Benjamin Pollak is a professional poker player from Paris, France. His live earnings currently total over $11 million and he is ranked 61st on the all-time money list.
What is your fondest or first memory of poker?
I started playing poker with friends during engineering school. We were 22-23 [years old] and were watching the World Series of Poker main event on TV. I remember the fun we had playing, drinking beers, and just having a social moment around the table.
When did you realize you had what it took to compete with professional players?
I realized how deep this game is and how many mistakes I used to make. I think my first skill was to spot and correct every mistake I’d been making and at the same time, spot them in other players.
If all variants of poker were equally well-renumerated, which would be your favorite?
I love playing limit mix games because the atmosphere is way more relaxed. You can’t lose your entire stack in a single hand. If you do make mistakes, it represents only one or two big bets.
What was your biggest or most memorable win?
My biggest win was obviously my 3rd place in the [World Series of Poker] Main Event in 2017. In a cash game, my biggest strike was in 2015, where I won $100K 3 days in a row in a 100/200 plo game at the Bellagio.
What was your biggest or most memorable loss?
My biggest loss would be busting a $100K tournament. (I don’t sell actions that much) I only played two of them so far.
Can you describe a reality of being a professional poker player that you think other people are not aware of?
I think people underestimate how hard it is to manage all the things-the motivation and the focus all year. I’ve been working with a mental coach the last few years and it made the difference. We just love competition and being at the top but that’s not always that case and managing the frustration sometimes is really hard.
Do players really need to ‘keep a poker face’? Or do the good players simply ignore everything they see on the other players’ faces?
I don’t think I keep my poker face but you keep a natural distance from other players due to the competition, so you always feel that you still have more to learn from them. Like a magician, I never reveal all my secrets 😉
Which ‘tell’ do you see most frequently with opponents at the poker table?
The biggest tell I see is obviously the acceleration of the heartbeat when people are not in control of the situation.
Do you enjoy playing poker any more or less than when you first started out?
I am still enjoying playing in big competitions but I need to balance my life as well. Poker represents 25% of my time now. I’m only playing when I’m traveling, which is roughly every two months. On the side, I’m working on other projects that stimulate me as well.
What advice would you give to an aspiring poker player?
The only advice I can give is: be sure of what you want and be aware of your capacity. Deep inside you should know if you can make it. If you love the game, go and enjoy the trip!