Exactly one year ago I had a dream, the dream of becoming Supernova Elite.
I was completely clueless of what I had to face to achieve such a monumental goal.
I had no plans and my current level was pretty bad comparing to what was demanded, I was merely a 10$ regular (professional). I started to play 18 man structure, but in a structure like this, only the higher stakes like 60$,100$,200$ would make you enough vpp's (points) in order to reach SNE. I needed to start grinding (playing) as soon as possible, and the problem was that it would have taken months to learn and reach such high stakes. After one month playing lower 18 man stakes, I decided to move to 6 max because the vpp's rate was much higher.
I started to check on twoplustwo for information about ICM (Independent Chip Model) since I had no clue about what ICM was back then. That's right, I knew no ICM but I wanted to become Supernova Elite before the end of the year. I found a post about Icmizer here, and it blew my mind. The program appeared to be the most innovative ICM program of the market and beside that, the guy who created it was a 6 max High Stakes Pro from Old Full tilt, exactly what I was looking for. So, I contacted him and I became his student.
We officially started our coaching sessions on March, and we both had an initial plan in order to achieve Supernova Elite but, for that, I would have had to increase a lot my skills level in a very short period of time and in a game I’ve never played before. Moreover, time was running out… I only had ten months left!
February, March & April 2012
Our first coaching sessions were very surprising, I never thought I would have had so much to learn, and my coach never thought that my skills level was so bad considering 2011 profits. Apparently I had no knowledge about postflop, I was previously playing a push/fold heavy structure. I didn't know the meaning of value bet. I just knew how to Cbet 100% of the time 1/3 of the pot, and I'd have stack off with AA 100% of the time. I remember that my coach almost cried while watching some of my plays during our coaching sessions.
To sum up, I was a 10$ regular from 180s structure with no knowledge about ICM, postflop or metagame (I'd have played every player the same way), and I had less than four months to move up until 100$ stakes in a super competitive structure with some of the best tournament players in the world. Then, I'd have spent six other months grinding every second to achieve my goal. How hard does it sound?
I didn't really thought how hard it sounded back then. I was being emotional for the first time in my life. I was dreaming about it, breathing it, I wanted it so bad, so I started working without looking back. I woke up at 8:00 am everyday and started working, running calculations for breakfast, postflop books for lunch and hand analysis for dinner.
I was playing around 100 hours per month and studying 100 more. I was only beating the 15$ 6 max in the first two months. I kept studying, changing my life to increase the number of hours of study, I stopped going out with my friends at weekends even when there was a nice party, so I could have played with weekend fishes. The other days, when games were harder, I’ve studied postflop, HH review and poker psychology books (such as ''Poker winners are different'' or ''Treat poker like a business'').
My girlfriend and I were facing a distant relationship and we could meet only four days per month. I also visited my family and my friends only once a week, usually on Mondays, when games were worse. Since most of my friends were studying in other cities, and considering that they only came back home during weekends, I wasn't able to see them for months.
When I was finally playing breakeven the 30$ games, I had to handle big swings that I’ve never seen before. The intraday swings were so big comparing to what I was used that I couldn't stop myself from refreshing my Holdem manager graph every five minutes.
I remember that one day my coach got upset with me because I was becoming so result oriented that he ordered not to check results “for one full week”.
I followed his orders, I swear I did it...
I believe it was from that moment that the turning point happened, I was not looking at the cashier or at graphs, I was focused on the action, thinking that each decision was independent, and focused on the moment, trying to make the best decision in the long term.
I was upset because of the fact that I could have misclicked or made the wrong decision, and I wouldn't have cared if I would have lost with my AA vs TT.
I was in a Poker Pro mood and, for the first time in my career, I was crushing.
When we checked results it couldn't have been better, it has been the best month of my Poker career so far. We made around 12k in a single month! We were so happy, so proud, so confident. I was ready for July!
In the first two weeks of the month I haven’t looked at the cashier, but I was reading some tells from my coach, and I knew things were going good. Pokerstars also gave me the best gift of the year by opening a 60$ level between 30$ and 100$, it was the best thing that could ever happen to us, since 100$ was ultra competitive. I started attacking the 60$ games on the sweetest hours, I haven’t missed a Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
I didn’t care about what other people were doing, I had a Poker paradise, playing from 3 to 5 fishes during hours, some days in a row. The structure was new so there were not many regulars playing it yet, and those ones were partying during summer weekends. Even with my poor skills level back then, I was crushing 60$'s.
