Interview With Parker 'tonkaaaa' Talbot5 years ago
First things first. Can you give us your short poker bio?
My name is Parker Talbot and I've been playing poker for six years, since my 18th birthday. I went to the casino on my 18th birthday and played 1/2 live cash while studying, for about six months before transitioning to online poker. From there I played MTTs and eventually gravitated towards SNGs. Four years ago, I got Supernova Elite for the first time, playing primarily 6max turbos. Next year I got three million VPPs playing 6max hyper turbos and turbos ($200-$5000 buy-in level). Two years ago was my last year of SNE where I only got 1m VPPs and last year I got 850k after PokerStars revealed the changes that they would no longer be offering SNE in 2016/2017. Currently, my main game is MTTs but I do dabble quite frequently in SNGs if I see good games filling up. I play $22 and higher tournaments all the way up to basically whatever runs that is 4max-9max.
You've recently started streaming on Twitch.tv. Can you tell me what led you to this decision?
It was partially to boost my motivation and partially for the possibility of turning it into an additional source of income somewhere down the line.
You've gained huge viewership pretty much right off the bat. What's your recipe for success on Twitch?
Playing high stakes. I think that I'm playing the highest stakes among tournament poker twitch streamers by a large margin. I'm also probably one of the best players on Twitch right now. I also played around 160,000 tournaments on PokerStars so some people know me by me screen name 'tonkaaaa'.
Is Twitch.tv good for poker?
I don't really see how it can be bad, especially with all of the training sites already out there. It's not like we're educating viewers at such a rapid pace that they will suddenly become incredibly good at poker. It's nothing like that. I think twitch is really good for poker, it will introduce a lot of new young players to the game because of the viewer demographic.
Do you feel like you're sacrificing your EV by streaming?
Probably a little bit. People can obviously see how I play but I don't think it will affect me that much. I also play a lot of video games and I think that my goal long term is to turn my Twitch channel into a more gaming-centric one so the question of sacrificing my EV will become obsolete. For now, I will stream mostly poker because I'm playing 30 to 40 hours of poker every week, but this might change in the future.
You're planning on switching the type of content that you're streaming to counteract the fact that you're giving up EV or just because you enjoy playing video games?
You've managed to earn a huge amount of VPP points throughout your career on PokerStars and you've been a SuperNova Elite player multiple times. What do you think about the recent Pokerstars VIP club changes? How much have they impacted you?
Well... they made it so you can't really play sit and go's anymore. It's no longer a good idea to play high volume and try to earn money through rakeback. That's why I transition from playing high stakes SNG's to MTT's and I have to work for my big scores that way.
What's your view on Alex Millar and Ike Haxton leaving PokerStars Team Online?
I think it's good. It's great actually. People should be standing up to PokerStars. There are also strikes. I actually played during one of those but I had some conversations with my friends and I totally support the idea. Amaya is basically disregarding all of their clients and we should voice our objections.
So, I guess you're not looking at poker just in terms of EV and you think that other values like integrity also play a role?
Yes, of course. I play poker mostly because I like to play poker. I had some long losing stretches in my career and I doubt I'd be able to stick with the game if I didn't like it so much.
You've mentioned player strikes. Do you think that they make sense? Do you think they will impact PokerStars decisions in any way?
I have no idea. I think that the chance they will impact PokerStars decisions are very low, but at the same time poker community doesn't really have much to lose. Sure we might miss out on some EV but it's like this one chance for the players to stay together and show Amaya that we're unhappy with their decisions.
Do you think another poker room can dethrone PokerStars or are they so far ahead that they can make drastic changes like the last one with impunity?
I think they will get away with it. In the past, the only room that could possibly challenge them was FullTilt Poker, but now they own it and they completely destroyed it. It's basically a non-existant site now. 888 is like the next best thing and they have some good games, but still, I don't think they have any chance to compete with PokerStars.
You've said that Amaya destroyed FullTilt. Don't you think they can eventually do the same thing to PokerStars?
Absolutely and I think they are in the process of doing just that, but VIP changes aren't enough to significantly impact their popularity right now.
You've mentioned that because of the changes playing SNG's became a bad idea. Do you think poker is dying?
People have been saying that about poker since the beginning: "You'll see it will be dead in a year!" etc. I don't know where exactly the poker ecosystem is going and how will this whole thing pan out, but I think poker will still be around for a very long time. It might 'die' for certain people who won't be able to make money at it anymore but it won't die as a whole.
And what would be your recipe for reinvigorating the poker ecosystem?
Honestly, I have no idea. That being said I don't think that what happens currently is the way to go if we want to grow and expand the game.
So you don't think PokerStars made the VIP changes with the health of poker ecosystem in mind as they claim?
No, I don't believe that was their intention.
What do you think about the recent Antonio Esfandiari incident during PCA?
It's atrocious, absurd and... amazing. Think about it this way. If you or I went to the PCA and pissed into a bottle surrounded by people because we didn't want to go to the bathroom we'd just get arrested. We'd be removed from the tournament, the hotel and all that. But because Antonio is who he is he can somehow get away with stuff like that.
So you believe Antonio abused his status of a 'poker celebrity'?
I just don't think anyone should be able to get away with stuff like that just because of who they are. I saw Daniel Negreanu tweeting something like: "Bravo Antonio. Everything about this is legendary and you sir are a legend. Very proud of you on every front" and my immediate reaction was like... what!? Again, I don't think it should play out this way.
I know you enjoy playing competitive online video games like DotA 2 or Rocket League. Do you think that it helps you improve at poker in some way?
Not really. I think those games mostly take the time I should be spending on studying poker.
Any interesting books/movies/TV shows you've read or seen recently?
Nothing interesting besides "Making a Murderer" which everyone seems to be talking so much about recently.
What are your plans for 2016?
Stream a bunch of Twitch, play a bunch of poker, and hopefully win some tournaments!
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