10 Questions with Doug McCusker

Doug has been playing profitable poker for at least the last 30 years. He has a lot of stories to share but will do his best to keep it to poker. When he was a younger, he used to compete in chess at a very high level. Doug noticed that in order to make any money at playing chess you needed to be in the top 1% of the top 1%. All of the opponents that you faced were the best or they wouldn’t be there. In high school he soon discovered the game of poker through a home game. Doug admits that he wasn’t very good at first but fell in love with the idea of using his brain for gain. Doug had an excellent memory and could run through a half a deck of cards and tell you what the remaining stub was. So after he turned 21 he turned to playing Blackjack to make his fortune! Doug planned a weekend trip and after a couple of grueling days, he was dead even. He started to question if there was any game in the casino where the house did not have an edge. Looking around, he found the poker room, in that game Doug only had to be better than his opponent. There was no house edge to overcome. In those days the game of choice was limit, and so Doug found himself sitting down at a $3/$6 limit game. His first hand dealt pocket Aces and won. The second hand he was dealt pocket Kings and won. Doug thought that playing poker was easy until he ended up losing $200. That is when he knew there was more to the game than just having a good memory and being smart.

Doug was recruited to play basketball in college. The college where he went is where he met his wife. After graduating he got a job in finance to make his fortune in life. There was a cardroom just a few miles down the road from where he went to school. He continued to play poker through college and it took him about a month to figure out how to beat the game. So he kept playing on the side during and after college. Eventually Doug realized the money that he was making from playing poker was better than his working income. After discussing it with his then girlfriend and future wife, she gave him her blessing and he made the switch. Doug started playing as a prop player at a local card room, he would play with his own money but would get seated at the games that they needed to fill. It was a great learning experience for money management and self control. As his skill improved in the game of poker he began to look for jobs as a prop player in larger casinos that had higher limits. Over the years he worked his way as a prop player from $3/$6 limit to $40/$80 limit. Doug became quite successful playing some of the largest games in the Bay area and could hold his own at any limit game.

When no limit poker emerged as the new favorite game, he had to learn the game from scratch. He has spent that last ten years trying to get as good at no limit poker as he was at limit poker. Part of the issue is that players today are a lot better than they were twenty years ago. There are many books and sites that are giving away secrets to the game that took him years to acquire. The one thing that crossed over from limit to no limit was his ability to read players and notice tells. Doug’s no limit game was not very strong and half the time he had no clue what was going on. His ability to dodge trouble by using reads is the one thing that kept him afloat as a player. He has improved his game tremendously over the past couple of years by spending many hours studying modern poker theory. 

One day during the Covid lockdown, Doug found himself watching poker vlogs on Youtube. He thought he had something to offer from the perspective of an older player making the switch from nitty poker to an aggressive modern style. So as all the members of his family laughed at him when he told them about his plan to start a poker vlog, he rolled up his sleeves and plunged head first into the vlogging abyss. Doug has enjoyed his experience and so far and looks forward to the future. 

After your wife gave you her blessing to play poker for a living, what was it like telling your family that you were pursuing poker as a career?
My family thought that I had a gambling addiction, 1st year or so I was constantly told there are 12 step programs for people like you.  Also said, don’t come asking for money to bail your ass out.  2nd year was reluctant acceptance, I guess he is ok, doesn’t ask for money and seems happy.  After about 3 years, proud acceptance, Doug’s doing great, bought a house, settled down, playing poker for a living!  It took a while but eventually they all came around and accepted me for who I was.

How has poker affected family life over the span of your career?
Poker has its ups and downs, so does family life.  The only time it was an issue was when both were in a down phase.  Running bad in work and personal life at the same time is never a good thing.  I am sure emotional tilt effected my game and game tilt effected my emotions.  Overall, life is good, my wife is very risk adverse and we balance each other well.

What are your thoughts on the state of limit poker?
Limit hold ’em is a dying game, all the action is in no limit and I don’t foresee limit returning to its former glory.

Do you think another game will ever become the new favorite over no limit?
A new game is sure to arrive someday that will capture the attention of players, I don’t think its here yet.

What is the most important rule you have learned about bank roll management?
Never play above your bankroll, take shots when you can, but always be cognizant of keeping your bankroll safe.

What was the hardest thing you have learned about vlogging?
Editing!  OMG I had so much to learn, not the most computer savvy person to begin with, but the amount of on the job learning was daunting.  1st couple of vlogs took days to edit and were horrible.  Switched editing software and had to relearn again, but better software made for faster editing once learned.  Now it takes 4-5 hours to edit, still finding little shortcuts along the way.

If you could pick anyone from history to play poker, who would you want to sit with at a full ring table?
I would say my brother and father, both passed away to soon, I would love to play with them today.  Both of them crushed me playing cards on the kitchen table when I was a kid.  I think my game has improved since then.

What is the best piece of advice that you have received for poker?
Always play in your comfort zone.  Don’t play bigger than your bankroll or ability.

What is the best piece of advice that you can give for a poker player reading this?
Always play in your comfort zone.

How much are you up for 2020?
Didn’t play much in 2020, pandemic and all, but was up for the year.  The amount, I keep that Information between my wife and the IRS.  I will be making my 2021 results public at the end of the year for my vlog followers. So far, so good.

You can find Doug’s Youtube channel link below and follow him on his journey to master no limit poker!


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