Throughout the SCOOP 2020 series, we’ve been chatting to winners to get their thoughts and to ask for their advice. Here are six tips that can help you to improve your game so that you can one day take down a major event yourself.
The starting point?
There’s no particular starting point for SCOOP winners.
For some, like #16-L winner Paul “pistolp999” Kroezen, playing cards is in their blood. “My parents have been together almost 50 years, and they play cards every day. Then on the weekends friends come and play with them. It’s in our family — playing game
Many start out small, playing with friends and building up their knowledge before one day going on to win SCOOP title.
“Little by little I became more interested (in poker),” says #47-M winner Cristian “Chapex” Chapoñan. “I started playing recreationally with friends and watching videos of the WSOP and other championships.”
Catalina “catam18” Marmureanu, winner of #13-L, was introduced to poker by her boyfriend and quickly grew fond of “all the strategies and dynamics involved”.
Oleg “Fukuruku” Vasylchenko, winner of #9-H recalls, “I was a poor student looking for ways to make myself a bit richer. I played cash every day after classes in my university. Finally I could cash out $100… it was great.”
You’ve got to start somewhere. The good news is, this “somewhere” could be anywhere, as long as you are willing to learn the game and improve poker strategy.
Enjoy strategy and learning the game
There’s a big difference between playing a home game and competing in one of the most prestigious online poker series in the world. Competition can be tough in SCOOP tourneys, especially higher buy-in events.
A willingness to learn is therefore one of the most important qualities of a SCOOP winner, and one of the best ways to improve your game.
“I’m always trying to learn and adapt well to to play the most expensive tournaments”, says #21-H winner Guilherme “teruliro” Orrico.
Long term professional player and winner of #47-H Tapio “PikkuHUMPPA” Vihakas explains, “I have been trying to adjust my play and fix my biggest leaks over the last two years… This year the scores have been very good, though I’m still struggling with some of the same problems. My A-game is good, but I play that too rarely. I haven’t studied the game as much as I need to. I still have to catch up… or get a real job.
This might sound harsh and self-critical coming from a SCOOP winner, but it’s exactly the kind of dedication to learning that is required to make it at the top level.
Learning isn’t just confined to the technical aspects of the game. It’s also crucial to learn the poker mindset.
“I’ve always been very good at studying, and I take this aspect of my game very seriously, so my struggles aren’t usually with knowing what to do or how to play well, but with cultivating the mindset and circumstances so that I can focus and play my best. I spend a lot of time and resources on mindset coaching, and it’s the first thing I check in with myself about before starting a session now”, says Kami “drkamikaze1” Chisholm, who picked up her second SCOOP title in event #71-L.
Immersing in poker communities
There’s so much to learn when it comes to poker, and the game is constantly evolving. Many of this year’s SCOOP winners found it beneficial to involve themselves with a community of players.
“Without a doubt one of the main factors of my game’s evolution is to surround yourself with people who are willing to evolve with you”, says #36-M winner Vitor “vitoradiron” Adiron.
“I have a lot of good people around me, including some regulars on PokerStars,” he says. “They help me. They say ‘don’t blast your bankroll away this time!’”, says Paul “pistolp999” Kroezen.
“I’m working with a new poker team, Poker Detox, which I also have to thank for their rail and support, says #4-M winner William “Williaml666” Barbosa.
If you really want to take your game to the next level, get involved with forums, chats and poker communities.
Successful poker players share a love of competition.
Paul “pistolp999” Kroezen compared poker to his other passion, football. “When the games came I always gave a thousand percent. That’s how I am with all games. I like to play games for fun… but I always want to win!”
Preben “prebz” Stokkan, winner of #62-H also made the comparison. “I think its similar to other sports. Competitive spirit and focus. In poker it is also important to not get too tight when you get to the final table. Its hard to win if you get scared to bust when you get to the final table”
But not everyone shares this innate competitive drive. “I’m as lazy as a human can be,” jokes Tapio Vihakas.
Patience, focus and goal setting
As we learned from speaking to low and high stakes players alike, you need a lot of patience and focus if you’re going to win a SCOOP event. The tournaments last for hours, sometimes days.
“The most important quality of a scoop winner is to be fully present in the moment and be able to focus on the table you are playing at,” says “Kjonesgg”, winner of the #01-L.
Robert “4bet_me” Rohr, winner of #68-M, agrees that you have to be “100% focused and prepared”.
Patience, combined with focus and goal-setting, proved to be a winning combination for Jonathan “Corback_fr” Therme, winner of the SCOOP special edition Sunday Million. “Patience is, of course, one of the most important things to work on! But to keep this patience, I always repeat in my head why am I playing and what are my goals. If you set goals that motivate you and work hard on it, you can surpass yourself”.
In the words of #01-M winner Odintoi “albert28” Florian, if you “consciously propose the next step in the tournament, then the human mind will be attentive to the details necessary to reach that goal.”
The goals you set shouldn’t necessarily have to do with prize money. They should be about making the best decisions possible to accumulate chips.
“I would say just being able to separate the potential money you can win from your decision making (is important)”, says #71-M winner Austin “DaCus3” Marks, “If you work on your game and trust your ability, eventually the cards will fall in your favor.”
The journey to winning a major event is rarely a smooth ride, nor is the career path of a serious poker player. SCOOP winners show immense perseverance both on and off the tables.
“As a friend noticed, I was the first who was eliminated from the tourney,” says #11-M winner “MarkBang”. “My second entry was the one that got me to the other side of the leaderboard.”
Paul “pisolp999” Kroezen opened up about his struggles both on and off the tables. “You hear a lot of stories in poker about how things are always going good. But it isn’t always going to go good,” says Kroezen. “Poker is hard work. You need to be mentally strong and on top of your game, because the other guys — they’re going to get you!”
For serious poker players, perseverance is a must.
Balanced life outside of poker
SCOOP winners that we spoke to typically have a balanced life outside of poker, whether that be spending time with family and friends, staying fit and healthy, or following hobbies and interests.
Guilderme “teruliro” Orrico says “(I like to) go to the bar with friends, drink some beers and watch good football. I always try to do something that makes me happy and relaxes my mind.”
Off the tables, Vitor “vitoradiron” Adiron keeps his mind and body active. “Sport has always been present in my life, so I like to swim or practice aerobic activity. A bar or a friend’s house is always a good place to relax. And it’s always good to be surrounded by nature to clear your thoughts.”
Although learning and practicing poker is crucial, living a balanced life is key to performing well and playing your A-game.