Although the screen name might not sound familiar to those new to the poker world, “ActionJeff” belongs to an online poker prodigy named Jeff Garza. Jeff is perhaps best known for being an exceptionally talented online tournament player. His skills translated to strong performances in the live arena where he most notably finished first place at the $5,000 Australian Heads Up Championship and final tabled the WPT NAPC event in 2007. Aside from his tournament prowess, Jeff is also widely respected at high stakes cash games and was once part of the Cardrunners roster of instructors. Skeptics might say that Jeff’s popularity stems from his sense of humor or atypical personality : from having spit on poker pro Bryn Kenney’s face, from demeaning some top-ranked players on Pocketfives.com, or for popularizing “GIFAFI” with Nat Arem. For those unfamiliar with the acronym, it signifies “Go Ice Fishing And Fall In”, and is a good way to vent frustration in a chat box without risking a ban.
Of course, a lot of other things can be stated about Jeff. The result is that any mention of “ActionJeff” is sure to stir up a lot of passion in online poker forums. Garza is nonetheless widely respected by his peers as few players can excel at both online tournaments and high stakes cash games. WestMenloAA, Genius28 and Durrrr come to mind, but such players are few and far between.
The Magical Beginnings …
Jeff was an expert Magic the Gathering Card Game player before he became interested in Texas Holdem. Once referred to as the “The Future of US Magic” by colleague Jeroen Remie, Jeff came in first at the Junior Super Series Championships and achieved another top 8 appearance at Grand Prix Orlando; all this before he was of legal age to drive. Interestingly, it seems that other big name poker pros started their careers playing Magic. Although Magic and Poker have vastly different rules, they seem to require a similar mindset to succeed : players need to fine tune a winning strategy, possess a healthy competitive spirit, and exploit weaknesses in their opponents’ games. David Williams probably said it best with this quote :
I think the biggest correlation is that it teaches the brain how to work. It’s problem-solving, logical deduction […] That’s great training for playing poker under pressure.
Jeff decided to try his hand at poker in light of David William’s win at the 2004 World Series of Poker. Only in his sophomore year of High-School at the time, he joined a small group of elite Magic The Gathering players that would reconvert to competitive poker. It was obvious to him that his earnings would be far higher as a Real Money Texas Hold’em player. As such, he decided to shift his entire competitive focus to the game of poker, and the rest is history.
Other Poker Players with Magic The Gathering Backgrounds
- Justin Bonomo
- Dario Minieri
- David Williams
- Alex Borteh
- Jon Finkel
- Bryn Kenney
- Brock Parker
- Eric Froehlich
- Eric Kesselman
- Noah Boeken
- Isaac Haxton
- Scott Seiver
- Adam Levy
Jeff’s Beginnings with Poker
Jeff began playing online poker seriously during high-school, and his game blossomed in his senior year. Before that, he was playing $2/4 limit live against some friends with a bankroll of a few hundred dollars. On top of consistently defeating his friends for beer money, Jeff’s confidence was bolstered by having read some high-end strategy books such as “Harrington on Hold’em” (newly released at the time) and Super System (the NL section). His results prompted him to deposit some money on PokerStars, and to try his luck at a few poker tournaments. Surprisingly, he won his second only ever MTT (an 11$ rebuy), earning $2800 in the process…
His $2800 bankroll faced the wrath of variance though. Jeff confessed in a Pocketfives interview that he had lost almost everything a few weeks after his 11$ rebuy win.
“Early on, I made the same mistakes that everyone makes,” he admits. “I just got luckier.”
When things were seemingly at their worst, having lost most of his earnings playing under-rolled at mid-stakes cash games, Jeff randomly joined a $33 rebuy and won it for $6k which was huge money for him at the time. He was, after all, only a high-school kid living at home. This was one of his key turning points, and the big score inspired him to join more online MTTs.
