With PokerStars Players Championship II on the horizon, Cardplayer Lifestyle is in the midst of bringing you the stories of some Platinum Pass winners. In case you’ve missed them, we invite you to learn more about Amir Epstein and Karl Robinson. In this third of four installments in our miniseries, we take a closer look at someone with whom you may already be familiar, Chad McVean. Chad won his Platinum Pass way back in December 2021, which is just a couple months after he officially joined us as our Social Media Coordinator.
As the latest @PokerStars #PokerInTheEars Podcast with @J_Hartigan & @Stapes is now out, I still can’t believe that I have been awarded a #PlatinumPass for the next @PokerStars #PSPC!
— Chad McVean (@Veaner85) December 9, 2021
Beyond rooting for one of “our guys”, what’s inspired me about Chad is that he’s chosen to make the most of this opportunity to play at PSPC II by following a regimented schedule of study over the last five months. Since August 29, he’s detailed how he’s been preparing in earnest for the PSPC and in this article we’d like to explore that preparation in more detail.
Today is August 29th and on January 29th I will be in the Bahamas.
I now have only 5 months to get ready for the @PokerStars Player’s Championship.
— Chad McVean (@Veaner85) August 29, 2022
Plenty of serious recreational players are just thankful for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and are content to “play the game that got them there”. Why did you feel the need to get in the lab and study in the first place?
I’ve always felt comfortable with my poker game in the games that I play, which are mainly low stakes games featuring a lot of recreational players. The fact that I would be put in a lineup of pros and high stakes crushers scares me and I know that my game is no where near their level. I needed to take steps to improve and at least make my game a little more sound. I would that say my play has always been as more of a feel player, taking what the table gives me and picking my spots without any real sound strategy behind it.
I’ve been successful in cash games as I always seemed to find games with worse players. I felt that I really needed to cram as much strategy and theory in my head and see what sticks. Whether that shows any results, well, we’ll find out soon enough.
A major component of your study has been reading poker books. Which have been some of your favorite poker books to learn from and why?
Ever since I first ventured into poker, I have found books to help my game along the way. For the longest time I stuck with physical book but eventually added audio and e-books too. Now, I do have a decent collection of books but by no means have I completed all of them. Some I have read many times, others I read most and some I didn’t get too far. Aside from reading physical books, e-books have really been helpful as they are will you at all times on your phone.
The books that really stand out over the years were the Harrington on Hold’em Series (Not pictured as I loaned them out only to never see again), The Course by Ed Miller, Jonathan Little’s Secrets of Professional Tournament Poker series and Reading Poker Tells by Zachary Elwood.
The books that I read this year in preparation were Jonathan Little’s Essential Guide, Every Hand Revealed by Gus Hansen and parts of Michael Acevedo’s Modern Poker Theory and Andrew Brokos’ Play Optimal Poker.
I really enjoyed Alex Fitzgerald’s 100 Biggest Mistakes That Poker Players Make, reading it over a couple times. I also took looks at Andrew Brokos’ Play Optimal Poker 2 and Endgame Poker Strategy by Dara O’Kearney and Barry Carter.
I do have to say one e-book has really stood out for me and I am still going through it currently. GTO Poker Simplified by Dara O’Kearney and Barry Carter has been my favourite book this year and I truly feel I learn something every chapter. It’s one thing to see what solvers say but they explain the reasoning and make it easy to understand. Give that book a read!
Now, I may be known for listening to podcasts but I enjoy listening to poker audio books, too. Easily my favourite book is Alex Fitzgerald’s Exploitative Play in Live Poker. I can’t tell you how many times I have listened to it. At minimum, every flight to Vegas it gets a listen.
Some others I really enjoy are Elements of Poker from the guru himself, Tommy Angelo, Life’s A Gamble by Mike Sexton (voiced by the legend himself), The Mental Game of Poker by Jared Tendler and Barry Carter and Exploiting Poker Tells by Zachary Elwood.
What are some of the tips, strategies, and lessons you’ve picked up from those poker books that you feel have helped you fix leaks and improve your game the most?
There is a wide variety of tips, techniques and theories spread over all those books. To put it simply, I need to be more observant at the table, keep an eye on chip stacks, tighten up in early position and really loosen up my ranges in late position. Plus, stop just calling from the small blind. Again, pretty simple stuff.
Another big component of your preparation has been watching videos on some of the best poker training sites. Care to give a shout out to some of the ones – and any particular instructors/coaches – you’ve learned the most from?
I have quite a few products from Alex Fitzgerald. I find his teaching style to really resonate with me. Love the no fluff, all business approach and the constant questions to make sure you are picking up what he’s discussing.
The Reading Poker Tells Video Series from Zachary Elwood is just a phenomenal learning program that really dives into lessons that really help with your live game and he adds more to the program every year.
