Monday, May 23, 2016

Interview With 2x Supernova Elite Sit & Go Beast Aaron "abarone68" Barone

Poker player Aaron "abarone68" Barone interview
Moving abroad has allowed me the opportunity to meet and make friends with several other very talented online poker pros. A couple of weeks back I interviewed German small stakes cash game crusher Kieran "KieHa" Harding. 

This week I am happy to bring on one of the best mid stakes Sit & Go and Spin & Go players in the world. This is two-time Supernova Elite Aaron "abarone68" Barone.

While this blog is primarily about small stakes cash games I wanted to invite Aaron on anyways because the success that he has managed to achieve in this game goes way beyond what even most online poker pros dream of. This may be inspiring to some of you.

Also, from sitting down and having coffee with this guy countless times here in Chiang Mai (and also in my hometown of Vancouver) it is very clear to me that his technical knowledge of the game is extremely high. This ability to think about poker on a much deeper level than others transcends the various formats.

Also, his story (as you will see below) is amazing.

So without further ado!

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your travels.

On April 14, 2011, I signed a one-year lease for an apartment in Sacramento, California. I went to bed that night and by the time I woke up, the U.S. government had made online poker illegal. I remember walking into the leasing office to ask about breaking my lease. They thought I was joking. I wasn’t. 

At the time I was wallowing all sorts of negative emotions – denial, anger, disappointment – but several years later I look back on Black Friday with fondness; that legislation changed my life, forcing me not only out of my home country, but my comfort zone.  

A few fellow poker players and I attempted to get set up in the Bahamas only to be foiled by odd bureaucracy – The bank wouldn’t open up an account unless I had a rental agreement, but the real estate agent wouldn’t rent to me unless I had a bank account.  

Thankfully the group of us put our heads together and audibled to Vancouver, B.C. It was a fantastic decision, as I fell in love with the area and have lived there off and on for the better part of five years. 

In addition, I’ve spent time in Thailand (Chiang Mai) and several parts of Mexico (Playa Del Carmen, Rosarito, and Puerto Vallarta).

How and when did you first get introduced to online poker?

My friends and I started a weekly cash game around the time of the Chris Moneymaker-boom. I wasn’t close to the best player in the group. Initially I thought the game was all luck, but nearly every week the same guy would end up winning and I couldn’t stand looking at his shit-eating grin when he raked in the chips.  

I was filled with a combination of competitive fire and insecurity which drove me to search the internet for ‘poker tips.’ I then stumbled across the Cardplayer forums and read countless posts about
how to improve and which online sites to play on.

What stakes did you start out at? Did you have success right away?

For the majority of my career, I’ve been a Sit and Go grinder (more recently, Spins) but I started out playing cash.  Pretty sure it was $25 NL. I definitely did not have success in that format, as I found myself unable to leave the game while in profit.  

I’d always keep playing until I suffered some horrendous beat or punted away a stack and then close the client in despair.  Moving to SNGs solved that problem immediately and I began to post winning sessions.

What stakes do you play at now? What was the journey like for you to get to this point?

Currently I’m a $60s/$100s Spin and Go regular.  From time to time I also dabble in 9-max SNGs and low to medium stakes MTTs, but I prefer Spins because of the lack of a time commitment.  

Up until the past few years, the journey was relatively smooth and stable. I spent the first part of my career playing lower limits in an effort to have a larger edge on my opponents and experience less variance.  

Eventually I recognized that I was ‘good enough’ to move up and had a higher expectation at incrementally higher stakes, so I took a shot. I’ve been Supernova Elite in 2014 and 2015 and while there’s been more variance in the higher stakes, the past two years have also been my most profitable ones.  

[BR79: Here are some of Aaron's results over the past several years]

Spin & Gos (May 2015-Present)

Interview Aaron Barone Poker

Sit & Gos and MTTs (2007-2015)

abarone68 spin and go interview

Do you have any advice for people just starting out in poker who are struggling at lower stakes?

Be honest with yourself and your weaknesses. There’s so much ego in this industry and even more delusion.  It’s easy to put the blame on the cards, bad luck, or a “fishy” opponent, but that doesn’t do anything to help you improve. The goal should be to get better as a poker player, not to justify subpar results.

What is your opinion on the future of online poker (especially with regards to the recent changes at PokerStars)?

