When I found out about the next founder I was to interview, I had yet to know about the fantastic journey I was going to participate in.
I already knew about his tremendous willpower and attention to details, but those words can be used to describe many poker players. As I was unveiling other chapters of his life, I've been more and more astonished by his approach and attitude.
"From zero to hero" can't really be used because he started with less than that. With loans to survive a couple of months and three mouths to feed, he devoted his time to poker. As irresponsible as it seems, it has turned out to be the greatest decision of his life.
Thank God he is one of the few because the poker world would be much much tougher If I had someone like bakudranski at every other table:
Designs strategies and charts for Smart Spin members. A founder of $300 HU HT group.
dolareq: Let’s start from the very beginning. A working man who is about to become a father. He leaves his regular job, take some loans and starts playing poker. Pretty crazy, right? Tell us what happened!
bakudranski: Long story short.
I borrowed the money. The plan was simple. I sustained myself on the borrowed money. I deposited a small amount of money which let me play at the low stakes. I would continue borrowing money if my skills, stakes and initial bankroll were increasing. The goal was to find myself in situation where I was able to make a living and pay my debts from regular winnings.
dolareq: Why would you do such a risky thing?
bakudranski: Many people would find my decision irresponsible. But if I had to decide once again - I would do the same.
When I decided to dedicate myself to poker at the beginning of 2010 I wasn’t satisfied with my financial situation. At that time I was familiar with poker. I was playing with friends and making smaller deposits on-line. I loved playing, but I didn’t study the game. Inspired by people achieving success in poker and with the belief that if you are completely dedicated to something you will succeed, I decided I would do it.
I would become a professional poker player. The fact that I didn’t have financial flexibility was the biggest problem.
When we don’t have a comfortable financial situation, most of our energy is taken by thinking and acting in order to earn for current needs. Since I wanted to focus only on studying the game and playing I had to organize enough funds.
dolareq: I can only imagine how stressful this was for you.
bakudranski: It was an extremely stressful period for me - I made my way into the unknown.
I didn’t have a mentor. I didn’t know anybody who regularly earned serious money by playing poker, I just heard about some who treated it as an extra income. I knew websites tracking scores on-line and that was my only source of knowledge regarding poker players’ earnings.
I felt it was a chance of a lifetime. However, I had to completely reorganize my life. I was very lucky because I had my family’s support. There was no turning back. If I had failed, the only option would have been to return to an average job and it would have taken me a long time before I could have paid back all the debts. In case of a failure, I would have lost a couple of years and a chance for a better life for me and my family. I couldn’t afford to waste time. I had to work on strategy and mindset, and play. The key was to keep my mind in a good shape under pressure in order to implement the strategy.
It took me less than a year. I did it. I could make a profit playing poker.
dolareq: I am impressed, but on the other hand, also a little horrified. There were so many things that could have happened to you. Don’t you think you were extremely lucky?
bakudranski: Of course many things could have gone wrong and I think I was a little lucky. I’ve been horrified, but then I asked myself about the worst thing that could happen if I had failed. The second question was this: how would the success influence the lives of me and my family?
dolareq: You have some guts. But you did not reach high stakes immediately. You had ten attempts at playing $100 HU HTs. Ten! Why was it so difficult for you to get used to those stakes?
bakudranski: I think it was a cumulation of my beliefs and the variance.
Every time I tried to shoot $100’s, there was something that had been switching in my mind and I wasn’t able to play optimally.
When I was analyzing the results of players from $100 stakes at the beginning of my career, I knew how much they could earn. The best were able to earn in one month what I could earn in two years in my first job. Such amounts were previously unimaginable for me. My dream was to reach that point and to enjoy life. It was my greatest mindset leak. It took me a long time to understand that it is just one of many steps and there are no limits.
dolareq: What was wrong with that thinking? We’ve been talking a lot about setting smart goals and this seems to be a really good one.
bakudranski: If I limit myself to one stakes, I may have troubles getting there. I may exaggerate the difficulty of getting there. I can also have a more "laid-back" approach because my goal is so close. I need to think big. If you stand still, in fact you move backwards.
Why should I limit myself? Why not set my eyes on the very top? It will involve more work and dedication. Moreover, the probability of succeeding is lower. However, if I set the top as my goal, I will constantly make progress, propelled by my motivation.
Even if I do not reach my end goal, I will definitely be playing higher.
dolareq: The good attitude is important to reach the top, but improving skill is equally important. How did you approach learning?
bakudranski: I think that I used a relatively universal method, well suited for everybody. I regularly asked myself what I could have done better. I made analyses, drew conclusions and implemented changes over and over again. During last few years I have used a couple of thousand pages for notes. It is a simple activity, yet you need to force yourself to repeat it.
