James "BizBills" Bills is not only one of the most respected and feared poker players in Australia, his reputation proceeds him around the world. Bills is currently Australia's number ranked player for online poker tournament play, thanks in part to his lifetime winnings that are rapidly approaching $1,400,000.
It is not only in the online arena that Bills crushes this amazing game, if you search for the results of the recent PokerStars APPT Melbourne Main Event you will see Bills name listed next to sixth place. This particular result netted him AUD$57,375 and will certaily not be his last large live cash.
Despite being extremely busy juggling University with being Australia's number one online poker tournament player, Bills took some time out to answer some questions about himself, his game and his poker-related observations.
First of all thank you for taking the time out to talk to PokerNetwork. For those poker fans who do not know who you are tell us a little about yourself.
My name is James Bills and I am 25 years old. I live in Adelaide, South Australia.
I started playing poker in 2005 after seeing the WPT on television. I think I started out playing the $6 and $11 sngs on PartyPoker. I actually played sngs exclusively until early 2010 where I made the transition to MTT's.
As you mentioned, today you are certainly an online MTT grinder! One that is ranked number one in Australia and in the top 25 in the world. How does a poker player go from having never played the game to being one of the most feared and respected players of his generation? How much work did / do you put into improving your game?
Good question. I guess I have always been an opportunist. I am constantly identifying opportunities which will, in my opinion, inevitably lead to long term profit. Discovering poker felt like a dream to me. Not only was there a huge potential opportunity, but it is a game that combines my personality traits with my passions. I have always had a tireless and persistent work ethic with anything I've set my mind to. To become good at poker you have to live and breathe it, at least initially.You always have to make sure you are ahead of the curve. Over the years I have read twenty books, watched hundreds of instructional videos and spent a lot of time discussing hands etc. It is easy to improve as a player when you are so hungry for success.
You are currently studying at university. How difficult is it to juggle a budding poker career and University? Once you have completed your studies will you be using your degree right away or have you any plans to play poker on a full-time basis?
I am currently studying Law/Commerce at the University of Adelaide. I have completed the Commerce side of it and only have five law subjects remaining. I have also just applied for a Post-grad innovation and entrepreneurship course, which I can't wait to start.
Initially attempting to balance uni life and poker (travelling) life was extremely difficult. When I first started my degree I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to be. I guess I was a little lost and therefore didn't apply myself like I should have. I failed a couple of subjects, and whilst I do not solely attribute that to poker, it certainly had an impact. As I have progressed through the course however I have found it increasingly easier to maintain a balanced lifestyle. These days I would play poker on average four days per week. The other days I spend studying, hanging out with my girlfriend or mates and having a good time. I have even learnt to multi-task by playing poker whilst listening to a lecture etc. Why shouldn't you get paid to listen to a lecture?! If I want to play a major live tournament I have to make sure that it won't conflict with any uni-related deadlines.
Poker has taught me many things. What I am most grateful for however is the fact that I have been able to discover myself, especially recently, through poker. I have never really known what I wanted to become growing up. It is only in the past year or so that I have discovered exactly who I am and what drives me. Poker will always play a part in my life, especially whilst studying full time. Poker is extremely competitive and has many entrepreneurial properties, which fuels my passion for the game. Although I love poker I am unsure as to where it will take me in my professional life. At this stage it provides me with a life and a freedom which I would not have experienced otherwise. I love my life and I wouldn't trade anything in the world for it. It will essentially allow me to fund my various entrepreneurial pursuits.
Do you have a set schedule you adhere to? What is a typical day like when you are grinding online?
A typical week for me involves grinding on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Depending on my body clock I will usually wake up at 3am or so and late reg the Big $109 and $320 6-max right through to the $109 cubed turbo )on PokerStars). Some days I will even reg through to the $162 Nightly Fifty Grand and $215 2x Chance if I feel up to it.
The current top 10 ranked Australian are all extremely talented players. Are you close to any of them? Have any of them had a large influence on your own game?
