolutely there is. That’s not completely sorted, you know. One step at a time.

I have it too. I’m like “Oh, I’m so happy! I have to have ice cream!” Because that’s the way it works. OK, so. That’s on the intake side. But on the fitness side of things, do you plan any sort of exercise routine now when you’re at live events? Like, OK, I’ve got this plan, I have to stick to it? Or are you just like, well, I have to make sure I exercise? To what extent do you do that?

It’s definitely structured. So right now, my current regime is three days a week in the gym, training various parts of my body, and then a lot of cardio. So two hours of low-intensity cardio a day, just like walking around, like what I’m doing now. But that always sort of changes, based on that progress and stuff like that.

So, OK, and to what extent does all the sort of planning, and again we’ll take the before and after. So you’re focused a lot more, putting a lot more effort into what goes in, what goes out, the fitness, the food. To what extent does that affect your poker play? As opposed to before where you just, you know, you wake up in the morning and just go for it. And now you have a lot more mental capacity taken up for these things. Does that help you concentrate better, for example?

Absolutely. I think, just your whole body is more efficient, and that includes your brain. So feeling fresher, from the start of the day all the way to the end of the day, and in a better mindset and happier with yourself. All that translates into your ability to do well on the table, you know? It’s not make-or-break, but it’s clearly something that helps.

Now, do you feel like your decision-making is better because of it, or do you ever say to yourself, man, thank goodness I’m doing what I’m doing now, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to make that play or make that move?

You know, I think it’s a little bit sharper, but I think the biggest difference is the longevity. So I can play longer, and be focused for longer, than I could have been in the past.

Stamina, endurance. I like it. So, this is not your first time in Barcelona. Third time?

Second time.

Second time! So you were here last year, then?

Yeah.

Nice. So what do you enjoy most about this PokerStars event, as opposed to other stops along the tour?

So I actually tweeted this this morning. I think this is my favorite city in the world. I think it’s No. 1.

Muy bien.

So it’s my favorite PokerStars spot, just because it’s got a very distinct feeling, this tournament series. I mean, the poker’s the same, but the people you see, just the vibes you feel, the energy that everyone has is very different, you know. It’s very much a city, and you get the city atmosphere, and you feel that in the poker. And then you walk outside and you’re on the beach. Everyone’s relaxed and there’s board shorts and flip-flops. There’s just nothing really like it.

So you’ve gotten down a bit to the beach and enjoyed the waves a little bit?

Absolutely. I went for a little walk this morning, so. I mean, if you’re going to check out some PokerStars tournaments, you definitely got to check out Barcelona at least once.

It’s a long way from, what Lethbridge?

Lethbridge, Alberta, yeah.

A long way. No beaches in Alberta.

No. Very far from the ocean.

Right. Well, in terms of off-the-felt activities at poker events, are those different for you now, or do you sort of experience them a little bit differently now again, post-transformation? Partying or whatever other activities that Stars has planned?

Well, the partying part I kind of have to put on pause for a little bit, because I have another bet going on, so I can’t be doing much drinking, partying.

Oh, I didn’t know! You heard it here first; that’s interesting.

So I can’t be doing that. But I really enjoy the outdoor activities more. It’s just not very fun being out in 30 degrees Celcius as a 310-pound guy. It’s not very fun. It’s just hot, it kinda sucks.

That is the ultimate sweat.

You don’t want that. I think, just feeling better and feeling more comfortable, it opens up a new world of being able to enjoy that more than I would have in the past.

I’m happy for you, really.

Thanks.

I can’t help but mention, you’re so very kindly supporting the #charitypoker1000km Running Well initiative that I’m doing this year for Save a Child’s Heart.

Let’s go, man! You’re killing it!

I’m trying! I’m over the 600 kilometer mark now, running well for Save a Child’s Heart. Check them out, saveachildsheart.com. So, first of all, thank you very much, I appreciate it. Jaime’s awesome, and of course PokerStars are also supporting the initiative. We’ll put a link in the notes there, in the transcript. You’re a generous guy. You’re a nice guy, and thankfully you’re doing well for yourself. I imagine you do get approached relatively often by people who are, not looking for handouts, but who are like hey, can you support this initiative, can you help us out, can, you know. What sort of process do you go through mentally when you’re saying, look, you can’t do everything. You can’t support everything. How do you sort of decide, OK, these are the ones who are going to be getting my attention, my support, my encouragement?

So it is kind of difficult because there’s a lot of messages that come in, you know, from an individual basis of, you know, my niece or nephew has this disease and we can’t afford it. That’s a common one, right. Or, and then there’s some bigger-scale ones, like support bigger charities. I haven’t devoted the time or the resources to look into how I can most effectively support and improve the world, so generally what I look for is people that I trust and organizations that seem to be established. Because I feel as if you give to one person, there’s chances that that could go wrong—that could be some sort of scam, or there’s something wrong with it. Whereas, when I see you, you know, running 1,000 kilometers, I trust you, and I know that the organization that you’re working with is a big one. There’s going to be oversight, they know what they’re doing. That’s kind of my thoughts with it.

