Ask high stakes SNG and cash game player BrynKenny about a 21 year old kid from Indiana named Aaron Jones, who took $62,000 off of him in a HU grudge match, and $50,000 more on a prop bet from the match. Ask mu_empire, who lost nearly $20,000 to Jones in a HU match. Even ask ActionJacson, who used to talk trash about Jones until he too lost to AE in a tournament prop bet. Some people love him and some people hate him, some talk massive trash about him, but none can argue that Aaron Jones is a great poker player. After struggling to sustain a bankroll for a few years, Jones seems to be hitting stride. With over a half million dollars in career earnings, $300,000 of which came in 2007, AE looks like he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
DS: So tell me your poker story…
Aaron Jones: I started playing 5 dollar tournaments probably 5 summers ago in high school. It escalated to cash games and eventually the got bigger and bigger. I decided there was money to be made, so I picked up every book I could get my hands on. I read a lot of bad books with some marginal information, and when I got started online I found poker forums- namely, 2+2. I ran money up to a few thousand, went busto, and ran it up again. I remember having a 10k month my senior year of high school, thinking I was on top of the world, but I hit a lot of variance and went broke many times since then. I think I’ve been doing very well for about 2 years now consistently.
DS: Do you think going broke a lot helped your game or staggered your development?
Aaron Jones: If you’re an intelligent and somewhat emotionally stable human being, going broke can only help your game. The trials and tribulations of having consistent success in online poker are very important- that is, you have to learn how to crawl before you can walk. I never read anything about bankroll management before I was playing 5-10 with two thousand dollars in my account. I learned things like variance before I read about them- and then reading about them helped me reinforce everything. Most of all, going broke teaches you the stability and level-headedness that is needed in a game like this. You need to keep on an even keel. Aside from a few broken mouses, I’ve learned to take bad beats and downswings in stride. After it happens so many times, you become somewhat numb to it.
DS: What took you from the guy who was struggling to keep a solid bankroll to a big winner in the mid and high stakes games? Was it one eureka type moment or was it gradual?
Aaron Jones: I think it’s fairly gradual. I had a friend who was a bankroll nit. Eventually, I learned that keeping 20, 30, 50 buyins online was a very important thing if I want to play 4 or 6 or 8 tables. I guess if there was a single moment, I decided to ‘grind’ 1-2 at one point almost 3 years ago and bought a 20 inch monitor to attach to my laptop. It really made me feel like I was doing it like a job, so I had to keep a bankroll like a job. That was during the party days, but I don’t think I’ve had less than 10k online since then.
DS: What player influenced your game the most?
Aaron Jones: The poker player that influences someone’s game the most is almost always going to be someone that they discuss strategy with personally. In my case, I have a friend Jimmie who I met at the PCA two years ago (plays under alusivpnkbny on stars and jimmie23 on full tilt) that I’ve talked about every poker situation with. There’s no doubt we’ve spent hours and days talking about frequencies and bet sizing and everything under the sun. He is a quiet guy but known fairly well as a tournament player, despite getting his background in the high stakes games on the Ongame network and UB. One of the more public guys that influenced my game from 2+2 would be Jason Strasser (a lot of people from the HSNL guard say that my game reflects his somewhat, in that we both like to call a lot). My other poker friends that I talk to, like rob (bobbofitos), Dani (ansky), Gabe (gp333, FTR’s gabe) and Andrew (luckychewy) are also very important. Really, there are just dozens of people that I send hands on aim, and too many to give credit to. I do feel that poker friends and getting the right circle of them will influence your game positively the most.
DS: One of your famous strategy posts talks about “range merging.” For those unfamiliar with it, can you explain the difference between range merging and thin valuebetting?
Aaron Jones: There’s really very little to no difference. Essentially, ‘range merging’ is only the percentage of time that you are value betting thin and are not sure whether you’re ahead or not. Most will argue that bets are clearly for value or clearly as a bluff- in my case, I find myself with about a hand a session where I’m just not sure if I’m value towning myself (that is, betting something like second pair for value, where he’s got better hands with some frequency) or value towning him. However, betting just makes it better to balance your bluffs, and the thinner you can value bet or ‘merge’ the more often you can bluff.
