Poker News Daily: How does it feel to be regarded as one of the world’s best online poker players with such top-notch competition?
Kamberis: It’s pretty great. My colleagues actually believe that I’m the best. I don’t know if that’s completely accurate or not, but just knowing that I have that much respect from my peers and the guys who I respected so much when I first started coming up is pretty amazing. That’s always been a big motivating factor for me in anything I do: Getting the respect of people that I respect.
The other part of respect from others is putting up the results that I’m putting up. It helps to be on a big heater. Running well is definitely a big part of it and I can’t deny that I’ve been running well for the past year. The fact that other people feel that way about me is really what, to me, means the most.
PND: How did you get started in poker?
Kamberis: I actually started in high school. Before I even knew what the hand rankings were and anything about Texas Hold’em in general, my friend Jason Glass, who went deep in the World Series of Poker Main Event in 2008, was playing cards during free period in our junior year of high school. I saw him playing and took interest in it. Anytime when friends of mine became good at something, I usually got really into it too. They were really good at poker and that made me want to become better.
It wasn’t until later in college that I started making $50 deposits onto PokerStars before I had the money to afford that. I just started working my way up in sit and gos and tournaments and then got a backing deal in the middle of 2007. Since then, I’ve been playing full-time.
PND: When you started out, did you have trouble convincing your family and friends that poker was a worthwhile endeavor?
Kamberis: I probably had more trouble convincing myself that poker was a worthwhile endeavor. There was definitely a while when it wasn’t worthwhile. I made some bad decisions. It wasn’t a great thing for me when I started off. My family has been really supportive. Winning and getting the results that I have been eases a lot of people’s worries, but before you start getting results and becoming a winning player, it’s natural for your parents not to be thrilled when you start gambling away money. It’s hard for some people to understand that poker is different than games like blackjack or BINGO. No one was very supportive of it at first, but I stuck with it.
Once I finally started proving that I could make a career out of it and not only become successful, but also become one of the best, my parents loved it. My friends are also really into it and supportive of it. They know what I’m ranked all of the time. I’m lucky in that way. I feel like most people don’t have one, but I have a great support system.
PND: Whose game do you respect and why?
Kamberis: I feel like the first person that comes to mind in online poker is Isaac “westmenloAA” Baron. He just turned 21 years-old and already has a final table at Monte Carlo. He has absolutely ridiculous results online for not even playing that much. When you talk to him about hands, you understand that he’s playing above and beyond world-class poker. There are also guys like Chad “lilholdem954” Batista, Scott “SCTrojans” Freeman, and Steve “gboro780” Gross. Steve “MrSmokey1” Billirakis is a guy who, when I first started coming up in poker, was a friend of a friend. He taught me a lot and I’ve always had a lot of respect for his game. He’s one of the best.
PND: What advice do you have for new poker players?
Kamberis: You have to be realistic about it. At first, I wasn’t sure if it was a great thing for me or not. It was something that I enjoyed doing, but wasn’t sure whether I wanted to get into it professionally. You might even argue that poker became an addiction before it became a career, which isn’t the healthiest thing. It’s one of those games which has that effect on people. You need to be unbiased when making the decision of whether you’re really going to try to be a poker pro.
There aren’t a lot of people who are able to do it. Even the people who are good enough to try to do it have a lot of other issues like bankroll management. There’s more to being a professional poker player than just being good at poker. You have to be able to look at yourself before you make a big investment and decide whether it’s really for you. It’s not for everyone. It’s not a hard way to make a living. I’m not trying to make it seem like I have a really tough job, but it’s not an easy way to make a living, either. There aren’t many jobs where you can lose a lot of money in one day when you work for 12 hours. You have to really think about whether that’s the way you want to spend a certain number of hours per week or years of your life. It’s a big decision that I think sometimes people don’t take seriously enough.