Together with my Top Pair Home Game Poker Podcast co-host Bruce Briggs, I recently interviewed Remko Rinkema, the Senior Editor at PokerCentral.com. While I’ve interviewed Remko here on Cardplayer Lifestyle in the past, our podcast focuses on home games so there was plenty of new material to explore and new stories to be told.
Below, you’ll find the entirety of Episode 280 of the podcast, which includes the interview with Remko starting at the 19:24-minute mark. You can also read the summarized transcript below.
Interview Transcript (Summarized)
Remko Rinkema is probably one of the most well-known members of the poker media corps and after several many successful years of covering live events all over the world, Rinkema has now settled down in Toronto and works as the Senior Editor for Poker Central.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Thanks for the introduction! The new gig is just great. It’s a nice feeling being part of something from the start. It’s a new platform, it’s a new website. It’s an amazing ride to be on. Given the editorial content that I work on, the podcast that I’ve just started, a lot fit and is just something I really enjoy doing. My routine has gotten more exciting from day to day. There’s lots of meetings to sit through, but that’s what everybody learns a lot from. We’re a work in progress. I look forward to what the next couple of months has to offer. One of the key moments coming up will be the Super High Roller Bowl at the end of May. Exciting times here in the home office. It’s just three steps away from the kitchen! It’s lovely to be working in one place. I’m getting used to travelling less.
I thought Poker Central had been around for a while?
Poker Central has been around for a while, but initially it was mainly focused on its TV broadcast with regard to the Super High Roller Bowl and other events it was involved in. Recently the decision has been made to go full digital. The Super High Roller Bowl will still be going out on some platforms, but the focus on the digital content is what makes it new. We’re taking a new exciting turn, and we have a lot of good people working with us. I can honestly say that it’s been a change of pace working with new people, with fresh ideas and getting to bounce things off of people after being in this industry for eight years now.
We have between four and six editorial pieces every day. We’re not only going hardcore on the poker, we also have a lot of other lifestyle-related content if you like going for nice dinners or scenic walks in cities with a big poker tournament. And there will also be some fun stuff like what songs poker players would sing at karaoke!
Could you tell some of our listeners what the Super High Roller Bowl is exactly?
The Super High Roller Bowl is the biggest event in all of poker in 2017. We have a $300,000 buy-in. The event is open to anyone, and for the entire day of registration we had 54 players sign up. That was overwhelming and we had to do a lottery which was something we didn’t expect. This is only the third year it’s been hosted and it’s never sold out in one day. All the players around the world wanted to be in the event this year. There are 35 names known now for the Super High Roller Bowl. In two earlier editions we had 49 players. First prize looks to be around $5m and that’s taking into account that it will be full. The remaining 15 seats are going to be picked by Aria. That’ll be a mix from Aria high rollers and recreational players. It could even be players Aria invites to the event if they want to play. From May 28th to May 31st, there will be four days of live poker action for you to watch. To get an invite to play is the best-case scenario for any player, since its such a big mix of professionals and recreational players. The aim is to have a great balance of that to make some great poker TV.
*Ed. note: As per Aria Poker Room’s decision to expand the event, there will now be 56 players in the 2017 Super High Roller Bowl.
Robbie was telling me all about your home game past.
Oh absolutely! My poker history goes back to the Spring of 2006. You’re well rounded home game players, so going back to then meant that when I was turning 18 I discovered poker. In the Netherlands, poker started catching on in late 2005. I watched it on TV and I immediately started looking for poker sites to play on. Online was the easiest option and I started on Pacific Poker. That’s the predecessor of 888 and I still on my old computer have screenshots of my play money SNG victories. I quickly realized playing for money online wasn’t as fun. I remember realizing that I could check-raise and going “woah, is that an option?” The thing was that I’m from a really small town, so I went to high school in a city that has about 100,000 people. It’s in the north of the Netherlands. Around school I heard more and more about poker.
Finally I found a home game to play in. It was a €20 rebuy tournament and for a student that’s a lot of money. At the time I couldn’t rebuy so I’d take my bicycle to this tournament, and cycle for an hour to get there. No money for drinks or food, I just wanted to fire one bullet. That’s how I did it for the first couple of weeks. I just wanted to get a feel for the tournament. I met some people from my area so I hitched some rides, but that home game was really where it all started.
