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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Poker winner: It’s all about learning, studying

The Spokesman-Review

Here’s Justin Aubertin’s typical work day: Get up, head out to Northern Quest Casino, buy into a limit game of Texas Hold ‘em for $500 and come home with, oh, maybe triple that.

Aubertin plays poker for a living. He has been playing seriously for two years after an injury forced him to quit his job at an adult family home. He is married, and his wife stays home with their two small children.

Is he making a go of it as a poker pro?

“So far, yeah,” said Aubertin, who has a two-year degree in Administration of Justice from Spokane Community College. “In the last two months, I’ve been averaging about 5,000 a month.”

Aubertin understands, of course, that poker requires winners and losers. Yet he is convinced that by studying the game and playing it rationally, he consistently can win.

“You can never be completely sure on a given night if you’re going to make money, but over time I’m pretty confident that you will,” Aubertin said. “It’s actually thinking about the odds and learning and studying the game, which a lot of people haven’t done yet or don’t bother to do because they’re doing it recreationally. A lot of people just want to come out and try it because they have seen it on TV.”

Beating them requires, first and foremost, knowing the math.

“I think that’s one of my strengths,” Aubertin said. “… It’s only a 52-card deck, so you can usually be pretty close on everything. It’s not all perfect math. You have to determine, ‘What are my odds of making this hand?’ but you also have to decide, ‘Will that hand be a winning hand anyway?’ “

Reading the other players is also important – even online, when you can’t see their faces.

“You can still get reads on people,” he said. “A lot of what you see in poker is the way people are betting and the timing of the betting. You still get all of that online.”

Another advantage of online poker: If you don’t like the way a “table” is shaking out, you can get up (metaphorically) and move to another table any time you want.

Aubertin does not set strict limits on how much he can win or lose in a given session, yet he does not play for high limits. He says he might win $1,500 in a single day. He said he thinks the most he has lost is about $700. However, he tries not to worry about the money too much.

“I run into that a whole lot at the poker table,” Aubertin said. “They stay in the hand because they already have $150 in there, or they fold because it’s $40 more than they want to put out, rather than making decisions actually based on what they think the strength of their hand is.”

He said that poker players commonly lie, even to themselves, about their wins and losses. So he says it is important to keep a detailed daily notebook.

“Even the players I see who buy in for $400 or $500 every day and lose it would tell you they are doing well,” he said.

With all that money at stake, isn’t this a spectacularly high-stress way to make a living?

“Not for me personally,” Aubertin said. “I’ve been playing games for a long time. I’ve been playing Magic The Gathering (a fantasy card game) in big tournaments for about 10 years. It’s really good experience. This year at the World Series of Poker, there were a lot of Magic players that won bracelets and finished high in the money.”

Aubertin has only played locally so far, but next year he plans to head to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker.

He also intends to enter Eastern Washington University and study for a social work degree. However, that’s a backup plan.

“I hope I never have to have a regular job again,” he said. “It’s really nice to set your own hours.”

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