Those two are the main coaches who I’ve learned from over this year. I have also done some work on a few different programs: RangeTrainerPro, DTOPoker, PokerSnowie, GTO Ranges, GTO Wizard and others.
Same question then: what are some of the tips, strategies, and lessons you’ve picked up from those poker training sites?
The lessons I have learned again lead to better ranges and, specifically, upping my playing aggression in position. I probably call to trap more often than I should and I need to go for more value which will also help out my bluffs. Also, I need to be more disciplined in my play as I sometimes find myself in hands that I have no right being in and just spewing off chips. Really just sharpening up my play. I’m no GTO expert but I have a better grasp in it compared to six months ago.
I know that you’re mostly a (winning) cash game player. Why your preference for those instead of tournaments? Has your study helped you get into more of a tournament mindset?
Simply put: taxes. If I play a tournament and have a small profit, I lose 30% to withholding tax. But if I have a good run playing cash, it is all mine. Plus the benefit of sitting down to play when I want and leaving when I feel that I am done are great benefits of playing cash vs. tournaments. The fact that the Blinds never go up also help to be more patient and to pick your spots for big profits.
Studying has definitely helped adjust my playing mindset as I had to firm up ranges for short stack poker, which you don’t really experience playing cash. Also, upping aggression as you can’t just sit there while the blinds go up.
How about poker play? Has all your study time translated to better results online or at the live felt thus far? Or has finding time to play still been a challenge for you between your regular job and other personal and professional commitments?
Getting actual playing time in is the biggest struggle. There are no live tournaments available unless I want to drive 3+ hours. I do, however, play in a “bar league” which gets some hands in for me but not necessarily against the most experienced players. There are definitely some good players there but a lot of recreational players that I won’t see in the Bahamas. I don’t really play much online, with Ontario being ringfenced, the games available aren’t as plentiful as they used to be.
Aside from your poker study and practice, you’ve also committed to getting into better shape. I know you’ve got a Bowflex at home. What sort of fitness and diet regime have you adopted over the last few months? In what ways have you noticed any changes as a result?
I have had weight challenges my whole life and have have yo-yo’d my weight over the years. I have tried many “diets” which work until I stop them. So I basically have avoided dieting but try to be more mindful of what I eat. I track everything in MyFitnessPal app which keeps my daily calorie count in mind.
As far as exercise, I bought a used Bowflex early in the year but it sat unused until my Wife threatened to sell it. I then committed to finally getting to work. I found a great YouTube Channel that had Bowflex specific workouts and have averaged four workouts a week since.
Also, I take our dog for a 3 km walk almost every night, so I definitely get my steps in. I wouldn’t say I am in great shape yet but I have dropped 20 pounds and snug clothes are now loose. Overall I just feel stronger and I believe my morning workouts really help my mindset to start the day.
Beyond playing and hopefully succeeding at the felt, you’re obviously a huge poker fan, too. Any players in particular that you’re hoping to see in the Bahamas and maybe snag a selfie with?
There are a lot of players that I would live to meet for the first time, just hopefully not at my table. I look forward to meeting Dara O’Kearney and David Lappin in person as they have been really supportive of anything I do. Not a player but I look forward to meeting Willie Elliot who has had the job of wrangling up all the Platinum Pass holders and has done a phenomenal job. Other players I would love to meet are Jennifer Shahade, Benjamin “Spraggy” Spragg, Lex Veldhuis, Sam Grafton plus the poker G.O.A.T. Phil Hellmuth. Also, although I have met Joe Stapleton before I have never met James Hartigan and would love to thank them for the Pass in person. Plus, James has great taste in NFL teams. Go Niners!
On August 29th, the day you started that “prep” thread, you also tweeted this out:
I want to be prepared but also okay with going out quick.
Trying to keep the mindset that this is a free vacation where I play a little poker, instead of a huge poker opportunity.
— Chad McVean (@Veaner85) August 29, 2022
It will have been a year between when I won the pass and the event, so I SHOULD have been properly prepared. Just really starting now.
But also, just want to have a good time and enjoy a once in a lifetime experience.
— Chad McVean (@Veaner85) August 29, 2022
After having put in over four months of genuine, dedicated prep time, do you still feel the same way? Or do you now see yourself having a legitimate shot at a big score? What would cashing – or, in a dream scenario, a deep run – mean to you?
I have kept the mindset that it is a free vacation and a once in a lifetime experience so enjoy every moment.
But, I am definitely more prepared and am looking forward to the challenge. The last two big field live tournaments I have run deep (17/794 & 377/4455) so I know I can have a long run.
Just cashing helps out financially a lot but I do plan on a better result than min-cashing. I am not going to say that I will win but I wouldn’t rule it out. The main goal is to just take in this experience, work hard and enjoy every moment.
Plus beach weather has to be better than winter in Canada, so if the cards run cold, I will be ready for the sun outside!