When the Lodge Poker Club in Round Rock, Texas relaunched their live stream game series last week, they featured some absurdly big games to celebrate the new studio and rebooted live stream. Popular vlogger and Lodge part-owner Andrew Neeme was invited to be part of those massive games. It struck me that it wasn’t so long ago that I was watching him playing $5/10 at the Bellagio. Further, he’s not that far removed from his days as a $1/2 Las Vegas grinder.
Neeme is one of the most articulate, thoughtful, and introspective members of the vlogging community – I thought it would be interesting to get his perspective on playing in a game ten times the size of his “regular” stakes. Andrew was kind enough to answer some questions – I hope you’ll find his thoughts as enlightening as I did…
LJ: “What was your first reaction when you were invited to play a game of that size? Was it an immediate ‘Yes,’ or did you have to work yourself up to it?“
AN: “My first reaction when seeing that we were going to be running a bunch of $50/100 games during the stream relaunch week – and that would be the smallest game – was a mixed bag. Excitement mixed with nerves. It was for sure a ‘Yes.’ We have an extremely professional and well-rounded staff in all aspects of the business. But myself, Brad, and Doug are the main faces of the Lodge, and there’s no way I’m sitting out the entire relaunch week in the brand new studio. I wouldn’t want to let myself or the other guys down. And there would’ve been no good reason to skip it, frankly. The games are huge but there are ways to spread the risk out a bit.”
LJ: “Taking on backers seems like an obvious thing to do, given the size of the game. But personally, I’ve always found it difficult. If I lose my own money, so be it, but losing Other People’s Money is much more painful. How was it for you, and did that inform your play much?”
AN: “I wouldn’t want to sell action to anyone who doesn’t know (a) what variance feels like, and (b) that I’m going to do my best and that’s good enough. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck to lose when others are believing in you. But at this point my record is pretty good – I’ve been the one who’s sent winnings out more frequently than I’ve been collecting the shares sold. And it’s always sold to poker players. So they just get it – it’s certainly not always going to work out, even if it’s a great spot on paper. It’s not going to change my play much. They’re investing in the work on my game that I’ve done to this point. Again, I wouldn’t want to sell to anyone who doesn’t want me to be me, whatever that looks like.”
LJ: “We’ve often talked about how poker players (gamblers in general, I suppose) become inured to the dollar figures involved in our game. A $1,500 pot doesn’t raise an eyebrow, but it’s a month’s rent in many places. Now you were playing pots worth a small condo. Did you experience cognitive dissonance, or did it quickly turn into big blinds, 3.5x opens, 40% pot bets, and so forth?“
AN: “It’s a little easier once you’re actually locked into a particular hand. For example, we were in the middle of a fun and splashy game, and Robbi Jade Lew open-ripped one hand for over $20,000 from under the gun. I looked down at AKo next to act. You start thinking about things like AQs, pocket nines, and, ‘She wouldn’t do this with a super-premium, would she?’ You just go into poker mode, a lot of the time. I ended up calling, of course, and we had a very fun moment where she was doing it with the J4o for the memes, with a casual $45k in the middle. That said, I’m not gonna pretend that I’m anywhere near as boss as some of the guys with more experience at these stakes. It’s especially hard to pull the trigger on massive bluffs for massive amounts, and then try and sit there looking natural.”
LJ: “I’m sure it was gratifying to win big, and particularly to return a healthy profit to your backers. Do you recall any specific feelings when the game was over, or was it more of a surrealistic fog?”
AN: “The night after the first $50/100 game was a massive relief of pressure. The game was tequila-fueled and actually playing about four times that size with straddles galore. I was stuck $10k early on, and managed to book a small five-figure win. The decompression from that environment is significant, and there were a few too many additional beverages after the fact to mark the occasion. After my second and third $50/100 sessions, particularly after my biggest win on the third night, it was surreal for sure. I had Jungleman to my left all night, which is one of the worst seats in poker. But to come away booking my biggest win ever, for a size that you’re used to seeing other people talk about, and now getting to experience it yourself – yeah, it’s a surreal one.”
LJ: “Did this experience make you want to go back for more, or conversely, tell you that the nosebleeds are not for you?”
AN: “We’ll be back for more. ‘Expansion always, in all ways.’ –Ryan Serhant, star of an overly dramatized TV show about real estate.” [Editor’s note: I am quoting Andrew verbatim. I’m not sufficiently clever to make this up.]
LJ: “Any random musings that I haven’t touched on?“
AN: “I was fortunate to run like god in a few spots. Set over set. Turned nut straight vs lower straight… It’s such a thin line where on one side you’re awarded with a massive victory and feel like you belong here, and on the other is maximum pain and you question your life’s decisions. Such is poker, in the short term, under the lights.
As I told Andrew, interviewers routinely massage quotes from their subjects to make the narrative flow more smoothly or concisely. What you read above was directly from Andrew Neeme’s pen, virtually untouched. If he ever decides to give up crushing nosebleed poker, I’m sure he could make tens of dollars as a writer.
You can see Andrew’s (video) narrative and thoughts about the game on his YouTube channel here.