Thank you. It’s good to know. Not just for personal reasons, but like, people, ambassadors, they get asked often, so I think it’s important to know—you don’t just say, yeah, sure. Thank you, I appreciate it.

I think it’s worth noting, REG Charity.

Yes! You mentioned “effective.”

There’s an event today that I believe was a $25k, with $1k in rake. But there was actually no rake. PokerStars took no fee; it all went to charity. Which is really cool. And their focus is on effective giving—how can your dollar be the most effective.

Or euro.

Or pound, whatever you’ve got. Yen, anything.

It’s all about the yen.

So, I think that what they’re doing is really cool.

OK, so. Two more questions here. EPT Barcelona, traditionally, you know, it’s after the World Series of Poker happens, everyone takes their break, and then it’s sort of thought of as the beginning of the new poker year.

It is, yeah.

So, what sort of goals do you sort of look at for the next 12 months that you’re looking forward to accomplishing besides the Bill Perkins bet? What sort of goals are we looking at in the next 12 months, and should we keep our eyes out for anything in particular?

Well, I think you’re right, this does launch the poker year. It feels like it does, anyways. The next big think is the World Championship of Online Poker, which has always been the biggest thing for me. It starts September 2, it’s 15 days this year. And what’s different about this year is that it’s actually tiered. So, like SCOOP, there’s a low and a medium and a high. Which I love, that was always my favorite thing. So, for me, as primarily an online poker player and as someone that came from online poker, that’s the most important thing to me. Like I want a SCOOP, I want a WCOOP title. I have none. I have one final table, in all the series that I’ve played. Not super great, but I’m hoping that this year I can get it done. So, right after this event, I’m going to be flying to the UK, I’m going to be playing the series and hoping for the best.

Jaime Staples 2018 WCOOP schedule

OK, sounds good. And you’re not the only one who’s going to be setting goals this year; you’re giving away a Platinum Pass, too, and you’re hoping that they’re going to be setting some goals themselves. Tell us a little bit about, you know, all the ambassadors are doing their own sort of giveaway. So what’s yours about, and when will this pass be given out, and to whom, that you can reveal? OK, you can’t reveal it.

It’s too early, it’s too early to tell. But I’m really just happy to be a part of this one, because it’s become so much bigger than me. It’s taken off on its own, under its own legs. So we came up with an idea to give away a Platinum Pass based on Ultimate Sweat. But the thing is, it wasn’t fair if you had to be obese or if you had to be underweight to compete. And we thought, the spirit of the Ultimate Sweat was really life improvement. Taking something that you’re not great at in your life and improving it to where you feel better. So people had to design their own challenge, submit the challenge, and then start documenting the challenge. That was about 50 days ago that it got started. We had 150 entrants into the challenge, all the way from learning to fly, putting on a magic show…

Oh, so any sort of challenge!

Any challenge. It could be anything at all. And there is tons of people documenting every day on Twitter, using the hashtag MyUltimateSweat, and everyone’s just getting better—you know, quitting smoking, weaning off coffee, there’s so many.

It’s the ripple effect. That’s incredible.

It’s really, really cool. I’m just so proud to be a part of it. There’s so many people who are just improving their lives, and one lucky person’s going to get a pass at the end of it.

Wow. So how do you decide, like, what sort of factors do you distinguish between all of these people who were, how do you say well, you’re doing better than this guy?

Well, it’s really tough, right?

Name out of a hat.

No! So, the metrics are, there’s five metrics for success. I don’t have them off the top of my head. But, you know, originality, difficulty, did you complete the challenge, stuff like that. So I’m going to nominate five finalists, and then it’s going to go to a jury vote of nine people. It’s got my brothers, Bill Perkins, Jeff Gross, etc. I mean, there’s most of my team of online guys on there.

Team effort.

It’s going to be tough because a lot of people are going to deserve it, a lot of people are going to accomplish their goals. But at the end of the day, everyone does something they wanted to do, and we’ll do our best.

And even if you don’t win the Platinum Pass, you know, the ripple effect. I love that you’re inspiring others to do good. There’s no one who’s going to go ahead and start making these changes and documenting their process and be like “Damn it, I didn’t win the Platinum Pass, forget this, I’m going off the rocker.”

I hope not!

I think that’s just a really great initiative, and you’re speaking here with someone who, Jaime Staples, who has done it himself. He’s made that positive change, and that’s obviously what inspired the idea, and you’re just a really inspirational person. So it’s two years since last time I spoke with you, it’s really surreal to be seeing you again, and you know, half the man you used to be, but double the heart and double the awesomeness. So thank you very much. Again, Robbie Strazynski here for CardplayerLifestyle.com at the EPT Barcelona 2018.

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