5 Minutes with Poker Pro, Coach & Author Ben Hayles

Scott Quayle, Editor of the recently released poker book, Postflop, shared time with author Ben Hayles to give readers an insight into Ben’s rise in the poker world.

How did you get started in poker? What was your introduction to the game?

It was back in 1998 after a friend introduced me to online poker. I started playing MTTs on Ladbrokes and had a big win fairly quickly. I was already keen on chess, bridge and other strategy games, but poker had that extra glamour factor. I was hooked!

When did you decide that you could realistically quit your job and become a full time poker player?

By 2005 I was playing almost every day, despite working long hours. My passion for the game was peaking, i had learned all of the poker lingo and the idea of becoming a full-time player was conceived. Looking back on it now, I’m proud of the business-like approach I took. I set up spreadsheets, worked out dollars per hour (we didn’t have Holdem Manager back then!) and spent an entire 12 months planning and preparing. I was very driven and determined to live the dream, but I didn’t allow that to cloud my judgement. I waited until I was confident in the numbers - having a large mortgage probably helped to keep me honest.

What is your preferred format for playing poker, are you a cash game player, MTT or SNG guy?

Tournaments have always been more exciting to me than cash games. Nothing beats the feeling of winning a large MTT live. There are drawbacks, though. Variance is a huge factor in MTTs and I made a switch to SNGs in order to maintain an income that was steady and less of a roller-coaster ride.

What has been your biggest highlight since becoming a poker pro?

Well, a lot has happened, but I’d have to say finding my wife, as she makes me even happier than poker does! She can be high variance though!

What made you decide to write a book about the game?

I, like many others, have always had the desire to write a book. I’ve tried to write a novel in the past, but I was never satisfied. After coaching poker for 8 years, making videos analysing databases and assembling materials, this poker book was more of an inevitability than a decision.

With so many poker books out there, how did you make Postflop different to the rest?

Although there are great poker books out there, I have been quite disappointed by the coverage of postflop strategy. It has been largely avoided by writers due to the frightening scale of the subject matter. My goal was to break down postflop play into small pieces and put them together in a logical format that made sense to people. I introduced the 12 postflop dimensions, coined the 6 postflop scenarios and challenged readers to adopt a logical thought process to help “navigate the postflop universe”. The book does not just tell you what to do in certain situations, it provides a framework for approaching any postflop situation: “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime

You now focus a lot of your time on coaching poker. How do you find that?

I have a background in teaching and in customer services, so I have experience taking people along a learning path. My mum was a teacher, too, so I probably share certain personality traits that lend themselves well to teaching. I think the most important thing for a teacher is genuine enthusiasm and passion - and I certainly have that! Coaching poker has become my full-time job and I love it. I’ve met some really great people and driven positive changes to their lives, helping them live their dreams. That’s a special feeling.

What has changed the most in poker since you started out?

Online poker in particular has undergone huge changes. It is a much tougher environment for a player starting out now that it was for me back in 1998. I was able to make schoolboy errors and still succeed, but nowadays a new player needs to devote more time to education and analysis.

What does the future hold for Ben Hayles?

I want to expand my coaching business by providing an online poker university unlike anything currently available. It is a long-term project, but anyone who thinks they could make a contribution is welcome to contact me.

How can people get in touch with you?

I would love to hear from anyone who is taking the time to read this. I love talking poker, so feel free to get in touch with me here.