Heads Up With Jonathan Little: An Exclusive Interview
PokerNews India went heads up with 2-time WPT winner, Jonathan Little for an exclusive interview on his life journey as a poker player. He’s a stalwart of the global poker community and above all a really nice guy to know! He’s the author of numerous bestselling poker strategy books and also one of the best poker coaches on the circuit today. Following is our chat:
PokerNews India: Tell us about your poker journey thus far?
Jonathan Little: I started playing poker in 2003 as an 18-year-old in high school. I was introduced to the game after a weekly Magic: The Gathering tournament. The same players seemed to win every time, so I immediately assumed poker required skill, like chess and Magic. I bought every poker book on the market and put $50 into PartyPoker. I took my time running it up to $20,000 or so by playing limit hold’em while always keeping a proper bankroll, and then moved to $200 buy-in sit n’ go’s, which I played until I turned 21. By then, I had a $350,000 bankroll. I transitioned to live poker tournaments and lost every tournament I played during my first year. I eventually realized tournaments require a different strategy than sit n’ go’s and started winning, and have since cashed for $6,700,000 live including two WPT victories for over $1,000,000 each, and for over $1,000,000 online, including chopping the major Sunday events on PokerStars and FullTilt.
PokerNews India: Are you familiar with the burgeoning poker scenario in India?
Jonathan Little: I am! It is great that poker is booming in India and it makes me excited for poker’s future. It is an awesome game and I am glad many more players are experiencing it at a global level.
PokerNews India: Tell us about your poker coaching website and its methodology.
Jonathan Little: At my site PokerCoaching.com, instead of showing you hand history videos and lectures, I present quizzes that force you to tell me what you would do before I explain my play and thought process. There are homework questions that ask you how to play your entire range in various situations, getting you to think in a robust way that will set you up for long-term success. If you have not already signed up for your free one-week trial, you are missing out Rahul.
PokerNews India: What advice would you give to people who are just starting out? And what advice would you give to seasoned players?
Jonathan Little: For both types of players, I would tell you to continue playing and studying. Players often do way more of one than the other, which is a mistake in my opinion. If you only play, you may win money, but you will only slowly improve. If you only study, you will improve quickly but your bankroll will remain stagnant. In order to progress your skills while making it difficult for you to go broke, you have to continuously improve while also putting in a lot of volume in games where you have an edge.
PokerNews India: You have written many bestseller strategy books on poker; what are your favorite poker books?
Jonathan Little: Of the books I have written, my favorites are Excelling at No-Limit Hold’em and Mastering Small Stakes No-Limit Hold’em. Excelling lets you into the minds of 18 world class pros and Mastering outlines how to play fundamentally sound while adjusting to your opponents’ mistakes. Of books I have not written, I like Expert Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em by Will Tipton, which is the bible for essentially all super-high stakes players.
PokerNews India: While learning about poker, which books did you read?
Jonathan Little: I read Hold’em Poker for Advanced Players and Theory of Poker, but those do not discuss no-limit hold’em, so I would not recommend them for today’s poker games.
PokerNews India: Are you currently working on any new ideas for a book?
Jonathan Little: I am currently helping Michael Acevedo edit Modern Poker Theory, which will thoroughly explain game theory optimal poker from the foremost expert, and also Excelling at Online No-Limit Hold’em, which will be similar to Excelling at No-Limit Hold’em but will be tailored to online games featuring chapters by coaches from the Pocarr backing group.
PokerNews India: Any plans to coming to India? For poker or otherwise.
Jonathan Little: I had my first child two years ago and my second is on his way, so I will not be traveling much in the near future. However, I would love to visit India someday. One of the reasons I transitioned more towards teaching poker was to be able to stay home with my family most of the time. So far, it is going great.
PokerNews India: What’s the most memorable hand that you’ve won?
Jonathan Little: I tend to not remember many hands. When I do remember them, they are my big losses. I actually write down most of the hands I play because my memory is so poor. I explain how I take notes at the poker table at JLPoker.com/notes.
PokerNews India: Which social media channels are you active on?
Jonathan Little: I am on:
PokerNews India: What would you have been doing if you weren’t a poker player today?
Jonathan Little: That is difficult to say. I was going to university to become an engineer, so I suppose that is where I most likely would have ended up, but who knows!
PokerNews India: Do you know any Indian poker players?
Jonathan Little: I do not personally know many, likely due to playing less live poker over the last few years, but I have run into Muskan Sethi many times. She seems really nice.
PokerNews India: You have helped umpteen enthusiasts become poker pros; do you still learn about the game? If yes, tell us a bit about it.
Jonathan Little: I do. A few years ago, I realized that my progression as a poker player was stagnating, so I invested in the Pocarr backing group mainly to get access to the materials that they use to teach their backees. It has been incredibly beneficial for me because I have gained access to the thoughts of many of the best players in the world.
PokerNews India: What’s your most cherished poker memory?
Jonathan Little: Unfortunately, my memory is quite poor so I don’t have any vivid memories, but it has to be winning my second WPT title. Anyone can win one big tournament, but it takes an especially good (or lucky) player to win two.
PokerNews India: Which has been your favorite bluff to date?
Jonathan Little: I don’t have one that comes to mind, but I always enjoy bluffing against world-class players using small bet sizing. They seem to always assume my small bets are for value!
PokerNews India: Do you have a favorite starting hand?
Jonathan Little: A-A, because it wins the most money.
PokerNews India: What has been your ultimate ‘tilt’ moment?
Jonathan Little: When I was a young, dumb 21-year-old, I was playing 16 $215 sit n’ go’s in a rental house in Las Vegas. I lost 12 of them within two minutes and smashed my mouse down on the glass table, shattering it all over my lap. I sat as calmly as I could and ended up winning my last four games, resulting in a break-even set.
PokerNews India: Who are the strongest poker players in the field today?
Jonathan Little: That is difficult to judge. Most of the people the public views as the top players are really one of the top 100 players who is running hot at the moment. In reality, anyone who is playing the super high roller events live or online on a regular basis with a decent amount of success is likely the best.
PokerNews India: What would your autobiography be called?
Jonathan Little: Grinding.
PokerNews India: Are there any prerequisites to become a great poker player?
Jonathan Little: I think that in order to succeed at poker, you have to be willing to learn and adjust. Most people do not start off playing a strategy that naturally wins. I know I sure did not. I played way too tightly. You have to be able to realize that you know nothing/very little and be willing to take criticism well. You also have to be able to view failure as a path to success, not something that should be avoided. You also have to be willing to work long and hard. You should play because you love the game while at the same time realizing there is no guarantee of profit in the near future!
PokerNews India: Where will we see Jonathan Little five years from now?
Jonathan Little: I have no idea. I tend to do whatever I enjoy. At the moment, I enjoy helping people who want to better their lives. I imagine I will still be doing that five years from now.