BPC had the honor to interview Steven ‘Imachampion’ Tea. The former CFP student took a small step back from poker last year and is planning a major comeback. In 2013 he shocked us all with his 100K challenge and now he is ready to take things to the next level. Can he shock the poker industry once again this year? We wish him all the best in poker and life.
Hello, Steven, could you please (re)introduce yourself to our community?
My name is Steven, I am 21 years old and I’m from California. Online I go by the forum name “Imachampion”. Before that, I was known as “1flightaway”.
Can you tell a bit more about your background and how you got into poker?
Ever since I was a little kid I was into cards and games of chance. But I only started playing poker when I was around 14 years old. I started playing 5 dollar home games with my friends. I didn’t even like the game that much in the beginning until I realized that I could make money with it. I bought the dream that I could be a millionaire within a year! So I decided to stick with it!
When I turned 16, I hustled some money selling YuGiOh cards. I had 400 dollars, I gave it to my brother and asked him to deposit the money to Full Tilt. Then I played 100NL and went bust within a day. That was an interesting lesson, as my brother banned me; he told me I could never play poker again (on his account)…
So that’s why I created a new account, played freeroll tournaments, ground my way up and made around 8,4k. Then I got banned again because of Black Friday…
So because of Black Friday, you couldn’t play anymore. You had to move abroad…
Yes, I wanted to move to another country, but I was broke. All my money was on Full Tilt. Around that time, I went to school so I would get “Financial Aid”. With this money, after one semester, I bought a laptop and my plane ticket to Cambodia. I even had to borrow money from a friend to get started again.
In Cambodia, I lived with my cousin. I didn’t know him very well and we couldn’t really speak because he and his family don’t speak English. So I would grind 24/7 on Pokerstars. For some reason, I only could deposit 50 euros, so I started playing 10 cents sit & go’s and I would play up to 50 tables at once.
I don’t think anyone played as much volume in 3 months as I did. I played roughly 10.000 tournaments and ground myself up again. Then I invested in coaching, as I didn’t want to deal with the variance in tournaments, and I was consistently getting good results in cash games.
I’ve read your blog on the BPC forums. It’s very impressive. How did you get in contact with Gordon and bestpokercoaching.com?
Back then I didn’t know too much about myself, and my poker strategy was very basic – I was just raising and everybody else was folding.
I was active on the forums and Gordon just got my attention. I found out about the “elite poker courses” he was selling and I thought to myself: “yes, that’s all I want – I need to be part of that!” I wanted to be elite too. At 18 years old, or course I was very fascinated by it all.
I bought a few courses, and I even had 13 coaching sessions with Gordon, but I couldn’t win in 6-max cash games. Then Gordon said to me, that if I really want this, he expects me to achieve Supernova status on PS next month.
I was very determined, so I was 8 tabling zoom for at least 13 hours a day. I woke up and started playing – I didn’t even eat sometimes, I definitely didn’t brush my teeth all the time… I had to drop back from 100NL to 5NL, but at the end of the month, I achieved Supernova status.
That month I played more than 300k hands and almost went broke to get to Supernova status. Because I lost at the tables I wanted to give up, but Gordon convinced me to keep grinding. He said: “Finish the Supernova first and then we’ll talk”. So when I reached the status, he decided to give me a Coaching For Profits deal.
You were the first person with a Coaching For Profits deal. You did a 100K challenge?
Yes, I did a 100K challenge and I made it in 9 months. Actually, I think it was even faster than 9 months, but Gordon probably has the correct dates, so I don’t know the exact time frame. I do remember that at the end of the program, I had two 30k months.
Yes, your CFP program started on the 6th of November 2012 and you ended the program on 3rd of July 2013. So you basically went from an average player to “Imachampion” within 9 months. What was the ‘aha-moment’ for you?
Well, basically when Gordon told me: “Stop being a victim.” And when I realized I was broke. When I couldn’t afford basic things, like shampoo, it made me realize that poker is all I have. Then I actually started to listen to what Gordon had to say (I had a big ego). He rewired my mindset from being a victim to being a champion.