Yuck. I wouldn’t say the future of online poker is bleak, but I do think it’s trending in the wrong direction: higher rake, fewer legitimate competitors, more country-wide segregation, etc.  

My biggest issue with the changes at PokerStars (in regards to them scrapping the upper end of the VIP system) is not that they decided to alter the program, but that they did so without proper notice. 

The Supernova Elite program was a two-year agreement and advertised as such on PokerStars’ website; if a player paid enough rake in a calendar year, they not only get 53% rakeback (RB) for that year, but earn 68% the following year.  

In November 2015, PokerStars announced that players who reached SNE would no longer earn the 68% RB that was promised to them.  It’s effectively a “bait and switch” as they undoubtedly used the VIP System to motivate customers to pay rake all year only to revamp the rules at the last second.  

I won’t mince words – it’s theft.  PokerStars stole from their most loyal customers.

Do you have a blog or any social media accounts where the readers can follow your progress?

I do, but it’s currently down at the moment.  Hopefully it’s fixed by the time this gets published, the domain is:

You can also read about me on the Personal Goals and Challenges subforum of 2+2 where I have a thread entitled “Still Grinding”:




I understand that you do staking and coaching now as well?

Yes, I’m the owner (and one of the coaches) at Psyduck Staking.  We provide backing and coaching for aspiring MTT players who want to bring their game to the next level.  You can contact us on our 2+2 thread, here:

Final Thoughts

I want to thank Aaron for coming on my blog here and telling his story along with his candid thoughts on the industry as a whole and his advice to newer players.

While the games are not always easy these days, I hope that this interview helped provide some inspiration to some of you out there. As his high 6 figures results attest, there is still some pretty big money to be made in this game if you want it bad enough.

And that really is the key. 

Even though Aaron did not mention it in this interview (because he is far too humble no doubt), from knowing him personally over the years I know that he has some of the sickest work ethic that I have ever seen. 

He has worked for every penny and bit of success that he has ever achieved in this game. I have also seen him handle numerous absolutely brutal downswings like a consummate pro.

The other big takeaway that I hope you get from this interview is that being a professional poker player is all about knowing how to adapt.

From being forced to move out of his own country due to government regulation, dealing with unforeseen rakeback program changes, to tackling new formats such as Spins and expanding into staking and coaching, Aaron shows that the ability to constantly re-invent yourself in this game is crucial.

I hope that you enjoyed this interview. If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them below and Aaron or I will be happy to reply to them.

Lastly, if you found this article useful, do me a favor and "Like" or "Tweet" it below!

Interview With Online Poker Player Aaron "abarone68" Barone


  1. Aaron's work ethic is amazing. While he was prepared to move to the other side of the world to keep grinding, I can barely be bothered to cross the room!

    1. Haha, ya he is a machine for sure. I really think that is one of the biggest "secrets" to his success.

  2. Quote:
    "Be honest with yourself and your weaknesses. There’s so much ego in this industry and even more delusion. It’s easy to put the blame on the cards, bad luck, or a “fishy” opponent, but that doesn’t do anything to help you improve. The goal should be to get better as a poker player, not to justify subpar results."
    True as Bob. Very good indeed. An interesting fellow to talk to away from poker table on life matters.

    1. I thought this comment in particular pretty much summed up everything about the game.

  3. So assuming playing 4 tables, this crusher made a whopping $4.91 per hour this year so far. 6 tables is $7.75. And countless hours reviewing, plugging leaks etc. You could make more money working at McDonalds.


    1. McDonald's will soon bwpe staffed by robots

    2. That is some very interesting math right there. Aaron stated on Tiltbook the other day that his EV hourly for this year is $170. He also has a large and successful staking operation (linked above) which I know makes plenty more. Poker confirmed dead!

  4. I'm running about $50k under EV for the year, but even so the hourly is $90 or so. That said, I have nothing against a McDonalds career choice. Could really go for a McFlurry right now.

    1. I'm a Sit and Go player myself, I started 2016 with zero, played freerolls and have withdrawn £650 (just under $1k) so there is still money in this format for the micro stakes players.

      I don't table select at $1- $5 stakes but do you think that 6 and 9 max are still beatable at higher stakes? Even at $1-$5 stakes I find there are 2-3 decent regs in every game. I'm one of the better regs but at higher stakes the tables are filled with players like me.