Alex Fitzgerald turned poker pro straight out of high school driven by his immense love for the game and the freedom a poker lifestyle could offer from a humdrum Monday-to-Friday grind.
“I love poker more than you’ll ever know,” confessed Fitzgerald. “I love that I study, teach, and write about it daily. I put out daily strategy content through my newsletter to thousands of players. It’s a fun job. It allows me to improve at a game I’ve dedicated my life to.”
Over the last seventeen years, Fitzgerald has built up a respected resume of accomplishments on and off the felt. He’s won numerous online events, final-tabled WPT and EPT events, and accumulated more than $3,500,000 in career live and online earnings. As if he had any time to do anything else other than play and teach, he’s written three best-selling books published by D+B Poker, now available on Amazon.
As much as Fitzgerald loved playing the game, his true passion evolved into helping others excel at poker, primarily low-to-mid-stakes players. The influential coach has created reems of poker content with strategy blogs, training videos, and YouTube sessions.
“For over a decade, I have been coaching players privately,” said Fitzgerald. “I would be surprised if anyone on the planet has done as many private lessons as I have. I’ve helped hundreds of players beat their local $1/$3 and $2/$5 cash games as well as beat up local tournaments and softer online networks.”
Fitzgerald talked with PokerOrg’s Craig Tapscott to discuss the state of the game online, whether it’s still a profitable side hustle to play small to mid-stakes games, and how best to approach the current WSOP online bracelet events.
Craig Tapscott: It’s WSOP season. Thousands of players have descended on Las Vegas to play the live and online events. What are the best ways to negotiate the roller coaster highs and lows of these large online WSOP bracelet events?
Alex Fitzgerald: You have to take everything one hand at a time. They can only put eight other players at the table with you. Don’t try to do too much. You can lose a lot of energy early on by trying to win the tournament in the first few levels. Take your time. Keep the game in front of you. Play big pots in position with superior hands.
You need to realize that you’re going to lose a few pots. Know you’re going to take a few bad beats. No one gets through thousands of players unscathed. Be prepared for the tough hands, and they won’t phase you.
CT: How would your strategy adjust as the final table looms within reach?
AF: I would pay attention to who is trying to survive and who is looking to go for the win. Who was playing a bunch of pots but just shut down? Who is taking forever to fold on each deal?
If someone is trying to survive, then target them. When these player types are pressured, they will fold one-pair-type hands. They might not do it on the flop. They might not do it on the turn. But if you challenge them at the end of their long tournament, they will buckle. They will think about all the time they have invested up to that point. They will think about how they’re so close to the final table – they don’t want to go out now. Take advantage of all of this information.
CT: What advice would you give anyone playing multi-table satellites to get into the WSOP Main Event?
AF: I’m not an expert in this format, but I’ll tell you what has always worked for me.
Calculate the starting stack by how many players are in the field. This number is how many chips there are in the tournament. Divide that chip number by how many tournament entries are being awarded. This information will give you the average stack when everyone cashes.
Try to aim for 70% to 80% of that stack size. That seems to get the job done.
Early in the tournament, there are tons of recreational players trying to win their way in. They will gamble with you. My advice is to try to play as many pots with them as possible. Cold call more and raise more and do anything to get involved with these rec players.
Once you get close to the money bubble, try to be the person threatening other people’s entries. You don’t want to call off your chips and risk cashing if you’ve got a solid stack.
It’s incredible how many times you’ll win a package with a short stack just because someone loses their mind on the bubble.
CT: It seems like it has gotten harder for players to have an edge online. So much more strategy content is available now compared to 15-20 years ago.
AF: That’s true. It is more difficult than it used to be. You have to game-select much more than in the past. You can’t get stuck on autopilot when you play. You have to study the players and take notes. And you need to track statistics, if possible.
CT: How has the game evolved from your experience over the last few years?
AF: There are more solid players than there used to be, but many players are also on permanent tilt. Let me explain.
