Monday, 4 April 2011

Article: One in a (Sunday) Million

Original Article written for Passive Observers by Petros Iliadis - April 4, 2011, 16:20

By first looking at him, he would not strike you as anything inordinate, he however, happens to be one of the most frightening new faces in poker. Particularly if you're on the other side of a big pot from it. The face belongs to Alexis Zervos, or Johnny Dr@m@. At a time when Greece suffers from great lack of productivity, he is a deified tournament hero, feared cash-game icon and quite possibly one of the best and most upcoming all-around poker players on the planet. He's grown from known and respected to famous and feared, and he reaps the rewards of that status, on the table and off.

Having studied Economics at LSE and Finance at UCL, Alexis was most likely to become a trader in a financial institution, however, life, had different plans for him. Alexis started playing poker at the age of 10, but he was later introduced to No Limit Texas Hold'em playing Sit n Go's at UK based websites. At the time he started playing he was really into a show called Entourage, where one of the main characters was named Johnny Drama. Without having second thoughts, Alexis decided to use that as his nickname, having no idea how that tag would follow him in future. "I always liked choosing online names from movies and shows. I remember that one of my other nicknames used to be Vincent Vega (from Pulp Fiction)", he says.

Having cashed more than $400,000, success came with recognition for Alexis, when
Pokerstars approached and offered him a full sponsorship earlier this year. When asked whether he keeps math tight during his play, he responds: "Math is very tight, and it has to be when optimal decisions are made. However, I think part of my success comes from what others call a maniacal approach when trying to get other people to fold their hand. There is always an underlying statistical decision that I take, but the math has to be pushed to marginal decisions when your opponents are just as good as you are at math."

During his early days, Alexis had to come along with many difficulties, including the social rejection towards what he considered to be, his full time occupation. "My family never objected to my lifestyle and profession, and they have made it clear that they support me no matter what, but this was not the case with everyone else." His success, he admits, comes partly from his family support. "I don't think it is easy for them to understand what I do, but they have always been there for me." The last couple of months have been quite busy for him. He has a tournament schedule of live poker, which includes Austria, Italy, Monte Carlo and ultimately Vegas for the World Series. Most of his time is dedicated to travelling and playing poker, however, Alexis activities do not stop there. In an action of ultimate recognition by the Greek government, he was invited to be part of the commission of the Greek Ministry of Finance that will introduce legislation for online gambling. "I always wanted to protect the interests of professionals that take up risk in a way very similar to financial investors, but I also want to make sure that the business is taxed to give back to society in the fairest way possible. It is a project which is very important to the future of poker in Greece and this is why I will dedicate a big part of my free time."

As any other poker player at his level, Alexis had some bad points, during which he went broke, but he was never discouraged. "I have been fortunate enough not to go completely broke, but there were a few close calls", he says smiling. A continuous bad streak for 6 months had his game at a breakeven point of profit, and paired with an expensive lifestyle, he came close to going, as they say in poker, BUSTO. Going broke is however a feeling all poker players have experienced at some point, and the lessons learned from such bad runs are more important than any math can teach you, he admits. "I think the most important thing for new players is recognize whether they are playing for recreation or professionally. Professionals need to be willing to put in their capital at risk, spend hours studying and playing and maintain their motivation no matter how long the hours are. I also put a lot of value in self confidence which is key to my success at the poker tables."

1 comment:

  1. LOL at Alexis' face being in any way frightening!

    Zervos is a very likeable lad - which, come to think of it, is indeed a nice poker asset since, by looking at this baby-faced, smiling and joking young man, you would think of him as anything but dangerous!

    I have played against Mr Zervos in a low stakes cash game and he is indeed very sharp, even when he seems half-sleep.