Right now I do not need so many notes, because I am able to analyze plenty of things without them - just like people who have been on a diet for a few years do not need kitchen scales to prepare a meal. Some time ago I was tidying up and I found quite a lot of my notes.
dolareq: You reached the $100’s. Was any other stake level so difficult to conquer?
bakudranski: When I decided to move up to $200’s/$300’s, it was a time when all regs weren’t fighting each other to the death. Only a few of better regulars were testing newcomers.
When I sat in the lobby for the first time, a player nicknamed “n1fan” decided to test me. He was a regular there. He still plays, $1,000 right now. Our war lasted a few days.
Here I was… Completely aware of the fact that the biggest reg-war of my career was about to begin. I should play the next couple of hundred - or even thousand - matches against the same opponent, who theoretically should be better than me. When you attack higher stakes, every reg-war can be decisive for your position - whether you stay at the same level or fall. If you fail, you lose time and money. You can imagine the pressure accompanying such a shot.
dolareq: I can’t even imagine the money involved at those stakes. Tell us, how did that reg-war go?
bakudranski: It didn’t start well. At the beginning he won $5,000.
It is not all about the money in reg-war. Your opponents must feel pressure, must feel your will to fight.
I spent a lot of time on a very detailed analysis of his tendencies. It was my strong point. I never played with someone without preparation. I also analyzed his timetable. I knew when he’s been sleeping and playing. If necessary, I would have learnt how his girlfriend looked like and what was his dog’s name. When he logged in, I was already waiting - well-rested and ready with my strategy, with conclusions drawn from the previous session. For some time we played every day for a few hours in a row. I had to create an image in his mind, portraying myself as a determined, relentless and self-confident person. When the number of games approached one thousand, he’s been losing around $20,000. One day he didn’t appear at his usual hours. I sat down in the lobby and I saw him playing $100 stakes.
After our war, the information about the results spread out. I had only a few smaller reg-wars following that. Paradoxically, it was easier than moving up to 100$, it took me less time.
dolareq: A breathtaking story. This was something else than a simple motivation, more like a sheer will to destroy the guy who was standing between you and those stakes. Let’s fast forward a little, can you tell us how you became one of the founders of $300 cartel?
bakudranski: At that moment, $200/$300 stakes were treated as the same lobby.
It was a time when a lot of lower stakes players started to open our lobbies. We had to wait too long for a game with recreational players. Some people, not belonging to any group, were testing newcomers. I was one of the person doing it. The goal was to discourage the new ones to open those stakes without hesitation. Unfortunately, not many people were active in that area. The rest of the regulars were “freerolling”. When we were fighting newcomers, the remaining regulars were getting recreational players. It wasn’t profitable for us. If we hadn’t done anything in six months, all regulars would have waited an hour for one game. Before, it was even 30 games per hour.
I started to cooperate with some fighters, but how to convince other regulars to start playing newcomers and let them open the lobby only if they are skilled enough?
We were a small group who tried to address individual regular players and show them the consequences of being passive, as well as the solution to that problem. One by one. If someone didn’t want to join us, he was against us. Very soon our group expanded to 50 people. At that time there were over 100 players opening this lobby. We set a schedule to cover lobbies in order to implement our plan as soon as possible.
dolareq: What happened during that time?
bakudranski: It was an amazing time. I would sit at scheduled time in lobbies doing whatever I needed as a member of the team. I felt really motivated when I saw that others were also doing their best. I didn’t feel tired.
I was playing with people who didn’t belong to our group, eliminating them from the lobby one by one. The plan started to work. After a few weeks we reached our goal. People without self-esteem and skills were degraded to the lower stakes.
During this action not everybody from the initial 50 participants were engaged to the extent that we had expected. Therefore, we took a proper action. Soon our group consisted of only around 30 people.
dolareq: A lot of non-Polish players probably don’t know about your long-lasting cooperation with killuifuplay. How has it started?
bakudranski: This young player had already become famous in our country. Killu played exactly the same format as I did and he was considered the best.
I was reading his blog and his style really suited me. I followed his steps and opened a blog on the same site. Killu often posted his hands and I was gladly writing short texts about them. Someday he announced that he is open to cooperation with other players. I eagerly sent my CV. Then, we talked via internet. Killu wanted to see me face to face before he would make a decision about taking me under his wings. I travelled 11 hours on the train to convince him during our meeting that I am worthy of his time. It was the missing piece. I needed a mentor - somebody who had already reached the point which I wanted to reach.
I made it. It was a breakthrough in my career. We spent a lot of time together, breaking more and more records. During our cooperation, I progressed from low to high stakes, whereas Killu - from high stakes to nosebleeds. I felt wonderful being his closest poker partner at the time when he was becoming the world’s HU legend.
dolareq: You were a powerful duo, how did you work on your games? I heard stories about some oldschool “calculator and notepad” equity calculations.
bakudranski: Haha! Analyses by means of a calculator, notepad and Equilab were the symbols of our thorough work. Back then, we didn’t have any software facilitating such analyses, so we spent plenty of time on meticulous calculations using simple tools. Each of us had such a long list of notes in Equilab that you could have fallen asleep just by scrolling through them. We met almost every morning, just to have a look at hands from the previous day. After some time, the analyses became more complex. Nothing could stop us.