DS: Your good in all aspects of the game, but one way your game differs from many other players because of your use of, as you call it, “back door aggression.” What is back door aggression and how do you think it gives you and edge over your opponents?
Aaron Jones: There are going to be spots in NLHE where you need to get more money in on later streets, and you don’t want to bet 3 times the size of the pot. In this case, you’re going to want to be able to put a lot of pressure on your opponents by building a pot in a lot of different ways. to do this, you don’t want to just be able to bet full pot when you have the lead- you want to be able to check raise (obviously as both a bluff and for value) on any street at any given point in time, and especially at times when your opponent doesn’t figure to be strong. for instance, after your opponent doesn’t make a c-bet on the flop and doesn’t figure to be strong (assuming the read is that he likes to c-bet with strong hands to build a pot), it’s good to be able to c/r the turn and kill his plans of pot controlling this pot, and then following it up with the threat of all sorts of river aggression.
DS: You express a lot of confidence in your game, which to some people come off as having a massive ego and arrogance. Is your self confidence just really high, and if so how do you feel like that benefits your game? Or are you just trying to piss people off so they tilt money off to you, or better yet, challenge you to HU matches?
Aaron Jones: If I elect to talk trash, I like to have a lot of confidence in myself. in this case, I feel like I’ve played enough poker and spent enough time studying the game to be confident in myself (and whoever I challenge- I’m not out challenging anyone good, trust me). My confidence usually is that high- I think when I’m playing well and my mind is clear, I can play poker with a lot of talented people. I’ve always been pretty cocky in real life, I guess it has been just a function of my personality (perhaps being an only child). However to conclude, a lot of times when I do challenge people to HU matches, it is because I am massively +EV and I want to get them off their game.
DS: Your most current venture is leggopoker.com, a new video/training site that is getting rave reviews. Has the website exceeded your expectations?
Aaron Jones: We’re working on a lot of big things at leggopoker. we want to set the bar very high- we feel like some of the other training sites have leaks, and we’re trying to exploit them by producing a super high quality of videos. Some sites were getting a bit lazy and releasing a marginal product, but we pride ourselves on the level of quality that we attain across the board. I’m personally bringing in some friends and calling in some favors to make sure this site is the best it can be, so if it hasn’t exceeded my high expectations yet, I’m pretty sure it will in the future.
DS: How do LP’s and your videos differ from videos of other great cash game players videos from places like cardrunners.com?
Aaron Jones: Priding ourselves on quality over quantity, we think we have some of the best producers of video. it’s important to remember that the people that are the most successful cannot necessarily explain their thought process the best, but I think Rob (bobbofitos) and I are some of the best in the business at explaining our thought process (in addition to the fact rob has written a book on NLHE). Our other video producers are also very good at what they do, and are some of the biggest winners at their limits. Additionally, our video and sound quality is the highest on the internet among our competitors (a big complaint from many CR members, if I recall). I challenge people to come take a look at leggo videos and check out the quality- down the road, the quantity will come with time and patience.
DS: More than most high stakes players, many low stakes and inexperienced players will look at hands you post and say to themselves “What the f***??” Why do you think the way you play poker is so alien to those players? Do you feel like this represents a big reason why they are playing at the low stakes level?
Aaron Jones: I think the biggest thing you learn at some point in your poker career is what people’s hand range really looks like. The more you play, the more you realize that certain player types show up with certain hands very often in certain spots. All these things are very read dependent, but reading certain type casts is a function of the right poker education, followed by lots of practice of finding spots people like to bluff, and bluff catchers ahead of their range. You will very rarely find me catching bluffs of very good players, because their ranges are so balanced it makes it more and more difficult to make correct hero calls.
DS: What do you see yourself doing after college?
Aaron Jones: Certainly playing poker at least for a while. I went down to Florida before the Bahamas during this past winter break, and the weather is just so beautiful in the winter. I can see myself getting a place down south for half the year or something. Really, I don’t have plans, and that makes me the most excited- because what poker is giving me and has given me allows me the freedom to make decisions like this. At some point I’d like to run a business or coach basketball- my first passion.
DS: Alright well that’s it, thanks for the interview!