Brian Townsend


"SBRugby"...."aba20".....Brian Townsend's online handles are more than household names throughout the poker community - they represent one of the game's toughest competitors at any table. His meteoric rise to the highest levels in under 2 years is the stuff of legend. We sat down with Brian at this year's WSOP with one burning question: If a $250K loss doesn't affect his sleep, how much would it take?

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PokerLizard: All right. Maybe this will be better. Too bad we don't have chairs. Of course you probably sit all day long playing poker. You probably want to stand up.

Townsend: Standing's nice.

PokerLizard: Tough on the back and your knees. Shoot, I play for five, six hours I feel like I've been hit with a bat. Of course I'm also an old man. All right, man. Let's see here. Family. What are your family's thoughts on you being a pro poker player?

Townsend: Well, my grandpa actually played a lot of poker. He probably played the second tier game. So if the big game at the time was say, 100/200 or 200/400 limit, (it was all limit back then), he would play maybe 50/100 kind of the level below the big game. And he knew Amarillo , Puggy Pearson…all those guys. They were all good friends.

PokerLizard: So poker's definitely in the genes.

Townsend: Yeah. I guess so. And back then it was much smaller and there wasn't all the hoopla there is now. That was even when it was in Vegas in the 70s, 60s and when he played a lot. Then he played all the way until he passed away. So it was in my genes and that was on my dad's side. And my dad is all about it. He loves it. He thinks it's great. My mom's a little bit more conservative. She just thinks I'm going to lose everything one day and be broke. But even that wouldn't be the end of the world. That's where I was before I started. So, I guess they have very differing opinions on it. But now that I've put enough away for retirement my mom's pretty happy.

PokerLizard: So you think bankroll management is one of your big strengths?

Townsend: Yeah. I mean, I'm very aggressive in moving up and I'm willing to take risks and I have no problem losing and moving back down. That's what I've always done. I've had to move back down multiple times. There's always been times where I move up, I take a shot with say 20 buy-ins, I lose five and I gotta jump back down and rebuild and rinse and repeat until I move up. I think there's almost no chance that I would ever go bust because I'm willing to move down when times are tough. Even if I do have money to play big I would still be willing to move down and get my head on right. I did that a couple months ago with my PLO game. It was a little off so I moved down to 25/50 and just killed it and now I'm back up and playing great again in my PLO. So I can see that happening, jumping down to 25/50 or 50/100 if my game's off and playing 20,000 hands to get back on track.

PokerLizard: How long would it take you to play 20,000 hands?

Townsend: It depends how much I played, but I could do it in two weeks.

PokerLizard: Wow.

Townsend: That'd be a lot. But it's pretty easy to do.

PokerLizard: When you multi-table, how many tables do you generally play?

Townsend: I can do four. That's about my max.

PokerLizard: You ever see those crazy guys who do 18, 20?

Townsend: Yeah some of these kids can do 12 and even more. Up to 20. I don't know how they do it. They're just playing like robots. They're not really thinking about the decisions and what's going on.

PokerLizard: Have you totally gotten away from your limit game? You used to play limit a lot back in the old days.

Townsend: When I was younger I played a lot of limit. I don't play it as much now. I still try just to keep somewhat fresh. I'm not a top limit player at all. But I can hang in the second tier games. I would never sit in a tough limit lineup, but a soft one with some soft spots. I would say my game's proficient. It gets the job done. I think my big bet poker games are very, very, very strong and I wouldn't say the same about my limit game.

And it gives me the option when there is a good game or if there's a mixed game going I can hop in, which is nice. That's why I want to learn all the HORSE games so I have those options.

PokerLizard: Yeah. 'Cause when playing the big game they always want to play all KINDS of games. You were recently quoted that you don't even lose sleep over a 250k loss anymore.

Townsend: I mean, I've been having a couple 200K to 300K losses the last four days just chunking off 200, 200, 200, and, I mean, I don't like it. I don't like to lose but it doesn't bother me.

PokerLizard: How much would you have to lose for it to keep you up at night?

Townsend: If I lost 2 million in a night. I don't know if I would even stay up the night anymore over it. But if I lost 2 million in a night I'd probably — I wouldn't sleep as well.

PokerLizard: Toss and turn a little bit.

Townsend: I could drop a million and it wouldn't bother me too much. I mean, it would bother me but not that badly. (Oddly enough Brian lost a $1.8 million hand to Bobby Baldwin a few days after this interview…I think he was bothered; read about he hand on his blog from July 14, 2007).

PokerLizard: What do you see yourself doing in the future? Do you think you're going to play poker the rest of your life as a pro or are you going to do something else?

Townsend: I don't know what's going to happen. I'm already doing other business opportunities like CardRunners and stuff. So I'm just going to see where it goes. Right now I wake up every morning and I'm excited about playing poker. I don't see that being the case when I'm 40, even 30, or maybe even tomorrow. I might wake up tomorrow and say I don't want to play poker as a career. I'll just play whenever I want to.

PokerLizard: So if they totally outlawed online poker in the United States would you move or would you just play it live?

Townsend: (makes an audible oof sound and looks like I told him his dog just died) I would stay in Santa Barbara . Or I might move to France . I'd probably end up just getting a place out in Nice (pronounced Niece) my dad lives out in the East Monaco area. I'd get something out there. I'd get something in Vegas and I would have something in Santa Barbara and I would just rotate between those three. Spend about a third of my time in each one.

PokerLizard: Nice (pronounced Niece again). Nice. You and Taylor Caby (high profile online pro aka “Green Plastic”) did the commentary work for the final table of the $5K six-handed event for the WSOP Live coverage in the “ Poker Cave ”. How'd you like doing that?

Townsend: It was long and I'm glad we didn't have one of the long final tables like the HORSE one. I guess Andy Bloch did that the night before and they were up until, Jesus, I guess they did 14 hours, 15 hours. We only did four or five and that was plenty long enough. The last hand, when it was heads up, I was rooting for the guy to suck out and end the match.

PokerLizard: Just finally get it over with?

Townsend: Yeah. But it was fun to do and it was interesting seeing their hole cards. Taylor and I were very critical though. Maybe too much so.

PokerLizard: You thought they didn't play all that well?

Townsend: Bill Edler, the guy who won it, started off short stacked. Played phenomenally. He played the best, by far, out of everybody. The other players were very, very weak (this table featured Erik Friberg, Dutch Boyd and Alex Bolotin).

PokerLizard: So everybody knows where the name SBRugby comes from ( Santa Barbara rugy) but where does the name ABA20 come from?

Townsend: It came from me just needing something with letters and numbers that was long enough and easy for me to remember. Nothing too exciting.

PokerLizard: You have a girlfriend, correct? Is it tough to maintain a relationship being a pro poker player? 'Cause I've talked to a lot of guys like Scott Fishman, a lot of young guys who are like, "Man, it's just brutal, keeping a relationship going with this lifestyle.”

Townsend: I wouldn't say I have a girlfriend. I don't have anything right now. Well, I guess, maybe I shouldn't call her — but, yeah. Having relationships are difficult with these schedules. I try to go to bed at midnight, wake up at 8:00 a.m. It's a little different in Vegas. You've just got crazy schedules. But when I'm back home I try to keep a really structured life because it helps me stay balanced and do the right things.

Continued on Page 2 --> and if you like this interview so far please click the ad below; it's chock full of good info on the WSOP circuit.


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