Under The Gun: Inside the mind of Jon 'Apestyles' Van Fleet

Jon Van Fleet smiles at the poker table
Craig Tapscott
Posted on: March 16, 2024 24:15 PDT

Jon Van Fleet, one of the undisputed OG tournament grinders, has banked over $23,000,000 in online and live career cashes since turning pro in 2004. Also known as 'Apestyles', he co-authored the bestselling three-volume series Winning Poker Tournaments One Hand at a Time, and is one of the game’s most sought-after coaches. 

Van Fleet has dominated online MTTs for many years at the highest stakes. In 2017, he had his biggest score at the partypoker Millions Main Event for $1,027,000. He followed that up with a win at the partypoker Power Fest Main Event for $153k that same year.

Van Fleet recently signed on as an ambassador for WPT Global. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter/X.

What’s one bit of essential prep you do before a big tournament or cash game session?

"If I have information on any of the players, if it's Day 2, I usually do my best to research, strategize, and develop a game plan. Apart from that, I have no set routine other than visualizing myself playing well and chips coming my way."

What piece of strategy advice did you get when you first started playing that you wish you had ignored?

"I’ve heard plenty of misinformation over the years. The first, and probably worst, advice I ever got was from 'Scuba' Steve, who told me, 'An ace is the best card in the deck. You should never throw it away before the flop'. I pretty much ignored that advice, though.

"I also wish I had not copied everyone trying to 'stack build' in rebuy periods, because I punted a lot of money going all-in blind."

What’s the dumbest thing you’ve seen or done at the poker table?

"I’ve done all kinds of dumb things at the poker table, because I’m kind of a live fish; I’m much more of an online guy.

"I’ve misclicked, misread, and misspoke in a multitude of ways. Some have worked out in my favor, funnily enough. For instance, once I was bluffing the river, I meant to bluff for five million but said '5,000' instead. I was super annoyed because they ruled my river bluff to be a min-bet of 500k. It turned out the villain had the second nuts and just called, but there was no chance they were folding to the five million bet. I ended up getting third in that event and probably would have been out much sooner without the mistake."

Jon Van Fleet plays the WPT World Championship, 2023

What’s your most memorable hand?

"I’ve been playing for 20 years. I have a lot of hands that stick with me for better or worse.

"One that jumps out as memorable was when I was deep in a $5k main event live on stream; first place was $1,000,000, and I ran a river bluff raise in a 3-bet pot with a flush blocker. The player who I bluffed was also streaming and went on legendary tilt after busting, involving drinking lots of vodka. I met him in person, and he was super nice."

What’s your single best piece of advice for poker players?

"The game is brutal, and you’re bound to go through big downswings. Try not to get consumed by them. Focus on the process of getting better at poker and enjoying the puzzle aspect of the game."

If you owned a poker room, who’s the first player you’d want to sign as an ambassador and why?

"Phil Ivey has always been my favorite player as a fan, so I’m going to have to go with Phil, even though he’s pretty quiet and not about camera time. The correct answer is probably one of these vloggers like Rampage or Brad Owen; they’re bringing many new players into the game."

Images courtesy of the WPT