When a flush draw misses on softer networks, I can overbet my value hands now. That used not to work as often. It’s like the recreational players are more agitated for some reason. They don’t want to fold because you might have a missed draw. At the very least, if you bet 80% of the pot, they don’t seem to be folding.
That said, more players play closer to theoretically correct. Sometimes they misapply the concepts but making them commit to more significant mistakes is harder.
CT: What does it take to beat the games now at the micro stakes?
AF: You can still play a highly exploitative game at micro stakes. This approach may also open the door to you being exploited, but most of your opponents are not paying much attention to anything — but their own cards. You’ll get away with most exploitative plays.
Micro stakes require you to 100% pay attention to how the other players are playing. Chris Scott said this once, and I think it’s a great way to simplify the situation: Most of your opponents will either be a nit, station, or maniac. It’s crucial to remember nits beat stations, stations beat maniacs, and maniacs beat nits.
CT: OK. So, who are your average opponents in those smaller stakes?
AF: Your average opponent will be a station. You can play a solid style and value bet consistently. The real work begins when you get maniacs at your table. Then you need to get involved more and start calling down. And you have to be ready for those swings.
The hard work for micro-stakes grinding happens before you sit down. You need to know your ranges and default plays like the back of your hand because the way to make money at these limits is with multi-tabling.
CT: How do you begin to classify your opponents as you move up to mid-stakes?
AF: Most players don’t fall into any easy category at this limit. They will still primarily have nit, maniac, or station tendencies, but they’ll be able to adapt to different situations. It would be best to find the situations where they overcommit and then punish them.
Learning about these opponents requires both statistic tracking and note-taking. You have to play that hand back when there is a showdown at your table. You have to reverse engineer what a player did in a hand and start understanding how he thinks.
Most micro stakes players fold their high cards, call with their pairs, call with their draws, and raise their two pair or better hands. Mid-stakes opponents are trickier than that. It would help if you saw where they deviate from that basic formula and incorporated those adjustments into your reads.
There are still weak players in these fields, but they’re often more maniacal, so you must be prepared to play big pots with them.
You need to get to those weak players early in the session too. Weak players get cleaned out faster at mid-stakes, and there are fewer of them. You need to get involved in more pots with them.
Let’s say you see a maniac open a 6-4 suited from early position at the beginning of the day. From that point on, if you have position on them, you should be flatting and three-betting them constantly. They should get annoyed with you. You should be studying that player in every pot. You should be working on landing overbets if they’re the type of player who doesn’t want to fold. You must induce bluffs if you’ve seen the player indiscriminately fire.
So much of your work goes into busting that one player. That’s where your focus should be.
CT: Most everyone loves to watch the nosebleed stake games on TV and streams, etc. What can they take away from these games that can be applied to lower stakes?
AF: Watch how the pros handle a recreational player who wanders into the game. Notice how they play completely differently in those pots. Learning how to bust a recreational player is an applicable skill to every limit.
That’s what always fascinates me the most during those nosebleed games. Ask yourself why the professional player adjusted. What did they see in an opponent’s line? Are they incorporating something they picked up from observing an earlier hand?
What helped me a lot when I was starting was seeing how thinly pros would value bet versus recreational players who couldn’t fold. The pros are much more balanced and deceptive in their pots with other pros, but the gloves would come off versus players who got overly involved in big pots. Watching these games helped me value bet more thinly versus many weaker players.
CT: What’s your focus these days regarding your poker coaching business?
AF: I used to focus on creating the next new training video pack for years or getting to the next private lesson in my day. It was very much a word-of-mouth operation. Now, I’m going to be taking steps to streamline things.
I’ve created a new website with my team where we’ll be posting all of my articles and free videos. We’ll also be establishing a social media presence for the first time in my career as a player and coach.
I invite players to join my mailing list at www.pokerheadrush.com, where I send out free strategy blogs daily.
Follow Alex on Twitter, IG, TikTok, and FB @pokerheadrush.