On the last day of the month, my coach told me to get the champagne bottle ready.
I asked: ''Why?'', I wasn't really waiting for an answer. I knew we had another good month, so I took a day off, went to my hometown, and I opened a bottle of champagne with my family and my best friend, knowing that I won 30k in a single month! It was magical; I couldn't believe what my eyes were seeing. I couldn't stop smiling. It was the best month ever.
In August, I changed the date of my birthday from a Saturday to a Monday so I could have grinded the weekend fishes. I stayed on the day of my birthday working, alone.
This was the black month of my year, I even feel a pain in my chest while I’m writing about it. Games became significantly tougher, I knew I was running pretty bad and I wasn’t even checking directly to the cashier.
Beside that, I had a serious crisis with my girlfriend, she never really understood how I could sacrifice my life so much for money and for this thing called Supernova Elite. The adrenaline of success pushed her in the previous months to the second place, to an unknown place, and she felt it. We started being distant, day by day, we could barely speak without fighting, and this was also affecting my game. I never realized how important she was for me and for my life balance. I realized that the thing I wanted most was her, and I was losing it. I tried to demonstrate it to her, but words with 2000 km between us weren't enough.
I went home to visit my family, and my father became very worried. He said I was so obsessed with my thoughts and ideas that it looked like if I was going crazy. My posts on my old blog could show the darkness growing in me. Everyday I was listening to Tony Robbins (my life coach), who was trying to push me back to the top. On the last day of the month, I discovered that I lost 20k pre rakeback. I lost almost every single day... I couldn't find any confidence or peace from my coach as I used to, I could feel that he was worried too, especially because of my emotional instability, and he had his reasons.
However, I blamed him by every bad thought or result I had, poor guy. I didn't have anybody else to blame but me or him... By the beginning of September there was no light at the end of the tunnel, our investor closed the contract with us, so I had to play lower stakes, which would have meant more hours of work. I lost 3 kg during that month, deviating from my ideal weight.
During the first week of September, my girlfriend took a flight to visit me and to have a talk. This time was serious; we had to decide what to do. I felt a hole in my stomach 24 hours before she arrived, I wrote three possibilities for our future on my blackboard, and I kept thinking about it. I couldn't sleep that night; I thought she would have missed the flight. The morning after, I called her and she didn't pick up, she actually rejected. So, I assumed she wouldn’t have come. Nevertheless, I dressed up and I went to pick her up at the station. The subway coming from the airport was late, and my chest was exploding. She was arriving, and when she saw me, she ran to hug me and started crying. The three possibilities disappeared in one second, and the option of staying together remained, we talked about some things to change and improve in order to make it work. We had the best time together; we didn’t even fight that time. I was happier than ever, nobody could have stopped me.
Back to Poker, September was the month that I made more rake and played higher stakes, with my own bankroll. I played around 200 hours in 13k tournaments, it was very painful. I had no time to watch movies or TV or even have a coffee with a friend. I was also making the sickest schedule ever to avoid regulars, I used to wake up at 5 pm and playing from that time on, I only had 2 hours of sunlight per day. That was not very healthy for my mind, but I had a mission and I was following it!
Once the month was over, I was up around 32k. Another great month, but that time I didn't celebrate. I was ready to keep working at the highest level!
October & November 2012
October and November are known for me as “Easy life months”.
My postflop skills set was getting to a Top level, and the financial and emotional stability was making me able to play higher stakes than usual. My coach and I also got staking for the 200$ games, so I was playing less tables but higher. I radically changed my schedule to wake up at 7 am and play from that time. After 8 pm I could have watched a movie.
I was making more vpp's than expected, but something was taking my sleep way: newspapers were talking about Online Poker legislation and the chance that Portugal would have gone out of the market was a possibility, so I wanted to finish soon. Still, I was working 200 hours per month.
I was only missing around 50k vpp's (5%). In December I moved to my parents place, I wanted to make SNE next to the ones I love the most, because after all, I would have never made it without them. Who cares about conquering the world if there's no one to share with? I went out with some old friends that I haven't seen for months, and I started having a normal life again.
I reached SNE on the 8th of December 2012.
