Brad Owen is a professional poker player who posts his blinds in various mid-stakes games around Las Vegas.
Brad has one of the largest poker vlogs on YouTube with over 34,000 subscribers. He also hosts “meet up games” with his friend and fellow vlogger Andrew Neeme at various casinos so his viewers can get a chance at appearing on the vlog.
We got the chance to ask Brad a few questions. Hope you enjoy!
Brad Owen Interview
Q: You come across as a very level-headed poker player. What tips can you share about keeping a cool head on the felt?
Brad Owen: I think the most important thing is to make sure you’re properly rolled for the game you’re playing. It’s so much easier to keep your cool without stressing about the possibility of losing a few buy-ins, which will inevitably happen.
It’s also important to learn to let go of mistakes and forget about short-term results. I still get upset if I make a big mistake or if I’m on an extended downswing, but I’ve become better at not letting my mistakes compound. I’ll take breaks if I don’t feel like I’m in the right spot mentally. And when I go through downswings, I’ll look back at my graph to remind myself that I’ve recovered from plenty of downswings before.
Q: How often do you spend studying away from the table, and what resources do you use?
Brad Owen: I do a lot of studying for the vlog. Any time that I film, I have to write down all of the key hands that I play for that session. Then I review them extensively at home before writing out and recording hand analyses. That has helped me improve a lot over the last year.
Q: It seems like you’ve had a successful year as a Vegas poker pro. What advice would you give to an aspiring poker professional?
Brad Owen: I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a healthy bankroll. Poker is a lot easier when you don’t feel like you must win every session. Also, I recommend seeking out players whose games you admire and forming a discussion group with them. I’ve been in a group chat for years with several of my poker-playing friends. You’ll hear Andrew Neeme repeat this advice in his vlogs.
Also, you absolutely must track your stats, be honest with yourself, and be disciplined when it comes to game selection, bankroll management, avoiding vices, putting in hours, etc. Use every available resource to improve, otherwise you risk losing your edge over people who play this game as a hobby.
Q: Have you had any particularly gruelling downswings?
Brad Owen: Yeah, definitely. When I first started playing for a living I was under-rolled, and so even small downswings were gruelling. Two big ones come to mind, though. I went broke when I was 24, and had to move back in with my parents as a result. It was the lowest I’ve ever felt.
The second major downswing came when I fired at 9 tournaments in the 2016 WSOP, without selling any pieces, and only min-cashed in the smallest event. Meanwhile, I was getting crushed in cash games. I think got set-over-set six times over two months. I’ve never ran so poorly since then. I don’t think it’s healthy to recount those kinds of things, but I have a good memory and can’t help it. I actually still remember every one of those hands.
Q: Your first vlog was posted over a year ago. How long had you been playing poker before then?
Brad Owen: I first started playing regularly with my older brother when I was 14 or 15 years old. I took the game pretty seriously even in high school. My first time playing in a casino was when I was 17 on a cruise ship. You were supposed to be 18 to play, but they didn’t ask me for ID.
After that I played online and at the Indian casinos during college, when I lived in San Diego. I started playing for a living in the beginning of 2012, when I was 24. I went broke later that year and returned to playing full time again in 2015.
Q: What did you do before playing poker?
Brad Owen: After getting my undergraduate degree in 2010, I worked as a Leasing Consultant at an apartment complex in San Francisco for a year in a half. It was a good job for a 22 year old.
When I had to move back to my parents’ place in 2012, I studied and passed the CPA Exams within four months. Then I went to grad school at UNLV and got my master’s degree while playing a lot of poker on the side. It was just a one-year program. I worked for a Big 4 accounting firm from August 2014 to August 2015. I had to work for at least a year in order to get my CPA license, which I did. Accounting was not for me, though.
Q: What did you struggle with the most at the start of your poker career?
Brad Owen: Relating to people outside of poker. I felt really lonely because I didn’t know anyone when I moved to Las Vegas initially. Family and friends didn’t understand what my life was like. I didn’t have many people I could talk to about downswings, or anything at all that had to do with poker, really. My parents sort of expected me to fail, and probably hoped it would happen sooner than later so I could move on with my life.
