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Grinder Achieves Black Card Status

By Scott Carlson, Rakeback.com Senior Writer

Rakeback.com VIP LogoLaunched in October 2010, the Rakeback VIP Program is a great way to earn some extra rewards just for playing. Rakeback member Darren K. found a unique way to achieve Black Card status, the highest award level available. Darren sat down for an interview with us to discuss how he did it.

Rakeback:  Where are you from?

Darren K.:  Hawaii, Oahu!!!

RB:  What is your Rakeback forum name?
DK:  l2o07l3eel2

RB:  I understand that you are a full time student. How did you manage to play enough to reach VIP Black Card status?
  Being a full time college student at the University of Hawaii Manoa it gets kind of crazy because I have so many classes and other responsibilities. Most of my free time goes towards studying poker or playing poker. I have even been guilty of grinding some sessions out in the back of my lecture classes where attendance was required.

To answer your question, I made a schedule for myself based on how much I needed to average each day to reach VIP Black Card, which helped me reach my goal. What really helped was the Rakeback $25k Rake Race promotion and becoming Diamond Elite on Absolute Poker. Becoming Diamond Elite gave me 5% interest on my account balance, a 5x multiplier on status points and entry into a number of freerolls. Those things really helped keep my interest. It was all just too good to pass up.

RB:  How many hands did you play in the month of October to earn VIP Black Card status and what stakes did you play?
DK:  I am not exactly sure how many hands I played during the month because my Hold’Em Manager database corrupted halfway through. I would say I played in the neighborhood of around 150k hands or more. I played mostly 50NL, some 25NL and a few heads-up sit-n-go’s thrown in there. It was close at the end of the month though. I ended up making VIP Black Card by a whopping $3.24!

RB:  Do you plan on maintaining VIP Black Card status going forward ($10k raked over the next three months)?
DK:  I definitely would have loved to, but unfortunately PokerStars rake isn’t calculated towards the VIP Black Card status.

RB:  What is your favorite thing about the VIP Black Card Program?
DK:  Easily the cool gear you get for reaching Black Card status. The VIP manager is also really nice. It’s always good to have someone you can talk to about poker especially when he has been a professional poker player for some time himself.

RB:  How did you first get into poker?
DK: I’ve played poker since I was a little kid for fun, but it wasn’t until college where I played a couple of live tournaments. I chopped first place in one and finished third in another for over a thousand dollars. After that online poker seemed to attract me more than live play due to the massive amount of hands that could be played over a small period of time. The abundance of free time in the in the college dorms didn’t hurt either.

RB:  Describe a typical day for you.
DK:  This all depends on when the day starts. I’m not sure I even know when that is anymore due to such late nights. Let’s just say I begin the day waking up at 7:30am and go get breakfast at the school cafe. After that I attend classes until 11:30am. Once class is over I grind for around three hours or so and then eat lunch. After lunch I go hit the gym for a couple hours. When I get back home by 7:00pm or so I grind another three hours. After the session I grab some dinner and I decide if I have the focus to play any more on the day. If I do I play into the wee hours of the next day. Sometimes I have even played until class started the next day if I really felt in the zone. If I don’t feel in the zone I hit the sack until it’s time for class the next day, rinse and repeat. Fridays and weekends are a bit different. I go to parties like a normal college student and hang out with my friends. On Sundays I make the most of it by grinding from the time I wake up till the time I go to sleep.

RB:  How many tables at a time do you play?
DK:  Generally when playing cash games I play 12+ tables for 3-8 hours per day. Although, when I play heads-up sit-n-go’s, I stick to just two tables.

RB:  Do you ever feel burnt out? If so, how do you battle through those feelings?
DK:  I don’t think burnt out is the word I would use. I love the game of poker. I do get mentally tired at times and lose focus which results in bad play and tilt. Recently I have been working on my tilt control and my mental focus in poker. I am getting a whole lot better by ending a session when I feel the “ball of emotions” gathering up inside me. Also, when I start opening up my browser and start looking at Facebook during my session, I know it’s time to quit. I also keep an eye on my stats and if my VPIP, PFR and 3-bet stats are increasing I know it’s time for a break. The best way I handle these emotions is by going to the gym, eating or hanging out with friends to have a little escape from poker. As soon as I can let go of what happened in the previous session, I can continue the grind.

RB:  I understand your brother plays as well. How has he helped your game?

DK:  Hands down the best thing any poker player can do to improve their game is have someone to discuss poker with. Having someone to talk to about poker, to study poker with and having someone who understands you are some things that will open up your game and make both of you a better player. I’m just lucky to have a family member who plays similar stakes as me. I can send him hand histories to review and he is familiar with the villains in my hands from either sweating me or playing against the same opponents himself. He has a better concept of the hand dynamics to help follow my thought process and provide feedback.

RB:  Who wins in a heads-up match you or your brother?
DK:  Haha. We don’t play much together at all. We almost never sit down on the same tables, nor do we play heads-up very much. I do believe he has the best of me from the heads-up cash games we have played for fun. He’s kind of an aggro donk that likes to bet, raise and shove the river especially when I have no pair, like ever (just kidding). Neither of us are probably playing anywhere near optimal when we play heads-up since we both normally play 6-max tables.

RB:  Any words of wisdom for your fellow Rakeback members?

DK:  Have a good work ethic and a ton of mental focus and stability if you want to become a serious poker player. Focus on the situation at hand at this very moment in time to make the best decision possible. Do not worry so much about the things you can’t control such as all-in EV, otherwise it will tear your game apart little by little.

Thanks Darren for taking the time to talk to us. Good luck in your future play and we hope to see you in Vegas this summer.

Want to know more about the VIP program and how you can qualify for Black Card status? Check it out here.

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