How Squad77 escaped poverty with Spin & Go

We have a very personal chat with a member who has used the game to escape the economic crisis currently taking place in Venezuela.

Venezuela is in economic crisis right now
Venezuela is in economic crisis right now

Meet Victor 'Squad77' Castellanos (Also known as Talabi on PokerStars) who kindly shared his story of using poker to escape poverty in Venezuela.

I’m sad to say that the media has ignored the situation in Venezuela in the rest of the world, in your own words what is happening there?

Squad77: It’s really hard to define in one word or even one sentence what we’re struggling with. Government officials sell to the world that an economical war from the right wing parties alongside the US government are responsible for the worst crisis this country has ever faced, but that’s just a cover up to disguise their own mistakes.

Since Chavez’s death in March 2013, black market dollars, which are a guide to buy almost everything here, went from 20Bs per dollar to 8000Bs per dollar. Also, every public office that was won by an adversary to the government, whether it’s a town council or the Venezuelan parliament, has its duties and powers eroded or circumvented to a more pro-government office. Regional elections were due last December, but no such election have taken place, because they know they’re going to lose, big time. It’s been more than 90 days of continuous protests in most of the big cities of the country, with lots of violence. To sum up, Maduro doesn’t want to lose his grip on power, even at expense of the lives and well-being of his countrymen.

What is daily life like for people over there?

Squad77: I can tell you that we were very happy people, eager to help each other, no hatred. Nowadays, every single day is a constant struggle to be able to have food on your table, to find medicines if you’re sick, or even to get home alive and well, since I live in the most dangerous city in America, if not the world, Caracas. We Venezuelans are forgetting what it is to be happy. Just today I was in a line for a bank, and the person behind was commenting that he was withdrawing his last savings to buy food because his fridge was totally empty, and I know a lot of people that are in the same situation. Most people, including myself, have lost lots of weight, because of what we call “Maduro’s Diet”.

What is the legality of poker there?

Squad77: Online poker is not regulated, at all. Nonetheless, casinos were prohibited back in 2010 by the late Chavez, in order to “stop people giving their money away in such establishments”. They’re only allowed to operate, legally, in Margarita Island.

"I had no Internet for two years"

You’ve already said in your blog the dollar is super strong there, does that mean online poker really is the best option for a lot of people there? Especially with things like freerolls?

Squad77: If you’re not a good poker player, I think it’s not the best option (laughs). However, if you can get hold of a few dollars on a poker site, whether freerolling or through a promo, and you’re an OK player, then yes, it’s a very good option.

What was it like going without internet for two years as an online poker player (which you also mentioned in your blog)? Are you concerned it will go down again?

Squad77: I used to be a part-time poker player, so I mainly played for fun and to have some extra money at the end of the month to party, or buy clothes, or other unimportant stuff. Also, I had a very good teaching job. But ever since the economy started to nosedive, I kept thinking and thinking about poker and how to get ahold of an Internet connection again, until I finally did. And yes, of course I am concerned. If I ever lose it again, I’d have to move.

What was it like discovering Spins when you got your internet back?

Squad77: I remember I used to be a very bad three- handed and heads-up player, so I wasn’t thrilled to find this new hyper-turbo three-handed game. It wasn’t until I read about Alvaro Romero's challenge that I started to take an interest in Spins. I continued researching and asking friends that were already a part of SpinLegends about their experience with them, and everything was excellent, from their point of view. So, I applied and thankfully got into the SL Silver Team.

Something funny happened, though. Back then, I didn’t know there were the Spanish and the English teams, so I followed a link from PokerStrategy in English to apply for SpinLegends. My friends started to ask me why I was getting emails in English, until I realized my mistake (laughs). Nevertheless, I can’t say I regret it.

Squad77's graph since joining SpinLegends
Squad77's graph since joining SpinLegends

"It's sad I make more than a Doctor here"

Alvaro Romero's challenge inspired me to join Spinlegends
Alvaro Romero's challenge inspired me

You said in your blog that winning $100 a month is a big deal there, now you are playing $30 Spins do you feel like a Viktor Blom high roller?

Squad77: Not Viktor Blom’s level, but yes, it’s a lot of money here, taking into account that minimum wage is around $12 per month. Now, for me, sometimes, it’s very sad, because I earn more than doctors, teachers, engineers, people that are fundamental in a society. I even had to quit my teaching job, in order to play poker full-time. Not so long ago I was scratching cents over cents to reach a dollar, and now I’m betting an average of $2,000 a day, so it’s kind of crazy, to be honest. It doesn’t trouble me, though, since I have SpinLegends supporting me, backing me and making me a better player every single day.

In a country with such a struggling economy, has it changed the way you view gambling in general?

Squad77: Indeed it has. I used to view gambling as something fun to do with friends, to pass time, to relax. Now, this is my current job, and I take it very seriously, because I have people depending on it. Sometimes, it can be very stressful, but nothing out of the ordinary. One thing that I have to be better at is to make better use of the money I earn through gambling. It’s easy to throw away your money on stupid things, and it’s happened to me in the past. I’m working on it, though (laughs).

You’ve moved from $0.25 Spins to $30 in a short space of time, what is the secret? What have you learnt and how different is $0.25 to $30 games?

Squad77: Ever since I moved up from $0.25 spins to $1 spins, I felt that I could be good at this. That’s why I quit teaching. It took me about three months of hard studying, long all-nighters, reviewing hands, asking questions, even self-doubts to move up to $30 spins, so no secret at all, just hard work. Like I previously said, I was a very bad player 3H and HU, so I had to approach spins like I was newbie. My game has changed so much that I don’t even recognise it myself, if I compare it to hands I played three years ago.

Regarding the difference in games, they are hugely different. In $0.25 spins, most hands end up with all the chips in the middle pre-flop. In $30 spins, they rarely do so. You have to work on your post-flop game, what to do on different spots, different positions, etc.

What are your goals, for life and poker?

Squad77: In poker, I want to keep moving up stakes, until I reach $100 spins and be good at it. That implies continuous studying, in order to become a better player. Also, I want to be able to help other players to better, as well, something to give back what SpinLegends has done for me.

In life, depending on how I do, I might be moving to another country. Malta seems like a nice choice, but it’s a long shot.

Thanks so much for sharing your story, good luck for the future!

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Comments (3)

newest first
  • Cendros

    #1

    GG compatriot!
  • KTU

    #2

    great interview! Thanks a lot for the insights
  • Squad77

    #3

    Gracias Marcos! Un referente!