“I think I reached the final table of half of the High Roller Series events that I played. If you can say that, you know you’re running good.”

Yep, it’s safe to say that Austria-based Dutchman Jan “Graftekkel” Arends is pleased with how the past couple of weeks of online poker went for him.

The High Roller Series ran on PokerStars for the first nine days of December, with at least three events (with buy-ins ranging from $530 to $10,300) taking place each day. When all was said and done, Arends had racked up $362,823 across nine cashes.

“It’s funny because I started out stone bubbling the first $10K, so it started out very bad,” he tells PokerStars Blog on break in the EPT Prague €25K Single-Day High Roller. “After that though, I just couldn’t lose any more.”

While he didn’t actually win an event, Arends finished runner-up in two (for $168K and $63K, respectively), and also recorded a sixth- and seventh-place finish. Not surprising from a guy who has been at the top of the game for years.

Arends’ career began with cash games back in 2009, before he switched to multi-table tournaments (MTTs). He’s had plenty of success in the decade since–a Sunday Million win for $200K; a WCOOP title and countless COOP final tables; victory in just about every PokerStars Sunday major–and turned the screen name “Graftekkel” into one of the most feared in online high stakes.

Yet even he couldn’t quite believe how often he was on the good side of variance throughout the High Roller Series. He might have even coined a new poker term (“sunrunning”) to describe it.

“It’s kind of like a cycle,” he says. “If you start to run very well, you start playing better as well I think. Mentally you just get into a better flow. It was fun, and I was looking forward to the grind each day. When you run like that you just want to play as much as you can.”

Then again, he hadn’t intended on taking any days off anyway.

“During an online series, I plan on playing every day. I’ll maybe skip a bad day on the schedule, but in the High Roller Series, I made a lot of Day 2s so I had to play the next day anyway,” Arends says.

“My daily routine is that I’ll wake up, go for lunch with some poker friends, then I’ll study for a bit, mostly on my own, but sometimes with some other people. Then I’ll chill until it’s time to grind. I don’t wake up that early, obviously.”


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Like many other members of poker’s elite, including Fedor Holz, Ole Schemion, and Matthias Eibinger, Arends opts to set up shop in the Austrian capital of Vienna.

“I guess now that there are so many great poker players living in Vienna, that’s the main attraction for other players to come here,” he explains. “But I would say it’s just a great city to live in. The climate is nice, it’s a little too cold in the winter and a little too hot in the summer, but it’s very good overall. It’s a beautiful city aesthetically, there’s a lot of stuff to do, it’s a good vibe. I like it a lot. It was a good choice.”

Aside from the good vibes, there are plenty of other reasons why a poker player might want to ply their trade in Austria rather than their home country, exorbitant tax bills being one of them.

“The Dutch tax department sent me a letter telling me I was going to have to pay what turned out to be way too much tax, just based on my cashes which were listed on Pocket Fives,” he says. “They treated it all as profit, and I just didn’t need that, so I deleted my account.”

Now that he’s living in Vienna, Arends hasn’t felt the need to re-list himself on the online tracking site.

“There’s no upside for me, unless you’re into leader boards and stuff,” he says. “I don’t really pay too much attention to rankings because the guys on top are usually those who either play a ton or have all of their screen names on the site. I don’t think it really measures skill. I can see how much is in my account, so I know ‘OK, I’m up this much’.”

Having bolstered his bank account in the High Roller Series, Arends is certainly well rolled for this EPT Prague trip. He’s currently playing against some of the game’s best in a €25K High Roller, many of whom he battles regularly on the virtual felt.

“I think I flew under the radar for a long time in live poker, but now I’m not sure,” he says. “I think most people in the €25K know who I am now, but maybe some don’t, I don’t know. You would have to ask them!”

Arends in action in the EPT Prague €25K Single-Day High Roller

Winning a live poker tournament is now one of Arends’ biggest goals (“It’s actually been a goal for a few years already, but it hasn’t worked out!” he jokes. “I think I have a decent chance of winning one someday”). With $306K in live cashes so far in his career, he admits moving from his computer screen to bricks and mortar wasn’t the easiest transition for him.

“I think I made some mistakes adjusting to live poker in the beginning,” he says. “But now I think it’s all good. In this type of field you’re going to play against the best players, and then there will be a couple of weaker spots. That’s pretty close to online I’d say.”

With the addition of live tells, of course. The high rollers tend to fall either on the Doug Polk (live tells are overrated) or Charlie Carrel (live tells are underrated) side of things and while Arends acknowledges them, he’s in the former camp.

“I think live tells are a very small part of the game in general,” he tells us. “I guess some people are big into them, and they are a real thing, but I just try to play my strategy and not give anything away. I’m never trying to pick up on stuff, because I think it would be very easy to make a mistake that way, thinking someone looked weak and being completely wrong. I just try to have a more theoretical approach and take it from there. If I pick something up I’ll use it, but that normally doesn’t happen, nor am I looking for it.”

Arends will have plenty of opportunities to pick up tells and notch up some more cashes in 2020, as he plans to play more live poker.

“Obviously I would like to win a big live tournament, but historically I haven’t run very well live. Then again, I don’t play live very often, I only go to maybe three stops a year,” he says. “I do plan on playing more live next year though as now that I live in Austria I can go to Las Vegas and not be taxed, so I’ll probably go to the World Series of Poker (WSOP) this summer and a few other nearby stops.”

Click here to follow live updates of Arends in the EPT Prague €25K Single-Day High Roller.

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