Q: What inspired you to start vlogging your poker sessions?
Brad Owen: A lot of it had to do with my answer to the previous question. I wanted to show the people I love that I wasn’t just some degenerate gambler. My videos have really helped my parents in particular learn about poker and poker culture. They came to understand the game, and became much more supportive of me as a result.
One proud moment for me came when I was home for Christmas and my Mom said, “Under the gun means you’re first to act after the big blind right? UTG+1 means you act after that?” My parents watch every episode. They enjoy seeing what’s going on in my life, the jokes I insert into the videos, and looking through the comment section. My dad even calls me sometimes to talk about the comedic bits.
Also, I know a lot of people who had careers playing poker but have nothing to remind them of all the hard work they’ve put in. I didn’t want that to happen to me. As primarily a cash game player, I don’t have an impressive Hendon Mob page or anything like that. Prior to the vlog, there was no record that I was even involved in poker.
I wasn’t too happy with how playing for a living worked, either. Best-case scenario, I’d take someone’s money that they might have worked all day or all week for. Worst-case scenario, they’d take mine. In other words, I didn’t feel like I was contributing to society. Now I have a product associated with the poker sessions that I play. I’ll always have these videos to help me remember this time in my life. I’m able to entertain people and hopefully help them improve their game.
Q: It seems like you like to play at lots of different casinos. Do you have a favorite?
Brad Owen: I think it keeps the videos entertaining and distinct from one another when I go to different places. Red Rock is my home court, but I like certain casinos for different reasons. I love Bellagio’s poker room for its history and for the chance to see the biggest names in poker. I still get excited when I see Ivey, Negreanu, Doyle, etc. in Bobby’s Room. I think to myself, “Maybe one day I’ll be in there.” That’s still my dream.
Andrew and I have been working closely with the Westgate, too. Our contact out there, Tim, is very forward-thinking and he has done a lot for us in terms of allowing us to film and hosting Meet Up Games with viewers every few weeks. We’ve had a really great time doing those meet ups.
Q: Do you ever have any trouble filming your poker sessions and keeping track of all the different board runouts?
Brad Owen: Yeah—it’s tough. Filming can be distracting, so I end up misclicking pretty regularly. Playing poker is still my main source of income, so I don’t like to film every session I play.
Sometimes I have to pause in the middle of a hand just to memorize the board and the action. But as certain casinos have become more receptive to me filming, I’m able to pull out the camera when the hand is over to get images of the boards, which you’ll see me do in recent episodes. I then note all of the action in my phone. Sometimes I’ll have to ask opponents how much they bet if I forget or how much they started the hand with.
Q: You correctly laid down pocket aces against Phil Helmuth in your 30th vlog. How did it feel making a spot-on read against one of the live poker greats?
Brad Owen: Haha! That’s one of my favorite moments that I’ve ever captured on video.
Phil is such a cool guy. It’s not like he was getting paid or anything to be there. I really appreciate him coming out to play with Andrew and me for that session. He was just there to have fun playing 2/5. It was clear he didn’t accept the invitation to come for the sake of outplaying us on our own videos. It was a very friendly game. For those reasons, I didn’t think it was likely that he was bluffing.
He limped in UTG and I raised from UTG+1. I got called by four people, I think, and continued to bet into everyone on the flop. So, he had to have known I had a strong hand. For him to check-raise the flop as a bluff wouldn’t have made much sense.
Q: Do you have any plans for the future of the vlog?
Brad Owen: Yeah, there are a lot of things that I’m interested in doing. I’m not sure which ones will come to fruition, though. One project that I’m excited for is a rap song about poker from my cat’s perspective. I’ve always liked writing music so I created a beat from scratch on GarageBand and recorded the vocals recently. It’s pretty much all done, but I still need to make a music video for it. There will be some surprise cameos. I know it sounds stupid. But this is what my life has become.
Q: Your vlog really seems to be picking up steam. Do you ever get recognized on the felt? If you have any notable stories, please tell!
