Two years ago, a German student named Björn 'Bjoerni89' Schneider started his raid on the online poker world. As a newcomer to the game, Schneider got his feet wet by playing $5 nine-man sit-and-gos on PokerStars. His competitive drive helped him find immediate success, which led to an unusual and meteoric path through stakes in just a year's time.
Today, Schneider plays the highest heads-up sit-and-gos on PokerStars and is the newest member of Team PokerStars Online. Not only that, the 22-year-old is attempting to break fellow Team PokerStars Online member Kevin 'WizardofAhhs' Thurman's all-time VIP Player Points record of 3,055,385 VPPs. Schneider is currently on pace to surpass that mark with less than a month to go.
We sat down with Schneider to learn about his rise through the ranks, how his relationship with PokerStars was formed, and more.
How did you get your start in poker?
I got to know poker with some of my friends. I played Warcraft III and many players started playing online poker though that. I was very active in the Wc3 community and one day I just got curious about this whole "poker thing" and started playing on PokerStars. It was also this time where home games with friends on the weekends became kind of regular, so I just started playing and got used to it.
At what point did you realise it was something you could do profitably?
My main motivation for playing poker was the competitive factor of the game. I am a person who likes to find out how good I am and can become at certain things. Climbing up the stakes and beating opponents who became better and better motivated me more and more to continue to improve.
Of course, I realised at some point that I can play this game profitably, when I started playing $100 (heads-up matches) at the beginning of the year. My main financial goal was--and still is--to be able to study anywhere in Germany where I want without having money-related problems. Of course, I achieved that goal quite fast and now I can just focus on my game and try to become better.
How do you mix poker and your studies? Does one come before the other?
At first I wanted to do both things simultaneously, but after some time I realised that it'd be better to focus completely on one thing. Since I am still young and probably won't have this chance again, I decided that playing poker for the next little while would be my choice. I am currently not studying, but playing poker professionally. However, I am planning on getting back to my studies as soon as possible, even though I can't and don't want to say a fixed date for that.
You mentioned that earlier this year you were playing $100 heads-up sit-and-gos. You've rocketed all the way to the highest stakes on PokerStars. Can you talk about your climb through stakes and how you were able to make it to the top?
I think what boosted me the most was the fact that I always played tons of regulars, even at the $100s. Of course it isn't the smartest thing you can do when it comes to profitability, but as I mentioned earlier, I like testing my skills versus other good players.
If you play so many good players all the time, it is the best training you can have in my opinion. It is also important to always believe in yourself and your abilities. Many people you are playing against usually tell you that you are bad and so on (especially in HU games), which is almost always the result of frustration. So I always believed in myself in my play and always tried to improve. I questioned and analysed my play every day and thought about what I can do better. And that is something you should never stop with; I am still doing it today.
When did you realise that breaking the PokerStars VIP Player Points record was a reality? When do you hope to achieve that goal?
Ironically, I didn't plan to break the record at the beginning of this year. It just happened that when I'd been playing 'Isildur1' all the time on four to six tables and other regulars as well I just earned tons of VPPs. One day I realised that I surpassed 'azntracker' on his pace for his world record and I thought to myself, 'Hey, if you are on pace for the record anyway, why not make it official and try to beat Kevin (Thurman's) old record?'
Unfortunately I've ran horribly for the past three months. I can only break the record by playing $5ks and getting enough action. I will definitely play $5ks in December but it will be very hard work to break the record. I definitely can't tell you a fixed date, but in the end, that makes it even more exciting doesn't it?
Who are some of the toughest players you face in the $5,000 sit-and-gos on PokerStars?
Pistons, Adonis, Old Time Gin, iftarii and probably Lotte Lenya (hasn't played in a while) are all very, very good players and I've played quite a lot versus all of them. They all have their unique play and unique strengths which makes it very tough to play against any of them.
How did your deal with PokerStars come about?
Well that's a funny story. In the beginning of the year, PokerStars published a news item for every player to make an application for Team Online. So, the news popped up and I thought, 'Oh well, why not,' but honestly, I didn't write anything really serious in the application back then because I couldn't ever imagine to playing for PokerStars at all.
However, the PokerStars Team Online Manager emailed me one day--when I already played 5ks, so a lot of time had passed--and asked me if I am still interested in joining Team Online. Of course I was amazed by the fact that the largest poker room in the world personally asked me to join their Team. So I agreed and a few weeks ago, I was officially announced as a member of Team Online at PokerStars.
What does it mean to you to be a member of the Online team?
It means a lot to me and I am very proud to be part of the team. There are so many good players already on the team, and I have always respected PokerStars as the most professional online poker room worldwide. The support is great and I always felt safe when playing on Stars. Also I have the possibility to visit the PCA in 2012 which will definitely be awesome!
Are there any players and/or friends that have helped you become the player you are today?
Well, there are of course some people -- for example 'Waaaghbozz', a good friend of mine who helped me to become the player who I am today, but in the end it is up to you. You have to analyse your session every day, you have to think about all the plays you did, and you are responsible for your moves. So of course, talking with other people about difficult decisions can help you a lot, but 90 percent of the work you have to do on your own.
Do you have any advice for low-stakes players that want to play high stakes one day?
Believe in yourself. Analyse your play always and every day. Try to become better, think about alternative lines. Be honest with yourself, if you mess up a hand, realise it, and analyse it. Don't get stuck on a limit that you have most certainly beaten.
What are some of your hobbies away from the poker table?
I enjoy jogging and playing soccer even though it is not really something I can in this season. I am interested in philosophy and I've read quite a few books on the topic. Also, it might be a strange hobby, but I really enjoy spending time with my girlfriend. We just moved into our new flat and really like our time at the moment.