I am very grateful that I met him on my path, he had a positive influence not only on my poker career, but also on me in general.
dolareq: Let’s move to the Spin & Go’s. Smart Fight was your personal challenge with FCD. We would love to know how it looked like from your side of view and why you decided to focus solely on Spin & Go’s!
bakudranski: There came a time when Smart Spin demanded from us even greater engagement than before.
I decided to resign from my safe source of income in order to focus on the spinning strategy. I needed to learn more about the spin dynamics. FCD had a minimal advantage in terms of Spin & Go experience, because he started testing them earlier than I.
We both enjoy competition and therefore, a challenge appeared. The rules were simple. The winner is whoever ends up with a higher $EV post-rakeback in a specified time period. The loser pays the winner’s $EV plus $10,000.
FCD played more games with better results and has earned $18,000 EV, as I have made $13,000 in EV. FCD profited from all his winnings and additional $28,500 earned from the challenge. Fortunately, at that time I won about $20,000 of real money, so the loss was not that high. Variance :)
The lessons taken from the challenge and during its analysis were valuable for both us and Smart Spin players, so I came to terms with my failure quite fast. Playing against such a great player, even in spite of my defeat, was an honour.
dolareq: Now, you work to improve the skills of all Smart Spin members. Could you please tell us more about that? How does it look like, creating a winning Spin & Go strategy?
bakudranski: I feel really lucky to find myself in an environment which can teach me a valuable lesson every day.
My duty is to provide our players with the best possible strategy available on the market.
Of course I am not able to do it on my own. Killu and iJustGamble have great understanding of the game and are top-notch players, but I and FCD love to work with reports. Together, we have created our Strategy Department. We stay up to date with tendencies and almost every day in the morning our group meets together in order to work on the plan of spins world domination :).
We make a list of game areas which, in our opinion, are worth analyzing. Then we set priorities. Special tools and data are necessary if you want to research a given area, and therefore the next stage involves appropriate planning and preparation. After that, we need to analyse the report and draw conclusions. When we develop the optimal strategy, we face one of our greatest challenges - sharing this knowledge with players in a clear way, so that everything is understandable. Day after day.
That is why when you join Smart Spin, you receive 100-150 preflop charts, depending on stakes. This part of the game is most important - any significant mistake here is impossible to be made up for on the further streets. Our charts are “readless”, therefore we produce such video series as “Pre-flop Master Series” or coachings/seminars which explain how to adjust your strategy in specific preflop conditions. Mastering this part of the game is more crucial than the analysis of situations when your opponent plays “donk” on the river. Please don’t misunderstand me. Less common situations are worth analyzing, provided that the more popular ones have already been mastered. The “Crushfest” series is quite popular and it delves into the postflop stage of the game. I have never seen any similar material which would explain step by step how to play on the specified board structure and hand strength.
Let me use the mine metaphor. Our task is to find the most profitable mine and the most effective mining techniques. When you join us, we give you the map of the mine and a set of tools. Our charts are the first mine. When you have learnt how to effectively mine the ores from the first spot, we will give you the next map. Our full time job is to find new mining locations for you and provide instructions how to proceed.
We have the best strategy and we will continue to expand our offer. In the nearest future you can expect to see the second season of “Crushfest” in our video library. Soon we will produce yet another series, looking more deeply into playing on the turn and on the river. Our coaches - best at the given position - will share their knowledge every month, and thanks to our infrastructure you will be informed about appropriate trainings if a specific position appears problematic for you. We are working on solutions which will make our trainings more interactive, as we’ve started including live quizzes in them.
Leakfinder is currently being improved and players with solid volume will have a possibility to receive it with their broken down to two: against fishes and against regs!
However, FCD’s Smart Coach - developed with our help in terms of strategy input - is the most anticipated thing. It’s going to be available soon and it will be a breakthrough in the process of pinpointing and eliminating errors in your game.
dolareq: That’s not the end of your poker history, but one of the chapters is definitely over. Although it’s been over 1,5 years now, we are still at the beginning of the next one: Smart Spin. How do you approach that part of your poker, and also life, journey?
bakudranski: When I started playing poker I didn’t have a mentor. I was looking for such a person before I decided to take a risk and go all the way. I wrote many emails to plenty of players, even those living abroad. I offered my devotion, time, loyalty, paying a percentage from my winnings in return for showing me the way. A professional school offering comprehensive service didn’t exist at that time. I didn’t manage to convince any individuals. Now we have Smart Spin. I am very proud that I am a part of this community and I can give others all the things which I was once searching for.
Our goal is to make Smart Spin the best poker school in the world. I will do all it takes to make it so.