Zach has a knack. He turns small buy-ins into big prizes.

Two summers back he bought into a $3.30 MicroMillions Stud tournament, playing as “ImDaBest514,” and walked away at the end with $835 for first place. Before this year’s SCOOP began, he played a bunch of satellites and turned one of those into a $22 ticket. And a few days ago he turned that ticket into a SCOOP No-Limit Omaha Hi/Lo title and $7,350.

It’s been an interesting ride for Zach, who says poker is his newest serious pursuit in life after the end of a professional athletic career overseas. Basketball took him from his home in Canada to the Philippines and later to Thailand, where he played the game professionally. Now he’s back in Canada, visiting family and dedicating himself to poker.

“I originally started playing poker during the poker boom on and off, mostly playing for fun,” he told PokerStars Blog via email this week. “I was tired of being a break-even player or someone that wins but busts due to bad bankroll management. I decided if I’m gonna invest a lot of time into playing then I should try to be the best and do what the best players do. [I’m studying] Raise Your Edge in hopes of moving up stakes. My goals in poker are to move up to the highest stakes and hopefully win another SCOOP event.”

It pays to study

That willingness to put in time studying the game would pay off handsomely in Event #16-L of this year’s SCOOP series, though it wasn’t necessary at first. Day 1 was a breeze for Zach — and, as it turns out, a pretty good rough NLO8 tournament template for anybody who isn’t overly familiar with the game.

“I had played a bunch of NLO8 before so initially I used a pretty tight-aggressive strategy, because I knew with the field size lots of people probably weren’t as familiar in the game. I used a lot of over-jams with the nut low and a decent high to scoop a lot of big pots early on. Then from there it was probably one of the smoothest sailing tournaments for me because there are less chances to lose your whole stack in NLO8.”

That left him in fourth place out of 49 remaining players when Day 1 ended. This was an unexpected development. “I didn’t realize it was a two-day event and actually I had to work the next day. Luckily, I got my shift covered just in time.”

YouTube is your friend

He quickly kicked into study mode, running through YouTube videos on NLO8 from Daniel Negreanu and Adrienne “talonchick” Rowsome along with a few replays of past SCOOP high-roller NLO8 events. Then he told his family he wasn’t going into work — and why — before sitting down to a Day 2 that somehow ended up being even easier than Day 1.

“Pretty much every break my stack would be double what I had started with — 2 million to 4 million, to 6 million, to 8 million, etc. — until I lost about half my stack with A-A-J-8 pre-flop to put me back down to 6 million. [When I won] a huge double-up later on, scooping a 20-million-chip pot with 13 players left, I started to feel like I could win the tournament.

I started the final table with a pretty big chip lead so I was confident I would make it to at least top three. But three-handed play is when I knew I would win for sure because I was able to put so much pressure on the other two with my huge chip lead. The heads-up match was very quick and I had a 10-1 lead, I think.”

Remain calm (with occasional yelling)

Through it all he kept his composure. “I was yelling after a couple huge pots late in the tournament, but I was pretty focused throughout, not much celebrating. [When I was done] I told my parents and siblings that I won it because I had told them the day before that I was deep in it.”

And that was it — another small buy-in turned into a much larger prize.

“The MicroMilions win was similar because it was a huge field Stud tournament, so lots of chips to be won. This SCOOP title was a lot sweeter, though, because I have only been taking poker seriously this year with studying and proper bankroll management. It’s also a lot more money!”

Zach said he plans to put all his SCOOP winnings into his poker bankroll. With that in mind, the victory couldn’t have come at a better time. “I am heading to Vegas this long weekend and playing some tournaments. This trip was planned a couple months ago so [it was] perfect timing with it being also a day or two after my birthday when I won this SCOOP tournament. Actually, my parents planned a birthday celebration the first day I was playing this tournament so I won it pretty much on my birthday as well.”

Jason has covered poker since 2005. He lives in Washington state with his wife and two dogs.

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