Poker news | Sep 22, 2019
Micro Stakes Phenom Nathan “BlackRain79” Williams Explains Rise to Vox
By RTR Dennis
Most famous poker players have made their name by taking down big tournaments and/or dominating the high stakes cash tables. Nathan “BlackRain79” Williams, on the other hand, has taken a less-conventional route.
Williams is best known for doing something that most pros scoff at: playing micro stakes cash games.
BlackRain79 became notable in 2009, when a chart showing his win rates at different stakes went viral. Nothing that he’d done at limits ranging from $0.25/$0.50 to $3/$6 NL hold’em stood out.
He lost $3,000 playing on $2/$4 tables and made minimal profits at the other limits.
But what took those reading the chart by surprise was Williams’ profits at $0.02/$0.05 tables. He’d managed to earn $13,000 at stakes where pots rarely exceed a dollar.
Since that time, he’s continued grinding in the micro limits while also becoming an expert in the subject. He now writes micro stakes strategy ebooks and runs a popular YouTube channel.
Williams has also garnered himself a little mainstream fame recently. Vox.com writer Luke Winkie has published an interview with BlackRain79. Here are some highlights from their chat.
Why did Williams Pursue a Poker Career in the Micro Stakes?
As mentioned before, playing micro stakes poker for a living is very unconventional. Williams didn’t initially set out to dominate the lowest limits. He instead fell into this role after messing around at different stakes.
“So I was basically just screwing around,” he told Winkie. “I started playing millions and millions of hands at the lowest stakes because it was just so easy.
“I became an expert in that, and I transitioned into teaching it. I wrote a book called Crushing The Microstakes [in 2011] that became very popular, and it just kind of went from there.”
More on Williams’ Fame
A now-defunct site called PokerTableRatings used to track players’ wins and losses without their consent. Williams was initially outraged at this. But the situation became a blessing in disguise.
“I was pretty pissed off, because I don’t want my income known to the world. But people saw that I was making significant sums of money at extremely low stakes,” he said.
“So ironically, that website made me kind of famous in the poker community. My profile became a freakshow full of comments. I said, ‘Hey guys, I’ve got my own website, I’m only answering questions there from now on.”
“So I got a huge amount of traffic on my site from PokerTableRatings. I started writing some articles about how to beat the lower-stakes games, and I looked into some online marketing stuff and learned you could write an ebook very easily. I took a shot at it, and it ended up doing really well.”
How did BlackRain Come to Dominate the Micro Stakes
The micro limits are generally the easiest in poker, because there’s less money at stake. Williams quickly learned that his chances of beating one and two-cent games were significantly higher than bigger stakes.
“It’s just full of people who are pure amateurs,” he explained. “The money involved is not significant for an American. It’s a lot of people where it’s just their hobby, and nobody is taking it seriously or [is] that good.
“When you go up to higher stakes you encounter more professionals. They’ve got notes on you, they’re studying your game, they’re using tracking software. They’re playing to win. It’s a much, much different environment.”
Williams Played up to 10,000 Hands Per Day
Many poker players have trouble logging 1,000 hands in a day. But Williams was playing an astounding 10,000 hands on some days as a full-time pro.
“There were times where I’d play as many as 10,000 hands a day,” he said. “But I’d say I’d average around 3,000 to 5,000 hands a day. That’d be pretty normal for me.”
Playing this many hands required a disciplined approach that saw him multi-table extensively.
“When I was full-time I would play the table limit on PokerStars, which is 24 tables. And then I’d sometimes add a couple more on other sites.
“I played a very systematic approach. I know exactly what I’m doing with every hand. It’s a very tight, aggressive game, there’s not a lot of creativity to it.
“I’m playing against people who are going to make massive mistakes. So I don’t need to think too deeply about it. It’s a straightforward process.”
BlackRain Didn’t Make a Fortune in the Micro Stakes
Williams noted that he made enough to pay the bills as a full-time player. However, he wasn’t earning enough to live lavishly like other famous pros.
“I was probably making around $15 an hour during my peak on the lower stakes. I did play the higher stakes, where I’d average more,” he recalled.
“But when I was playing the lower stakes, which is what I’m most famous for, I was literally making minimum wage in Canada.
“I live in Thailand now, where the cost of living is much lower, and $15 an hour is quite good out here. It’s a tough game, it’s a tough way to make a living, but it does give you that freedom. That’s what I always wanted.”
Williams had more to say about his career and poker in general. You can check out the entire Vox interview here.