Sebastien "Seb86" Sabic is a 25 year old French poker pro who is a 2-7 triple draw and mixed game specialist. He had an amazing run on Full Tilt in early 2011 winning $1.15 million in the first five months of the year battling high stakes pros such as Tom Dwan, Phil Ivey and Gus Hansen. He is now playing the high stakes draw and mixed games on PokerStars under the same screenname. He is a close friend of Alex Luneau whose interview we published last week and both of them are arguably two of the best draw/mixed game players in the world.
In the interview Sabic discusses how he started playing poker, why he has focused on draw/mixed games and his experience playing in Bobby's room amongst other topics.
How were you introduced to the game, and how have you risen through the ranks so quickly to become where you are today?
I have been playing poker seriously for three years now. I was playing a little bit casually for the last five years though. Even though I sucked very badly at first, I always saw the opportunity to make money. I specialized in deuce pretty quickly, had time to improve and build on BR on PokerStars and when FTP finally added the draw games I was ready. I played 12 hours/day for 4 months. I did everything I could as I knew those golden days wouldn’t last forever and I was fortunate enough to run good (especially in the big $1500/$3k game) while it lasted.
Did you start playing NLHE or PLO games, or did you start with the limit games from the beginning?
To be honest I sucked at no limit and I bought Super System II to try to improve my NL/PLO game (which it was worthless for) and read the chapter about Triple Draw. I started playing Triple Draw and ran like god so I obviously loved it and thought I was made for the game. I moved up playing it and when I traveled to Vegas for the first time I wanted to play it live but unfortunately I couldn't since its only spread in mixed games. That is why I played the mixed games at first and haven’t really looked back since then. I actually only learned no-limit seriously since I am playing no limit everyday in the mixed game and losing my stack every time the NL/PLO comes around isn't too fun.
What is your favourite game and do you consider yourself a 2-7 triple draw specialist?
My favorite game is deuce for sure as it is by far the most fun to play and the one I have been the most successful at. I consider myself more of a mixed/8-game specialist. It runs a lot more than deuce. If I could choose I would only have deuce games running around the clock but as a professional you have to adapt and play what is running.
What was your parents’ reaction to you deciding to play poker full-time? Did you drop out of university?
I did drop out from university but I did it more or less “gradually”. I didn’t wake up one day and drop out to play poker. I had been playing poker on the side for two years already and was doing quite good. Then I took a semester off to focus on poker and I did good so I took one more year off and eventually quit for good. I think it is always a big mistake to quit right away. I know its a dream when you are a student and you think you are on top of the world when you make your first $100,000 but really I think there are far more people who regret it than people who are happy with their decisions. Of course you never hear about people who fail at being a successful poker player. In my case it was the right decision of course so I feel quite fortunate.
My parents’ reaction was quite positive as they saw that I did not rush into anything and did not take too much of a risk.
Have you had any major downswings during your career that you would like to discuss?
I have had a few for sure; the toughest one I have had to deal with was when I first took a shot at $400/$800 8-games two years ago. I was doing really good at $100/$200 and kept on building a roll there to lose it in a few orbits at $400/$800. That went on for over six months. Not only did it suck because I kept on busting my account (and my bankroll) but also because I lost money for some close friends who already believed in me back then.
Overall I would say that with every major downswing you have, you grow mentally stronger when its over and you are able to handle the next one better.
Do you have a lot of money stuck on Full Tilt, and are you optimistic in receiving the money back? What do you think of the FTP scandal?
No I don’t have much left but I had over half a million when Black Friday hit but I cashed out everything in time. Actually I even bought $17k of FTP money for $15k in cash in Vegas last year as I had no money on the site and everybody was looking to sell. That’s all I have on there now.
Well I am obviously not very happy about the FTP scandal but I am quite optimistic the site will come back. The action will probably never be as good as before without all the FTP pros they were lending money to but I believe that everybody will be so happy to have their money back that they will want to gamble when it re-opens so that should be fun.
What stakes are you willing to play at the moment? Who have been the toughest opponents that you’ve faced and is there anyone you won’t play at 2-7 triple draw?
I am currently playing up to $200/$400 deuce and 8-games. I take occasional shots at $400/$800 8-games and $500/$1000 deuce.
