Jeremy Ausmus moved to Las Vegas to chase a career as a poker professional in 2005. The 39-year-old has been primarily focused on cash games ever since, but has still managed to accrue an impressive resume in live tournaments over the years.
Ausmus is most well-known for his breakout score in the 2012 World Series of Poker main event. He finished in fifth place from a field of 6,598 entrants to earn $2,154,616. Since then he has accumulated more than 140 additional tournament cashes, including winning a bracelet in a pot-limit Omaha event at the 2013 WSOP Europe. Ausmus’ career live tournament earnings now sit at just shy of $7.8 million.
Ausmus has been ramping up his tournament schedule in recent years, though he is still committed to spending as much time at home in the Las Vegas area with his wife and two children. His increased interest in tournaments has led to one of his best years on the live circuit, with six final-table finishes and nearly $1.4 million in earnings accrued so far this year.
Five of the Ausmus’ 15 largest career tournament scores have come in 2019. He finished runner-up in a $5,300 no-limit hold’em event at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure to kick off the year, and made three more final tables in the spring. In the summer he managed two more big cashes. He placed fourth in the WSOP $10,000 pot-limit Omaha eight max event for $325,693 in late June, and a week later earned another $650,000 as the runner-up in the $10,300 buy-in partypoker LIVE MILLIONS Las Vegas main event.
As a result of his impressive run so far this year, Ausmus is currently sitting in eighth place in the 2019 Card Player Player of the Year race. Card Player recently caught up with Ausmus to discuss his hot streak on the tournament scene, how he is transitioning away from cash games, and much more.
Erik Fast: So far, 2019 has been one of your best years on the tournament circuit. What do you attribute your success to this year?
Jeremy Ausmus: I guess just constantly trying to improve, trying to get better. And this tournament run began late last year, but if I rewind back to 2017, I think it was my worst year in tournaments. I had so many 10 through 15, or 10 through 20th-place finishes. I was just knocking on the door many, many times, but in the end it was very frustrating. I knew eventually something was going to go right kind of make a breakthrough. And then the early part of 2018, I made a couple of final tables in smaller events, and then finally had a good score at the end of 2018 in Florida, when I got second in the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open main event. Since then I’ve just been on a heater. Maybe confidence goes into it, but I’m really just trying to stay focused when I play, and always trying to improve.
EF: It used to be that you were primarily focused on cash games. Has playing tournaments become a bigger part of what you do as a pro?
JA: It has. It’s funny that you bring it up. I just looked at my hours for this year, and I am like at a 2:1 ratio, with tournaments over cash games. That used to be flip flopped, and before Black Friday it used to be 90 percent of my time was devoted to cash games. I’ve been focusing more and more tournaments and they’re good, where on the other hand I feel like cash games are getting a little worse, especially around Las Vegas.
I don’t have a good outlook for cash games at all moving forward, unless you can get into some of these big private games. I think it’s going to get really bad. Currently I’m not focusing or thinking about live no-limit cash games hardly at all.
And then the tournaments are still really great, like out in Florida, the tournament series they have out there just are amazing. PartyPoker has added a couple of stops in the Bahamas and Montreal that look great, and of course there is the summer in Vegas. There are just more tournaments than ever to play, it’s almost overload. I really go hard during the summer, so I was able to play tons of hours, and lots of tournaments.
Moving forward, I’m trying to play a little more mixed-games. I don’t really travel a lot for tournaments, not too much, and I don’t think that’s going to change. I would like to stay here in Vegas and play more cash games, and that might mean more mixed-games moving forward.
EF: Is the decision between tournaments and cash games just about your earning potential?
JA: Yeah that is kind of what I have always focused on is my hourly wage in a certain game. But that’s not the only factor, because if I’m miserable playing one form of poker, and then I make a little less but have a lot more fun playing something else, I’m going to choose the latter. Obviously you want to maximize your hourly rate, but I think from a life EV (expected value) standpoint, being happier goes a long way.
EF: You also said you’re not necessarily traveling all over the world as much as some other people who focus on tournaments. Does that have to do with you wanting to keep balance with your family life?
JA: That’s exactly right. I’m not willing to go on the road like some of these guys. It’s pretty amazing. I get to these stops and I mean, like Rainer Kempe, Alex Foxen are two guys that stick out that are just at every stop. They’ll be in Europe at the stop, and then all of a sudden they’re in Florida a couple of days later, and then back to Europe. I’m not doing any of that. I like going the stops and seeing places, but I get a little burned out living out of suitcases.
EF: Speaking of those guys who are traveling the world to grind the high roller circuit, a lot of them have been open about using solvers to work on GTO (Game Theory Optimal) tournament strategy. What does staying on top of your game, and keeping it sharp look like for you? Are you also working with those training tools?
JA: I’ve talked to some guys that play high rollers recently, and some of them don’t mess with the solvers as much. They think it’s kind of silly because there’s still so much value in playing exploitatively. But then there’s a lot of guys who are really studying this stuff, and I’ve definitely spent some time over the last three years or so learning it.
EF: Would you think that these tools would be valuable for someone who’s a recreational, or low- or to mid-stakes player?
