Having a hobby that supplements, or even better, replaces your income at the same rate as your chosen occupation is a lofty aspiration. Over the years, Man, who plays under the name “Plankton_TH”, has tried many different things and has worked in various professions, all before he started playing poker. He can’t claim to be a full-time professional player yet, but he is working towards that goal. He is an increasingly successful micro-stakes player and a senior member of the Thai Poker Beast (TPB) club. He is regarded as a role model to poker’s new generation. 

Man earned a bachelor’s degree in finance and a master’s degree in management from a prestigious university in northeast Thailand. Upon graduation, he pursued a career in his chosen field, eventually opening a coffee shop. His days became monotonous.

The boredom of his daily routine in combination with his interests, led Man to the poker industry. He started with a bankroll of just $100; he was able to grow it to over $3,000 in 2 years, not as much as he earned from the coffee shop, but it was a significant growth.

His many experiences on the journey taught Man a great deal. There were times he wanted to give up but chose to continue working at the game. I was given the opportunity to meet and interview him and he shared his thoughts about poker.

Gambling, Poker & Thailand

It is Man’s opinion that there is no perfect strategy or way to manipulate the outcome when you are gambling (except cheating), but poker is not just a gambling game.

At first, Man thought poker was no different than any other gambling card game, but as he played more, his opinion changed. He now recognizes poker as a game with many strategies, all of which need to be studied in order to be able to play properly. He is not surprised that most people still see poker as a game of chance and as a ‘get rich quick’ scheme. Of course, one reason to play is to earn money, but poker needs to be treated as a long-term investment. Man states that he has not yet needed to withdraw money from his poker bankroll unlike what he has had to do with his other investments.

In Man’s perspective, poker in Thailand is trending positively, thanks in part to the Triton Poker tournament where a Thai player claimed the championship. Sadly, the Thai poker community remains very small and it is still illegal to play in many parts of the country.

Starting Out (The Ascent of Man)

Man first started playing online poker in mid-2019. He started because he thought it was just gambling so he did not use any particular strategy. As expected, this didn’t go very well, but everything changed after he won a $10 Thai-only tournament, pocketing $600 in prize money. He thought he had just gotten lucky. He still had not spent any time studying the game and only had some basic knowledge. During this tournament, he tried a different strategy. He watched his opponents closely to predict how they would play. He accidentally started playing Exploitative poker. This experience piqued his interest and he began to educate himself by watching a Poker Coaching channel on YouTube. He sought out knowledge from other Thai poker players. Although they were difficult to find, Man did manage to find a few players from the Thai Poker Army, now called the Thai Poker Beast (TPB).

Joining Thai Poker Beast

When TPB announced they were looking for new poker players to join the team, Man jumped at the opportunity. They were offering players a free forum for sharing knowledge and ideas, coaching all while playing poker under the TPB banner. In exchange, anything you won would be split with TPB as part of the partnership deal. Finding the terms agreeable, Man submitted an application and, despite having played only five or six tournaments, Man was selected as one of the new members. Man said this acceptance was a life-changing moment which opened his eyes to an entirely new perspective of the world of poker. He learned about GTO, which helped him recognize and appreciate new poker strategies. He began to understand he had a lot more to study if he wanted to be good in any scenario. He became acquainted with tools that he could use to practice and develop his skills. Man now favors bounty tournaments because, ‘they have a wide selection of strategies and theories you need to use to be successful’ and, as a bonus, “playing for bounties is fun”.

Development of Skills (The Evolution of Man)

In October of 2019, TPB changed their business model. They moved away from the profit sharing method in favor of paid courses for members. 

His bankroll was reset when TPB redistributed the funds to its members. With these funds, Man spent some on his regular expenses and the rest he invested in his future in poker. He took $100 for his bankroll while the rest was used for courses and training software. Man’s mindset became more positive, thanks to some coaching that was focused on mental health. With this new mindset and approach to the game, Man applied to become an TPB pro in partnership with GGPoker for Thailand. He chose the name ‘Plankton_TH’ as a reminder that he is still a beginner.

When asked about his progress with the new $100 bankroll, Man perked up. At the beginning he lost more tournaments than he won and his bankroll reached a low of around $30. It took some time, but he was able to turn it around and slowly build back his bankroll to over $600. The difference from his first big $600 win, is this time he did not have a single big score. He was finding himself in-the-money far more often and getting to the final table more consistently. Man admits that he had a much better understanding of the game at this time. He began to increase the number of games he was playing in each session from 1 or 2 a day to 6 or 7 tables at once.

Man now plays a lot more than he used to. He has set goals for the number of tournaments he wants to play and increased the number of hours he spends studying the game. He also regularly reviews his hand histories with the team and his coach to reduce the number of misplays that stray from GTO. Although GTO on its own may not be the best strategy at the stakes he is currently playing, he does have plans to move up in buy-ins soon and the time spent now will help with the decisions later. 

When Man had his bankroll reset due to the TPB reorganization, he began studying his own hands and play, looking for weakness in his game. The study allowed him to positively affect his bankroll and by early 2022, he had managed another big score and brought his bankroll to $2,000. It was at this point that Man became the victim of every poker player’s fear, the dreaded Down Swing. During this downswing, Man lost around half of his bankroll. He continued to study and learn from his mistakes, always trying to correct any issues and plug the holes in his game. Thankfully for Man, the negative trend did not last very long and by August of 2022, he had grown his bankroll to $3,000. He has shared his story with many people, all of whom have praised his bankroll management skills, claiming had it been them, they would have likely gone broke.

Man currently plays a GTO style over Exploitative. Though he is impatient by nature, Man has learned to control how he processes emotional swings. He is confident in his studies and he has learned that he can’t control his feelings, but he can accept them and move on to the next hand. He relies on learning from the community for education and development in this aspect.

The Interview

Jinwoonon (J): What do you like best about poker?

Man (M): It’s not all about getting the big wins, as you might expect, but it’s the different types of people you meet. I appreciate the community the most, because it can help you develop your skills quickly.

J: What is the most important thing in poker, Bankroll, Mindset, or Skill?

M: They are all equally important, but if I was to sort them, skill would be the most important followed by mindset and third would be bankroll. I would add the community as the next most important thing in poker.

J: When it comes to tournament buy-ins, what advice would you give?

M: The most important factor is your bankroll. Having 200-300 buy-ins should be satisfactory in case you run badly. But it all depends on the comfort level of the player.

J: What advice would you give regarding Mindset?

M: During a downswing, it is very important to keep a positive mindset. It takes a lot of willpower to continue playing when this happens, without it, quitting would be easy. But when you fight through and continue to play, keep track of the number of hands you play and reduce it to lower your variance. It will help in the long term, like it did for me.

J: You believe that you get unlucky. How much do you think luck affects the play?

M: Luck is beyond what we can control. The only way I think to counter luck is by playing a lot or the variance is more even. Having a healthy bankroll is also not a bad idea.

J: What are your current goals?

M: I want to crush online poker at $30-$50 stakes and play in some of the biggest major tournaments around the world.

J: Any final thoughts for new players?

M: You should spend more time studying than playing if you want to be the best.

About the Author: Jinwoonon graduated from Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok in 2014 with a bachelor of science degree in Chemical Technology. Currently working as an assistant teacher specializing in Mathematics, Jinwoonon enjoys spending time using mathematics to contribute to the advancement of poker strategy.