High School with a Minor in MTTs
At the time, Jeff could only play after class and often failed to join certain tourneys because he was grounded. Still, he managed to show very high ROIs and earned well into six figures his senior year. In light of his new found success at online poker, Jeff made the decision to take a year off after graduation to see how much money he could earn. He didn’t abandon the prospect of joining college, but placed his studies on hiatus instead.
Jeff’s Tournament Playing Style
Jeff Garza’s playing style is very conservative, although most players would think otherwise. Railbirds see him make random aggressive plays, or move all in with air and get caught at the wrong time. In reality, Jeff’s MTT playing style is only 10% unpredictable and 90% solid. His Cardrunners 109$ re-buy videos clearly show conservative play leading up towards the bubble stages, punctuated by very aggressive plays to punish players waiting on the money. When the game gets shallow stacked, jeff will make more mathematical moves mixed with bluffs based off reads developed during gameplay. If we had to compare him to other players, we would say 10% Annette Oberstad and 90% Isaac Baron.
* Two cards symbolizing his transition. The card on the left was produced by Wizards as an homage following his decision to leave competitive Magic. The card on the right represents poker and ActionJeff.
Early Controversy in the Pocketfives Forums
Jeff harshly criticized the Pocketfives.com leader board, claiming that some folks featured on the list were losing players long term. He famously disrespected some top pros in the forum which he viewed as inferior to him, especially those displaying LAG tendencies. The term “Lagtard” was especially present in his vocabulary to describe overly aggressive players who seemed “exceptionally skilled at winning coin flips”. Jeff later revised his stance seeing the success of a new breed of aggressive players, probably best represented by Annette_15 and Durrrr. One turning point was an interview with Chad Batista on Pocketfives. At the time Chad was on top of the online poker world and netted two consecutive seven figure years. In a Pocketfives follow up post, Jeff wrote that Chad was now officially “Lagpro”, a new term that he coined. Unfortunately Chad lost most of his money now (we wish him the best of luck), but Jeff became much more tolerant of different playing styles. About his criticism of the rankings, the 2+2 community is also in agreement that you need a very wide sample size to assess your profitability. The Pocketfives leader board is more of a snapshot at any given time. If we had to guess, the top 3 players on that list are making up to 300-400K yearly in profit, and not millions as their gross earnings would lead you to believe. Tournaments come down to basic math and hand ranges when you drop down to 15BBs. As such, they are a poor indicator of player skill, as Jeff had been indicating all along in the forums.
Jeff Changes His Ways – Timex on the New ActionJeff
Jeff completely changed his attitude towards (most) other pros before going full time, and this gained him a new found respect from the online poker community. A 2+2 post from Timex probably sums it up best:
I had dinner with Jeff, Ansky and Yuv in MC and Jeff talked a lot about his current mindset and I was really impressed. He used to always post on p5s about which ranked players suck and how much better than them he was, and has now more or less turned around 180 degrees. He says at this point he more or less doesn’t care at all about whose been winning, whose been losing, who plays good, who plays bad, who plays loose, who plays tight.
Pocketfives.com Rankings Ascension
Jeff’s relentless focus on tournament poker during his gap year translated to numerous wins, including a $50,000 payday at the #6 event of the 2005 WCOOP on Pokerstars, for an even chop. He was especially successful at the $109 rebuy tournaments. Although Jeff only flirted with the top 3 rankings at his prime, he still displayed strong wins and an outstanding ROI across the number of tournaments he played. He later dropped off due to lack of interest, reduced playing volume, and didn’t qualify to be tracked by the system.
ActionJeff Pocketfives Triple Crown
ActionJeff received the Pocketfives triple crown. To receive such an award players need to win three real money poker tournaments, across three sites, and within a seven day time period.
Decision to go Full Time For Another Year
Jeff decided to extend his hiatus for one more year in light of his results. Although he made most of his money from tournaments during his first year, he quickly shifted his focus to cash games. His transition was marked by his move from the Pocketfives Forums to 2+2 . Pocketfives is typically more tournament oriented, and 2+2 offers more in-depth articles and discussions relating to cash games.
