My name is Tom Smeets, 31-years old and I’m from Holland. My girlfriend Catrien and I became the proud parents of our beautiful daughter Andrea in September 2017. Life-changing, but definitely a change for the better! I can confirm that all clichés are true 😉

Poker Ecosystem

I interpret the name poker ecosystem as the coherence of anything that is related to poker, with emphasis on the ‘off-table’ conditions like rake structures and welcome bonuses. Ecosystem refers to cycles that create a certain balance in the natural environment. Within that perceived ‘poker balance’ I want to be on top of all the developments, strengthened by a community, to be able to provide players the specific information they need to profit maximally. This is where the dynamic approach comes in. For years, I’ve been using a static approach without noticing and I know a lot of players still do. A dynamic approach opts for switching sites when it’s beneficial to your winrate when a site changes its rakeback terms or when your welcome bonus expires, for example. It stands for optimizing your winrate at all times which can be difficult to notice at all. Second, even when you realize that it would be better to switch sites, it can be hard because you became so used to a certain software or got your hotkeys installed conveniently. And thirdly, where you should be going is tough to determine without being able to see the whole ‘ecosystem’. For the awareness part and where you should be going, I’m here and happy to help.

Setting Up The Business

When I became 30-years old in 2016, I was thinking how I would look back over the next ten years of my life when reaching the age of 40. Poker is a lot tougher nowadays and I felt like I needed to decide to either go for it or head towards a different direction. It all came down to investing in a coach, Fernando Habegger aka JNandez87. He was the leading man in pot-limit Omaha and took the game very serious, something that intrigued me. A friend of mine was already coached by him and was very excited.

In 2017, I went on a downswing and discussed this with Fernando. He advised me to play a short-stack strategy. By playing short, rake plays a relatively larger role and it caught my interest. I started to research all the rake structures that poker sites were utilizing and concluded there were quite some differences among them. It made me want to dive into it more deeply, to be able to see the full picture. I did the same for ‘rakeback’ deals and welcome bonuses that sites offer. Next to that, it came to my attention that not every site is accessible from all countries. Fernando encouraged me to follow-up on these ideas and to start a business out of it.

When I look at other affiliate marketers I see most of them pushing their best deals to a maximum number of players. In my business-model I want to be able to provide individual players with the best deal for them personally. As I mentioned with country restrictions, every player’s situation is unique to at least some extent also with regard to stakes level as well as their personal preferences, like willing to play with a heads-up display (HUD) or on European sites due to tax regulations, for example.

The beauty of this product line is that everything for the player is free. The advice is for free and one can decide whether to use the affiliate links or not, but most of the time it even gives players extra benefits to use these. Poker sites are happy with new customers and I get a commission for directing players to them, so it’s a win-win-win situation.

Playing poker can be pretty one-dimensional, being on your own and the relation with your winrate. I’ve always loved the responsibility of being in charge of my own ‘company’. This business gives me the opportunity to reach out to other players as well and help them by ‘selling’ something that makes their poker life better. I really enjoy having a chat with fellow poker players, help them when necessary and inform them about the opportunities that are out there. For me personally, it’s a great way to get a second income stream next to the swings of poker, also because my responsibilities have changed with the birth of the little girl, I feel like. It’s quite the opposite of the responsibilities I had during my student life where I was able to play very high online stakes.

My Poker Career

My poker career started approximately 16 years ago on holiday in Mallorca, Spain. Sitting on the balcony of the hotel room with my little brother Oscar, he introduced me to a game what I realized later was 5-card draw. Up until this day, he insists that he taught me how to play poker, haha. When we got home, I searched the internet whether there were options to play online. I always loved to play cards in high school already, but we played other card variants there. I signed up at Everest Poker and they offered a freeroll game named ‘Shasta’ tables. Ten players playing limit Hold’em battling it out for the 5, 3 and 2 cent payouts. After you won a couple cents it was time to buy-in at no-limit micro stakes and man, it was exciting! No limit, so you could lose it all every single hand. I remember my first tilt experience where my bankroll went downhill from $500, after months or even years to get there, to $125 in an afternoon. I felt miserable.

The point where my bankroll ‘sky-rocketed’ occurred when I won a $11 satellite to the $109 qualifier for EPT Copenhagen. I played the $109 qualifier and became the massive chip leader at some point before the money. I wanted to finish in the money without winning the package because I had no live poker experience at all, and my parents weren’t too happy I was playing poker in the first place. Addiction, safety concerns… Logical reasoning from a parent’s perspective I assume. The more aggressively I wanted to lose chips the more I won and I qualified for EPT Copenhagen in the end! I was confused, a mix between being proud of the achievement on one hand and insecure about what would happen next on the other hand. I remember telling my parents what happened. They decided that it was OK to go, but that it would be the last poker-related trip. The event ended up being overbooked and Everest Poker gave me the choice between playing EPT Deauville or get the $6500 package in cash. Well…

Going to school and playing poker wasn’t a great combination. I did 7 years over the 6-year pre-university education and 9 years over the supposed-to-be 4-year education at Tilburg University where I did graduate as Master in Finance to the relief of my parents. Though, I told them that I wanted to continue playing poker.

The focus was primarily on playing poker during these years and it was the time that poker was immense popular. I was lucky enough that I had started before the ‘boom’ and could easily move up in stakes with little knowledge because the competition just wasn’t good, in general. Combined with little responsibilities as a student other than earning the rent and some beer-investment money I didn’t care too much about the swings. I really liked the thrill of being able to play the highest no-limit Hold’em stakes at 25/50 and even 50/100, mainly heads-up, my favourite format back then. I made the switch to 6-max pot-limit Omaha around five years ago because I felt Hold’em was drying up and the heads-up tables were removed on a lot of sites. These days, I’m still playing 6-max PLO mid-stakes although the focus will be more on the business side from now on, but I don’t see myself completely quit poker because it’s still the beautiful game that I’ve always loved (and hated).

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