Jason Koon is no stranger to the world of high stakes poker and with nearly $10 million in tournament earnings rarely experiences any new “firsts” in poker. But Koon does have first this week – he’ll play twice on Poker After Dark, live on PokerGO, for the first time in his career.
When PAD was in production Koon was in college getting introduced to the game. “Oh, I was a huge fan [of PAD],” Koon said. “It was the giant stakes and the guys you looked up to most. It was a laxed, casual environment where you could tell that these guys had been there on that platform and all knew each other.
“It was cool to watch the elite fraternity of players to sit and play for massive stakes in a really nice setting,” he added. “Tournaments are fun to watch but they are also really intense. It’s fun to see, but you don’t get the banter you get from live cash games. It was the elite guys [playing] that made it interesting to watch.”
Tom Dwan certainly qualifies as elite and last week’s “The Return of Tom Dwan” on PAD captivated players and fans alike. Koon watched all the action and it was about what he expected.
“It was a blast. I wasn’t really blown away – I would have been surprised to see anything less,” he said. “I honestly thought he played a little tight from what I expected. Tom is pure action, you know?”
“In lineups like that especially, he’s going to run wild because he sees a big edge for himself,” Koon added. “He knows that he can play a really out of line strategy compared to the way he would play against players that were much more tight and conservative.”
Though it may have been the cash game action that drew Koon in, he’ll be playing the classic PAD winner-take-all structure. “I think the Sit & Go format is intrinsically going to be a little more intense than last week’s cash games because it’s a winner-take-all scenario,” he said. “Five out of six players are leaving negative – regardless of what happens.”
“Where in a cash game your average win rate is to book a small win every night – if you’re a good player,” Koon continued. “That’s not always the way it works out, but your expectation isn’t to lose your buy-in.”
Jason Koon staring down Kevin Hart at the 2017 SHR Bowl. (Photo: Poker Central)
“Whereas the best player in the world in a Sit & Go is still a favorite to bust out and lose money,” said Koon. “On top of that, the lineups are quite tough – they’ll definitely be a different vibe to the Sit & Go table than the cash game. I look forward to playing both formats, but it will be different environments.”
Koon is comfortable with classic, single winner structure. “Honestly, it’s a much more comfortable environment in terms of decision making than if it paid two places because there won’t be a bubble,” Koon said. “Money bubbles are what cause drastic tightening up and it’s because your ship EV goes right out the window. If you have a 40 big blind stack, well whenever you’re on a bubble you can’t make decisions based off of how many chips the guy shoves and you have a hand that you know is 60% equity against his range – it’s still often times not going to enough to call. Because being eliminated is so much more catastrophic than gaining the chips from the pot.”
“So, you won’t be seeing those kind of decisions taking place in a winner-take-all format,” said Koon. “I think it’s better for the viewer because if a guy shoves and you have 0.5% more equity than you need to call than you need, you can just snap it off.”
“There’s going to be a lot of action – it won’t get tight once it’s two or three-handed,” he continued. “It’ll actually play more aggressively than anything since only one person gets paid.”
“All of us know each other that are playing, so it’s not going to be like watching a bunch of people with sunglasses on staring at each other,” he added. Koon’s familiarity with some opponents he feels can work against the game for viewers.
“It’s weird because it’s a little different talking about high stakes ARIA regulars – we play against each so frequently, we don’t really want to be at each other’s table,” said Koon. “It could be another day at the office kind of thing, so they’re pleasant guys to be around and great poker players, but that doesn’t mean you want them at your table. I’m definitely not dreading playing against anyone, I’m looking to have fun.”
“It’ll be great to get Bruce Buffer in there and let him banter about the UFC and the upcoming Mayweather/McGregor fight,” said Koon. “It’s more fun to play against recreational players – one because it’s a better spot and two you get to dive inside their minds and hear what their lives are all about.”
“It offers a bunch of really interesting takeaways after the game,” he said. “If Jake and I are sitting around playing, we might get on a conversation with what we’ve done with our diets, but it’s never really a big change of pace like it would be with a UFC Ring Announcer or a billionaire businessman.”
Be sure to check out the “Who Is?” of Jason Koon and for an in depth look at Koon’s life, his Pokerography on PokerGO is one of the most compelling episodes in the series.