Meet Our Instructors
"If you’re serious about your game, you have to be serious about poker education. I’ve never seen a good player that didn’t feel like they needed to learn more about the game."
- More than $5 million in tournament winnings
- Three World Series of Poker final tables
- Author of Winning Poker Tournaments One Hand at a Time, Vols. I and II
By his own account, Eric “Rizen” Lynch is a highly competitive guy who’s always looking to measure himself against the best in the field. Since he first started playing poker in 2003, he’s worked hard to turn himself into one of the world’s most highly regarded online tournament players, and he’s achieved notable success in live tournament play as well. His book on tournament strategy, Winning Poker Tournaments One Hand at a Time, has further enhanced his reputation in the poker community, as has his position as Poker Room Manager with Lock Poker, a major online site.
Yet when Eric first started playing poker, he had no idea it would become a profession in which he could prove himself, expand his knowledge, and make a prosperous living. In fact, Eric says, “I actually got started at poker because my boss at my old job was really getting into it.”
From Home Game Hobbyist to Online Pro
In 2003, the poker boom was well under way, and poker’s popularity had expanded. A full-time software engineer, Eric wasn’t particularly interested in poker. But, he says, “Any time you can do something with your boss, it’s not really a bad idea!” So, Eric says, his plan was to “go and socialize with my coworkers and basically try not to lose money.”
Hoping to keep himself from losing too quickly, Eric bought a couple of books on poker theory and strategy, “which actually did not apply to the home games I was playing.” He also deposited $50 into an online site, “to kind of practice”. Despite these preparations, his goal was modest: all he wanted was to “lose money a little bit slower”.
Instead, Eric found himself actually winning money. “And,” he says, “I started to enjoy the game.” Besides being a pleasant way to spend time with his colleagues, poker turned out to be an intriguing challenge that required high-level thought, carefully targeted aggression, and a well-worked-out game plan. The more Eric played, the more fascinating the game became.
By 2004, he was making $200 or $300 a month, not a huge amount of money, but, says Eric, “It was the most profitable hobby I’d ever had.” Then, in 2005, Eric started playing tournaments. And that’s when the game really took off for him.
“I love poker in general,” he says, “but I think there’s nothing quite like making a run in a tournament. I really like the excitement, and all the different things you have to think about: the changing stack sizes and rising blinds, the way the dynamic is always changing, and all the new players who are continuously leaving and coming to your table. You constantly have different situations that you’re in, so your brain’s constantly engaged in all these different questions.”
After six or seven months of tournament play, Eric had become a successful player taking home serious money. In August 2005 he took first place in an $11 rebuy on PokerStars, which paid him $13,000. Soon after that, he won the Party Poker Friday Special for $45,000. Other victories followed, culminating in his first-place finish in the PokerStars Sunday Million, then the world’s most prestigious online tournament.
A Winner’s Confidence
Eric’s poker skills were growing, and so was his confidence. This shift in attitude had an interesting effect on his relationship to the game.
“The $11 rebuy was the highest buy-in I played when I won it,” Eric explains, “and it felt like that was probably in some ways the most satisfying win of my entire career, just because up to that point, poker was kind of a hobby, something I did most nights for fun. It was never really something I considered a viable path to making significant amounts of money. So in a lot of ways, that win was definitely the one that felt the best and most exciting.”
By contrast, “By the time the Sunday Million win came around, I won it at something like 2 o’clock in the morning and I don’t even think I woke up my wife; I think I just went to bed. It sounds bad to say that winning is something you’re used to, but at that point in my career, I was disappointed if I didn’t win.”
Eric is quick to add that intellectually, he knows he can never count on a poker win. But, he says, that kind of confidence is part of the mindset of any good competitor.“When I stand in line for the buy-in, I expect to win that event,” he says. “I know the reality is that I’m not even going to cash more than 15 percent of the time.” But, says Eric, he’s never gone into an event with a mindset of, “Oh, well, we’ll see what happens.” Instead, he always thinks, “I’m entering this event because I think I have a really good chance of winning it.”
He adds, “Statistically, you’re going to lose a lot more than you win. But it’s always disappointing if I don’t win, and I always do expect to win. Even if he doesn’t articulate it, I think that’s the mindset a great baseball player has when he goes up to the plate—I think he expects to get a hit. And I think that’s the mindset you have to have or else you’re not going to get very many hits."
“So I expect to go deep in every tournament I enter, and I expect to win every tournament I get deep in, even though I know it’s not going to happen. But I feel like that’s what allows me to execute the play and the strategies that give me the best chance of winning.”
Learning through Teaching
To keep that winner’s confidence, Eric is continuously working to improve his game. He analyzes his play, reads all the latest poker books, talks poker with other great players, and keeps up with the discussions in online forums. But one of his favorite ways to boost his game involves helping others to improve theirs: “Teaching,” says Eric, “really helps you increase your understanding.”
Even as a software engineer, Eric says, “I was constantly mentoring other people.” As a poker player, he’s even more grateful for the chance to teach at WPT Boot Camp, because he welcomes the opportunity “to take my thoughts on poker theory and strategy and explain them to another person. It raises your game to the next level.”
In fact, Eric says, “I feel like I play my best poker a week or so after I do a camp, because I just spent all that time taking everything that’s in my brain and having to explain it to other people.”
Also, says Eric, “I get enjoyment out of seeing the light-bulb go off in other people’s heads and seeing them understand concepts that were foreign to them before. It is fun to see that. Although I suppose you could argue that the more people that get good at poker, the more difficult my job becomes!”
Having taught poker in a number of contexts, Eric is most excited about the education offered at WPT Boot Camp.
“The system we use and the things we teach – it’s unique and really well-done and really well-thought-out,” he says. “And we’re constantly looking to improve it. I feel like every Camp I do, it gets a little bit better. And we’re always focused on improving things more and more.”
Asked about the advice he would give to students, Eric says he’d tell them what he tells himself: “If you’re serious about your game, you have to be serious about poker education. I’ve never seen a good player who didn’t feel like they needed to learn more about the game.”
He adds, “When I’m out there, I see two types of players. I see the ones who are serious about their poker education, and serious about getting better. And then I see the players who feel like they already know everything. The first group of players either is or eventually will become winning players…and the second group are the people who pay my bills!”