PartTimePoker recently sat down with high stakes poker tournament pro and Tournament Master Class coach Pratyush Buddiga for a one-on-one interview.

Buddiga — who has over $6 million USD in career live poker tournament cash prize winnings — was recently featured on Poker Central’s opening-day live cast launch during the $300,000 buy-in No Limit Hold’em Super High Roller Bowl. The Colorado native eventually reached the final table of the showcase event and took home $1,000,000 to add to his impressive resume of big money performances in some of the most prestigious live and online poker tournaments in the world.

Currently in his late 20s, Buddiga first gained mainstream fame outside of poker as a 13-year old who won the United States Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. back in 2002. He would go on to graduate from Duke University before tackling poker as a full-time pro.

Following is our interview with Pratyush — who hosts the Tournament Master Class premium training course alongside three-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Doug Polk at Upswing Poker.

PTP: How would you describe transitioning from traditional competitive activities in which skill plays a predominant role (like the National Spelling Bee, sports, etc) to poker tournaments?

Pratyush Buddiga: I think this is something I’ve always had a little bit of trouble with after busting deep in a tournament. In things like the Spelling Bee, there’s only a group of maybe 5-10 people who are actually good enough to win the whole thing.

It’s similar to a sport like swimming, Michael Phelps knows there’s only one or two guys who are good enough to beat him in a particular event. In poker, anyone can win the whole thing. Obviously you’re going to put yourself in a better position more of the time the better you are, but it can be a bit tough to deal with at times.

That’s something I’m still working on. Skill matters, but variance matters a lot more than you’d care to admit in poker. That being said, I love poker tourneys because there’s a clear winner and loser at the end. I love competing.

PTP: What is the most common mistake you see veteran poker tournament players make even after years of experience?

Pratyush Buddiga: It’s funny right after I mentioned the amount of variance in tourneys but I think way too many people are complacent about their game. They blame luck instead of wondering what they could to improve their games.

Now you should acknowledge that results will sometimes be dictated by variance but no one plays perfectly yet. So keep working harder. My favorite quote ever about this was from Jason Koon: “If you don’t think you sucked 6 months ago, you’re not working hard enough.”

PTP: Is there such a thing as being “overly aggressive” on a poker tournament bubble?

Pratyush Buddiga: It depends on the tournament. Given the way everyone cares about ICM and cashing now, you can open extremely wide/potentially up to 100% as a chip leader. That can lead to some tricky spots if there’s another person with a lot of chips who decides to fight back. So I’d tone it down a bit in those spots.

PTP: What advice would you give to tournament players who are inexperienced with post-flop play and tend to over-commit preflop?

Pratyush Buddiga: Sign up for Upswing’s Tournament Master Class so you can get better at post-flop play and avoid over-committing preflop!

PTP: Are there any tips you can provide recreational fans who want to become profitable MTT players but are initially intimidated by the mathematical aspect of for-profit play?

Pratyush Buddiga: The math you need for poker isn’t so complex that you need a math degree or anything like that. There are a lot of tricks with combo counting and pot odds that can help you do them quicker.

Find some blog posts or books that can help you out with it (don’t go to Mathematics of Poker — that’s esoteric to the point of non-necessity for 99.999% of poker players). There’s no such thing as “the math gene” or whatever ideas people hold about learning capabilities.

Learning is simply about having a willing and capable mind, and working on it. If you have a growth mindset where you’re happy to learn from mistakes and look at them as opportunities, you’ll be able to figure it out.

PTP: What are your favorite venues to compete in live poker tournaments?

Pratyush Buddiga: My favorite place to play is Australia. I love Australia in their summer especially since it’s winter up here. Melbourne is such a great multicultural city with awesome food and lots of things to do.

It’s also always great to watch the tennis. I think it’s by far the number one stop of the poker calendar.

PTP: Thank you very much for your time Pratyush and best of luck in September’s marquee online poker tournament series which will be playing out across multiple sites. Our readers can visit Upswing Poker to find out more about Pratyush and the Tournament Master Class training course.