This guy’s reputation precedes him.
Jargo “bungakat” Alaväli is a feared high-stakes player and a poker coach for many of poker’s biggest names, including PokerStars Team Pros Fintan “easywithaces” Hand and Benj “spraggy” Spragg.
He’s considered an “ICM wizard” and created an ICM Pre-Flop Masterclass course helping thousands of players improve the way they play final tables.
And on April 7, Alaväli lived up to such wizardry, taking down the $530 buy-in no limit hold’em SCOOP-8-M for a massive $131,477 score live on stream. He’s since had other deep SCOOP runs, including a third-place finish in the $2,100 6-Max PKO (SCOOP-37-H) for $54,818 (including bounties).
SCOOP CHAMPION!😎😎😎 pic.twitter.com/4N4RaxzQnD
— bungakat (@bungakat) April 6, 2021
Alaväli is 30 and lives in Estonia, his “small, beautiful” homeland. We sat down for a chat to find out how he came up in poker, why he got into coaching, and how he knew he was going to win this SCOOP before the final table even started, due to Jonathan “apestyles” Van Fleet.
PokerStars Blog: Hi Jargo! How did you first discover the game?
Jargo “bungakat” Alaväli: I started playing poker with friends at home games just for fun. I was still in school back in the days when my good friend Randar “lilbigkahuna” Sikk asked if I wanted to start playing poker professionally. He was already good at the game back in those days and he was offering to teach me how to become a winner as well. I was still at university at that time, broke as you can imagine, and the opportunity to make money playing cards was there.
That’s a good friend to have! How did you then get started?
I already loved playing poker, so I just needed to get into the habit of studying. I started out playing $2.50 180-man Sit and Go’s. If I remember correctly, he started to coach me in April and the deal was that I will see in September when I need to go back to university if I wanted to continue. As I was putting a lot of hours into playing and studying during that short period I found out I can make a living out of playing small-stakes games. I didn’t make too much money, but it was enough at that time and I really fell in love with studying poker and improving as well as playing.
You’re highly regarded as a great poker coach these days, but how did you work on your own game when you were climbing the stakes?
After doing that for few years I found myself in a situation where I felt I needed some help to improve my game. It was around the time that the first solvers came out and I did not know exactly how to approach the game anymore. Strategies I had learned still worked, but as solvers gave you deeper insight into how we should play poker, but studying with solvers was difficult to start with and approaching a solver was such a new thing that I got lost in it.
That’s when I decided to get involved with Jordan “bigbluffzinc” Drummond and I got some coaching from him. Randar being such a big influence in my first years of poker got shifted to Jordan, who was already working a lot with solvers and had an even better approach to the game. I felt like I had a new poker world with solvers and having such a great coach.
As it was a group coaching every day I never missed any for the first year, I just couldn’t. I made it clear to myself, this is my job, no matter what it takes, I’m not going to miss any coaching (back in the day we did not have a replay option) and I only missed one seminar and it was because there was no Wi-Fi in the plane. A typical day back then for me was, wake up, study for a couple of hours, play for six to nine hours, study one to four hours, sleep, then repeat.
Now you’re a head coach at BBZ Poker.
Yeah, I think within a year I became one of the seminar coaches and I did that schedule for two years. Obviously, I had some time off here and there, but I was always the guy who needed an answer. I solved every situation I did not know the answer to or when somebody disagreed with my answer.
Nowadays it’s unclear what my “job” description is, I’m doing a lot of things. Coaching is a big part of what I do these days. I coach a lot of people and try to find time to study and improve my own game. I do a lot of studying with Parker “tonkaaaa” Talbot, Conor “1_conor_b_1” Beresford, and Jon “luckyfish89” Clark, which is always fun!
How did it feel to take down your first SCOOP title?
It took a lot of work and some luck to achieve it, but it finally happened and I’m really happy about it! Hard work pays off! During that tournament, I actually came into Day 2 as a chip leader, but before Day 2 started I was scrolling through Twitter and saw fellow streamer and BBZ Poker coach Jonathan “apestyles” Van Fleet won $40,000 in some tournament and it has started to be a thing that when apestyles wins I tend to win as well. That was the moment I was like “I guess I’m winning a SCOOP event today!”.
Day 2 actually started out somewhat bad as I was pretty card dead and lost a couple of bigger pots. It started to feel like it wasn’t going to go my way, but in key moments I got a bit lucky and built my stack back up.
Will you be grinding hard for the remainder of SCOOP?
Yeah, for the rest of SCOOP I’ll be playing and streaming poker. It’s a really fun thing to do, just hang out with viewers and battle it out with other high stakes poker players. SCOOP is one of the biggest series out there, I have played SCOOP for the past seven years or so. I started out with small to mid stakes SCOOPs and finally became a champion this year.
It was such a great and fun experiences to go deep and eventually win the whole thing. Even though I won a lot of money and a big event, SCOOP is still going on for a few weeks and I’m going to be very active streaming and hopefully winning more titles!