Meet The Upswing Poker Pros
Mike Finstein

mike finstein poker player

After graduating with a BM in Studio Music and Jazz from the University of Miami on a music scholarship, I was a full time musician and piano teacher for 5 years based out of Boston. I was a showband pianist on Princess, Norwegian, and Carnival Cruise lines during summers between college and played nl holdem for the first time in the ship’s crew bar.

I started casually playing sit n gos on Full Tilt Poker in Dec 2006 and began taking it more seriously in 2008 when I switched to 6max cash. By 2009-10 I was getting some real traction at 400nl and all I wanted to do was live and breathe poker. I’d play gigs at Foxwoods before playing marathon sessions of live 5/10nl downstairs in the poker room.

My transition from musician to poker professional just kind of….happened. I had this organic love of the game for its own sake, loved the competition and wanted to get better to be able to beat the next highest stake. This love was fueled with a burning passion and level of obsession comparable to my love of music. As a byproduct I was eventually making more money from my hobby than my career over a fairly robust sample of hands, and I was like, alright, I’m going to focus on this thing now.

So I moved to Vegas.

From mid 2010 through mid 2011 I was a hybrid online/live player, grinding mid stakes 6max online and live 5/10nl at the Wynn. Since Black Friday April 2011 though the present I’ve played almost exclusively live, and the vast majority of my play has been live nl cash.

And the live grind is where I found my groove. I played 5/10nl through the end of 2011, moved up to Bellagio 10/20nl in 2012, and before long I was crushing 25/50nl up to 100/200nl in Bobby’s Room whenever it would run. I’ve also played a ton of $39/78nl, 65/130nl and $130/260nl (usd) in Macau. I don’t play many tournaments but I made a deep run in the 2014 WSOP Main Event, finishing 42nd.

To be successful at live nl cash you have to combine theory based fundamentals and the discipline not to spew out of boredom or tilt while 1 tabling. You need to have the perceptiveness to pick up on population tendencies over large samples. And you need a refined process which properly calibrates adjustments based on being able to assign a proper degree of confidence to your reads to your already super solid theory based game.

Live poker is at heart a social game, retaining an intangible human experience which can’t be replicated online. Who knows what the future of online poker will hold with the rise of AI and bots, but live poker isn’t going anywhere.

Find my live poker training videos in the Upswing Lab.