Austrian poker player Manuel “BigFudge95” Fritz started the year winning a Platinum Pass in a Mega Path satellite on PokerStars. Then in April he made it all of the way to a four-way deal in the Sunday Million, eventually finishing runner-up to earn what was then a career-high $116K-plus score.
Then in May came SCOOP Event #85-H, the $1,050 buy-in Thursday Thrill, which attracted a 1,047-entry field. It was a PKO event, and in the end Fritz collected a ton of bounties — including the very last one — to win the SCOOP title and a new career-best total of $137,497.07.
“The SCOOP win was (and still is) very special to me,” Fritz told us when we spoke with him recently. “After getting second in the Sunday Million and not (yet) being able to call myself an SM champ, winning that title was more important than the money, even though it was my biggest ever score.”
The win came at the end of an arduous SCOOP for Fritz. He’d played every day, and even though he felt at the top of his game, the results weren’t coming. He persevered through Day 1 of the Thursday Thrill, not collecting many bounties but hanging in well enough.
“I woke up sharp-minded” on Day 2, he explains, and sure enough things started to go his way as he began collecting both bounties and a lot of chips. He began the final table above the average and third in the counts, and from there was able to maintain both his focus and enjoy a bit of run-good, too.
“I think I found a pretty good mix between being patient and letting others make mistakes while also putting on pressure in certain spots,” he explains. Being on the right side of a couple of flips helped, too, of course, although once he made heads-up his short-stacked opponent managed to win a few double-ups in return to prolong the proceedings.
“It happened three or four times,” he remembers, until finally a hand arose in which he “triple-barreled a draw that got there on the river.” His opponent called off at the end, and with the title in hand it was finally time to relax.
“I had friends who live nearby come over, and we opened a bottle of champagne and celebrated a little bit,” he grins.
Seeing an obviously thoughtful and hard-working player like Fritz achieve success always piques our interest. What is he doing right? And how can we learn and perhaps introduce some of his recommended practices into our games?
Here are five tips from Fritz that have helped him.
1. What to do before the first hand is dealt
“I think one of the most underrated things that actually has a huge impact on performance is the importance of a proper preparation or even a pre-grind routine,” says Fritz. He adds that it was only after a bit of trial and error that he realized this to be true.
“Instead of rushing into playing and starting the grind in a hurry, I’m trying to take an hour for myself — get some fresh air, meditate, listen to my favorite music to get me pumped,” he says.
“Then I can start the grind 100% motivated, razor sharp and with the mindset of hoping for the best but expecting nothing.”
While Fritz admits he doesn’t always follow his recommendation every time he sits down to play, when he does the benefits are obvious. “I am way more focused and relaxed (especially when things don’t go well).”
2. Understand ego is your biggest enemy
Speaking of when things don’t go well, Fritz recalled how when he first started out in poker and was winning, he then found himself making the same mistake many new players make when they enjoy early success at the tables.
He thought he couldn’t lose.
“I believed I knew everything and could crush the games easily,” he says. “Oh boy, that backfired quickly.”
He moved up in stakes too eagerly, then when the downswing eventually (inevitably) came, Fritz realized he needed to slow down and put in some serious study. “Thankfully I was surrounded by amazing people that helped and motivated each other,” he says. “I finally started putting in the work, and after some time things turned around.”
“That taught me very early that ego is basically your biggest enemy in this game,” says Fritz. “Once you think you know it all and you get lazy and stop studying, you will be run over in no time.”
That’s not to say confidence isn’t important, he is quick to add. “But you have to be critical with yourself, and realize there will always be a ton of areas where you can get better. Keeping looking for ways to improve all the time.”
3. Focus on what you can control
“In poker we all only have influence on the decisions we make and very often not on the outcome — variance is part of the game,” Fritz observes.
“So I try to only focus on what I actually have control of — my grind preparation, my in-game awareness, using my breaks as efficiently as possible, keeping my full focus throughout the session, and trying to make the optimal decisions for every spot.”
Getting positive results is obviously a big plus. “Of course it is more fun if the time and work you put in gets rewarded with big scores,” he admits. “But that’s just not where my focus is… that’s just something that happens as part of the process.”
4. Find ways to deal with downswings
Among the things we can’t control are how the cards fall. We can’t do anything about our 80-20 favorite failing to provide us a winner during a key all-in late in a tournament. But we can control how we respond when bad things happen.
“Experiencing a downswing is something that is pretty much inevitable and therefore part of the game,” says Fritz.
A good way to handle such bad stretches is to increase your study, he recommends. Go back through your play to determine where your decisions were fine, but the results were not. And when you find those spots where your decisions weren’t as good as they could have been, use that knowledge to make a better choice next time.
Taking a day or two off every now and then isn’t a bad idea, either.
“It’s very important for me to have my little crew around me a lot and have some nights out or play sports together,” he says. “That creates a balance… and definitely makes it easier to cope with downswings.”
5. Keep a clear desk, enjoy a clear mind
Finally, Fritz notes how for him one way to keep his mind uncluttered when he plays is, well, to keep where he plays uncluttered, too.
He uses a couple of large screens and a standup desk where he can sit for the first few hours, then stand later on, say, when there are just a few tables left in a tournament. Often he’ll play 8-10 tables, although on a big Day 2 such as in SCOOP #85-H he’ll cut that down.
“I avoid distractions by keeping my desk very clean and simple,” he says. “There is not much on it other than my screens, a keyboard, and a mouse.”
Thanks to Manuel Fritz for sharing all of this great advice. We’re clearing off our desks right now, and jotting down all of these tips for ourselves.
For more from Fritz, you can follow him on Instagram at manuel_fritz.