About Jeff’s Involvement with Pocketfives
Although Jeff Garza’s last post on Pocketfives is dated from July 2011 (funnily entitled :How much could a banana cost?), he is widely respected as a Veteran Pocketfiver. According to one of his posts, he has started over 400 threads in around 6 years, so calling him a former regular would be an understatement. As he focused on cash games, his involvement with Pocketfives greatly diminished. It seemed he was mostly using the forum as a way to catch up with old friends at the time. Jeff was busy soaking up all the cash game tips and strategies that he could find on 2+2 instead.
Jeff Moves to Cash Games
Jeff successfully ran up his existing bankroll to the highest stakes cash games (facing off with the likes of David Benyamine with six figure stacks) before facing the wrath of variance a number of times, and then settling for lower stakes. By lower we mean 5/10 and above… Many players would already find it difficult to be profitable at these stakes. But Jeff went on 50 + buyin winning streaks at 5/10 from time to time, a feat that’s very hard to accomplish. Although Jeff understood that most of the easy money was in cash games, he still liked to dabble in tournaments at the time. He would often play poorly or perform crazy plays because he wasn’t taking them seriously anymore. Still, he managed to make a solid ROI to complement his cash game earnings.
Looking back on his decision to place his studies on hiatus
Jeff publicly revealed that he regretted his decision to place college on hiatus. He posted on a forum:
07 and 08 were amazingly profitable years for me – it was a really very bad decision not to go to college right away. I’d recommend aspiring young pros against it unless you love poker more than anything!
However, it couldn’t have been too big of a mistake if you ask us ! One of the issues for Jeff was applying to colleges with his atypical experience (and he admitted, a lower than average high school GPA) .. Having poker on a resume can work for or against you. But Jeff prevailed in the end of course, and successfully attended college.
Jeff Garza Live Tournament Winnings
* 2006 : $1000 NL Holdem, March Madness Tournament Event, Verona, 5th for $10,207
* 2007 : C$ 1,100 NL Holdem, Johnny Chan Poker Classic, Richmond Event, 1st for $68,977
* 2007 : C$ 10,000 NL Holdem, North American Poker Championships, Ontario 6 th for $184,706
* 2008 : A$ 5,000 Australian Heads Up Championship, Melbourne 1st for $ 87,903
* 2009 : $ 9,900 Main Event – No Limit Hold’em 46th for $ 27,375
More information at hendonmob.com
Additional Tidbits About Jeff
ActionJeff on weightlifing
Lifting weights seriously is probably the best decision I’ve made in my life the past several years. I strongly encourage anyone with any interest in bettering themselves as a person to join a gym, look into a good beginner linear progression strength program like Starting Strength, and give it a couple months. You will be happy with yourself.
ActionJeff’s funniest forum quotes (source: P5s and 2+2)
To be honest I’ve stopped playing over the summer in favor of partying and developing my drinking habit. When I do play, I’m usually too drunk and pass out in the middle of playing and blind off, so my results haven’t been very impressive. Since then, I’ve cleaned up my act a bit (I only drink around a handle of rubinoff a night now) and am back to playing more consistently
I just won 200 from poker and 3800 from betting what color the flop would be
On being grounded:
I am grounded for not “fulfilling my responsibilities” by being late/absent to school, and getting a D in one class.
also, I locked this 5 year old kid in a bomb shelter for three weeks before the police found him.
On Someone questioning his ROI:
Do you know who I am … I’m kind of a big deal. People know me….
ActionJeff’s Protege: AaronBeen
Jeff coached and mentored Aaron when he was just an up and coming poker player on Pocketfives.com. Mostly in Jeff’s shadow at the time, his game has now really blossomed and he is an instructor for BlueFirePoker.com. What’s interesting about Aaron is that he has chosen tournaments over cash games, and one of the core components of his strategy is ICM (Independant Chip Modeling). Very few people have had as much insight into Jeff’s game, and this proved to be a critical factor to his success. Aaron has racked up a huge string of tournaments wins, you can see his stats at hendonmob.com.