JA: Probably not. The thing is that there is quite a bit of a barrier to entry because these tools are not easy to use. You have to have a pretty decent computer. You have to know how to run these things and set them up. If you put in bad inputs, you’ll get bad outputs. And I did do a little of that, I think a few years back, and it kind of messed me up. So for a low-stakes guy, I wouldn’t really go that route. Because it can be a bit overwhelming, it’s a lot to think about, and you have to know why it’s doing these certain things and, and then understand the theory and then apply it in different situations.
EF: You are currently in the top ten of the Card Player Player of the Year race, which looks to track consistent success over an entire calendar year. What are your thoughts about awards like these, and would it be meaningful for you if you were able to win the POY?
JA: It would. I mean, part of it is who kind of ran better that year, too. And I think for the big picture, you need to see who is there year after year. I mean it would mean something if I won because that would be a cool accomplishment that I’d be proud of, but I don’t think it’s something I’m going to really go out of my way to do. The truth of the matter is, if you live out of a suitcase and hit every tournament series all year, non-stop, even if you’re not the best player, your likelihood of winning this kind of award goes up pretty dramatically. I’m just not really willing to drop everything and hit every stop for the rest of the year. It would be cool if it happened, though, and if I was really close, I might go out of my way a little bit towards the end to make a push for it.
EF: Do you think that at the end of the day those high-volume high roller players are the representation of who is the best in the world?
JA: I think so. The best players are going to be playing the highest stakes. They get there because they’re the best. They worked their way up to those stakes. So yeah, I think it’s fair. Some POY races a better job than others about balancing it so that smaller stakes or a mid-stakes guy can have a shot. I guess I played a couple of $50,000 and a $100,000 buy-ins this year, but that’s about it. I’m not in the Super High Roller Bowl, and I don’t play a lot of the super high rollers. I’m still in contention, because it seems like Card Player’s POY race is pretty balanced, so that the large fields, smaller buy-ins, and medium buy-in events give you quite a few points also. It’s good to see.
EF: Is there any accomplishment that you are most proud of over your career?
JA: Not really. I mean, obviously making the final table of the World Series of Poker main event is the biggest thing that everyone kind of knows about. You get on TV and everyone knows about it, but besides that… poker is a game where I don’t like to look at it in terms of just one tournament, because anyone can just win one tournament and look great. Like, look at past main event winners, who look great on TV for that tournament series, and they turn out to not be good at poker at all. For me, poker success has to be measured by longevity.
When I’m assessing myself, or any player, if I’m impressed with what they’ve done it’s not going to be one thing they did. It’s going to be, ‘Wow, they made this many tables, they have this many wins.’ That’s easy to see in tournaments and cash games, just who has been around the longest. Poker is a dynamic game, and it’s not like it’s been around for that long. It’s still in a dynamic stage where it changes, and the players change, and you have to adapt with it. And those who don’t… well, they’re not around anymore. So I think anyone who’s been around a long time, I usually have a lot of respect for their game, because I think just surviving and adapting is an accomplishment in itself.
EF: In your opinion, would the top tournament players be able to hang in the cash games that you’ve frequented over recent years?
JA: Back in the day, I don’t think a lot of tournament players probably could have. Now, I think they definitely can. You see more people now that can do both and are just good overall poker players than you used to. I mean the other biggest factor is that cash games are a lot more deep stacked. But I think most guys now, the guys like David Peters, Bryn Kenney, Alex Foxen… I think they would probably be able to profit in nearly any cash game they would sit in.
EF: In an interview with Card Player earlier this year you shared your concerns about the rise of private cash games in casinos. What’s your outlook about the poker landscape heading into the future? Can you talk a little bit more about what your thoughts are about how the game will evolve, and what that means for you as a pro moving forward?
JA: The tournament scene, especially at the lower stakes, is stronger than ever. And even the higher roller scene is still pretty strong. In the mid-stakes, all the World Poker Tour events in the United States are also doing good. I feel pretty good about tournaments. I’m also somewhat optimistic about online poker. If more states get on board, I think we’re going to see positive steps in that realm as well, which would be really good for the game. It’s just been taking a while. So three or four years ago, I had a pretty pessimistic view, but I now feel good about the big tournaments being around for a while.
Cash games, on the other hand, they are mostly only good for the select few who are willing to hustle and put the work in and put together their own games. I know everyone, and I’m pretty friendly with everyone. I think I could probably put together my own game. I don’t know, but I haven’t really tried. People that are on the other side of the private game issue just think that I’m complaining because it affects my bottom line. It does, and that does inform my opinion, but I also just don’t like a system of people controlling games. I feel like it’s not good for poker, and I think it’s going to really, really hurt poker players, except for the ones who are running the games and gleaning all the money.
I think I’m kind of tired of dealing with the topic, and it always seems a resurface on Twitter. I think it’s going to play out and eventually, we’ll see where cash game poker is at a few years down the road. But I think, long term, it just can’t be good for growing the game. Spreading the money around to a lot of people is kind of the goal for supporting a poker economy, right? If you look at tournaments in recent years, the trend is towards paying out a larger percentage of the field. In cash games, we should also kind of want to keep people in action, and not just have a few people win all the money. Time will tell.