The Aussie guys at the moment are killing it. Although poker is such an individual game, I still find myself rooting for Aussie's overseas, even if I've never heard of them before. I have never really been heavily involved in the poker community, but I would say that I am closest with Jono 'Monster_Dong' Karamalikis. We have known each other a while as we started playing poker at roughly the same time. He has also given me a few hours of coaching at a bargain price. I am also close with Stevan 'random_chu' Chew, Matt 'mjw006' Wakeman and Tom 'tollgate' Grigg. I talk to random_chu and mjw006 every day on skype about hands etc, which is obviously great for learning.
You recently reached the final table of APPT Melbourne and had to share a table with Brendon Rubie and Tom Grigg, both of who you must know from online circles. Did knowing these two dangerous players help you? Did you have a game plan for facing these two in particular or anyone else at the final table?
I have certainly played a lot with Tom and Brendon online over the years. They are both sickos. I guess knowing them and their capabilities helped a little with APPT Melbourne. That being said I didn't really have the stack to play back at either of them. For the final four hours of Day 3 (the night before the final table) I was extremely card dead and couldn't really get anything going. Tom was captain of the table and playing a lot of hands. I had a large 600k ish stack in the middle of the day only to find myself entering the final table with only 322k. I basically just wanted to minimise clashes with them. Kristian Lunardi and Sam Razavi were other guys that I wanted to avoid. I had position on Kristian at the final table though so that made it easier.
You must have been the most disappointed man to win almost $60,000! How do you pick yourself up after coming so close to winning a major live tournament? Does the fact you have won $60k and gone so deep start to become a positive once the disappointment has finally worn off?
I was extremely disappointed with the finish. Had my hand held I would have been in an ideal position to make a run at the top spot. In my eyes Tom and Sam were the only guys standing in my way of the title (after Rubie and Lunardi had busted) so had I won that hand I would have fancied my chances. The disappointment has already worn off however. One of the most important lessons poker has taught me is that you can't allow situations outside of your control to get you down. Being an MTT grinder you obviously learn this lesson rather quickly by going deep in multiple tournaments only to suffer a beat towards the end. In order to remain sane in this crazy game you only need to focus on two things: when you are playing well and when you aren't playing well. If I bust from a tournament knowing that I played very well I'm happy, regardless of the result. I am only unhappy in poker when I know I didn't play well or shouldn't be playing. I have learned to harness my anger when suffering beats and to not let uncontrollable situations affect me in a negative way. This has had a tremendous impact on my tilt control overall.
I wish I played online poker with the same drive as I do live. I am so hungry to win when I play a live tournament. I know that if I keep playing my A-game and getting deep my trophy will come soon enough. I feel like my first live major title is just around the corner.
What sort of adjustments do you make when playing live poker compared to online?
Live poker as compared to online is completely different. Although I love to play live I would classify myself as primarily an online player given the fact that I have played thousands of tournaments and play anywhere up to 16 games at a time. Live is obviously a lot different in that respect. All of your attention is on one game only and you therefore you must constantly strive to keep your mind occupied with what is occurring at the table. People are also a lot tighter live, especially deep in tournaments, so you can easily use that to your advantage. I believe that patience is the key to live success.
What are the biggest / most common mistakes you see players make at your tables?
The biggest mistakes I see being made online - two come to mind. One is tilt. Tilt is certainly one of the most, if not the most costly mistake. Another is when I see inexperienced players flatting a raise or a reraise with a marginal hand for a high percentage of their stack. Given that you will miss the flop 2/3 times people are literally just burning money doing this, especially when doing it out of position. This obviously happens live too. Witnessing things like this makes me salivate!
What advice would you give someone wanting to take up multi-table tournaments for a living, or at least on a serious level, in order to improve their chances of success?
My best advice to someone wanting to take MTT's seriously would be to watch instructional videos, get coaching and discuss hands with friends etc. Make sure you are always on top of the game and in tune with what is going on. I would also advise to not let things outside your control affect you mentally. Embracing variance is initially very difficult, however over time you wil become increasingly immune to bad beats. I would also advise to only play when you are fresh and hungry to win. This is more important now in the current poker climate than ever.
So there you have it, stop tilting, watch plenty of instructional videos, stop flatting raises out of position and you too could be following in Bills' footsteps one day!
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