When the first lockdowns of 2020 began, Bertie “bigstealer” Bayley–like most online poker players–was trying to make hay while the sun shone. He grinded consistently and had a solid Spring Championship of Online Poker, finishing third in a $2K Six-Max event for $61K.
Things were a bit different during SCOOP 2021. “I’ve played precisely zero tournaments this year,” says Bayley from his home in London. “I actually chalk that down as an achievement because it was tempting at times. It was nice to see other people doing well though.”
So what happened? More than a decade ago, the 33-year-old began cutting his teeth in Sit & Go’s and reached the high stakes, making Supernova Elite on PokerStars multiple years in a row before switching his focus to multi-table tournaments when that promotion ended. For a few years, he was an online MTT regular, racking up $1.44 million in cashes, according to PocketFives, including a second-place ($138K) and a fourth-place finish ($46K) in 2019 SCOOP events.
I try not to post results on here unless they’re very special but this made me proud, not because of the $ but coz it nudged me over $1million PRE rakeback profits on tracked sites, 1 score over $100k. Tournaments and 500 zoom combined. I never dreamt of this when I started. pic.twitter.com/xW7FL4XHUq
— Bertie Bayley (@bigstealer) May 7, 2020
But by 2020, he’d grown tired of tournaments. “I’ve always been someone who struggled with being told I had to be somewhere at a certain time,” he says. “I really admire Lena900, C.Darwin, Pads, and all these guys who can just turn up and do it all the time. But I got bored and that’s why I switched from tournaments to cash full time.”
For some, that would be a huge shift in gears, but Bayley was already well-versed in cash games and had been grinding them part-time for three years prior to making the leap. “Since then I’ve had a far more measured, balanced life,” he says.
He’s been playing cash games full-time for a year now. Having built a large bankroll through Sit & Go’s and MTTs, and with a few years’ cash game experience under his belt, he was able to jump straight into the $500Zoom pools.
When he first dabbled at $500NL, however, Bayley admits he used to just “jump in and kind of freestyle” and did a bad job in terms of range construction. “At the time I got away with it because the pool was so soft back then, but it’s a different landscape now,” he says. “I was happy to take the risks as I knew I could grind it back elsewhere.”
When it came time to compete at those stakes consistently, Bayley enlisted the help of BBZ’s other new cash game coach, Wey “CRAIbaby” Xie. “I really enjoy poker, but my desire had waned slightly,” he says. “I then had 10 coaching sessions with Wey in September 2020 and he reignited the fire in me.”
Ever since, Bayley has been crushing at $500ZOOM and also plays some $1KNL, $2KNL, and $5KNL. It wasn’t surprising to him when BBZ founder Jordan “bigbluffzinc” Drummond reached out about being a coach around six weeks ago. In fact, Drummond had already asked Bayley to join the BBZ coaching team in 2020.
“Jordan and I became acquainted years ago as we were both Sit & Go players,” says Bayley. “There was a level of mutual respect. I probably respected his game more than he did mine, though. He had this consortium and he was playing slightly higher than me all the time. I was a little bit more nitty with my selection.
“He first approached me about coaching last summer but I didn’t think I was ready. I knew I could get good results, but I didn’t feel like I could convey how to others. I’m in a much better place now. I have a far deeper understanding of the game and can help people break down mental barriers that might be clogging their brains.”
Bayley has plenty of coaching experience on the tournament side of poker and is now looking forward to educating others on how to beat some of the toughest cash games going in the BBZ Daily Seminars.
“There’s going to be some basic fundamentals,” he says. “But then there’s also going to be things that even $500NL guys absolutely need to learn. Between Wey and I, we’re going to create a scenario where people are able to develop their way of thinking rather than just memorising sims.”
Bertie “bigstealer” Bayley’s first BBZ seminar–‘The importance of using big bets to a winning strategy’–will take place on Friday May 14th at 1PM ET. Sign up here.
For Bayley, the community side of BBZ Poker is one of the aspects which attracted him the most. He first started playing with his friends at university, watching the early seasons of High Stakes Poker together. “I loved watching Sammy Farha,” he admits. “You don’t realise how wild he was until you watch it back. He didn’t give a shit and it’s fantastic. Then Tom Dwan showed up and started wrecking everyone. That was legendary. He was the frontier of the young guns. Poker never looked back.”
But one by one Bayley’s uni friends went off and got real jobs. So what did he do? He found a community of like-minded poker players. “I wormed my way into other poker groups and since then I’ve always had good people around me to talk to,” he says.
“The value of a community is so much greater than going it alone. You can get trapped within your own thoughts. Others can question your play far easier because they don’t have your biases. If somebody came up to me today and said ‘what’s the best starting point?’ I would say find yourself a community of people who are at least as good as you, if not better, so you can discuss strategy.”
Join the BBZ Discord today. You won’t find a more supportive poker community anywhere else.
As a poker pro of more than a decade, Bayley admits he finds it hard to watch poker shows like High Stakes Poker for fun anymore. He’s not particularly interested in watching four businessmen battle a couple of pros. He’d much rather watch the cash game players he believes are the cream of the crop, such as Linus “LLinusLLove” Loeliger, “makeboifin” and Stefan “Stefan11222” Burakov.
“What I personally find interesting is watching two really good players figuring out the correct line,” says Bayley. “So when I watch Linus play live, I’m like yeah, he’s fantastic. But then you have people who call him a robot, blah, blah, blah. They don’t like that, whereas I do like that.”
Speaking of live poker, Bayley is really looking forward to the triumphant return of live poker around the world, both for tournaments and cash games. “Barcelona is my no.1 stop,” he says. “When I go to live stops, I always treat them as a holiday with a bit of work. I only go to live events if I like the city. A lot of poker friendships are online, so when you’re able to hang out with people in real life, it’s good fun.”
But for now, he’ll continue to crush, both as a player and BBZ’s new coach.
“For me, 2021 is all about progressing,” he says. “At the end of the year, I’ll assess what stakes I want to continue playing. I’m always honest with myself. You have to be very objective in that situation and not get too attached to the status of being at a certain stake, because that can end really badly. But my goal is to get as good as I possibly can and continue my progression as a player without getting burned out.”