Brad Owen: Yeah I do. I enjoy it for now. It’s a cool feeling when you get recognized and someone gets excited just because you’re around. I mentioned earlier that I felt really lonely when I first started out playing poker. Now I don’t feel that way at all. I feel like I have friends in every poker room. Lots of times people will reach out on Twitter or Instagram to let me know that they’re in town and would like to either play poker or have a drink. I try to do those things as often as I can because I’m very thankful for all of the people who watch and support the YouTube channel. Most of the time they insist on paying for the drinks, too. It’s hard to turn down free drinks!
Q: Are there any poker players who have had a particularly strong influence on you?
Brad Owen: There are several. Dan Harrington’s books took me from being a losing player to a winning player. I’ve probably read Harrington on Cash Games Volume II ten or more times through. Harrington’s books are a little outdated, though, so more recently I read and re-read Ed Miller’s books.
Doug Polk has also had a huge influence on me. In my opinion, he has the best poker content on YouTube by far. He also puts out the best training material, and I’m not just saying this because this is an Upswing interview.
Doug and I have a similar sense of humor so I’ve enjoyed the few times we’ve hung out. He came over to my house once to film something for my channel (below) and I was blown away by how knowledgeable he is. I knew he was on another level, but I just didn’t know how many levels above me he was until then. I’ve never talked with anyone about poker and felt that stupid before. Maybe that’s not the best way of putting it, because he wasn’t saying anything to make me feel stupid. I just realized there is so much more to learn about the game after talking to him. He also gave me some valuable advice regarding YouTube.
Bart Hanson is another person who has helped me tremendously with advice in this space. He even took time to give me an hour-long tutorial on a program that I regularly use for my videos. He’s the first person I talked to about the business side of poker, outside of playing. I’ll always be thankful for that. He puts out a ton of great content himself.
Q: You recently posted your biggest win on Live at the Bike. How did it feel running so pure during a streamed poker game?
Brad Owen: It was the best-case scenario. There’s certainly more pressure to do well in a streamed game. The first goal was not to do anything too stupid. To be able to have my biggest win and also to have it be on a program like LATB was extra special. The whole week with Ryan Feldman, the LATB regs, and fellow vloggers was a lot of fun. I obviously ran great that night. The next night I lost a good chunk back.
Q: You said in this video that you were ashamed that you’d spent “only” 690 hours playing in 2017. How many hours do you wish you had played?
Brad Owen: I’m fine with how many hours I played. But even though I generally paint myself as professional poker player, I don’t know if that’s true anymore, because I spent way more hours making YouTube videos last year. I don’t think my viewers realize how much time goes into the videos, so I was concerned about how people would respond to the lack of hours I put into poker. If I weren’t making videos, I’d probably spend about 1,500 hours playing each year. Now it isn’t taking me quite as long to make a full episode so I’m hoping to play around 1,000 hours in 2018.
Q: And how did you spend your spare time?
Brad Owen: I don’t have very much spare time these days. I like it that way, though. Between poker, videos, responding on social media, working on the forum site, designing apparel, creating silly rap songs for the cat, and a variety of other things, there’s not a whole lot of time for much else. When I can, I enjoy going on dates with my girlfriend, playing guitar, watching sports, travelling, seeing shows on the strip, and hanging out with friends and family.
Q: Your friend Andrew Neeme is (probably) the most successful poker vlogger. Have you been influenced much by him and his vlog?
Brad Owen: If it weren’t for Andrew, my life wouldn’t be nearly as good as it is. That sounds hyperbolic, but it’s really not. I’m so much happier now than I was before starting the vlog, and I wouldn’t have this outlet if Andrew hadn’t taken that leap into this space. From his very first episode, I thought his videos were amazing. I’d never seen anything like it. I remember showing his vlog to my Mom when I was visiting for Thanksgiving right before I made my first episode. She’s actually a big fan of his, too. Everyone in this space is influenced by him, including guys like Doug Polk and Daniel Negreanu. He’s had a giant impact on the poker community.
And it’s not just his vlogs that are good. We’re on a lot of the same emails threads and sometimes I’ll read what he writes and want to nominate him for a Pulitzer. He’s just a smart and all around good guy.
Thanks for reading guys. Good luck at the tables!
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