December was the most legendary month ever, partying all the time. My coach visited me on the 12th and we went celebrating to Salamanca in Spain. When we arrived there was a party with 45k university students, and one of my friends inevitably ended up with two lesbians. I guess that was his way to reach SNE!
After that, my days were pretty ordinary, going shopping, having dinners, going out with my family and friends. I’ve spent my Christmas holidays surrounded by the peace of the countryside, and no computer was turned on.
Just like in the movies, my story has a happy ending. I ended up the year winning 135k, reaching Supernova Elite and… with my girlfriend.
If one year ago I would have known about the challenges and sacrifices I had to go through I wouldn't repeat it, but I actually don't regret any second of it. it was a GLORIOUS experience.
In the end of January 2012 I have received a PM from an unknown fellow on twoplustwo forum. I was completely unaware of person who wrote it, he was from Portugal and claimed to be hardworking 180 max grinder, claiming to be a winner pre rake.
My story was that I was deep into my software project. After black Friday I stopped playing poker completely and spent all the time developing ICMIZER. I was honestly always against coaching in SNG – especially against VODs, because I believe they are the worst thing that has happened to poker. For very little price players often reveal very effective counter intuitive strategies, that are easy to learn and basically impossible to counter. Of course you can’t get to super level from that, but easily improving general quality of field – that they do for sure.
Also before this I have never really coached someone using hourly rate. I coached friends on small stakes and not very serious level and that’s about it. That’s partly because I don’t trust poker players too much, I also find it a little difficult to be given certain limited time say 3 hours and coach someone on general topic. Here it looked different, project was big - of one year length and I only coach one guy so potential harm is limited to what one coached student can do.
This looked like an interesting challenge to me and I was impressed by goal setting Antonio had for a year, reach SNE. Of course besides skill and everything the most required thing here is dedication so I had to check that he was actually hardworking, and that he did play a lot of hours in 2011.
I remember our 3 hour interview where I was asking different questions trying to figure out potential risk size (in case he doesn’t send me any money for example) or success probability, and after that I decided to start this exciting project.
As Antonio says I was thrown off immediately by his general skill. Honestly, he was very bad. Postflop skill just wasn’t present, preflop pushing didn’t have any real math behind it just some simplistic ideas that are far from reality. I was really curious what exactly did his previous coach teach him, cause there wasn’t much really.
One thing I remember that Antonio told me was that his previous coach used to say that he was “not a thinking player” so Antonio tried to use that as an argument sometimes. I was pretty shocked by such statement from coach and tried hard to get rid of such belief.
Antonio made a great breakdown of this year, it was very emotional. As far as coaching went first months we have been fixing different really rusty mistakes. At some point we started to fix smaller mistakes, and we reach a breaking point at around start of June where he actually started to beat the 30$ games steadily with confidence. After that it was more about polishing skills, fixing really small, but important things each while being pretty small, adding up to the actual pre rake back winning source.
My approach was that since project was so long in terms of duration I was trying to not to give him fish, but to teach him how to use fishing pole, that is how to recognize mistakes and how to learn and analyze game all alone. Antonio analyzed thousands preflop situations in ICMIZER. Than once he became good with preflop he analyzed hands, reports, stats of different players in HEM almost every day.
It was truly a huge, immense work that he did this year and I believe this story and result must be pretty unique in poker world. He started the year at very low level, basically he couldn’t beat 15$ SNGs. In the end of 2012 he is playing 200$ with top regular legends like bigbluffzinc, awice and others well respected players.
He also turned out to be very solid and responsible guy in terms of money, keeping contract etc., which is also of course very important to me. One thing about this story that is a little bit not so great is that SNE goal is such a difficult hardworking goal, that when you actually become close to reaching it, it becomes kind of inevitable, and actual happiness from achieving it feels smaller than expectations you set in the beginning of the year. Well I guess not much can be done about this, it’s just a not random Sunday million 1st place finish.
I am really proud of Antonio, of work we did in 2012 and that I am part of this great story. I have to highlight that initially he claimed to be not a “thinking player” he is not some “gifted poker” guy, it is a result of huge day to day work directing different leaks and game areas, resulting in what you would normally expect – serious skill level increase and large profit.
Epic Bettinglife. I want to do the exact same thing this year. I hope i find the inspiration you had, because right now I just kind of want it. Any advice it would be greatly appreciated and good luck in 2013!