This is why I changed my name from “1flightaway” to “Imachampion”.
Then you reached your 100k goal and finished the program.
Yeah, at first I was a bit sad. I had hoped to take it a bit further with Gordon. But he said: “This is the program, this is what you learn – to make 6 figures every year, that’s it”. It felt like it was too easy and I almost felt a bit cheated. What was I going to do next?
It took me some time to process everything. I played fewer hours and I needed to find myself again. I moved to Malta and it hit me how much he (Gordon) changed my life. In 2014, I played 620 hours of poker (that’s only 12 hours a week) and in 2015 so far I played around 100 hours (January – April 2015).
I was questioning the world and wanted to change the life of my friends and family, but I realized that wasn’t meant to be. I focused on boxing and in the meanwhile, I was trying to get to know myself.
You went from a full-time grinder to playing poker part-time. That doesn’t sound good. Are you planning to make a comeback? Or are you going to quit poker? What is your plan?
Of course, I’m coming back; call it the reincarnation of the champ. I am on a mission right now. I am here to destroy the tables. I want to really shock the industry again. I am here to crush numbers. I am here to defy what’s normal now. I basically say, if you are not going to grind, you are wasting time!
So the days of questioning yourself and the world are over? I mean, there is nothing wrong with your confidence, from what I hear…
Yes, I’m very confident, but don’t worry – I will stand by my words. That’s also why I took this interview; I want to present myself to the poker world. I’m still here and you better be ready for me.
Next, I challenged Hans the Great. I called him out on skype, but he ignored it. If anyone wants to challenge me in the BPC community, for who has the most profits by the end of the year, come and see me. You guys can have a head start and I will beat anyone in BPC, I will come up on top.
That sounds like a great challenge.
Hans is in profits way ahead of me at the moment, so he has a big advantage. So I’m telling you, Hans, we should play! It’s just like a small side bet.
What do you think of the level of poker these days? Are you planning to move up in stakes?
I don’t want to sound too cocky saying this, but I think 95% of the poker players out there suck at poker! Haha, sorry guys! The people who will call me out, they are probably better than me and in that case, I will acknowledge it and give you the credit you deserve.
I am definitely looking to move up. I want to see if I can make it to the nosebleeds this time. I will try to become the best poker player in the world, because this is all I know, and this is what I am good at. I really appreciate being a part of the poker community, and I learned a lot from it.
It will take me a while before I am able to play people like “Kanu7” or “Doug Polk”. I have to work way harder to catch up with them, but if I have the opportunity, I will give it a shot.
I’m also trying to get a sponsor deal and become well respected in the community.
Do you feel underrated?
Ehm… I’m just going to try to prove something to myself this time and let the rest go. Everything I’ve been doing was trying to get something out of someone. Or trying to show them that I was doing a good job. This time, I will stay silent like a snake and improve slowly. I’m not going to talk too much, I will keep grinding and come in the forums occasionally. I know what to do and I know I can do it.
Can you back up your claims with a graph?
I had a great month, but I don’t know if I can sustain that. So I’m busy creating a 30k month system and then I hope to move up. I need to get such results for 4 months in a row. My win-rate in April was around 18bb and I know that is not sustainable unless you only play against fish. But if I dodge the best players, a 10-12bb win rate is definitely possible.
If I succeed, my next goal is to create a 100k month system. After that, the nosebleeds are my long-term vision; I like to aim high!
Congratulations on your April results. It sounds like you have a solid plan. How do you keep improving yourself?
My biggest leak is my lack of dedication to the game, and that’s what will matter in the end, all this theory that I will be working on will not matter unless I actually put in the hours to maximize my strengths and earn money. If you are not playing, you are not eating.
Before I also played against better reg’s, some are in the top 20 players in the world. I had a big ego, they shot me down and they put me in my place, rightfully. But I did learn a lot and this made it easier for me to play against the rest.
However, last year I didn’t work much on my game, so I have to prove myself again. I’m fresh now, and you can follow my journey to see what happens. 2015 will be the year of the reincarnation of the champ!