As I started getting more and more into the game, I went to the local bookstore and bought Harrington on Hold’em and Sklansky for Advanced Players. I got a marker and started noting stuff down I wanted to learn. In 2006, I went absolutely bananas learning how to play this game. Slowly but surely I got comfortable with rebuys. There was a €0.50/1 cash game and three months after I started playing, I tried my luck in the cash game which was a complete disaster. That’s when I realised I’m way more of a tournament player.
I didn’t have a big result off the bat, I was just fascinated with being able to win somewhere down the line. It probably saved me that I didn’t win big at the start so I had to grind it up from nothing. I had a Saturday job and the money I made there I put into poker. I built my bankroll up from €100 in deposits. I only played $4.40 180-man SNGs and the $11.70 Sunday Million double shoot-out qualifiers. That’s the only things I would play. That was my regularly grind every day. The payouts in those events are fairly small. I made money fairly steadily. I had guys in my high school who had wealthy parents and they lost money consistently. The only thing I did was sell them my Pokerstars dollars for cash so I could go and play in the home game! To put into perspective, the dollar was worth nothing compared to the euro. The €20 was like a $50 rebuy tournament. It was so high stakes!
You start off with Hold’em, and then sometimes you move into other games. You’re a big proponent of mixed games. When did you start getting into them?
I got into mixed games almost from the start. The reason was I went to the book store, and he had Harrington and Sklansky. And I came back every month to buy BLUFF or Card Player Magazine. So I asked him for more books to buy and he then had Super System. That book has more than just Hold’em so I was exposed to all these games and I was immediately hooked. A whole new world was opened up for me. This is the summer of 2007. It says in the book that Razz is the easiest non-Hold’em game. So I started with that, and then went on to play Stud, PLO, Omaha High, Omaha High-Low, and Stud Eight-or-Better. I had never had a chance to play mixed games live until I went to the WSOP for the first time in 2009.
If you’re an avid home game player now I can tell you now – learn all the games. Tell your friends to read a few articles about it. Try it out at home, and give it a shot.
Do you have a favorite now that you’ve tried out these mixed games?
I would say that the draw games are my favorite. 2-7 Triple Draw is probably my favorite game, followed by Badugi and NL Single Draw. I think that’s because I’ve spent a lot of time on those games than most other people, so I feel extremely confident in those games.
When I sit down in a $1k event, I never truly feel comfortable playing NLHE, just because I’m always wary of how much time my opponents have spent learning the game. I’ve played four WSOP events to this day, and not a single one of those has been Hold’em. In 2009 I played the $1500 HORSE, then later the $1,500 8-Game, then the $2,500 10-Game. And then 2015 the $2,500 10-Game. That’s when I got knocked out two spots off the bubble.
You’re in Toronto, is there a home game scene there that you’re a part of?
I’m still finding my way here in the city. I spend so much time working from home that I don’t really get time to socialize at much. For me it’s about finding some poker friends. I do have some potential games in the future, but it’s hard to get more than four people available on the same night. Not so much home game action here so far.
What are your methods to try and expose more people to poker or to recruit more people to the game?
That’s something I think about a lot. Whenever poker comes up in my social life I try to approach it from a ‘it’s a fun game’ perspective. I never try to focus in on the money or the swings or the math. Look at it as a fun game to play with your friends, and if you can get a few people together I’d love to teach you or educate you on how to play properly. Let people see that it’s a fun game, because most people’s associations with poker are people playing for an ungodly amount of money. Their association with the game is attached to the money.
Whenever I’m in Vegas I try and get mixed games going for low stakes. I tweet out and people come and join us at the casino. Playing in that game you have a really fun time. Everyone comes with a mindset of having a good time. They wanna learn the games and we’re there to educate them. There’s a balance you need to find between players that are good and players that are learning. That’s important. People need to feel included.
What steps can we take to develop unique characters and stories in poker?
There are a lot of different answers but one of the best I can give is that the people with the biggest voices in poker, like ESPN and big media outlets, they have a responsibility to show the general public the stories of these players. TV shows used to be more documentary style, putting more detail into finding out who these people were, and that’s how characters were created like Daniel Negreanu, Mike Matusow and Doyle Brunson. They had these characters sit down for little interviews which is what made poker great in exposing the general public to who these people are.
Currently we’re obsessed with what makes poker great for current fans, but not what attracts new fans. VPIP and pre-flop range percentages – that sort of stuff should be on the fringes of the game because it’s not drawing in a mass audience. You’re alienating the people who might be interested in poker if that’s your main focus. I feel a responsibility in highlighting new players and give them a chance to shine and tell their story.
Follow Remko Rinkema on Twitter @RemkoRinkema