After Black Friday I decided not to keep too much money online and to invest most of my winnings. I bought a flat in London and its not as if I am playing with what I have left as I don’t really feel the need of playing the biggest game. I feel like the value of money is not linear at all. If you have $1 million losing it is catastrophic, winning another one is great but not life changing.
Do you prefer playing HU or six-max in cash games?
I prefer HU for sure as its much faster paced but when you play high its not really like you get to choose; sometimes its HU, sometimes a third player will join and sometimes the table will fill up. My preference is irrelevant really as I just have to be prepared and play whatever format is available to me.
What do you think of the bumhunting situation that online poker currently faces and what should, in your opinion, be done in the future?
Well in the games I play (deuce and mix) the problem is solved: no HU tables. I think the easiest way is for the room to just block the number of tables that can be open at a given limit. Another good way would be to allow name change every x month. People are not that great at recognising who is a good player and who isn’t. Two regs what wouldn’t play each other usually would start playing.
Are you going to continue focusing on 2-7/mixed games or are you going to transition to PLO where most of the action seems to be nowadays?
Still focusing on 2-7 and mixed games. The action is more sporadic than what it used to be but its still worth it. I do play some PLO on the side when I don’t have enough action in my games but I have no intention on playing very big.
You have not played many live tournaments so far. Will we be seeing you play more of those in the future?
Well my Hendon Mob record is pretty poor but that’s not due to not trying. I stayed two months in Vegas for the last four years and played probably 40 WSOPS (including 18 or 19 last year). I also travelled to the Aussie Millions and the PCA. I just never got that sick run you need to final table/win a major tourney. I don’t plan on playing that many more as I don’t enjoy playing them and the cost associated with it is quite high usually. I also don’t really like to play NL and the range of tourneys available to me to play is therefore not that great.
How have you fared in the cash games in Bobby’s Room? How high have you played there and who have been the toughest opponents for you in those games?
First of all the games in Bobby’s room were a lot smaller than what they were (at least in limit) from what you read about. Every time I came by, there were between $800/$1600 and $1500/$3000 games, far from the $4/$8k I had read about.
I only played in Bobby’s room once. I took a shot at $1/$2k mixed limit (some $200/$400 NL single draw too). I played for 4-5 hours and left when the player I was in the game for left. I won a little bit (around $25k I think). That was definitely something I wanted to do as its kind of an achievement for a cash game player to play there but I wouldn’t go and play there everyday regardless of the line up. I actually came by and watched the game most days but only played once as the games were a lot tougher than what I was expecting. I was picturing 60+ year old “professional” trading the money they won 30 years ago back and forth but the average age was more like 30-35 with a lot of very good online players. The two best when I played were probably Phil Galfond and Mikael Thuritz
Why did you decide to move to London to play poker and are you a regular in the live mixed game they have in London (which plays as high as £100/£200)?
I needed to move abroad because of the French law that makes you play on a segregated player pool if you stay in France.
I am a regular in that game yes and it runs about twice a week. It is more of a friendly game really. I play it as playing too much online can burn you out and this is a nice change. However it does play lower than what I play online for the most part (especially if you account for the 35 hands/hour you play live) so I really consider myself firstly an online player.
Who have been your closest poker friends who you discuss strategy with? Do you think it is important to have a good group of friends in the poker world?
That is probably the most important thing to improve once you reach a certain level. In my case I have been living with a lot of online players for the last three years. My closest friend is Alex Luneau. We have been working on our game a ton for the last three years and it really paid off. Rui Cao is also a close friend of ours and his PLO game is really impressive even though he has more a live player mindset; “I bluff this spot because I have a feeling!” is something you often heard him say (usually followed by “HOW CAN HE CALL HERE???”)
What are your plans for the rest of the year and the future?
Regarding poker, I will still play the same ($40/$80 to $500/$1000 deuce and mixed). I am trying to get more of a “normal lifestyle” as of lately. I am tired of playing until 10 AM because there is a good game and then wake up at 9 PM for the rest of the week. This is something I have been doing for three years now with great results but I now think that the few extra $ I make doing it is not worth the quality of life I lose over it.
I think if you ask every poker pro how do they picture their future, they will tell you they plan on playing a couple more years and start a business. That’s pretty much what I also said too but to be honest, poker is so profitable now and gives you so much freedom that it doesn’t really make sense to stop it for now.
Learn about more high stakes poker regulars in HighstakesDB's player interviews.